The Oral Law in Judaism and Christianity – by Jim

The Christian missionary often challenges the existence of the Oral Torah with the question: “Where in the (Written) Torah does it say anything about an Oral Torah?” He assumes that the text should come with some statement instructing the reader that it has an accompanying unwritten explanation that one should seek out if he wishes to understand the work. Barring such a statement, any claim to an Oral Torah can only be an excuse to impose upon the text the interpretations of the rabbis and to substitute divine instruction with their own. This objection, however, is unreasonable. Other—more able writers—have already shown that the Written Torah cannot be understood without accompanying information. Certain commandments, for example, are too indefinite in the text to be practicable. Because this territory has been well-explored by others, this brief essay will attempt a different course, demonstrating the priority of the Oral Torah by drawing an analogy from Christianity to Torah.

Christianity does not begin with the written word. It begins, rather, with the teachings of Jesus as delivered to crowds on hillsides, in the houses of various interested parties, and in private with his disciples. He is not known to ever have written any of his teachings but given them over orally. After his death, his disciples carried on in the same way at least initially. Peter did not begin his own ministry by composing a body of Christian scripture but by teaching in Jerusalem. Later, he composed a few letters, but those were not the foundation of his teaching. Similarly, though Paul wrote several letters, his ministry began orally, teaching various communities outside of Israel. From this fact it can be seen that within Christianity, oral teaching preceded written teaching; oral teaching is prior in time to Christian scripture.

It was decades after Jesus’ death that his teachings were written down. The first gospel is thought to have been written by Mark and is generally considered to have been based on the teachings of Peter. In order to show the importance of the oral tradition, even within Christianity, the following two thought experiments are presented for consideration:

Thought experiment #1:

Mark has just completed his gospel, based on the oral teachings of Peter as above. Several copies are distributed to various communities, including a Church community in Emmaus. Peter has been travelling, ministering to different communities and has not yet seen the completed work. In the course of his travels, he comes to Emmaus, where they are studying the newly received gospel. As a leader reads the gospel aloud to the congregation, among whom Peter is sitting, the leader reads that Jesus imparted to his disciples such-and-such a saying, at which point Peter interrupts and says that Mark has not got that quite right. Jesus did not say such-and-such, but something similar, the difference of which is important enough to correct. At this moment, a conflict has arisen between the oral tradition and the written transmission. Is it possible that the congregation will ignore Peter and adhere to the written gospel before them?

It is possible, but it is not likely. The written word depends upon its adherence to Peter’s teaching for its own authority. Mark is purportedly giving over what he was taught. If his teacher says that on some point or another Mark is mistaken, either misunderstanding or misremembering, then Mark’s writing is subject to correction and alteration upon that point. The fact that his work is written rather than oral does not imbue it with special authority. On the contrary, the authority of the written tradition is derived from the oral tradition. Any deviation from the oral tradition in the written word is a flaw. From this, it can be seen that the oral tradition has priority over the written word, both in time and in authority.

Thought experiment #2: Imagine the same scenario as above, only this time, when Peter listens to the reading of Mark’s gospel, he has no objection to what is written. Instead, the congregation has a question about just what such-and-such means. Jesus is supposed to have spoken in riddles, after all. After their local leader propounds an interpretation, Peter says that the man has not got it quite right. Peter puts forward a different interpretation of Jesus’ words. In this instance, the question is this: whose interpretation is more likely to be in line with Jesus’ actual teaching?

Again, the answer is Peter. Peter is not relying merely on the text to determine what Jesus’ meaning was. He learned from Jesus for about three-and-a-half years. His familiarity with the teachings of Jesus must be more thorough than almost anyone else’s. At the least, he would have a feel for Jesus’ meaning, an intuition based on his learning directly from Jesus. Moreover, those riddles that Jesus spoke in the hearing of the masses, he is supposed to have explained privately to his disciples. They had opportunity to ask questions and gain clarification on issues that might have confused them. Similarly, they would have heard the same teachings multiple times, phrased in different ways, so that it would become clearer to them. The leader of this congregation does not have any of those advantages of insight. A chasm of understanding separates those that study with a person and those that have only read a book that he wrote. So, even in matters of interpretation, priority must be granted to the oral transmission over the reading of the written word.

These thought experiments and the beginnings of the Church serve as a rough analogy to relation of the oral transmission to the written transmission within the Torah system. The Five Books of Moses were not documents found in the desert, void of context. Nor was the teaching of the Torah confined to those five books. Even before Sinai—and certainly before the written Torah—Israel had knowledge of God and of certain commandments, though they had not been written down. They knew and kept the Seven Laws of Noah. They kept circumcision. Before Sinai, they kept Passover and the Sabbath, even though the laws thereof were written nowhere, but were transmitted orally to the people: from God to Moses, from Moses to the elders, and from the elders to the people. Israel was a community of people that was taught how to observe its laws, not merely through the written word, but through the instruction of Moses, a prophet whose credentials were established before them.

It is the oral transmission that verifies the written word. Israel knows that God spoke to Moses, not because it said so in a book, but because the nation witnessed the event and passed that knowledge on from generation to generation. The book is known to be true, because it comports with their knowledge. Similarly, because they were already keeping Sabbath before the written word, they understand the meaning of the written word through their prior knowledge. R’ Hirsch compares the written Torah to a system of notes. It is not the entire teaching that the Jewish people received. But it is a system used to bring to memory what the people learned already. One outside the Torah tradition can read those notes and understand some but not all without consulting a student of the Torah, one who heard the lecture to which the notes correspond.

Another thought experiment may be useful to elucidate this point.

Thought experiment #3: Imagine that the written Torah has been finished for a couple of months and one copy of it is misplaced by Fred, who is known for his carelessness. And the missing copy is found by a man who, for whatever reason, believes that he has just come upon what he considers to be undeniably divine revelation. And, he seeks out Israel, so that he can join them. In the meantime, he practices Sabbath observance according to his own interpretation of the text he has found. When he finds the Jewish people, he is excited and wishes to join them. But, he is dismayed to find differences in their Sabbath observance and his own. He pulls out his copy of the Torah—the one that Fred lost—and he shows them a verse, and he tells them that, clearly, they are supposed to do such-and-such or abstain from doing this-or-that. Will they follow his interpretation?

It should be obvious that they will not. They were intimately familiar with the details on how to keep the Sabbath before receiving the written Torah. Any ambiguities in how to keep the Sabbath could be cleared up by asking questions. They did not need merely to probe the text looking for clues. If a stranger, who did not receive this instruction and had not practiced keeping the Sabbath in a community of other Sabbath observers, introduces his own interpretations of the text, it will hold no weight with them. He does not have the context necessary to understand the Torah the way that they do.

The written Torah relies upon the oral Torah. It is the oral that verifies the written, not the other way around. Moreover, the written Torah cannot be fully understood without the oral Torah.

But, if this is true—and if it is as true for Christianity as it is for Torah—then one might well ask why Evangelical missionaries seek confirmation of the oral transmission from the written transmission. What I have written here argues that their question inverts relationship of written teaching to the oral teaching and suggests that their error is quite basic. If it is so basic, obvious even, how do they even make such an error?

The error of the missionary is rooted in the loss of the oral tradition in the Church. It is not just that Evangelicals, being Protestants, denied the oral traditions of the Church, cutting themselves off from tradition. The problem is much deeper and more significant than that. No reliable oral tradition existed in the Church from the beginning, so that, within the first generation after Jesus, confusion about his message already existed.

This confusion is evident from the beginning of the post-resurrection movement. According to Matthew, even after Jesus appeared to the surviving eleven disciples, “some doubted” (28:17). This suggests that from the beginning of the movement, different accounts existed for what happened, that not all eleven disciples believed they had seen the resurrected Jesus. It is suggestive of competing claims being made from the first generation of Jesus’ students. This doubt is remarkable, because it is hard to doubt a shared sensory experience. Jesus is supposed to have appeared to them and taught them, but still, some doubted? Thus, even the written transmission suggests that no unified understanding of the resurrection existed among the supposed witnesses. It is quite possible, likely even, that not all the early followers of Jesus’ message taught that he was resurrected, including among his immediate disciples, which is why Matthew has to comment on some doubting.

Certainly, as the gospel spread, it became muddled. It is clear from what Paul writes to the Galatians that multiple gospels with competing claims were being spread within decades of the death of Jesus. He issues a warning to the Galatians that they heed no other gospel than his own. Multiple oral traditions, then, circulated early on. Confusion beset the Church within the second generation of believers, if not earlier.

Paul, himself, is not a reliable source of Jesus’ teachings. When Jesus was alive, of course, Paul did not study with Jesus. However, he claims that his gospel comes to him through Jesus, through a revelation—a claim that could not be verified (Galatians 1:12). He goes on to insist that his gospel did not come through studying with Jesus’ disciples, and that when he went to Jerusalem, he only stayed with Peter 15 days. If a reliable oral transmission had existed at that point, from Jesus to the disciples, that chain was broken with Paul.

Indeed, it is remarkable that two of the most influential figures in the early Church are two men that did not learn from Jesus, one being Paul and the other James, Jesus’ brother. From the gospels, it appears that James did not follow Jesus’ teachings while Jesus was still alive. Only later would he become involved in the Jesus movement. This provokes certain questions that are not immediately relevant, so they will be put aside. What must be noted, however, is that he did not study with Jesus, just as Paul did not. It is not clear that James ever studied with Peter or the other disciples, and it is not surprising then, that these two men, neither of whom studied with Jesus, should end up in conflict over what the teachings of Jesus meant.

The early conflicts in the Church speak to the lack of a reliable oral transmission. The Church did not know what it meant for non-Jews to become believers in Jesus. Did they need to convert to Judaism? Or could they remain non-Jews, observing the Seven Laws of Noah with a couple new practices to commemorate Jesus? As time went on, the questions and disagreements became larger. Was Jesus divine, semi-divine, or not at all divine? From early on in Church history, the message of the Church was a muddle, with various gospels and theologies circulating and competing.

