Identifying the Teachers of the Law – Excerpt from Council of My Nation

Identifying the Teachers of the Law

This brings us to the final function that Eternal Israel performs in relation to the Law, namely the identification of her leaders. The teachers of the Law serve as a crucial component in Israel’s relationship with the Law. These leaders are the arbitrators of the Law, and their judgment enables the nation to apply the Law to living situations. These leaders guide Eternal Israel in dispensing her duty in the realm of preservation of the Law. It is these leaders who set forth the Rabbinic enactments that serve to perpetuate the Law. And it is these leaders who direct the ongoing living discussion, preserving the authenticity of the discussion so that the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob (Deuteronomy 33:4) is passed on the way it was received.

 

 

The first body of arbitrators of the law was established by Moses (Exodus 18:25, Deuteronomy 1:15). Since then, the nation always had people to whom they can turn with their questions relating to the Law. The leaders of each generation recognize their responsibility to provide guidance for the next generation. The imperative to educate students who can shoulder the mantle of leadership is a major element in the lives of Israel’s leaders. The chain of leadership passes on from one generation to the next through the academies and study halls of Eternal Israel.

 

 

The system of choosing Israel’s leaders is not a formalized process, it is a living process. Scripture informs us that even when Israel was enslaved in Egypt she possessed identifiable leaders (Exodus 3:16, 12:21). It is doubtful that as slaves under Pharaoh that the people had any formal election system. The straightforward reading of these passages implies that these leaders attained their position through a natural process. These were men who had earned the respect of their brethren and whom the society turned to for leadership. When Moses established a more formal system of leadership, he did not override the nation’s natural system of leadership, instead Moses appointed men who were already acknowledged by the nation as her leaders (Numbers 11:16, Deuteronomy 1:13).

 

 

From the times of Moses until today the leadership of Israel is chosen by a spontaneous and natural process. Within the parameters of any given community which lives the Law, some people will necessarily stand as examples to their peers. As the nation participates in the ongoing living discussion, proficiency in the Law stands as a very valuable commodity. Eventually, some people will gain the confidence and respect of society as representatives of the spirit of the Law, and as experts in understanding the Law. This process occurs on many different tiers. Someone with little or no background in study of the Law, will be incapable of determining the precise caliber of his friend’s Torah acumen, but he is certainly qualified to voice an opinion concerning his friend’s character. People with more Torah knowledge will be able to offer a limited evaluation as to the quality of Torah knowledge of their peers. Those proficient in Torah knowledge will be capable of gauging the abilities of their contemporaries with greater exactitude. Each segment of the population looks to the appraisals of those more proficient then themselves with much respect. The opinion of those who have already proven their mastery of the Law will certainly carry the most weight, but the nation will want to see for themselves.

 

 

As long as the nation remained in geographical proximity, and the living discussion was united and cohesive, certain individuals or groups of individuals were able to gain the collective respect of the nation as a whole. These men constituted the bodies of central leadership, and in these men resided the nation’s collective authority. The natural process worked in synchrony with a formal ordination process through which the mantle of Torah leadership passed from one generation to the next. It is only with such universal authority that decisions could be made on behalf of Eternal Israel. The establishment of the national holidays of Channuka and Purim was only possible when the nation was collectively united under one body of spiritual leadership. Central leadership was a necessity for the institution of the Rabbinic decrees. And it is only a body of leadership empowered by the nation as a whole, who has the authority to accept a book into the corpus of Jewish scripture.

 

 

As the nation dispersed, and the national living discussion fragmented into local circles of discussion, the power of the central leadership went into decline. The people still looked to a central body of leadership for the monthly and yearly decisions pertaining to the calendar, but that remained the only function of the central leadership. In fact, the last act of Eternal Israel’s contiguous assembly of central leadership was the arrangement of a permanent calendar. Before the Byzantine persecutions stamped out the last vestige of the nation’s high court, Hillel the Prince (not to be confused with Hillel the Elder, his ancestor), established the calendar we follow today.

 

 

The decline of the power of the central leadership was a slow process and did not move entirely downhill. Throughout the period of decline, the central leadership underwent two major peaks of resurgence. The brief respite from persecution that the nation experienced in the times of Rabbi Judah the Prince, and again in the times of Rav Ashi enabled the nation to reassert a measure of unified authority. During these two time periods (approximately 175 CE and 400 CE respectively) the leading scholars of each community were able to convene under the leadership of these two Torah giants. These conventions of scholars were recognized by the nation as incorporating the collective authority of Eternal Israel. With possession of this measure of power these two assemblies were able to ratify the Mishna and the Talmud as anchors and foundations for Eternal Israel’s ongoing living discussion.

 

 

Since then, each community identified their own leaders. With the passage of time, the various communities interacted with each other and learned to appreciate the leaders of localities other than their own. In this way the nation was able to come to a consensus in the evaluation of national leaders. In the lifetime of Rashi the Jews in Iraq might not have heard of him, and they certainly didn’t know enough about him to properly appreciate his contribution to the living discussion. As Rashi’s books spread, the collective Torah wisdom of the nation was able to come to a consensus in their evaluation of Rashi. The same living process repeats itself, and continues to repeat itself as the dispersed nation continuously calibrates her evaluation of various scholars and their written works. In this way, Eternal Israel continues to discharge her duty towards the Law by identifying the leaders who embody her spirit and who know her letter.

 

 

Just as God entrusted Israel with the task of identifying the arbitrators of the Law, so did He charge Israel with the duty of recognizing His prophets. The process of authenticating the verity of a prophet is legislated by the Law (Deuteronomy 13:2-6, 18:18-22). The nation, under the guidance of her arbitrators of the Law would be required to determine the legitimacy of any claim to prophecy. This process was far from smooth. More often than not, God appointed the prophet to deliver stinging words of rebuke. The harshest criticisms were frequently directed at the most powerful people in the society. There was a tremendous motivation to silence the prophet or to dispute his validity. In most cases the rulers of Israel absorbed the censure of the prophets without moving to silence them (1Samuel 3:18, 13:13,14, 15:24,28, 2Samuel 12:7-10, 1Kings 20:42, 21:27, 2Kings 20:17, Jeremiah 26:18,19, Haggai 1:12, 2Chronicles 12:5,6 19:2, 20:37). In some cases the rulers persecuted the prophets (1Kings 12:4, 18:4, Jeremiah 20:2, 26:21,22, 29:25, 36:26, 2Chronicles 16:10, 24:21). The general society of the nation was also upbraided by the prophets on a regular basis. In many cases the populace recognized the prophet’s authority to administer the reproach (Judges. 2:1-5, 10:11-16, 1Samuel 12:19, Jeremiah 26:17, 38:11, 2 Chronicles 28:9-5) while in other situations they actively opposed the prophet (Jeremiah 11:19, 18:18, 26:11, 38:4). The hostility towards the prophets was generally instigated by corrupt arbitrators of the Law, and by men who had falsely laid claim to prophecy (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:8-11,14:13, 23:13,14, 26:8, 27:14, 28:1-4, 29:8,9,21, Ezekiel 13:1-16, Amos 7:10-13). In the confusion generated by the heat of the immediate situation many elements in society fought the prophets tooth and nail. But as the dust settled and time went on, the voice of those loyal to God was eventually heard and embraced. The people were able to sort out the genuine prophets from the frauds and to distinguish between the corrupt leaders and those who truly represented God’s Law. That is how we have scripture today.

 

 

Although we no longer have prophets to lead us we still have leaders who guide the nation in matters of the spirit. In many situations these men are the same leaders who arbitrate the Law, but in some situations the spiritual leaders did not make a particular mark as arbitrators of the Law. These leaders rebuked, encouraged, and provided guidance in our general relationship with God. As with the prophets before them, some of these teachers encountered opposition amongst various elements of the population. And as with the prophets before them, with the passage of time, the nation came to appreciate the greatness of these holy men.

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45 Responses to Identifying the Teachers of the Law – Excerpt from Council of My Nation

  1. David says:

    You wrote:
    The process of authenticating the verity of a prophet is legislated by the Law (Deuteronomy 13:2-6, 18:18-22). The nation, under the guidance of her arbitrators of the Law would be required to determine the legitimacy of any claim to prophecy.

    Your analysis of the passages and understanding of Deuteronomy 13 and 18 is in error.

    There is nothing suggested by the passages in question that there is established an authenticating body of arbiters to determine the legitimacy of any claim to prophecy.

    According to Deuteronomy 18:19,
    19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.

    Is God going to let you off the hook if you follow the guidance of a body of arbitrators, and that body of arbitrators happens to be wrong?

    NO.

    God himself will hold you accountable. You mustn’t expect to escape accountability by hiding behind the determinations of legitimacy made by anyone else, including a body of arbitrators, whomever they may be.

    Therefore, determinations and/or guidance of any arbitrating body (which is without authority as noted above), is irrelevant as it pertains to each individual’s responsibility to God as noted in Deuteronomy 18.

    Secondly, it is not the job of any one person or any group of people to “authenticate” the verity of a prophet to the Nation.

    Authenticate according to Merriam-Webster is:
    to prove or serve to prove the authenticity of

    synonyms include:
    ATTEST, CERTIFY, AVOUCH, TESTIFY (TO), VOUCH (FOR), WITNESS

    The point of Deuteronomy 18 is not about the process of “authentication” as it relate to our responsibilities, but is more about how to “recognize” (as in determine or discern) who is and who isn’t a prophet.

    Deuteronomy 18 tells us how to do that. And, again, there is NO mention of an authenticating body as it relates to the standard of determining who is and who isn’t a prophet.

    Prohibition against following other gods (Deuteronomy 13):

    Deuteronomy 13 is more about the prohibition against following after other gods. And the examples of a prophet and one who divines by dreams is mentioned in that context to caution us and remind us not to heed the words of those who would lead us to follow after other gods whether they be prophets or those who divine by dreams. Deuteronomy goes on to give more examples of those who might lead us astray including our brother, children, spouse, or even our best friend. We are not to heed the words of anyone who would lead us to follow after other gods.

    • David

      Welcome Back

      I am not sure why you have a problem with the word “authenticate”. Even according to your non-Scriptural understanding of the matter – every individual must first determine if a prophet is truly speaking in the name of God. That process of determination is called “authenticate” – in other words – we look to the Law to see if it attests to the truth of the prophet’s mission.

      In any case – your argument about no arbitrators of the Law is contradicted by Scripture. Who do you think is commanded to execute the false prophet of Deuteronomy 13? Just any citizen? Who is supposed to kill the inhabitants of the city that worships idols? Just anyone? Do you really believe that these decisions would not be taken by a court procedure? But even if you want to posit that it is the duty of the individual – you have to admit that it is the individual acting as an arbitrator of the Law.

      The Law of Moses is given to the community as a whole. Yes, there is a possibility of corrupt arbitrators of the Law just as there is a possibility of corrupt prophets. And society as a whole needs to strive to prevent corruption of leadership – be it a corrupt prophet or a corrupt arbitrator of the Law. It is interesting to note spends more time discussing the corrupt prophet than it does discussing the corrupt arbitrator of the Law.

      • David says:

        Your use of the word “authenticate” and your understanding of the process is non-scriptural.

        Authenticate carries the connotation of proving something to another in the affirmative sense. By choosing this word you are suggesting a false scenario, not suggested in scripture. “Authenticate” fits nicely with your false scenario of a body of arbitrators so I can see why you’ve chosen it rather than scripture.

        God (in scripture) uses the word “RECOGNIZE” or “KNOW” or similar words to that effect depending on the translation as follows:

        Deuteronomy 18:
        21 You may say to yourself, “How can we RECOGNIZE a word that the LORD has not spoken?” 22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken.

        Note that there is no third party, no body of arbitrators “authenticating” the verity of a prophet.

        You, or I, or anyone else (according to Deuteronomy 18:22), may simply RECOGNIZE (or KNOW) that if a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken.

        As to your other point:
        The question of exactly who kills a prophet (or friend, or population of a city for that matter) for leading one or more to follow after other gods which they have not known is a separate question. It doesn’t change the fact that there is no arbitrating body established in Deuteronomy 18.

        but to answer your question:
        The one(s) who do the killing is situational depending on the circumstances. For example in the case of the golden calf it was the Levites as ordered by the prophet (perhaps some within the body of your arbitrators were even killed).

        Sometimes it has been God himself as in Korah’s rebellion when the leaders of the people (arguably, your “arbitrators”) rose up against the prophet of God to establish themselves as prophets.

        Sometimes it is the individual witnesses first and then the entire assembly as suggested by Deuteronomy 13: 9
        “… your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people.”

        And sometimes the entire assembly kills the inhabitants of an entire city or the false prophet(s) as in the case of Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal who led Israel to follow other gods under King Ahab. And by the way, how did the people RECOGNIZE or KNOW just who was the false prophet(s) and who was the real prophet. Well, they saw with their own eyes, the thing of the false prophet(s) didn’t come true and the thing of Elijah DID come true.

        That’ a perfect example of the working of God’s word in action, Deuteronomy 18:15-22 together with Deuteronomy 13:1-18.

        So in conclusion:
        Deuteronomy 18:19

        19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.

        So you see, We each (it reads “anyone”) will be held accountable by God himself. We will not escape God’s judgment by attempting to hide behind the guidance of a body of arbitrators. That’s not to say that a body of arbitrators who lead others in error will not also be held accountable or that we will not also be held collectively accountable where appropriate as determined by God.

        • David

          I never said that we should hide behind the arbitrators. But it is clear that whenever a question arises concerning the Law we are referred to the arbitrators in Deuteronomy 17:8 as well as in 2Chronicles 19:10 – no distinction is made concerning which matter of the Law – and therefore the determination of the veracity of a claim to prophecy falls under this umbrella.

          In the case of Elijah – there was no question of interpretation of the Law – the question was if God’s Law is valid or Ba’al’s Law. But in the argument between Judaism and Christianity – we are dealing with a question of interpretation of the Law of Moses. This being the case – it is obvious that we follow the understanding of the Law that is held by the collective covenant community. Just to illustrate my point – do you think that when Elijah said “if the Lord is God” that the people who were listening to him understood a trinity?

          • David says:

            You wrote:
            I never said that we should hide behind the arbitrators.

            Agreed, but that’s what your words suggest in the following citation of your original post;
            You wrote:
            “The process of authenticating the verity of a prophet is legislated by the Law (Deuteronomy 13:2-6, 18:18-22). The nation, under the guidance of her arbitrators of the Law would be required to determine the legitimacy of any claim to prophecy.”

            That statement is contrary to Deuteronomy 13 and 18. It further encourages one to rely on the unsolicited guidance of arbitrators in the matter of one’s duty to God in recognizing a false prophet. It also fails to take into account our direct accountability to God to heed the words of a prophet.

            Deuteronomy 17:8 and 2 Chronicles 19 do not support your case.

            In short, your citations do not “trump” or negate Deuteronomy 18. They work in conjunction with Deuteronomy 18 and deal with the separate issue of “disputed cases”, not with prophets.