Moreover, much of Church doctrine is received only through the written word. When a Christian reads the epistle to Ephesus, he does not have the context of what Paul taught to the Ephesians in person. He has no access to the oral teaching given over in that church or at Corinth or at Philippi. He does not even have access to the oral teaching in Jerusalem, only bits and pieces of it. And this is not a matter of things being lost to the modern age, it was a problem from the foundation of congregations outside Jerusalem. The Church was a diffuse body—not a Church, but churches—that did not have the context of the teachings in other areas. Those churches were receiving different gospels, which they interpreted in different ways based on their lack of context.

The diffusion of the Church is not its strength, but a source of confusion. In order to maintain an oral tradition, one needs a community. A community is able to identify new teachings as they arise. If someone says that he believes God should be worshipped in this or that way, based on his own interpretation, the community can counter that his teaching is unknown to them. A community has the strength to resist innovation, because the teachings do not reside with a few, which, if corrupted, can pollute the entire system. Rather, the community can always appeal to the common knowledge.

For a long time, the Jewish people had just such a community. As a nation, as a community, they had a system of checks and balances in place to avoid the introduction of error or the loss of information. The Torah system did not rely solely upon the knowledge of a few in the clerical class. The knowledge of Torah ran through the whole society, so that it did have teachers in the Levites, but it also had judges who must be also learned in Torah, and it was carried also from parent to child, so that the whole nation served carriers of Torah knowledge. Even while some departed the way of Torah, they did not corrupt the Torah system, as it was guarded by the nation as a whole and not a few, which could not be held accountable.

With the Church, things were the opposite. The Church had no reliable system to guard its teaching. Being geographically spread out, distortion and confusion were easily able to enter the Church. Ideas counter to the original message—which itself was a distortion of Torah—or distorting the original message were carried into the diverse churches. Gospels multiplied and the oral teachings of the Church were lost.

The dispersal of the Jewish people created a similar problem for the Torah system. However, the Jews were careful to preserve their oral teachings and not let the message be lost. Some small elements of confusion crept in, but the essentials were preserved. However, the Church lost its original teachings. It is for this reason that missionaries ask a question that is based on confusion. The Church lost its oral tradition, so the missionary does not consider the foundation of the written tradition. He comes to his religion solely through the written word, and it does not occur to him that the written word is subsequent to oral teaching or that its authority is borrowed from the oral transmission.

Jim

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39 Responses to The Oral Law in Judaism and Christianity – by Jim

  1. Bible819 says:

    Jim,

    “When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

    The temple has been destroyed.

    The Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood, and until the end there will be war; desolations have been decreed.

    Israel is still in exile.

    Now we are waiting for:

    And on the wing of the temple will come the abomination that causes desolation, until the decreed destruction is poured out upon him.”…

    The Anti Christ

    In my vision in the night I continued to watch: And I saw One like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence.

    Then Jesus will Return:

    His clothing was white as snow, and the —–> hair of His head like pure wool <—— His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.

    The Description of the Lord Yeshua

    All Praise to King Yeshua who is a Jew, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Amen

    • Jim says:

      Aaron,

      I do not understand the relevance of your comment to the essay under which it appears. As far as I can tell it is a random off-topic support of your faith. If I am missing something, please elucidate for me how your comment relates to the essay.

      Moreover, the figure in Daniel described as having hair like wool, etc. is the Ancient of Days and not the one that is like a son of man (which is Israel, not Jesus. See 7:18.)

      Forgive me for saying so, but your comments are often incomprehensible to me, and it would help me greatly if you could both stay on topic and explain the purpose of your random and disconnected quotes.

      Jim

      • Bible819 says:

        Jim,

        You describing a faith throughout your essay and where it fell short of its original teaching.

        I’m describing the spiritual state of Jewish People.

        Moreover, the Ancient of Days is a Human Being. Amen

        I do forgive you.

        As Isaiah said:

        Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I don’t know how to read.”

        Daniel locked it up in the old testament:

        But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.

        Forever Praised:

        You are worthy to take the scroll

        and to open its seals,

        because you were slain,

        and with your blood you purchased for God

        persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

        10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

        and they will reign b on the earth.”

        Praise Jesus!

  2. Sharon S says:

    Hi Jim,

    Thank you for the beatiful and clearly written article on the oral law in both Judaism and Christianity. I have replied to the above article , in the thread that it was initially posted on here https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-58234 . I hope that my reply is not off topic and address the points in the article.

    Let me add a one more point to my earlier reply.
    I understand Matthew 28:17-“some doubted” to mean that some disciples are hesitant to worship Jesus out of obedience to the Torah. Most of the disciples would have been carried away by Jesus’s glorified form and instinctively worshipped him , but some disciples had the sense to remember the prohibitions against idolatry and thereby restrained themselves , thereby they “doubted”.

    You interpreted this verse to support the argument that no reliable oral tradition exist from the beginning , because there is “no unified understanding of the resurrection existed among the supposed witnesses”. Have you considered Acts 1:13-14? The 11 “all joined together constantly in prayer , along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers”. It is very far from your suggestion that they did not have a unified understanding of the resurrection .

    I have deep respect for your work here , your character ,kindness and commitment.I remember reading many of your articles and posts here , especially on Christianity and the position of the non Jew within Judaism in this blog . I learn so much from them . Thank you.

    However I do have one big nagging concern whenever I read your comments and posts . You do not give Christianity a fair hearing . I see this most clearly in your replies to me-namely in “Sufficient” (which includes this article ) and “Turning on a Dime” .

    This article is a glaring example on the lack of fair hearing that you give to Christianity . Perhaps I may be wrong , that you are writing out of ignorance to the oral traditions in Orthodox Christianity.

    According to your article ,Paul claimed the Gospel came to him through Jesus (Galatians 1:12) ,not through studying with Jesus’s disciples . However you did not consider Galatians 1:18 , a mere 6 verses away or Galatians 2:1-2:2 which may put your whole argument in question.

    You did not consider the verses supporting Paul’s interaction with the Apostles , which is more than one occasion . You did not consider the quotations in Paul’s letters that are actually coming from the Apostles and are a common teaching to the Christian communities at the time. You did not consider the breaking of bread/The Lord’s supper or the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as it is known in the Catholic church. Both Jewish and Gentile believers of Jesus carry out this ritual . Refer Acts 2:42 and 1 Corinthians 11: 17 to 33.This is a practice distinguishing believers of Jesus alongside baptism , like what the Sabbath is to the Jews.

    I remember one of your replies to my comment on the resurrection here https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-44058 . According to you ,”The Church “brings as a support of the resurrection the “fact” of an empty grave. “ .That the Church removes itself from the burden of proof and place it on the unbeliever. I argued , from 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 and a few other verses in the NT that the Apostles and thereby the Church has never based their belief on an empty tomb.You did not reply to this conversation after that.

    Another comment that I would like to bring out is on your parable of the muffin laced with poison here https://judaismresources.net/2014/07/30/turning-on-a-dime/#comment-47578 . You are responding to my statement that there is some good in Christianity and that it has shaped my values. However I disagree with your characterization of Christianity along the lines of your parable.

    I actually came across a video produced by Jews for Judaism: “The Cockroach in the Gospel Muffin” presented by Daniel Ventresca. He described the gospel as a muffin that has cockroaches inside , but you described it as laced with rat poison! To me that is very vicious. I can’t accept the credibility of your argument after watching that video.

    I will repeat again what I have written to you previously .I notice there is a tendency by some ex-believers to condemn every element of their previous beliefs as falsehoods. They refuse to see any truths from their previous beliefs. I used to be that kind of person . Eventually I come to realize that there is some good in Christianity . Christianity has shaped my values. I learnt to appreciate my friends of various races and religion thanks to the Catholic education I received .

    I appreciate Islam for what it has taught me about re-evaluating my beliefs, on idolatry and the worship one G-d . However I discern between what is true and what is not true . It is unfair to lump these faiths as pure evil without giving them a fair hearing .

    I hope you don’t take what I am writing as an ad hominem argument. The purpose is not to condemn but to highlight what I have observed in our previous conversations -in “Sufficient” and “Turning on a Dime” so that this can be clarified.

    I hope this blog will be a beacon of truth.

    Thank you

    • Jim says:

      Sharon,

      You will have to bear with slow responses, as always, due to time constraints. You bring up a lot of arguments and questions, and I have a lot of work ahead of me outside of these comments. In this brief comment, I wish only to address a couple of errors in your methodology.

      The first regards your accusation that I am unfair to Christianity. In your accusation—which you are free to make by the way—you argue that I exaggerate the evils of Christianity. You compare what I wrote about the poisoned muffin of Christianity to the Jews for Judaism video that puts only a cockroach in the muffin of Christianity. This, you assert, shows that I carry a strong antipathy to Christianity and exaggerate its faults due to my having formerly been a Christian: “[Daniel Ventresca] described the gospel as a muffin that has cockroaches inside , but you described it as laced with rat poison! To me that is very vicious. I can’t accept the credibility of your argument after watching that video.”

      Now, I have no interest in defending myself. If you find me vicious, I will be saddened that you think so, but I do not wish to try to assert that I am not. However, I would like to address the argument itself and show that it is not sound.