            Specifically, Deuteronomy 17:8 deals with disputed matters between parties which are “too difficult” for the local population of the town to decide amongst themselves.
            8 If a judicial decision is too difficult for you to make between one kind of bloodshed and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another—any such matters of dispute in your towns—then you shall immediately go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose, 9 where you shall consult with the levitical priests …

            There is no suggestion here that an arbitrating body should give unsolicited advice in the non-disputed matter of obeying God’s word when it comes to heeding the words of His prophet or recognizing a false prophet. The matters specifically identified which may be in dispute are limited to one kind of bloodshed and another, one kind of legal right and another, etc. Obviously we’re talking about a dispute between two parties here.

            Likewise, in the case of 2Chronicles 19 as with Deuteronomy 17, we are dealing with “disputed cases.” A “dispute” of a particular “case” involves at least two parties. So we are talking about a dispute between two parties amongst the towns-people which “come” to Levites, priests and heads of families from their kindred who live in the cities for a resolution in a matter such as blood-shed, or a controversy of law, commandment, statute, or ordinance. Because they are unable to resolve their dispute on their own, they bring the disputed case for a hearing before the judges.
            Therefore, those cases which are resolved on their own would NOT be brought to the judges.

            Kind of like what we have today.
            8 Moreover in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgment for the LORD and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. 9 He charged them: “This is how you shall act: in the fear of the LORD, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart; 10 whenever a case comes to you from your kindred who live in their cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or ordinances, then you shall instruct them, so that they may not incur guilt before the LORD and wrath may not come on you and your kindred.

            So your argument that:
            “…no distinction is made concerning which matter of the Law – and therefore the determination of the veracity of a claim to prophecy falls under this umbrella.”

            Fails because there is in fact a distinction between which cases are judged and which are not (as noted above, only those cases brought to the judges by townspeople who are in a dispute with each other). The judges’ ruling therefore would apply to specific cases, and not to the entire nation of Israel, unless of course the entire nation of Israel brought a disputed case concerning a prophet to the judges.

            And even in that remote possibility there is nothing indicated in Deuteronomy 17 or 2 Chronicles 19 that we are absolved from our duty of Deuteronomy 18 to heed God’s prophet. And nothing is suggested here that we would be unable to recognize and know when a word spoken by a prophet is not from God.

  2. Dina says:

    David, some questions for you:

    1. Who is being addressed in these passages? Who is the target audience?
    2. What in the text of Deuteronomy 13 leads you to believe that a warning about following other gods is its only teaching?

    • David says:

      1. the people of Israel.
      2. answered above.

    • David says:

      Actually on number 2, I never said it was the only teaching. But you can read my response above for a full explanation.

      • Dina says:

        Hi David. It’s nice to be jousting with you again. I’ve got my horse and lance ready!

        You answered correctly–the ones addressed in these passages are the people of Israel. It should therefore be evident that the people of Israel are the ones who decide to accept or reject the claims of the prophet based on the criteria outlined by Moses.

        If God’s witness nation (Isaiah 43:10; Psalms 78:5; Isaiah 59:21) rejects a prophet or messianic claimant or whatever you want to call it, that should disturb you.

        Here’s what I find puzzling. Christians accept that before the advent of Jesus, the only people in the world who possessed religious truth were the Jewish people. Yet the only people in the whole world who possessed the truth about God were also the only people in the whole world to reject Jesus (or at least in Western civilization where Christianity was forcibly imposed upon diverse cultures). The only people to accept Jesus were those who did NOT possess any religious truth whatsoever–the formerly pagan gentiles.

        Why does this not trouble you?

        • David says:

          Hi Dina,

          The initial followers of Jesus before and after his death who accepted his claims were for the most part Jews (as was Jesus).

          Therefore you could say it was a split decision early on (and continues to be). Christians hold that the leadership of Judaism at the time got it wrong, while his followers got it right.

          • Sharbano says:

            I would say it is rather instructive on Who Jsus decided to have as his followers. It certainly was Not Torah educated Jews, rather the most ignorant of the community. So why would we even consider heeding the words of such followers. One example of this is when I was confronted by a person relating Jsus speaking regarding “the Lord said to my Lord”. Their idea of “proof” was no one was able to answer him. Anyone who understands the Hebrew would know how ignorant Jsus sounds in that confrontation.. Xtians actually think Jsus was superior in his understanding but a knowledgeable person would realize this is not the case and merely shake their head and walk away. This would be a more accurate reading of “no one asking any more questions”. If a man (Jsus) does not even have a rudimentary understanding of Hebrew how could he understand any part of Torah. So, therefore, No, Jsus nor his followers got it right.

          • Dina says:

            David, I hope you read Rabbi B.’s article in response to this argument.

            God promised to preserve the righteous remnant of Israel, so you need to ask yourself why He allowed the first Christians to be completely eradicated.

            While you’re asking yourself this question, you can also ponder the phenomenon of the survival of rabbinic Jews, the only type to emerge unscathed generation after generation. Every schism that broke away from this group has died out or assimilated completely, and we see history repeating itself tragically with Reform and Conservative Jews. This is so incredible that it has not escaped the notice of even devout Christians who have written about Jewish history, leading such writers as Paul Johnson (A History of the Jews) and James Carroll (Constantine’s Sword) to acknowledge that rabbinic Judaism is the only viable form of Judaism.

            What to do you say to that, eh?

  3. There was as you indicate a clear problem with authenticating Amos, and is he not a paradigm for later teachers?
    ‘Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.’
    It didn’t end well for Amaziah.
    Authentication comes solely from compliance with the Testimony, not inheritance, eloquence, or even acquired authority. (Jer 8:9)

  4. Charles
    Again – you ignore Scripture and you compound your error by quoting Scripture to “authenticate” your anti-Scriptural position thus proving the need for a social context – or else Scripture is silly-putty in the hands of people like yourself

    • Please clarify this, what was the mechanism by which ‘The people were able to sort out the genuine prophets from the frauds and to distinguish between the corrupt leaders and those who truly represented God’s Law’?
      Was it by any means other than compliance with the Law? Surely not.
      ‘The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.’

      • Charles
        Of-course the way we sort the genuine teachers/prophets from the frauds is by compliance/non-compliance to the Law. But we follow the collective understanding of the covenant community of the Law that was granted to them – and not any individual’s interpretation of the Law.

        • What happens when the whole community itself is apostate?
          Isaiah’s perspective on his beloved nation,
          ‘From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.’
          Jeremiah’s,
          ‘O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God. I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.’
          David’s
          ‘Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.’
          I realise the Lord preserves a remnant, but often it is only a small one. (Isa.6.13)

          • Charles
            Scripture clearly answers your question – when the community is apostate they are to turn back to the Torah that was commanded to them by Moses (Deuteronomy 30:1,2), they are to turn back to the testimony preserved by the nation even in its apostasy (Psalm 78:5-8).
            Perhaps you can answer the question that I posed to David – If the covenant community is disputing the legitimacy of given prophet – for example if the prophet predicts that “this generation shall not pass until all these things are accomplished” and the community disputes if the generation has passed or not (in other words the community is unclear whether the prophet has “fulfilled” Deuteronomy 18:22 or not) – who should the community turn to for guidance in this situation according to the Law of Moses?
            Perhaps you can also answer Jim’s question – how do you know that the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Esther and Ruth belong in the canon? What process was followed to put them there and why is that process legitimate?

  5. David

    I never said anything about “unsolicited” guidance and I never said anything about “trumping” Deuteronomy 18. I am talking about applying Deuteronomy 13 and 18. If the matter is clear – there would be no question and the nation would determine the authenticity of the prophet as dictated by the Law of Moses with ease. But if there was a question about the authenticity of the prophetic claim – the nation would turn to the arbitrators of the Law. What would you suggest that the covenant community do in such a situation? For example if there was a question as to whether the prophecy came true or not – such as if the claimant to prophecy would say “this generation shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled” and then some say that the generation did not pass while others say it did – who do you think the covenant community should turn to for guidance in this matter?

    • David says:

      If your understanding of Deuteronomy 13, and 18, is correct and supports your contention that:

      “The process of authenticating the verity of a prophet is legislated by the Law (Deuteronomy 13:2-6, 18:18-22). The nation, under the guidance of her arbitrators of the Law would be required to determine the legitimacy of any claim to prophecy.”

      Then we should expect to see, in a study of Hebrew Scripture, that the prophet was either accepted by the people or rejected by the people only after authenticated by the arbitrators (Levites, priests, elders, etc.) of the nation to be either legitimate or illegitimate.

      In addition to that, we should expect to see that in all cases where there is some disagreement, some dispute, some controversy, or some doubt, among the people, or among prophets, or of the king, etcetera, that we should especially in such cases as these see evidence of a ruling of the arbitrators to resolve any ambiguity.

      And, in addition to that we most certainly, in every single case where there is an execution(s), imprisonment, mistreatment, etcetera, would expect to see scriptural evidence of the ruling action of the arbitrators either approving or condemning such actions.

      But interestingly this is not the case.
      It seems, the nation was seldom if ever under the guidance of her arbitrators of the Law, when it came to the determination of the legitimacy of any claim to prophecy.

      Obviously, because that’s not their job.

      Deuteronomy 18 and 13 is quite clear. And the history of Israel evidenced in the Hebrew Scriptures supports my understanding of it.

      • David
        I find it interesting that you dodge my question and instead give your own arguments based on your faulty recollection of Scripture. Jeremiah 26 describes how the legitimacy of Jeremiah’s prophecy was called into question and was brought to arbitration.
        But all of this is not relevant – because Scripture emphasizes the negative, the times and the people who were not following the Law. Scripture never describes the procedure through which a book was accepted into the canon of Scripture – does this mean it never happened or that we shouldn’t accept any books into the canon?
        If you want to have an honest discussion please answer my question: In a situation where the community is in a dispute about the legitimacy of a given prophet – who should the community turn to for guidance according to the Law of Moses?

        • David says:

          Hi Yisroel,

          To take a step back here now that we’ve debated this issue for a bit, I want to explain myself somewhat.

          I don’t disagree with the overall main theme/claim of your original post. My style (usually) is not to comment on the entirety of a post but rather opine on what I find is not supported, in my opinion, with God’s word. And, since I am on your blog, that usually boils down to debating the Hebrew Scriptures.

          Having said that, I give you a lot of credit for staying true to scripture in your original post (with the one except we’ve been debating), even when it doesn’t paint the people if Israel in the best of light.

          Since it is my style to just take the opposing view (where I find it appropriate) and focus like a laser beam on one element of a post you may (perhaps) get the idea that I’m against all your conclusions/points. I’m not.

          So, with that in mind, and having debated this back and forth now and examining your arguments,

          I believe this is mainly where we disagree:

          You believe the “process” of recognizing the prophet has been legislated (specifically through applicable passages in Deuteronomy 13, 17, 18 and 2 Chronicles 19).
          I believe the “process” of recognizing the prophet has not been legislated, has never been incorporated into the Law; it started informally and even now remains informal.

          Here is where we agree:
          You believe (as well as the process as noted above) that the “standard” of recognizing a prophet is legislated by Deuteronomy 13 and 18.

          I quite agree, the standard of recognizing a prophet IS legislated. Or more accurately, the standard of recognizing who isn’t a prophet is legislated. Therefore, if there are any questions or disagreements, or doubts of the standard of recognizing a prophet (as opposed to the process and manner of recognizing a prophet), the leadership of Israel by Law is authorized and obligated to rule. So, for example the leadership could rule and state that according to the Law of Moses, if the thing does not prove true, it is not from God (Deuteronomy 18:22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.).

          You also believe, that in the area of the process and manner of recognizing a prophet, that the leadership of Israel should be consulted, should offer guidance, should state (if they have an opinion) who is and who isn’t a prophet and why. We should carefully weigh all the evidence including giving appropriate weight to the opinions of those in leadership whose job it is to discern God’s word regularly and faithfully.

          I completely agree.

          Where we disagree (again) is that you also believe that the process and manner of debating and weighing all the evidence in recognizing a prophet, including that of the leadership’s role in the process is legislated. I hold that it is informal; it is NOT legislated.

          Therefore in the example above, the leadership could rule that the words of the prophet must prove true, and the authority to rule on that statement is in the Law of Moses. But the process and manner to determine whether or not a claim by a prophet came true or not, is NOT in the Law of Moses. And that is why, although we should consult leadership, they actually have no authority under the Law of Moses to make any binding statement or binding rule on who is or who isn’t a prophet. The process is informal.

          In the end, each stands accountable to God; and that fact IS legislated.

          God legislated the standard, He did not legislate the authority to determine who is and who isn’t a prophet, nor did he legislate the process and manner of making that determination.

          It is therefore informal.

          The case you cited, Jeremiah 26. But actually this passage is an example of that informal process.

          Never the less, I say very good, I like your example, and I like your thinking and reasoning up to a certain point.

          There were basically two sides in the debate or arbitration, if you want to call it that, (I’d liken it more to a town hall where the people made the ultimate decision). The players were the priests and prophets on one side and the officials and people on the other side. Did you note that all the people (that would mean they were united or unanimous) also spoke up with the officials to give their dissenting opinion against that of the priests and prophets? And did you note that the people’s opinion prevailed over the priests and opposing prophets.

          I am glad that people choose to discuss and debate the matter of a prophet. But the simple truth is, that the process and manner of how that discussion proceeds and with whom you choose to discuss it etc. is NOT legislated.

          You wrote:

          If you want to have an honest discussion please answer my question: In a situation where the community is in a dispute about the legitimacy of a given prophet – who should the community turn to for guidance according to the Law of Moses?

          My answer that is turn to the informal process (as exemplified by Jeremiah 26); consult your parents who passed on the Law of Moses to you, consult the people of Israel, consult people who study the law, consult the Elders, consult other prophets, pray, wait for God, consult the priests whose job it is to study the Law of Moses, consult the leadership, consult your family, your neighbor, etc. etc.

          • David
            Before I comment on the totality of your statement let me point out that your reading of Scripture is in error. You make the statement that in Jeremiah 26 the people were with the officials and against the priests and prophets – You are basing your statement on verses 11 and 16. But verses 8 and 24 indicate that the people were against Jeremiah. So it seems that the people’s opinion swayed back and forth.
            Furthermore you state that it was the people’s opinion that prevailed – it was the opinion of the elders that prevailed and not the opinion of the people – read the chapter again. Furthermore, the Scripture makes it clear that it was God’s guiding hand that saved Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:8,19).
            So it seems that the point of disagreement between us (and please correct me if I misunderstood you) is that you believe that the arbitrators of the Law are only authorized to declare to the people that which is already written in the book – in this case the judge would declare that the prophecy needs to be fulfilled in order to establish the verity of the prophetic claim. But you state that the judges have no authority to issue rulings concerning the application of the Law. According to your understanding each individual must apply the Law as he or she sees fit.
            I think that your understanding of the matter fails to recognize the Scriptural truth that the community is duty-bound to act as a unit before God, your understanding of the matter makes a mockery of the authority of judges – and the Law clearly does give judges authority to apply God’s Law for the community – but let us put all of this aside for a moment.
            If as you say that accepting or rejecting prophets is not something that is to be done as a covenant community but rather is the responsibility of every individual – so can you please tell me why I should accept the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ruth, Job, and Malachi as prophetic books?

          • David says:

            Hi Yisroel,

            I may have placed my response in the wrong order/place. It is down towards the bottom.

  6. Jim says:

    If one is going to say that it is a matter of personal decision whether a prophet is a true prophet or a false one, he will have to explain how he knows that Amos, Obadiah, Isaiah, Micah, Zechariah, etc. were true prophets. They will have to do this for each prophet individually, because he cannot accept the arbitrating authority of those who compiled the books and ruled that they were true prophets.