      Mr. Ventresca and I are not addressing the same topic when we compare Christianity to a muffin, with either a cockroach or poison inside, so that one argument cannot be an inflation of the other. Mr. Ventresca is speaking to the confused testimonies of the gospels regarding the crucifixion and resurrection narratives. He demonstrates that certain elements of the stories cannot be attributed to differing points of view and are irreconcilable with one another. His metaphor regarding the cockroach and the muffin relates to how one cannot pick and choose which parts of the testimony one will accept. Just as one would not eat a muffin in which a cockroach had been baked, only being careful to eat only muffin, one does not carefully read around contradicting testimony to support a predetermined conclusion. My topic, however, was about Christian doctrine. Certainly, some Christian doctrine is good, particularly those parts that come directly out of the Torah without being misrepresented. However, Christianity also contains doctrines that are damaging to the believer. Among the responses I plan to offer you is a further outlining of the poison in the Christian muffin, but among them are the notions that God will not forgive one’s wrongdoing unless an innocent is punished and, of course, that one should worship a human being.

      It is a mistake to compare our arguments the way you have done. If he compared the errors in Christian doctrine to a cockroach and I to a poison, then you might argue that one of us minimized or one of us inflated the dangers of Christianity. Or, if we were both writing about the testimony of the gospels, then you might have said the same thing. But, the only element that our works share is that they both use a muffin as a metaphor, a superficial similarity. Therefore, contrasting our work you have is an error.

      (But, this does not prove that I am not too hard on Christianity, and, as I say, I have no interest in defending myself on that charge.)

      Regarding your other error of methodology: you frequently invert the authority of the Torah and the later religions of Christianity and Islam. So, for example, you sometimes subject Torah to a test based on Islamic teachings, asserting the superiority of the latter. Recently you asked this question: “My question-Scriptures and history aside ,is there anything unique about the universal truths Judaism has to offer which other faiths , such as Islam has not already taught?” But this question is backwards, based on your private experience of learning from Islam first. Judaism is 2,000 years older than Islam, so that the question should be: “Does Islam have an unique truths that Judaism has not already taught?”

      The Torah precedes Christianity and Islam, and both of those religions based themselves to some extent off of the Torah and affirm (to some extent) the truth of the Torah. Moreover, they both seek to establish their authority through the Torah. Therefore, Torah is the canon against which they are to be measured, not the other way around. Also, neither has a verified prophet. So that, onn any point that those two religions differ from Torah, they must be incorrect. Moreover, inasmuch as they both distort Torah, it is not reasonable to base your understanding of Torah on their claims.

      It is unsound to treat them as the baseline by which Torah is measured, when it is the other way around.

      I write this with kind intentions, and I hope that my directness has not offended you.

      Jim

  3. Jim says:

    Aaron and Sharon,

    I am afraid that I have been unclear in my purpose. The above essay was not an attack upon Christianity. It was an attempt to explain the priority of the Oral Torah and a partial explanation as to why the Church does not recognize its priority, despite the obviousness of the argument. My point is that the Church does not recognize the priority of the Oral Torah because of the early corruption of its own oral tradition. There are other reasons, as well, but it is clear that from the early days of the Church, confusion ensued. In bringing this out, it is not to show specifically that the Church strayed from its early message, though it may have, but to show why the Church does not give much weight to the oral tradition.

    Let me provide another line of evidence. As I understand it—but, I have not had a chance to verify—Eusebius writes of the Ebionites that they originated in Jerusalem and left before its destruction in 70 CE. Due to their physical proximity to the early Church, one would expect that the faith of the Ebionites was that most directly influenced by the disciples of Jesus. However, the Church fathers considered them heretics, due to various differences between the Ebionites and the Church as it developed outside of Israel. The Ebionites did not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. They did not believe he was divine. They did believe, however, that the commandments of the Torah were still to be fulfilled.

    Outside of Jerusalem, many different churches were founded by many different people, not just Paul. Some of these also had what would be considered heretical views by the Church fathers. Even among those, however, that were not heretical, two items must be considered. The first is that these communities grew up away far away from the original and central church in Jerusalem. The second is that these churches grew up among non-Jews who had no understanding of the basic principles of Torah that were supposed to be the backbone of Jesus’ teaching and his claim to Messiahship. Moreover, as one can easily see in the letters of Paul, the teachings of the Torah were greatly misrepresented to them. (See for example his letters to the Romans and the Galatians.)

    Let us accept for the sake of argument—though we know it to be false—that the Church outside of Jerusalem had a unified understanding of Christianity. Let us accept also that it contrasted with the Ebionites on the following points (as it must have done in order not to be considered heretical by the Church Fathers): 1. It affirmed the divinity of Jesus. 2. It affirmed the virgin birth. 3. It believed that the commandments of the Torah, particularly ceremonial commandments, need not be fulfilled by the Christian.

    Then, we have two branches of Christianity, one that grew up in Jerusalem among those that were most likely to have heard the disciples’ teaching and one that grew up outside Jerusalem and had less contact with the disciples. And the one that grew up outside of Jerusalem was comprised of those that did not know the Torah and who easily accepted misrepresentations of it in support of the theology of their teachers. It would appear that the community most likely to represent the earliest Church tradition would be the Ebionites, but the Church Fathers call them the heretics and claim apostolic authority for those churches that were furthest from the apostles and furthest from the Torah.

    It is easiest for the Christian, then, to glide over the oral tradition, because it does not seem likely that the Ebionites are the group farthest from early Church doctrine. Yet, the Ebionites no longer exist. The dominant Church doctrines grew up away from the apostles, where confused notions were taught to those without a sufficient Torah background to understand what was taught. The tradition of the Ebionites was lost, and they are known only through a few comments sprinkled throughout early Church writings. It is easiest for the Christian to ignore questions about those early traditions and accept just another oral tradition to establish the authority of the Church and the authorship of the gospels. Having accepted the canon of the “New Testament” then, he has something that appears more firm than the oral tradition that is lost to him.

    It becomes inconceivable to him that the Jewish people should have an oral tradition. While it is obvious that the written tradition relies on the oral tradition, he only accepts his own oral tradition far enough to establish Church authority and nothing further. It is easiest for him if he accepts it generically without thinking about the details. Probing too far shows the tenuousness of his tradition. It does not occur to him that the Jewish oral tradition has a much firmer footing, so he denies its existence.

    Still, it is clear that the Oral Torah validates the Written and not the other way around. And it is clear that the Oral Torah is necessary for a complete understanding of the Written.

    Jim

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Jim,

      Thank you for making clear your position on this article. You stated that the “Church does not recognize the priority of the Oral Torah because of the early corruption of its own oral tradition” . You go on to write about the Ebionites, a group that was deemed heretical according Eusebius. The Christian ignored the oral tradition (of Judaism) since it regarded the Ebionites, who subscribe to the Torah as heretical . The Christian follow another tradition which you claim grew away from the doctrine taught by the Apostles , a tradition which establish the authority of the Church and the authorship of the Gospels. Do correct me if I am wrong.

      If I may recall , you stated in an earlier comment before this article: “If I understand you correctly, you posit that a SIMILAR oral tradition exists in Christianity. But, this has no legs. I will get more into why in my lengthier comment to come”. I understand that the purpose of this article is to explain in detail why the oral tradition in Christianity “has no legs”.

      Hence I understand this article as a comparison between the Oral tradition in Judaism and Christianity and not on the credibility of the Oral Torah in the written scriptures as raised by the Christian missionary. You explained that no reliable oral transmission exist from the beginning and I was trying to prove to you from the NT that your assessment is not accurate.

      In my opinion , it is unfair to argue that the oral tradition in Christianity is corrupted because the Church did not accept the authenticity of the Oral Torah . I have shown you that there is evidence from the NT of an oral transmission unique to the believers of Jesus and common teachings/rituals adhered by both the Jewish and Gentile Christians at the time . There is a reliable system within the Church to transmit these oral teachings from the Apostles to the present Church today .

      In addition , the council in Acts 15 did not require the non Jewish Christians to be Torah observant . It is sufficient that they observe a few rules as set by the council . Hence the tradition that is derived from the worship of the Jerusalem church will be devoid of Torah observance , for Torah observance is incumbent on the Jewish Christians alone .Since the gentile Church grew and become more dominant , it is natural that these traditions , devoid of Torah observance take centre stage.

      If we accept that the Apostles and disciples of Jesus regard the Torah observance as required for the Church , then why do they themselves violate the command of the Torah on idolatry? They worship the risen Jesus as described in Matthew 28:17 , except for a few who doubted . Why did Cephas (Peter) or James not berate Paul for his high Christological claims, if indeed they did not regard Jesus as divine? There seems to be no record of this sort of disagreement in the NT. The only concern of James and the elders had was on Paul’s teaching that Jews living among Gentiles to turn away from Moses . Even then Paul agreed to follow their suggestion to join the four Jewish Christians in their purification rites according to Mosaic law.

      The central focus of Christianity , the Apostles and of Paul is a Person –Jesus and that influenced their interpretation of the Jewish scriptures. To these Jewish Christians there is no conflict in their reverence to the exalted Jesus and adhering to the Torah prohibitions on idolatry -which has been affirmed by scholars such as Richard Bauckham and Larry W Hurtado.

      You mentioned about the Ebionites . Did you consider “Nazarene” Christianity , another Jewish Christian group at the time ? I learnt about this group , as with the Ebionites in two books written by scholars so far. The Nazarenes , according to Larry Hurtado had a view of Jesus which is compatible with beliefs of Proto -Orthodox circles -the dominant circle which is to be the face of Christianity. They regarded Jesus as divine. What are your views about them? Don’t they deserve some mention?

      In my opinion , your arguments on the lack of oral transmission in Christianity comes about from ignorance of oral traditions WITHIN Christianity itself , given your evangelical background . The position of the evangelical Christian on the Oral Torah comes from the lack of appreciation of the oral tradition WITHIN Christianity itself. If the evangelical Christian does not accept the authenticity of oral tradition within Christianity , how then can they accept the existence of Oral tradition in Judaism?