    By what means shall he test the prophet? Will Obadiah return from the dead to perform a sign for him? Rather, he will only judge the book on whether or not it accords with his currently held opinion. Each reader will follow after his own fancy, choosing and discarding books according to his own inclination. He may omit certain texts now included in Tanach and include other books which were originally omitted, some which may never have been considered. Each will invent his own religion based on his own ideas. The Bible of his making will not be the word of God but the word of himself, a reflection of his own predispositions.

    Any prophet must be submitted to legal body to judge their legitimacy. The only question is how is that body composed. Those who believe that the prophet did not have to be verified by a court reserve this job for themselves. They believe themselves uniquely qualified to arbitrate that matter. They are the sole arbiters of truth and the sole practitioners of their own invented religions.

    Jim

    • David says:

      That’s a nice argument Jim, but it’s not scriptural. Neither the wording of the text nor History support it.

      It’s quite clear, those who didn’t heed the words of God’s prophet are accountable to God himself. Those who make claims that don’t prove true you need not fear.

      This concept may not work for you but it works for God.

      Deuteronomy 18:

      19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet[h] shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.” 21 You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” 22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

  7. David says:

    Yisroel,

    Good point on Jeremiah 26. The people were initially against Jeremiah as were the priests and prophets until the people heard from Jeremiah in his own defense.

    The last verse of the chapter (24 But the hand of Ahikam son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over into the hands of the people to be put to death.) probably refers to the moment early on when the people had their hands on him ready to kill him. Therefore, the officials along with the people and some of the Elders prevailed over the priests and prophets.

    In any case (whether or not the people changed their minds again) the process and manner used that we read about in Jeremiah 26 and elsewhere is not found legislated in Scripture anywhere. It is as I stated an informal process.

    We both agree that judges can rule on application of the Law.

    We disagree on what constitutes application of the Law. You say basically that it include everything under the sun.

    Making an observation and inquiry as to whether or not something took place (regarding a prophecy) is not an application of the law reserved exclusively for the arbitrating body. Neither is the process and manner of discussing and debating or allowing God’s providence to lead us or demonstrate His will, or open the earth for example; it is just not formalized in Scripture as exclusive to the arbitrating body.

    The process is informal. As I stated, people can get together as we see in Jeremiah. But that is not legislated.

    People are not “required” to decide individually. But, again, as I stated earlier, we are EACH held accountable to God if we do not heed the words of His prophet. If you’re smart, that will factor into your decision making.

    Having said that, I also agree as I’ve stated earlier that God holds us collectively responsible when and where he sees fit (there are numerous examples of that); that is also strong motivation for coming to a sound well thought out consensus collectively.

  8. David
    I find it interesting that you dodge my question again. – So why should anyone accept the books of Isaiah, Proverbs, Esther and Ruth according to the Law of Moses?
    In any case – you seem not to have noticed that the Scriptures spend more time speaking about the covenantal community’s relationship with God than it does speaking about an individual’s relationship with God. What we see clearly from Jeremiah is that the people understood that the issue of the verity of a prophet or lack thereof is a communal issue.
    Now according to you – what constitutes “application” of the Law that you would acknowledge is within the jurisdiction of arbitrators of the Law to decide?
    Let me just remind you that I recognize that a community is made up of individuals and the community’s collective responsibility before God is made up of each individual’s responsibility before God and the individual’s role is to determine which men truly represent God’s Law in spirit and in letter.
    Just to remind you I asked you two questions – please don’t dodge.

    • David says:

      Yisroel,

      You continually attempt to distract attention away from my original challenge to you. One strategy of doing this is to change the subject through questions. Not that I have anything against questions in a debate, only when they are used as a distraction.

      Never the less, I’ve answered many of your questions; you don’t like the answer. That’s understandable.

      So I tell you what, I’ll answer your questions in your latest post and you can answer some of mine.

      Your first inquiry:
      So why should anyone accept the books of Isaiah, Proverbs, Esther and Ruth according to the Law of Moses?

      I (being someone who qualifies as “anyone”) accept the books of the canon of Scripture to include Isaiah, etcetera for two primary reasons among others:
      1. The writings themselves convince me they are from God.
      2. The books (in oral tradition and then in written form) were accepted by those Jews of early Christianity and before, by debate and eventual general consensus. Some argue the canon was assembled in a top down manner (first selected by the elite and only then accepted by the community at large), other scholars argue just the opposite (used by the community and then approved by the Elite). In any event, whether you agree with top down or bottom up, the process and manner was communal and informal. The selection process, manner of debate, etc. is not formalized in the Law of Moses.

      Your second inquiry:
      Now according to you – what constitutes “application” of the Law that you would acknowledge is within the jurisdiction of arbitrators of the Law to decide?

      I’ve address this same basic question in other forms early on. According to me, what constitutes “application” of the Law within the jurisdiction of arbitrators could as well be determined by what doesn’t constitute application of the Law within the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the arbitrators.

      1. As I’ve answered before, the process and manner of recognizing and knowing whether the words of a prophet are from God is NOT a formalized process under the Law. Although the standard is legislated in the Law (Deuteronomy 18), the process is not. Therefore, the normal arbitrating body of priests, etc. has no exclusive authority (other than moral authority) to issue any binding rule of censure, rebuke, punishment, imprisonment, execution, etc. regarding a prophet. And therefore, the words of a prophet (regardless of how painfully rebuking they may be) are NOT within the jurisdiction of any formalized, legislated body of arbitrators who are obligated to act and rule on the Law in other matter pertaining to the Law such as a dispute regarding bloodshed.
      So then what is application of the Law in the sense of what leadership is to do?
      2. Priests under the Law of Moses are charged with teaching the people the Law. Do not murder for example.
      3. The leadership to include priests, elders, familial leaders, etc. are charged with resolving cases of disputes in matters of the Law between the people of Israel which come to them between the people of Israel, such as a case of murder for example.

      Now I have two questions for you from the book of Jeremiah (since you brought it up to prove your case):

      1. Does God order us to walk in his Law only, or does he order us to not only walk in His Law but to heed the words of His prophets? Please address Jeremiah 26:4,5 as to why God commands that we both following the Law AND heed the words of the prophet. Why not just instruct people to follow the Law? Shouldn’t that be sufficient? Why add the requirement to heed the words of the prophet if everything is as you claim under the “umbrella” of the Law?
      2. Jeremiah and the prophet Hananiah were disputing in the house of YHWH in the presence of the priests and the presence of all the people (chapter 28 pertains) where Hananiah breaks the yoke of Jeremiah to symbolize Hananiah’s (false) prophesy of the broken yoke of the King of Babylon. Their claims were in opposition with each other as night is from day. Hananiah claiming an end to the exile and a return of King Jeconiah, while Jeremiah was well known to the priests and the people, having prophesied stern rebuke on Jerusalem for over 20 years and more specifically, since the fourth year of the previous king, King Jehoiakim, was prophesying that the exile to Babylon would last 70 years and also prophesied that King Jeconiah would not return. This then would be the perfect opportunity for the priests to rule in the presence of all the people while they had both prophets before them. Why, if they had not only the authority but the obligation under the Law to settle disputes as you claim, did they NOT perform their duty and make a ruling so that all the people in attendance would know which Prophet to follow?

      From whence does the authority of the prophet such as Moses come (rhetorical question)? Was it not the prophet Moses who “authenticated” the first priest Aaron before the people, and not the other way around? Did not the Spirit of God proceed from Moses to the 70 elders, and not the other way around? Was not the first King of Israel authenticated by a prophet, and not the other way around?

      What does God do when he wants to rebuke a prophet (rhetorical question)? He does NOT send His body of arbitrators.

      He sends a prophet.

      What does God do when he wants to rebuke a body of arbitrators or a king?

      More often than not, He sends a prophet.

      • Dina says:

        David, I am not presuming to answer for Rabbi Blumenthal, but I just wanted to address a small point. You wrote, “From whence does the authority of the prophet such as Moses come (rhetorical question)?”

        That’s not a rhetorical question. It’s an important one. The Jewish people testify to the authority vested in Moses by God because they personally heard God speak to Moses. See Exodus 19:9, where God explicitly gives the reason for His mass revelation: specifically so the people would hear and believe and trust in Moses.

        Jesus came along and overturned the Mosaic Law (despite his protestations to the contrary). For such a drastic move, we would expect at least the same standard of evidence: hearing God speak to him in front of the whole people.

        • David says:

          Hi Dina,

          I agree with you to a certain point; the authority of the prophet comes directly from God himself. In addition to that, the prophet receives his orders directly from God; nothing is passed through a 3rd party to validate the prophet prior to the prophet executing God’s command. So what I meant by my statement was that the prophet doesn’t acquire his authority, anointing, commission etc. from the priest, nor the king, nor any arbitrating body.

          There is a separation of powers established by God in the structure of Israel between the prophet and the arbitrators of the Law. the prophet has a unique role.

          Regarding God speaking to the people again for a second time:
          I wouldn’t necessarily expect God to speak publicly a second time directly to the people (although that would be completely within His prerogative of course). The reason being, that the reason He said He would send a prophet(s) such as Moses is because the people said that they would die if they were to hear directly from God any more than they already had. At that time they requested of Moses that he listen to God and they promised to do as Moses was directed from God. Of course their promise only lasted about 40 days or so but that’s another story.

          God said the people were right in what they said. So rather than make the people hear from him again, he promised to send a prophet such as Moses.

          So, why would you expect God to speak publicly again when he clearly provided another mechanism as promised (a prophet such as Moses) to speak for Him in place of speaking directly to the people?

          • Dina says:

            God spoke to Moses in front of all the people so they would believe him. Moses taught the people that the Law is eternally binding and unchanging, and no one may add or subtract to it. No prophet was ever given authority after Moses to any of the above. So Jesus must be rejected as a false prophet for trying to do all of the above–and it would be fair for us to expect, given the radical changes he proposed, at least the same standard of evidence God gave us for Moses. That’s all I’m trying to say.

      • David
        You accuse me of distracting attention away from your “challenge” through my questions. My questions are intended to lead you to response to your challenge.
        You responded to my question as to why we accept the canon of Scripture with two answers. Your first answer is that the books themselves convince you that they are from God. So please tell me how did the book of Esther convince you that it was from God? When you were weighing the pros and cons about the books of Job, Proverbs or Ecclesiastes what were your primary considerations?
        Your second answer was that the Jews accepted the books and that the process of canonization was not formalized. I don’t see how this answers my question. Why should I accept these books just because the Jews accepted these books? Why would it make a difference if the process if “formal” or not?
        You answered my second question concerning application of the Law by telling me what does not constitute application of the Law.
        You first response to this question is a statement that the issue of determining the veracity of a given prophetic message is not under the jurisdiction of the arbitrators because it is not a “formalized” process. (I do not have to tell you that this is not a response to my question.)
        You then tell me that the priests were charged with teaching and resolving disputes. I think you recognize that teaching is not “application” but perhaps resolving disputes would constitute “application.” You use the example bloodshed as one area that the arbitrators are allowed to apply the Law. Perhaps you can tell me what the Scripture means when it uses the words “every matter pertaining to the Lord” in the context of 2Chronicles 19:11?
        You seem to be laboring under the misunderstanding that if anything is “informal” then it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Law. Where did you get this idea from?
        You asked me two questions. You first asked why in Jeremiah 26:4,5 is following a prophet presented as something separate from following the law? I encourage you to read the Scripture again. It clearly places the obedience to a prophet as a part of the Law. The Hebrew letter “lamed” in the beginning of verse 5 makes it obvious that the obedience to a prophet is the particular area of the Law that they are being rebuked for violating. This pattern is found elsewhere in Scripture where there is a general rebuke for violation of the Law and then one particular commandment is specified, such as the Sabbath, in Ezekiel 20:13.
        Your second question is why it is that the arbitrators of the Law did not rule on the dispute between Jeremiah and the false prophet Hananiah? The answer is that they did and that is why we have Jeremiah’s book to day and not the book of Hananiah.
        You ask me how Moses was authenticated as a prophet – the answer to your question is found in Exodus 19:9.
        You ask a question and then provide your own non-Scriptural answer. You asked – who does God use to rebuke a prophet and you answer – a prophet. God could certainly send a prophet to rebuke a prophet but God dictated in the Law that the community should execute a prophet who doesn’t meet the criteria laid out in the Law of Moses – Deuteronomy 13:6; 18:20. My question to you is – how is this Law (killing a prophet who doesn’t meet the criteria laid out in the Law) applied? Who kills the prophet? Is it anyone who decides that the prophet didn’t meet the criteria?
        So to recap – I am leaving you with 2 questions. Why should I (or anyone) accept the canon of Jewish Scripture – and see if you can give me a Scriptural answer for this question. In other words – what process did God set in motion to inform us that these books are authentic and valid?
        And the Second question is – who is responsible to execute the prophet who doesn’t meet the Mosaic criteria for a true prophet?
        (I actually asked another question – that you explain 2Chronicles 19:11 – but if you answer my second question you will have answered that one as well.)
        These questions are not distractions but are intended to lead you to the answer to your challenge which attempts to deny the jurisdiction of the Law over the occurrence of a claim to prophecy.

        • David says:

          Yisroel,
          Many, although not all, of your questions clearly serve no other purpose than to be diversionary distractions, a common debating strategy often used by those on the losing end of a debate.

          Case in point; your first question in the preceding post to your most recent post:

          I answered your question related to the process of canonization of scripture as to why anyone should accept the books of Isaiah, Proverbs, Esther and Ruth according to the Law of Moses, even though it is an obvious diversionary distraction only tangentially related the topic of your unproven contention of a special exclusive authority conferred to the arbitrating body of priest and others as codified to it in the Law of Moses (or so you mistakenly claim citing Deuteronomy 17 and 2 Chronicles 19) and that this body’s ruling and authority is superior and binding over the prophet. And, true to form, you don’t like my answer regarding your diversionary question regarding the unrelated subject of the canonization process. Ok, I accept that. But then you use the diversion as a departure point for traveling further and further away from the topic at hand with never ending follow-up questions until the original topic and your failure to disprove my case against your original argument would no doubt be long forgotten.

          Your second question (what constitutes “application” of the Law …) in the same post is relevant; I give you credit for that. But it’s basically a repeat of your question we’ve already discussed early on when you erroneously argued that Deuteronomy 17 and 2 Chronicles 19 conferred authority to the arbitrating body to rule on the words of the profit under your mistaken believe that all words from the prophet fall under the umbrella of the Law given to the arbitrating body.

          But to answer your question, again, and yet again, the arbitrating body is charged with the limited authority of resolving disputes of the Law which “come” to them from their kin. Prophesying that the Israelites would not return from exile for another 70 years as Jeremiah did, and prophesying that they would return within just two years as did Hananiah, is NOT a dispute as to a point of Law. It is a dispute as to a point of prophesy. And so we see in chapter 28 of Jeremiah which you side stepped, (when you went into your diversionary questioning trip on the subject of canonization) that it makes perfect sense that the arbitrating body of priests, while in the presence of prophet Jeremiah, in the presence of the false prophet Hananiah, and in the presence of all the people while in the house of the YHWH did NOT rule at that time. If it was a dispute of Law they would have been OBLIGATED (according to your citation, since the dispute had “come” to them) to rule under the Law (Deuteronomy 17 and 2 Chronicles 19 which you in a previous post erroneously cited in support of your argument). It is clearly NOT a dispute under the Law even though the matter came before the body of arbitrators.