      I see your arguments as trying to deflect that and to point of the resistance by the Christian towards the Oral Torah as a weakness in the transmission of oral tradition within the first generation of Christianity itself . That is why I stated that you do not give Christianity a fair hearing.

      I admit my initial question that brought about this discussions come from a Sola Scriptura mindset . I am raised in the Catholic tradition , however I was influenced of this mindset by my brief involvement in Evangelical Christianity . However I find it easier to accept the Oral traditions within Judaism for I see a similar tradition in my own-except for the 7.

      • Jim says:

        Sharon,

        You misunderstand my position. I am afraid I do not make myself clear at all. The purpose of this article is not to explain why the Christian oral tradition has no legs. Indeed, I do not consider it at all important to argue against the Christian oral tradition as an argument against Christianity. I only have a few minutes, so I will keep my comments here brief.

        Even if Christianity had an identifiable and clear oral tradition, that tradition would be of no value, because:

        1. The Jesus of the New Testament was a false prophet, as has been demonstrated elsewhere. Therefore, even if his teachings were kept in tact by his apostles and passed down through the Church faithfully, they would have only faithfully preserved the teachings of a false prophet.

        2. Early Christians, such as Paul, misrepresented the Torah. Even if they faithfully transmitted Jesus’ teachings, they did not faithfully transmit the Torah. They are deceivers and not to be trusted.

        It is not important to me to undermine the Christian oral tradition. However, you ignore multiple facts to assert that you know the one true tradition. As the NT testifies, multiple traditions had already sprung up. You have ignored that Paul has to warn others against foreign gospels. You only assert that you know what the true tradition is by cherry-picking certain verses and ignoring others. I know that you say the same thing about me, but I will have to defend my arguments regarding Paul at a later time when I have more time.

        But again, I am only explaining one reason why Christians do not see the obvious priority of the Oral Torah, a priority that is so obvious, that you seek to establish a Christian oral tradition, despite the clear evidence of multiple traditions.

        Jim

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Jim,

          Firstly , my apologies for describing your parable on the muffin as “vicious”. I assumed that you had based your parable on Daniel Ventresca’s presentation based on the common usage of the muffin as a metaphor . In addition , you stated that it is the good elements of Christianity which makes the evil palatable . I understand from that statement that you find Christianity as evil. I then came to a conclusion that your arguments is vicious based on the above two factors.

          You stated that I “sometimes subject Torah to a test based on Islamic teachings, asserting the superiority of the latter” , that my methodology is faulty . Let me respond by saying that you and I come from very different spiritual backgrounds . I assume you come from an evangelical Christian background and come to know the errors of Christianity -trinity and idolatry through the Jewish Scriptures. I come from a Catholic background and come to know of the same errors through Islam . I was not aware that the message of monotheism and prohibition against idolatry is the central message in the Jewish scriptures at the time . I only come to know about this after listening from Jewish counter-missionaries, many years after I explored Islam.

          I assumed initially that Judaism and Islam share the same message of monotheism . However I have found the answer to your question “Does Islam have an unique truths that Judaism has not already taught?” through my own studies of Judaism. I highlighted these findings during our previous discussions in “Sufficient” .

          My question “Scriptures and history aside ,is there anything unique about the universal truths Judaism has to offer which other faiths , such as Islam has not already taught?” does not imply that I am asserting superiority of Islamic teachings . I am just stating that there is another group of people that has the same claims of monotheism -worship of the one G-d as Judaism . What is the difference between the two? What is the unique message that Judaism has on this? Is it wrong for me to ask this question?

          I am also sensing that you are changing your positions in the light of my arguments. You started with the Christian missionary questioning the authenticity of the Oral Torah . Yet you devote 8 to 9 paragraphs of your article to prove why the Oral tradition aka the transmission of Jesus’s teachings to the Apostles and the church (no Oral Torah mentioned here) has no legs. If you can consider the possibility that the oral transmission in Christianity is identifiable and clear , despite transmitting the message of a false prophet with the twisted interpretation of the Torah , why bother devote 8 to 9 paragraphs discrediting the twisted oral transmission of Christianity? Why do you even bother to write the scenario of oral transmission involving Peter and the early Christians in Thought Experiment #1 and #2? Why not use the example of Moses and his transmission of the Oral Torah to the judges in your thought experiment instead?

          I do not wish to discredit you . I understand that you are highly respected here . However I notice that there is an error in your methodology . From your article and comments it is clear that you do not regard Christianity as having a sound oral tradition . I can understand if it is coming from your evangelical background . However you have implicit trust in both the written and oral torah in Judaism judging from the above article. If I were you , I would look back at the Christian faith I left behind in its whole totality (Orthodox + Evangelical) and try to study and appreciate the oral traditions within Christianity . That is what I did. The knowledge of the Oral Torah in Judaism inspire me to study similar oral traditions in Christianity .I come to appreciate the effort to preserve this transmission even more-even though it successfully transmits the message of a false prophet with the twisted interpretation of the Torah.

          Perhaps you might want to read up on the Oral tradition in Catholicism by Mark Shea and link to his website that I put in my previous reply to you (in Sufficient).

          Thank you.

  4. Dina says:

    Sharon, since Jim will not defend himself from your charge that his words are “vicious” and unfair to Christianity, I am taking that task upon myself. I have been reading Jim’s comments on this blog for years, and I have never seen his writing to be anything but dispassionate, presenting clear, thoughtful, reasoned arguments to support his position. Far from being vicious, I have seen Jim respond to the most biting personal attacks with courtesy and kindness.

    It would take more time than I have to find his comments to prove my assertion that I have seen Jim freely admit that there is good in Christianity. I have never found that he is like people who, once they leave a religion or ideology behind, criticize everything about it while refusing to admit that it might contain some good, or some truth.

    But ultimately, imputing bad motives to people with whom you disagree, is, I find, unhelpful to uncovering the truth. The question to ask ourselves is not, is this argument vicious? Or even, is this person giving my side a fair hearing? The question to ask is, is this argument true? And if found to be false, to prove it. But if found to be true, to acknowledge it.

    • Dina says:

      And I hasten to add, Sharon, that I have seen you exhibit remarkable courage in doing just that, and I hope you will continue to examine Jim’s arguments in that manner.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Dina,

      According to Jim ,the Church does not recognize the priority of the Oral Torah because of the early corruption of its own oral tradition. I see this as a glaring example on the lack of fair hearing when it comes to Christianity.

      The oral tradition of Christianity is devoid of Torah observance and thereby Oral Torah as it is not the requirement of the Council in Acts 15 for a non Jew to adhere to Mosaic Law. The Church of today comprise of mainly Gentile Christians. Jewish Christians have died out by 4th century .

      Despite that , I argued that the transmission of oral tradition WITHIN Christianity ( devoid of Torah) is sound and provided verses from the NT to support my claim , notwithstanding that it transmits the message of a false prophet with twisted interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures. There is no major departure within the belief and practice of Jewish Christians in the Jerusalem Church with say a Gentile Church in Corinth . The Jewish Christians worship the exalted Jesus but they observe the Torah. There are common words , hymns and terminology used in the worship of Jewish and Gentile Christians , minus Torah observance on the part of Gentile Christians.

      I find Jim’s argument as being unfair as it assumes that there is no reliable of oral transmission WITHIN Christianity in order to justify why the missionary does not recognize the authenticity of the Oral Torah. In my opinion the missionary , being evangelical does not even recognize the authenticity of the oral transmission WITHIN Christianity . How then can the missionary recognize the authenticity of an oral tradition OUTSIDE of Christianity?

      I find that the argument ignores the fact that 50% of the Christian population today believe that there is a reliable oral tradition in the church from the time of the Apostles. In my opinion Jim’s argument stems from his own ignorance on the oral traditions in Christianity , given his background and does not reflect the true picture of Christianity as a whole (Orthodox + Evangelical )branches of Christianity.

      That said , I respect Jim and the work he has done here. I appreciate his patience , character ,kindness and commitment during our conversations . However I also believe that we should always represent the beliefs of others fairly and accurately , even though we are convinced that the belief itself is false. I have tried my best to live up to that spirit in my interactions with Christians who misinterprets the Jewish scriptures to support arguments that the Jewish people are spiritually blind or legalistic. I try my best to live up to that spirit in articulating the convictions of my muslim brothers and sisters. I am trying my best to do the same here.

      Feel free to look into the comments that I have linked to get a better understanding and judge for yourself . Do highlight if I am in error.

      Thank you.

      • Jim says:

        Sharon,

        In order to establish the one true tradition among competing traditions, one has to eat around the muffin surrounding the cockroach. It is clear even in the New Testament that multiple opinions of what Christianity might mean existed early on. One cannot ignore Paul’s warning to the Galatians that they should heed no gospel other than that which he already delivered to them. This passage relates to Acts 15, and the problem of the early Church, a problem that demonstrates that no oral tradition existed regarding the non-Jewish believer.

        According to Acts 15, two different teachings were promulgated by earlier carriers of the gospel. Some, “who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees” taught that non-Jews needed to convert to Judaism in order to become part of the incipient Church (v. 5). Others, such as Paul, taught that this was unnecessary. Already then, in the first stages of the Church’s development, two opinions existed regarding the treatment of the Church.

        This provokes a question in the reader: What did Jesus teach his disciples about this when he taught them “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you”? (Matthew 28:29-30) Over the course of 40 days, Jesus appeared to his disciples, teaching them. One might surmise that he prepared them for this mission, telling them what was required for its completion, what salvation for the non-Jew would require. The Jewish people spent time at Sinai learning the Torah, preparing for their mission. One would expect the same thing with the disciples, before embarking upon their mission to “make disciples of all nations.”