          So, you failed (purposely dodged even?) to answer the question which directly impacts your claim that the body of arbitrators adjudicate all disputed claims of prophets since as you believe all claims of prophets fall under the umbrella of the Law.

          Instead you turned the question into a matter of canonization process.
          The fact that the book of Jeremiah (one of your distraction questions) was later accepted and fixed in the canon of scripture after his life is not really relevant to our argument, although you brought it up.

          We have the book of Jeremiah because many years after the fact even the least among the Israelites can recognize that he was a prophet whereas other prophets cited in the book who opposed him were false prophets. You don’t need to be a scholar to figure that out.

          It’s a simple matter of observation, inquiry, and history.

          The things that the prophet Jeremiah spoke in the name of YHWH took place and proved true, whereas the things that the prophets who opposed him and who falsely claimed to speak in the name of YHWH did NOT take place and proved untrue.

          Contrary to your claim and insinuation that an arbitrating body convened under the authority of Deuteronomy 17 and 2 Chronicles 19 to hear disputes would have been needed to rule on the BOOK of Jeremiah is highly unlikely. There is no evidence of a dispute among the people years after the life of Jeremiah, after the fact of the fulfillment of many of his prophesies. More than likely, the book of Jeremiah would have been accepted into the canon of scripture by “informal” (informal, meaning a thing that is done, yet not codified in the Law) bodies of accepted scholars and leaders of Israel over the years to confirm what the people of Israel in communal agreement already knew without doubt or dispute –

          which is that Jeremiah was a prophet of God and therefore his book should be accepted as part of the body of Scripture of God.

          Even disputed books which eventually made its way into the canon do NOT fall within the authority of Deuteronomy 17 and 2 Chronicles 19. The process of canonization is not a matter of Law which is codified in the Law. Therefore it is informal (meaning something that is done but not codified in the Law of Moses). It is an ad hock process which came about after the fact as needed. The process and manner of canonization as with the process of and manner of evaluating whether or not the thing of a prophet proved true is not found in the Law; standard yes, process no.

          But our discussion is NOT about the canonization process, it is rather whether or not the authority of an arbitrating body which hears disputes of Law, under the authority of Deuteronomy 17 and 2 Chronicles 19 among others, brought to it by their kin also has the “exclusive” authority to:

          Censure, punish, mistreat, imprison, or execute, etc.

          a prophet.

          The fact of the matter is that since the Law gives NO special designation to the body of arbitrators in Deuteronomy 18, they are therefore like everyone else in terms of recognizing a prophet. No more authority, no less authority than any other Israelite other than non-binding moral authority.

          Deuteronomy 13 requires the killing of anyone who leads others to follow gods they have not known. It stands to reason that since Deuteronomy 13 is addressed to everyone, this task falls to everyone. If there is no dispute in the matter among the people then the matter does not come before the body of arbitrators as previously noted. The people kill (witnesses hands first, and then the rest) the person who is leading them to follow other gods whether that be a prophet, diviner of dreams, brother, son, friend, etc. Even a case of dispute does not necessarily come before the body of arbitrators. Only those cases of dispute of Law which are unresolved at the local level are brought to the body of arbitrators.

          Prophets are just one example among many examples of those given in Deuteronomy 13 who might lead Israel to follow other gods, a crime by the way which is also addressed elsewhere in the Law of Moses. The list includes, diviner of dreams, brothers, sons, best friends, etc. So therefore, it is possible that there could arise a circumstance where one’s case, brought to an arbitrating body over a dispute as to whether or not one enticed one to follow other gods could very well be subjected to the ruling of the body of arbitrators and receive death by the hand of the people. However, that fact then does not bring all other prophets and their prophesies under the jurisdiction of the arbitrators under the false guise that all prophesy is under the umbrella, inferior to and subject to the law just because some prophets or anyone else for that matter may lead Israel to follow other gods.

          In short, the matter and authority of adjudicating someone for the crime of leading Israel to follow other gods is neither limited to, nor related to prophesy per se, but rather related to that particular crime and does not exclude prophets from adjudication and punishment for the specific crime of leading Israel to follow after other gods they had not known.

          Your argument to the contrary is simply an attempt to subjugate the God given authority of the prophet to prophesy the word of God because you don’t like the idea that the prophesy of the prophet not subject by law exclusively to the arbitrating body.

          Not even all cases of the Law (aside from the argument of prophesies regardless of whether or not they involve disputes) are brought to the arbitrating body for the simple reason they are otherwise resolved (they are often resolved either by God, by the disputing parties, or by a prophet, etc).

          Regarding Jeremiah 26:4,5, it’s crystal clear, despite your protestations, that
          “4 You shall say to them: Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5 and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently—though you have not heeded”

          Your response makes zero sense. I am flabbergasted that you have scripture before your eyes and you refuse to see.

          Obviously God commands heeding the words of His prophets because those words are often in addition to the Law, apart and separate from the Law, or command special emphasis and attention to a particular area of the Law or provide NEW LAW.

          Otherwise, God could have simply said, walk in my Law.

          And He did NOT say, follow the ruling of the arbitrators of the Law with regards to what the prophets say.

          That’s something He never said.

          Where does it say in the Law those in the city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but those who go out and surrender shall live, that not even a remnant of Anathoth will remain alive as punishment for seeking the life of Jeremiah, that the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie?

          Nowhere. It comes only from the prophet.

          Jeremiah emphasizes point of Israel’s failure regarding the Law that warrant special attention, such as that from the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until the day of Jeremiah, God persistently sent His prophets day after day, yet the Israelites did not listen or pay attention, but instead stiffened their necks and did worse than their ancestors did

          Where is it stated in the Law that Shemaiah of Nehelam, as punishment for falsely prophesying in the name of the YHWH and causing the people to trust a lie, would not have anyone living among the Israelites to see the good that God would do to His people following the exile to Babylon?

          Nowhere, that comes from Jeremiah.

          Where is it codified in the Law of Moses that there will be New Covenant that will NOT be like the covenant of your ancestors?

          What!?

          Yes, where is it codified in the Law of Moses that there will be New Covenant that will NOT be like the covenant of your ancestors?

          NOWHERE, THAT’S WHERE.

          Now I hope you can see why it’s so important not just follow the Law but to listen to the prophet (as commanded by God in Jeremiah).

          According to Deuteronomy 18:19, to paraphrase:
          “Anyone” (that includes the arbitrators of the Law) who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in God’s name, God himself will hold accountable.