        However, nothing is more certain than that the disciples had no instructions on this matter. One can see this in that the matter arose at all. If the disciples had received instructions on this, one would expect them to have conveyed those instructions to those that taught the non-Jews the gospel. Before sending them out, they would have told those Pharisees and others what was required for the non-Jew. They would have told Paul what was required and Barnabas and John Mark. However, it is clear that they gave no instructions on these matters. They were entirely unprepared for the question when it arose.

        Moreover, the question, once it had been raised, was not resolved by appeal to Jesus’ teachings. Peter does not say that he and the other disciples received from Jesus a teaching that such-and-such was to be the status of the non-Jewish believer. He does not refer to Jesus’ command to make disciples; nor does he argue that the command was only to baptize and nothing else. Instead, he appeals to his experience as the first selected by God to teach the gospel to non-Jews, by which he seems to be referring to the incident in Acts 10, regarding Cornelius. After Cornelius and those with him believed on Jesus, Peter argues, they received the Holy Spirit just as the Jewish believers in Jesus had “and in cleansing their hearts by faith, he has made no distinction between them and us” (Acts 15:9). Then, Paul and Barnabas appeal to the signs and wonders that they have done among the non-Jews (v.12). And finally, James makes a ruling. In the entire preceding, as recorded in Acts 15, no mention is made of the teaching received from Jesus. Indeed, reading Peter’s argument, one is suspicious that Jesus never commanded his disciples to preach to the non-Jewish world. His account implies that God first gave him that mission privately in a vision, so that the post-resurrection commandment by Jesus appears to be a retrojection. Regardless, it is quite clear that the apostles had no teaching on this matter from Jesus: they had no oral tradition regarding this matter.

        Further confusion of the early tradition comes out of this story, a conflict between the ruling of James and the teaching of Paul. James’ decision included the injunction that non-Jews should “abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood” (Acts 15:20). Despite this ruling, Paul later writes to the Corinthians that they are permitted to eat meat offered to idols, because they know that idols are nothing. Only they must not do so in the company of the “weak,” those that still think of food as being actually offered to idols (I Corinthians 8). This is a violation of the ruling in Acts 15, and, read one way, implies a weakness in James in Paul’s opinion. On this matter, then, two traditions were taught in the early Church, that of James and that of Paul, the former teaching the impermissibility of eating food offered to idols and the latter the opposite, except under certain circumstances.

        From Acts 15, then, it is evident that the early Church did not have one solid tradition going back to Jesus. One sees that from the beginning, the Church could not have received instructions relating to the conversion of non-Jews, or else the question of their circumcision would not have arisen. And, once the question did arise, it was not resolved through appealing to Jesus’ instructions. And finally, when the matter was settled, further fracturing ensued, as Paul violated the ruling of that council. From its inception, the Church began to resemble the Tower of Babel, various sects with various claims to tradition breaking off early on, with no one solid tradition reliably transmitted.

        Jim

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Jim,

          Thank you for your enlightening reply . You intend to show that church does not have one solid tradition going back to Jesus , by showing that no oral tradition existed regarding the non-Jewish believer.

          Let me start by stating that the knowledge of the Oral Torah in Judaism helps me to understand the oral tradition in Christianity, particularly of the Catholic faith . I believe that as a student of the Torah , you would have come across the term “ Lo Bashamayim Hi” or “Torah is not in heaven”. This term is based on Deuteronomy 30:12 to mean “that the meaning of the Torah itself is to be uncovered not by prophets, or even God’s miracles or words, but by man’s interpretation and decision-making. “(source: Wikipedia).To me this means that Moses may not be able to realise the full length and breadth of the Torah at the time of its giving at Sinai. The meaning of the Torah is further expounded by the Jewish community over the centuries to become the body of knowledge that it is today. I have heard of one tradition which described Moses with the Sages and where he expressed his surprise at their breadth knowledge. Do correct me if I’m wrong.

          I have heard of this argument personally from a Jewish believer of Jesus- that the Judaism practised today is not the practice of biblical Jews . I can see from the outside that there is some truth to his words , a good example will be Chanukah and Purim in which its observance is not mentioned in the Jewish Scriptures . Does that mean that there is no reliable oral transmission from Sinai , that the Jewish people add , subtract or created new innovations beyond what was revealed to them?

          I am sure that your answer would be a flat “No”.

          I take on what I learnt in Judaism and took a good look back at Christianity. I see something similar in what Catholicism terms as the “deposit of faith”. This is the body of saving truth entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles . Jesus ordered his disciples to teach the nations “to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

          I learnt more about this deposit , handed down by the Apostles in Sacred Scripture and Tradition . This deposit when handed over was at its embryonic stage and is continually developed and expounded over the centuries . This deposit is further defined and developed when the Church had to clarify issues of Jesus’s divinity among the many competing teachings at the time.

          Am I trying to eat around the muffin with cockroaches in order to establish one true traditions among competing traditions as you say? Or is there really one true tradition which required development over time?If you really appreciate the oral transmission and development of Torah over time then you should consider a similar pattern in the Christian oral transmission as well.

          You argued that Jesus did not leave detailed instructions to the Apostles on what the non Jew would require for salvation , despite instructing his disciples to “make disciples of all nations”. Actually Jesus did ask his disciples to baptise and teach what he ( not the Torah) has commanded them to the nations . That is a start. Perhaps Jesus did not leave further instructions beyond that . That is for the Apostles to figure out , based on the deposit of faith entrusted by Jesus to them and through the working of the Holy Spirit.

          You mentioned that Peter and the other disciples did not receive such and such on the status of the non Jewish believer. However Peter did quote a lesson he learnt from Jesus while explaining his action to the other Jewish believers (Acts 11:16). That is the starting point in the shift of the Apostles’s ministry by reaching out to the non Jews.

          You stated that there was a conflict between the ruling of James and that of Paul .In my opinion Paul’s ruling would be in conformity to what Jesus had taught. According to Jesus “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 15:11) and again “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”( Mark 9:42) with regards to the weak believer.

          Since you are touching on the non Jew , I would like to point out the situation of the non Jew in the Judaism. The written Torah only prohibits mankind on murder and eating meat that has lifeblood in it . The written Torah however commanded man to be fruitful and multiply, which I learnt was only binding to the Jewish people based on the Talmud .

          There are no specific verses on 7 laws in the Torah , we only know of them through the Talmud (Sanhedrin, Chulin) , of which passage in Sanhedrin 56b is frequently referred to.You have explained R’Yochanan’s allusions to the 7 laws based on Genesis 2:16 here https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-58234

          However Talmud Avoda Zara 2b states that the 7 laws have been nullified and this is based on interpretation of Habakkuk 3:6 by the Rabbis. However I learnt from another Rabbi that this does not mean that the 7 is no longer binding.

          You wrote “R’ Hirsch compares the written Torah to a system of notes. It is not the entire teaching that the Jewish people received. But it is a system used to bring to memory what the people learned already.” There are no notes in the Torah on 6 out of the 7 laws or that the non Jew is not required to obey the written law on procreation . We see that the Talmud itself have conflicting views on the 7 which requires further clarification . So why do you harp on the conflict between the ruling of James and that of Paul? Why do you harp on the fact that Jesus did not give “such-and-such” instruction on the status of the non-Jewish believer? Why do you regard R’Yochanan’s interpretation of Genesis 2:16 so highly and not consider Avoda Zara 2b , or bothered that there are no notes on 6 out of the 7 laws in the written Torah?

          I don’t think that Moses would have come up with the tefillin as a device to be a “sign for you upon your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes” (Exodus 13:9) instantly. The development of these observances take time . Similarly the Apostles need time to work out Jesus’s command in Matthew 28 . Why do you not consider this?

          I do not wish to impute bad motives to you, but I find that you are inconsistent in your methodology. You do not consider the circumstances surrounding the development Oral Torah and analyse the oral transmission in Christianity in the same light. You see only the falsehoods, which you described as rat poison in your parable to me . You do not give a fair hearing when it comes to Christianity.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Jim,

            The correct link to your detailed explanation of the 7 laws here
            https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-45103

            Thank you

          • Dina says:

            I hope you guys don’t mind my jumping in here to say a couple of things. Number one, Sharon, you said that Purim is a holiday not mentioned in Scripture. The injunction to observe Purim is in the Book of Esther, which is part of the Hebrew Scriptural canon. It is true that it is a later book and that Moses did not observe this holiday. Nevertheless, it is to be found in Scripture.

            We have a solid oral tradition stretching back to Moses; this includes the authority granted to rabbis to make rabbinical enactments. You are correct that many observances have been added, but this is expected as part of the oral tradition.

            However, there is a huge difference between Christian oral tradition, if such a thing there be, and Jewish. The arguments between religious, devout sects of Christianity center on fundamental issues, like the trinity. All the religious, devout sects of Judaism, be they Hasidic, ultra-Orthodox non-Hasidic, centrist, modern, or anything outside and in between, agree on the basics. There is no difference of opinion on God’s oneness, on what constitutes violation of the Sabbath, what makes a food non-kosher, when Passover should be observed–even though there are varying levels of strictness in observance. So the differences between the sects boil down to hair-splitting differences on how strict to be in observing the law (not in how to interpret it). But you will never find one group arguing that there is no afterlife (as some in the media mistakenly attributed to Judaism), one group arguing that God is really three (God forbid!), one group arguing that one is permitted to eat beef with milk but not goat meat with milk, or anything like that.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            Thank you for correcting me on Purim.

            I do agree that there is a huge difference between Christian oral tradition and that of Judaism . There is also a huge difference between Christian oral tradition and that of Islam as well . If you look at the bigger picture , there is more diversity of beliefs in Christianity as compared to Judaism and Islam . This is a common argument brought about by critics of Christianity .

            However that does not mean this diversity occurs mainly due to no reliable oral transmission from the beginning of Christianity or within the generation of the Apostles . This diversity aka other gospels have existed from when the Apostles started their ministry , in their own lifetime! It takes councils such as the one in Acts 15 to clarify the teachings of the Apostles ,such as on the requirement of the non Jew to be saved.
            If indeed there is no reliable oral tradition ,these other gospels would have been propagated long after the Apostles had passed ,not during their lifetime.

            The diversity in Christianity that you see today is mainly due to the major split in the church during the 15th century. The faction that split follow a Sola Scriptura method of interpreting the scriptures . Naturally more denominations will come out as those that break away from the Catholic church will interpret scripture differently . However most of these denominations follow the basic doctrines established by the Catholic church , such as the Trinity and the hypostatic union.

            In my opinion we should check further the root cause on why this diversity occur in the first place and when did it start .I see there are two major periods where there is a breakout of this diversity -the first few centuries in the beginning of Christianity and after the reformation to present day. Attributing this diversity to the lack of reliable oral transmission from the beginning of Christianity to me is too simplistic.

            This is my observation . I do not have a deep knowledge of Church history as some commenters here . Do correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Jim says:

            Hi Sharon,

            You present a lot of thoughts on the Oral Torah, which I would like to address, but that will probably not happen until next week some time. While I have a quick moment, I would like to address only the follow-up on Acts 15. You write that Peter does refer back to the words of Jesus, indicating an oral tradition.

            This has not relieved us of the problem at all. Notice to what it is Peter refers. In order to justify baptizing the non-Jewish believers of Cornelius’ house, he does not refer to the commandment that they should go into all nations baptizing in the names, etc. Instead, he makes an appeal to the fact that the non-Jews already had received the greater baptism that comes from Jesus, that of the holy spirit, and so, they must be eligible also to receive the lesser baptism of John: “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” (Acts 11:16-17). This argument should have been wholly unnecessary if Jesus had already told them that they were to go into all the world, etc., which command included the instruction to baptize. Again, this suggests that no such commandment was ever given.

            After Peter tells those that questioned him about this, they respond: “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). This indicates a sense of wonderment on their part. They say this as if it is to them new information. Yet, according to the end of Matthew, Jesus already had given them this mission. Christians call it the Great Commission, after all. However, the text indicates that they had no idea that such a thing was possible. Did they not know their mission?

            Apparently not.

            Four chapters later, they must discuss whether or not the non-Jew must become a Jew or not, the arguments there having been briefly discussed here already. Moreover, Paul’s epistle to the Galatians suggests that much confusion continued around this question. In the second chapter, Paul writes of his conflict with Peter, who apparently had been convinced by representatives of James (who decision was followed in Acts 15) to stop eating with the non-Jews (v. 12). Moreover, Barnabas, Paul’s teaching partner also adopted this practice, it appears (v. 13). To all appearances, those in authority in Jerusalem, who Paul claims had succumbed to hypocrisy, had a different view of the Church’s mission to the non-Jews than Paul had. It would require a great stretch to say that the Church shared one common tradition on this matter.

            Indeed, the evidence suggests that they had no teaching from Jesus on this matter, not even a commission to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them. Otherwise, people should have been much less surprised by non-Jewish acceptance of Jesus, and Peter would not have to argue from the greater baptism to the lesser baptism. Moreover, Paul would not be in conflict with Peter still much later and in conflict with James, who seems to lead the Church in Jerusalem. It is clear that confusion about the Church’s mission begins early in the Church, even regarding what are considered basic matters of the Church, even its mission.

            Jim

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Jim,

            Thank you for continuing this discussion.

            You intend to show that there is no commission for the Apostles to make disciples of all nations .You highlighted the difficulties and conflicts within the followers of Jesus in expanding their ministry to include non Jews , by referencing to Acts 15 , particularly on verses 16 to 17 and on Paul’s conflict with Cephas (Peter) in Galatians 2.

            The commission for the Apostles to make disciples of all nations is not only found in Matthew 28: 19-20 , but also in Luke 24:47 and Acts 1: 8 . Hence we see this commission attested in two sources. Hence , there is evidence to believe that Jesus had instructed the Apostles on this matter. I agree that Jesus did not leave a detailed “operating standard”, SOP, or guide such as “Reaching out to the non Jews 101” as you would have liked. However, as I wrote previously, that is for the Apostles to find out, based on the deposit of faith entrusted by Jesus to them and through the working of the Holy Spirit.

            The shift in the Apostle’s ministry to include non Jews actually started with Phillip , an Apostle (Acts 1:13) and his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch , described in Acts 8:26 to 39. Phillip interpreted Isaiah 53 in order to explain to the eunuch the good news about Jesus . Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch later went down to the water, where Phillip baptized him . There was no confusion about the greater baptism (of the Holy Spirit) to the lesser baptism (of water) on Phillip’s part.

            I do acknowledge that there confusion and even conflict within the disciples of Jesus in their ministry to the non Jews . However, based on the above facts , these conflicts does not arise due to the lack of a reliable oral transmission or that Jesus did not commission the disciples on making disciples of non Jews. These conflicts arise out of the existing mindset that the Jewish Christians already have about the non-Jew from their Jewish upbringing and adherence to the Torah.

            The events in Acts 15 started from the events in Acts 10. The story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10) started with both Cornelius and Peter having a vision . Peter had a vision of a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners and contained all kinds of four footed animals . A voice told Peter to kill and eat to which he replied “ Surely not, Lord” , and followed by “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean” (Acts 10:13-14). The voice responded “ Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15). This happened three times. Peter only realized the meaning of that vision upon his meeting with Cornelius . He stated “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (10:34) . This is later affirmed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit even among the Gentiles which left the circumcised believers with Peter astonished (Acts 10:45-46). Peter then baptized them with water , realizing that they have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit just as the Jewish Christians have (Acts 10:47-48). This is the background behind Peter’s quotation of a lesson from Jesus in Acts 11:16-17 . The point is that the Holy Spirit does not discriminate between Jew and non Jew , as stressed by Peter again in Acts 15 :9.

            Similarly , the conflict between Paul and Peter , described by Paul in Galatians 2 is due to Peter and Barnabas having to reconcile their new found convictions from the events in Acts 10,11 and 15 with their adherence to Jewish law, such as concerns on violation of kashrut laws when associating with non Jews. I will not rule out peer pressure i.e the need to please the circumcision party either. Paul is a Hellenistic Jew .He might have a broader outlook and is able to associate with non-Jews more freely then Peter and Barnabas. Perhaps that is why he saw their actions as hypocrisy.

            I need to sidetrack a bit here. Dietary laws can be a source of friction between those who follow them , such as Jews and Muslims and those who do not follow them . I experience this in my interactions with Muslims in catering to their dietary restrictions for a group event involving muslims and non muslims. Some Muslims are concerned with the choice of restaurants and insist on a restaurant with a “halal certificate” by the local muslim religious authority ,certifying that the restaurant comply to Muslim dietary law. Some Muslims are not too concerned with the choice of restaurant as long as what is served to them is does not resemble any forbidden items . There are some muslims , who may not be too concerned with the choice of restaurants when out with their non-muslim friends on their own. However the same person may insist to eat in a restaurant that is certified when they fellow muslim friends are present. My non Muslim friends and I always go to great lengths to cater to the dietary requirements of our muslim friends. The fellowship is more important. However we do understand if they choose not to join in us in these gatherings.

            I don’t see how Paul’s mission differ from those in authority in Jerusalem . Paul wrote “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law , but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law”(Galatians 2:16).

            Peter’s statement in Acts 15:10-11 is similar to what Paul had written to the churches in Galatia –“Now then ,why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No , we believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved , just as they are”. James therefore judged in favor of Peter, Barnabas and Paul based on their testimony. How are these two statements any different?

            To recap ,I hope to have shown that the incidences in Acts 15 and Galatians 2 does not come about due to the lack of oral transmission and teaching from Jesus on making disciples out of non Jews. These difficulties and conflicts arise due to the existing mindset that the Jewish Christians already have about the non-Jew from their Jewish upbringing and adherence to the Torah. Hence they had initial difficulty to reconcile their new found convictions from the events in Acts 10,11 and 15 with their adherence to Jewish law.

          • Jim says:

            Hi Sharon,

            Neither Luke 24:47, nor Acts 1:8 contain a commission, they are more predictive than prescriptive. They contain even less information than the Great Commission as it is given in Matthew. Moreover, from all that has been noted here, a great lack of information was evident from the beginning with the Church.

            According to you, the disciples did not have a clear understanding whether Jesus should be worshipped as a divine being or not, even at his resurrection. Some thought that they ought to adhere to the Torah, and some thought it proper to violate one of the fundamental precepts of the Torah. While you argue from the opening chapters of Acts that the disciples must have all become convinced of one opinion or the other, it is clear that this would be a point of contention in the Church going forward.

            Moreover, the disciples, having been commissioned to preach the gospel to all nations and to baptize believers, exhibit an appalling lack of knowledge regarding that mission. They seem to not know that non-believers can be saved. An argument must be made in favor for their baptism, as if they had not been told to baptize non-Jewish believers. They do not know whether or not the non-Jew must be circumcised or not.

            Further examples have been brought and can be recapitulated here, but the point is that it is clear that no single tradition was communicated by Jesus to the disciples and the early Church was a cacophony. The term “deposit of faith,” is an admission of this fact. It is to say that the early believers had to develop both theology and practice, because of either the lack of or the confusion of the tradition. (Or both.)

            I know that you remain unconvinced, which is fine. I have no plans to argue any further on this subject.

            Jim

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Jim,

            Thank you for your feedback.

            I do see your point , but I think it is important to consider the surrounding factors , especially the mindset that the Apostles already have about Gentiles . This may cause the confusion and conflict in Acts 15 and Galatians 2.

            To conclude that there is no tradition communicated by Jesus to the Apostles without considering these factors is simplistic.