          • David
            Before I respond to the general arguments that you brought up in your post allow me to respond to two Scriptural points that you raised. You are “flabbergasted” by my response concerning Jeremiah 26:4,5. Your problem is that you are reading a translation – the Hebrew does not have the word “and” in the beginning of verse 5 making it clear that heeding the prophet has already been dictated by the Law as clearly stated in Deuteronomy 18:19.
            You ask where Moses speaks of a new covenant – Deuteronomy 30:6 – see – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/jeremiah-31-teaches-that-christianity-is-not-the-new-covenant/
            (I recognize that you resent when I quote myself to you – it’s just that I don’t have time to rewrite it all just for you so please understand.)
            Now let’s get down to the content of your post.
            You believe my position is wrong simply because you believe so man false things about my position. You seem to be under the impression that I believe that there is an office somewhere with a sign that declares “arbitrators of the Law” and that the men who sit in that office issue enigmatic rulings on every subject under the sun.
            No – I do not believe that. I do believe that there is an entity called the covenant community – and that is the larger nation of Israel. That community possesses leaders who are looked to as arbitrators of the Law or as spiritual leaders. These leaders are also human and are liable to corruption – therefore the community has to continuously reassess the quality of its leaders. Because these leaders are human it takes them time to come to decisions – and the case of Jeremiah is a case in point – but eventually we got it right.
            One major disagreement that we have is that I believe that the Law of Moses is all encompassing and is to guide the Jew and the Jewish community in every area of life – including the area of determining the verity of a claim to prophecy. This takes place on the individual level and on the communal level. When this process takes place on the communal level – the arbitrators of the Law will be a part of the process – this is the natural way a community functions. Accepting a book into the canon of Scripture is a communal activity. Whether this took place from the top down or from the bottom up – there is no question that at some point during the process members of the community discussed the matter and the voice of those who were seen as more understanding of the spirit and letter of God’s Law carried more weight.
            Your idea that you sit in judgment over the books of Scripture without any prior guidance from God and determine on your own that they are from God is simply ridiculous. It boils down to the authority of the whims of your own imagination. So yes – I do not like your answer – and I don’t believe that you like it either.
            Your second answer is not an answer – So what if the Jewish people accepted the book – what does that have to do with your duty toward the One who created you?
            Let me go back to a question that I asked you a while back. If a “prophet” arises and puts forth the claim that “this generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled” and the community questions as to whether “these things” were fulfilled or not during the time of “this generation” – how should you suggest that the community or the individual resolve this question?
            I believe that this discussion is very important and I thank you for your participation in it – due to the upcoming storm I will not be able to respond to you for the next few days – and I need to close up now – so please bear with me. If you are so inclined you can read another article that I wrote on the subject – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/how-were-the-jewish-scriptures-canonized/

          • Dina says:

            To everyone on the Northeast Coast of the USA and anywhere else where the storm is supposed to go, stay safe, dry, and warm.

          • David says:

            Hi Yisroel,

            Stay safe regarding the storm.
            And if I may… God bless you.

            I think at least we both agree who God is.

            With respect to Jeremiah 26:4,5:

            The inclusion or absence of the word “and” at the beginning of verse 5 does not change the meaning of the verse with respect to my argument to heed the words of the prophet.

            I said: “Obviously God commands heeding the words of His prophets because those words are often in addition to the Law, apart and separate from the Law, or command special emphasis and attention to a particular area of the Law or provide NEW LAW.”

            Below are two versions (one includes “and” at the beginning of verse 5, the other does not). In both cases the context is that God admonishes the people of Israel to listen to His prophets and further warns them that if they do not listen to Jeremiah He would make the house of Israel like Shiloh, and the city Jerusalem a curse to all the nations of the earth.

            You provide no rebuttal to my argument other than a translation argument.

            Jeremiah 26:4,5
            ESV (English Standard Version) includes the word “and.”
            4 You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: (I)If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5 (J)and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you (K)urgently, (L)though you have not listened,

            NASB (New American Standard Bible) does NOT include the word “and” at the beginning of verse 5.
            4 And you will say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, “(H)If you will not listen to Me, to (I)walk in My law which I have set before you, 5 to listen to the words of (J)My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you [a]again and again, but you have not listened;

            Regarding your claim that the Moses includes a reference to the New Covenant is in error.

            Use of the term “circumcise your heart” in Deuteronomy 30:6 simply because it is also included in the New Covenant, does not in itself, a reference to the New Covenant make. That term is NOT unique to the New Covenant. In fact Moses used it earlier in at least one other occasion in obvious real time reference to the Law of Moses.

            Deuteronomy 10:16 Moses address the people regarding the essence of the Law.

            16 Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer.

            Furthermore, Deuteronomy 30:8 makes it clear that 30:6 refers to the current covenant (in effect at the time of Moses) by specifying: “his commandments that I am commanding you today.”

            8 Then you shall again obey the LORD, observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today,

          • David, you seem to be interested in this “New Covenant.”

            Going straight to the source, lets go to Jeremiah 31:30

            “30. Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, and I will form a covenant with the **house of Israel and with the house of Judah,** a new covenant.

            31. Not like the covenant that I formed with **their forefathers on the day I took them by the hand to take them out of the land of Egypt,** that they broke My covenant, although I was a lord over them, says the Lord.

            32. For this is the covenant that I will form **with the house of Israel** after those days, says the Lord: I will place **My law** in their midst and **I will inscribe it upon their hearts,** and I will be their God and they shall be My people.

            33. And no longer shall one teach his neighbor or [shall] one [teach] his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know Me from their smallest to their greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will no longer remember.”

            The passage says that the New Covenant will be made with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. This says nothing about the gentiles. I am aware that the NT attempts to reconcile this by saying that the gentiles were “grafted in” via Jesus. However, Jeremiah 31:31 explicitly states “Not like the covenant that I formed with **THEIR FOREFATHERS** on the day I took them by the hand to take them out of the **LAND OF EGYPT,** that they broke my covenant.” This New Covenant will not be with the gentiles because G-d did not make a covenant with the forefathers of the gentiles. Thus, this New Covenant will be made only with people who are under the Mosaic covenant. (The Jewish people.)

            Verse 32 says ” I will place **My law** in their midst and **I will inscribe it upon their hearts,** What does it mean for G-d to inscribe His law upon the hearts of the house of Israel? This is explained in verse 33.

            33. And no longer shall one teach his neighbor or [shall] one [teach] his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know Me from their smallest to their greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will no longer remember.

            The primary difference between the Mosiac Covenant and the New Covenant is that *G-d Himself* will put the law on all of the hearts of the House of Israel so that we will not have to TEACH the law to each other. You see, under the Mosaic covenant, we are required to teach the law to each other. I believe Deuteronomy 6:6-7 demonstrates this most clearly.

            Deut 6:6. And these words, which I command you this day, **shall be upon your heart.**

            Deut 6:7. **And you shall TEACH** them to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

            It is important to note that even the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of the heart. The New Covenant is not different from the Mosaic covenant in this respect. Rather, as Jeremiah 31:33 explains, what makes the New Covenant “new” is the mode of transmission: G-d Himself will put the law directly on our hearts so that we will not have to TEACH the law to each other. This is a future prophesy that has not come to fruition yet. Deut 30:1-6 echoes this idea:

            Deut 30:1. And it will be, when all these things come upon you the blessing and the curse which I have set before you that you will consider in your heart, among all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you,

            Deut 30:2. and you will return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day you and your children,

            Deut 30:3. then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you.

            Deut 30:4. Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there, and He will take you from there.

            Deut 30:5. And the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you [too] will take possession of it, and He will do good to you, and He will make you more numerous than your forefathers.

            Deut 30:6. And the Lord, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, [so that you may] love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, for the sake of your life.

            As you can see by verse 4, this passage refers to the redemption after the final exile. Also, note that G-d says in verse 6 that He will “circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring.” This is precisely what Jeremiah was saying in Jeremiah 31:33!

            Jeremiah 31:33 And no longer shall one teach his neighbor or [shall] one [teach] his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know Me from their smallest to their greatest, says the Lord,

            This is in contrast to the Mosiac Covenant, which is discussed in Deut 6:6-7, where G-d instructs Israel to TEACH the Law to our offspring.

            Deut 6:6. And these words, which I command you this day, **shall be upon your heart.**

            Deut 6:7. **And you shall TEACH** them to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

            The very fact that we are having this debate right now is a testament to the fact that the New Covenant has not been made with anyone. You wouldn’t have to teach me and I wouldn’t have to teach you. (Jeremiah 31:33, Deut 30:6) It is a future covenant which has nothing to do with the death of jesus.

            Shalom and G-d bless!

  9. Pingback: A Chain Cannot be Stronger than its Weakest Link – Response to David | 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources

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