            However we have both put up our opinions and arguments. It is up to the reader to consider for themselves and judge accordingly.

            Thank you once again for your patience, kindness and commitment during our conversations in “Sufficient”, “Turning on a dime” and in this thread as well . My apologies if you find whatever I’ve written as rude or offensive.

          • Jim says:

            Hi Sharon,

            You have nothing for which to apologize, but I thank you for your sensitivity.

            I have a couple of questions for you that might help me address your comments regarding the Oral Torah.

            1. A rabbi has already told you that Avodah Zara 2b should not be understood to release the non-Jew from keeping the Seven Laws. Why do you reject his teaching?

            2. Let us assume that the non-Jew has been released from the Seven Laws: what would be the proper response for the non-Jew? Should he act lawlessly? Should he plead with the Lawgiver to reinstate those laws and accept his service? What do you envision the proper response would be, and why?

            I hope you are well,

            Jim

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Jim,

            “1. A rabbi has already told you that Avodah Zara 2b should not be understood to release the non-Jew from keeping the Seven Laws. Why do you reject his teaching?”

            The concerns I raised to the rabbi and now to you are as follows:

            What I learnt is that gentiles somehow “lost” the transmission of the 7 laws -and that the only way to regain it (in other words to know what is G-d’s will for us) is to learn it from the Jewish people . I am uncomfortable with this truth due to a few reasons:

            a.It portrays Gentiles as incapable of knowing G-d’s will on their own -This is in contradiction to the example of Abraham and how he came to know the truth.
            b.It seems to show that whatever good the Gentile does -such as helping the needy or standing up for truth and justice – has no reward as it is not done out of conscious reverence to God.
            c.The gentile will have to learn G-d’s will for him/her through the Jew. How will this be possible when there are roughly 16 million Jews for close to 7.5 billion world population?
            d.The Jews I encountered with online see themselves fulfilling a mainly priestly role and see the teaching of Torah truths to humanity as a secondary one , or not of much importance.These truths are revealed to counter missionary propaganda , not to actively teach the truth seeking Gentile like myself.

            “2. Let us assume that the non-Jew has been released from the Seven Laws: what would be the proper response for the non-Jew? Should he act lawlessly? Should he plead with the Lawgiver to reinstate those laws and accept his service? What do you envision the proper response would be, and why?”

            I remember having a conversation with Dina which touched on your question here https://judaismresources.net/2014/07/30/turning-on-a-dime/#comment-48242

            In summary:
            1.There are two ways G-d reveals His will to man . G-d reveals the Torah , which is revealed knowledge to the Jewish nation to be used with existing human faculties of reason and conscience.
            2.G-d also reveals His will indirectly to all peoples through reason and conscience (without revealed knowledge).
            3.If G-d reveals His Will differently to Jew and Gentile, perhaps there may be a different set of expectations for Jew and Gentile as well .
            4.The Jewish people are bound up in a covenantal relationship with G-d where there is a higher set of expectations.The punishment meted out on the Jewish people are mainly due to idolatry.
            5.Although G-d demands exclusive worship , I don’t think this is required from Gentiles as much.The destruction of the 7 nations , Sodom and Gomorrah among others is because of their wickedness , not because of idolatry alone.
            6. The proper response would be more in keeping with G-d’s Will for the Gentile, to be a decent human being –not to kill , steal or having illicit relations. There is no need to abandon the faith one is born into. One can be idolatrous or atheist but still be a far more decent person than a monotheist.

            I hope to have answered your question.

          • Jim says:

            Sharon,

            I am sorry, but I have not asked my questions well, which made it difficult for you to answer them. Thank you for taking the time to answer as thoroughly as you could, despite my lack of clarity. Let me try clarifying the questions.

            You have indicated that you understand Avodah Zara 2b to mean that non-Jews are released from keeping the Seven Laws according to Judaism and that you understand this to mean that they receive no reward for keeping them. For example, in answer to my first question, you write: “b.It seems to show that whatever good the Gentile does -such as helping the needy or standing up for truth and justice – has no reward as it is not done out of conscious reverence to God.” The rabbi with whom you consulted has indicated that this is not the case, which implies that you have misunderstood the passage.

            Question 1: On what grounds do you reject the rabbi’s explanation? Why do you disregard his interpretation, favoring your own?

            Question 2: If your interpretation is correct, that God has released non-Jews from keeping the Seven Laws and no longer rewards them when they do, what would be the proper response from the non-Jew in that scenario?

            Neither of these questions is asking for a refutation of the teaching of the doctrine or your general views on Judaism. Those views may be quite important, but they do not relate to these specific questions. I hope that I have made these questions more clear.

            Jim

          • LarryB says:

            Sharon
            Dina made a comment that you gave a link to and that I would like to add to, “As long as non-Jews attempt to lead a righteous life and sincerely believe that they are doing nothing wrong–and in fact believe their orthodoxy is correct–then God’s judgment will be tempered with mercy. This applies to idolatrous nations as well as to individuals. But once they find out the truth, I don’t see how there is any going back.”
            Doesn’t that go along with what Exodus says?
            9:15 For now I could have sent My hand and stricken you and your people with pestilence and you would have been obliterated from the earth. However, for this reason have I let you endure, in order to show You My strength so that My Name May be declared through the world.
            Also, who would the Egyptians go to to learn about Hashem? Who would the world go to?

          • Bible819 says:

            Larry,

            God speaking through Isaiah:

            We were pregnant, we writhed in pain, we gave birth to wind. We have brought no salvation to the earth, nor brought any life into the world.

            God speaking through Jeremiah:

            I looked at the earth,
            and it was formless and empty;
            and at the heavens,
            and their light was gone.

            God Speaking through Isaiah:

            He saw that there was no man— He was amazed that there was no one to intercede; so His own arm brought salvation, and His own righteousness sustained Him.

            The Branch is another prophetic name of the Messiah:

            —>>>>Joshua <<<>>>man<<<>>>name = is the Branch, and He will branch out from His place and build the temple of the LORD.

            That is Yeshua or Jesus.

            Praise to the Son of the Most High God. Yeshua!

            In the United States we know Yeshua as Salvation.

          • LarryB says:

            Bible 819
            I have no idea what your talking about. Can you be more clear?

  5. hello sharon

    “Peter had a vision of a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners and contained all kinds of four footed animals . A voice told Peter to kill and eat to which he replied “ Surely not, Lord” , and followed by “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean” (Acts 10:13-14). The voice responded “ Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15). This happened three times. Peter only realized the meaning of that vision upon his meeting with Cornelius . He stated “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (10:34) ”

    “i now realize…” seems to imply something new in peters knowledge.

    quote :
    18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
    19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
    20 teaching them to observe ALL THAT I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

    quote :
    After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

    quote :

    15Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

    16“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

    my confusion is with ” i NOW REALIZE….”

    like it is completely new information. it is peter who is seeking clarification(matthew 15:15, mark 7)

    one would expect ” i now remember those parables jesus explained to us….”

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi mrHeathcliff,

      Please refer to the full verse here:

      “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (10:34)

      I agree with you . This knowledge is new to Peter . Jesus during his earthly ministry instructed the Apostles ( the Twelve) not to go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6)

      In addition ,refer to the conversation between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:24-28

      “He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
      The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
      He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
      “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
      Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

      This passage comes after the Jesus declared that whatever goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them.

      The interaction between Jesus and the Apostles with the Gentile community may also be restricted due to the Jewish law that forbids a Jew to associate or visit a Gentile as stated by Peter:

      “He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” (Acts 10:27)

      Based on the above , it is natural for Peter and the circumcised believers to be surprised when Cornelius and his party started speaking in tongues and praising God. In my opinion they must be wondering how can the Holy Spirit descend on those who are not following the law. They realise then that the Spirit does not discriminate.

      In conclusion ,the risen and exalted Jesus changed his direction and instructed his disciples to make disciples of all nations. This is attested in two sources . However in my opinion it takes time for the Apostles to realise this due to the existing mindset that they have about the non Jew.

      Please read and interpret the verses in its context.

  6. Sharon S says:

    Hi Jim,

    Responding to your comment here https://judaismresources.net/2019/03/28/the-oral-law-in-judaism-and-christianity-by-jim/#comment-60192

    The passage in Avoda Zara 2a to 3a are as follows:

    “The Gemara asks: And from where do we derive that they did not fulfill them? As Rav Yosef teaches in explanation of the verse: “He stands, and shakes the earth, He sees, and makes the nations tremble [vayater]” (Habakkuk 3:6): What did God see? He saw the seven mitzvot that the descendants of Noah accepted upon themselves, and He saw that they did not fulfill them. Since they did not fulfill them, He arose and nullified for them [vehitiran] the command to heed these mitzvot. The Gemara asks: Do they gain from not obeying, as they are now released from the obligation to fulfill these mitzvot? If so, we find that a sinner profits from his transgression. “

    “This serves to say that even if they fulfill the seven Noahide mitzvot they do not receive a reward for their fulfilment.”

    “The Gemara asks: And are they not rewarded for fulfilling those mitzvot? But isn’t it taught in a baraita that Rabbi Meir would say: From where is it derived that even a gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like a High Priest? The verse states: “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances, which if a person do, and shall live by them” (Leviticus 18:5). It is not stated: Priests, Levites, and Israelites, but rather the general term “person.” From here you learn that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a High Priest. This demonstrates that gentiles are rewarded for fulfilling mitzvot, despite the fact that they are not commanded to do so.”

    “Rather, the verse serves to tell you that they do not receive as great a reward for their fulfillment as one who is commanded and performs a mitzva. Rather, they receive a lesser reward, like that of one who is not commanded and still performs a mitzva. As Rabbi Ḥanina says: Greater is one who is commanded to do a mitzva and performs it than one who is not commanded and performs it.”

    To clarify , I consulted with two Rabbis on Avoda Zara 2b . I first consulted Rabbi Blumenthal on this matter. I shared my understanding of the passage as follows :
    1.A gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like a High Priest
    2.Gentiles are rewarded for fulfilling mitzvot, despite the fact that they are not commanded to do so.
    3.The reward of those who is not commanded to do mizva (the Gentile) but performs it is lesser than the one who is commanded to do mizva and performs it. The rewards for the Gentile who study Torah and fulfill the mizvot , even out of obedience to G-d is lesser than that of a Jew.

    Rabbi Blumenthal explained to me – “A society that lives with the conscious knowledge that we must obey our Creator is inherently different than a society that does not live with that conscious knowledge. Individuals within the society may come to that recognition on their own, but they do so without the weight of a society that does not allow them to do or think different. This is what is meant by “not-commanded”. The Gentile societies lost their sense of that weight of “commandment”.

    Based on (3) , I do agree with you that my earlier answer –that whatever the Gentile does has “no reward” is not an accurate reply . The Gentile is indeed rewarded , but the reward is of those who are “not commanded” , which is lesser than the reward of those who are commanded i.e the Jew.

    Your assume that I reject the Rabbi’s explanations, which I find unfair . I do not reject the explanation of both Rabbis. In fact I appreciate that they have taken the time to respond to these queries . You wrote that I” disregard his (the Rabbi’s) interpretation , favoring my own”. I don’t remember putting any new interpretation on the passage from Avoda Zara . Appreciate if you can explain further.

    I have concerns why the non Jew has a lesser reward . It seems to imply that the reward of the non Jew for abandoning idolatry , for example is lesser than that of a Jew. Rabbi Blumenthal has made the distinction between societies and individuals . If an individual non Jew do what is right out of reverence to G-d than is his/her reward lesser than the Jew?

    In addition , you not addressed the other concerns listed in my previous comment. If indeed the “transmission” has been lost (refer the passage above) , then the non Jew would not have known about the 7 at all. What about Abraham? How did he come to know the truth? Is Abraham a gentile or a Jew when he realized the errors of idolatry? How do you and I come to know this truth ? I come to know on the errors of idolatry through the Muslims , not by reading the Jewish scriptures. How is that possible? What is the role of the Jew in all of this?

    You asked , if G-d has released non Jews from keeping the 7 and no longer rewards them then what is the response? My response is based on your question and your assumptions . I am not refuting any doctrine nor is my response based on the general views of Judaism . Rather , my response is based on the observation from the Jewish bible , by reading articles/commentaries and also through consultation with Rabbis.

    To answer Question 2 , the proper response for a gentile based on what I have learnt thus far would be – to be a decent human being –not to kill , steal or having illicit relations. There is no need to abandon the faith one is born into. One can be idolatrous or atheist but still be a far more decent person than a monotheist. G-d punish the nations out of wickedness , not due to idolatry alone. As an example , Rashi interpreted Genesis 6:13 where G-d decide to put an end to all flesh “for the earth is filled with lawlessness” on account of the sin of robbery (Sanhedrin 108a).Idolatry is not mentioned here .There are many progressive societies that practice good values but do not worship the one G-d , Japan is a good example. These societies would not be in existence today if G-d hold them to the same standards as the Jewish nation.

    I would appreciate if you can address these matters rather than stating that you have not asked your questions well and putting words in my mouth in the process. I don’t see my concerns as a rejection of the Rabbi’s explanations. I have not put in any new interpretation. I don’t see my response to Question 2 as a refutation of the teachings of Judaism nor is it a general view of Judaism. These responses do not come overnight , but rather a result of reading , thinking and e-mail communication with Rabbis over a long period.

    I have mostly consulted with Rabbi Blumenthal on these matters . My apologies for including him in all of this . Understand that our Jewish commenters , including Rabbi Blumenthal will be busy with Passover preparations . I wish them a blessed Passover in advance.

    • Jim says:

      Hi Sharon,

      I seem to have offended you for which I apologize. I seem not to have communicated the intention of my questions, which are not meant to refute any of your statements. I have only sought to understand how you come by your position, which is what I meant by the following: “I have a couple of questions for you that might help me address your comments regarding the Oral Torah.”

      You write: “Based on (3) , I do agree with you that my earlier answer –that whatever the Gentile does has “no reward” is not an accurate reply .” However, I have not said that the reply in inaccurate (in that it does not match the text). I only said that it does not answer my question. I have taken no steps to counter your position.

      You write that I have been neglectful of answering you on certain points: “In addition , you not addressed the other concerns listed in my previous comment. If indeed the “transmission” has been lost (refer the passage above) , then the non Jew would not have known about the 7 at all…” But again, I have not answered you on any of your points. I have only sought an answer to two questions, so I better understood how to address you. Obviously, I have failed to make my purpose clear and have only offended you.

      I apologize.

      Jim

      • Sharon S says:

        Hi Jim,

        I understand clearly the intent of your questions. You want to understand my position regarding the Oral Torah so that you can address my comments. I have tried my best to explain my position in my first reply.

        I understand the passage in Avoda Zara very well . I have never rejected the explanation of both Rabbis that they are no longer binding . However as a Gentile I am uncomfortable with this truth. Why did the transmission of the 7 cease to continue among the Gentiles? Why must the Gentile go to the Jew in order to know about the 7? Is it fair for the Gentile that we are not aware of the 7 but in actual fact this law is still binding on us? Does this mean that we Gentiles are inherently not capable of discerning G-d’s will for our lives on our own? We have seen examples of many gentiles who stood up for what is right , even to the extent being imprisoned , maimed or losing their lives for their cause -there are many examples in the present day -why is their reward lesser than those who are “commanded”?

        Hence , the best way to respond to the lack of transmission of the otherwise still binding law (if the poor Gentile is not aware of them) is to live life as decently as possible . We are all blessed with conscience , with a sense of right and wrong . There is no human being who is not aware that it is wrong to hurt another human being as well as other creatures unnecessarily . We can see from the rise and fall of individuals as well as nations that those who are wicked or greedy will eventually fall . G-d does not penalize these individuals/nations due to idolatry.

        What is it about my replies that you do not understand? It seems from your subsequent comments that you do not accept my responses .You are putting forth the same questions despite my initial reply the first time you asked them. I don’t know what is your real intent.

  7. Jim says:

    Sharon,

    Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Jim

  8. Sharon S says:

    Hi LarryB,

    Responding to your comment here https://judaismresources.net/2019/03/28/the-oral-law-in-judaism-and-christianity-by-jim/#comment-60195

    I have thought a lot about your comment . I did not wish to respond initially , thinking that my response to Jim would suffice . However your comment is thought provoking and deserves an appropriate response on my part.

    I understand you are quoting Exodus 9:15 is to inform me that the intent of Hashem is for the world to know and worship Him. My initial response to Jim’s question seems to show that this is not the case , that perhaps the intent was only meant for 0.21% of the world population (i.e the Jewish people) . In addition if the transmission of the 7 is indeed lost and the punishments meted out on the nations in the Bible were due to wickedness and not idolatry , then it is a strong indicator that there are different set of divine expectations required from Jew and Gentile.

    If indeed there are two different set of expectations , then there is no need for the Jewish people to teach the world . I have heard that Hashem is sustaining all of creation and that it did not descend to chaos through the Jewish people’s efforts in acting as priests for mankind. This implies that no effort required on the part of 99.78% of humankind .

    I have also learnt , through consultation with a Rabbi that there is one truth and that all of us stand in different positions when it comes to this truth . The Jewish people are granted more, thereby they have a higher obligation than the nations who have not been granted these blessings. In addition, I have also learnt from the Rabbi that G-d demands based on the capabilities and opportunities that He has blessed us . From this I learn that enlightened gentiles such as you and I may be granted more and perhaps we may stand in a position between our friends and families and the Jewish people . This is a grey area with another set of difficulties , of which I had highlighted and discussed with Dina in the thread that you have read.

    I understand that you find my initial response to Jim troubling , hence your comment. However I did not come to these conclusions overnight . I am troubled by it as you are.

    In my opinion , both sides –Jew and Gentile need to clarify their positions with regards to the Divine Intent. The Jew has to clarify their position -is their role primarily a priest , carrying out the mitzvoth with no regards to the spiritual state of humanity around them ? Or do they see themselves as having that responsibility to teach mankind about Hashem? This is a decision for them to make as a people . The ball is in their court.

    As Gentiles who knows better and as human beings , we should realize that we are subjects to Hashem . We should place our worship where worship is due . We are obligated to obey –regardless of whether our reward is of the same level as the Jewish people . Like Cornelius and the Canaanite woman , we should having the positive attitude of seeking the truth wholeheartedly and not let these realities set us back from what we are called to do.

    I hope what I have written is clear to you and answers your concerns. Do correct me if I misunderstood you.

    • LarryB says:

      Sharon
      My question was very limited. It insuinated that since Hashem chose his people, gave Them the Torah, who do we go to to understand the Torah’s teaching. You did not answer that. Also, why Noah is even mentioned in the Torah is another question.

      • Sharon S says:

        Hi LarryB,

        I thought your question was not so limited. I guess I have misunderstood you, as usual. Sorry for that.

        My answer -if I want to learn the Torah then I will go to the Jew.

        Why Noah was mentioned in the Torah? I guess the storyline of the Torah starts from the beginning of mankind and it zooms to the Jewish nation , so there will be an account of Noah and the flood in between.

        What is your intent behind these questions?

        • LarryB says:

          Sharon
          I’m simply trying to understand you better. With all the misunderstanding going on around here, for me, I figured getting some basics out of the way would be a good idea.

          • Sharon S says:

            LarryB,

            Sorry for asking that question. I appreciate your effort to understand me better. I will try to do the same.

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