The First Slip
Over the years some have complained that I am too “rabbinic” in my teaching. Perhaps some of that is because I have often cited Jewish teachers – many of them, from Hillel to Heschel.
The sages of Israel add deep understanding and context to the Bible - especially the Apostolic Scriptures [New Testament]. The writings of the sages provide an insider’s look into the language and culture of the first disciples of Yeshua. While the Oral Torah contained in the Mishnah, Talmud, Tosefta, and Midrashim do not control me, they most certainly inform me. Even later works such as the Zohar, and commentaries from Rashi and Ramban add better understanding to not only the words of the Apostles, but even the Master, Yeshua Himself.
However, to doubt or to ignore the Apostolic Scriptures is the first slip on a slippery slope.
It is actually quite predictable. People who have a Christian background are often enamored with the words of the sages, as they should be. However, if they are ungrounded in Scripture, they may soon begin to diminish the importance of the Apostolic Scriptures to their faith and their walk.
For such people, if they are living a lifestyle of obedience to the Torah, they may begin to trust more in the authenticity of the Shulchan Aruch, than they do the epistles of Paul, Peter, and John. They might claim it is for practical reasons. After all, if you want to know how long to wait until after sunset on Shabbat to light the Havdalah candle, Paul, Peter, and John are no help (or so they incorrectly think).
Misery and apostasy loves company, so we will eventually begin to hear their doubts spoken out loud. We might hear them say something like, “Living the life as described by Rabbi Yosef Karo in the Shulchan Aruch is righteous living – so who needs Messiah now? Later, in some eschatological sense, it is of course important – but for now, we don’t need Messiah – he adds nothing to our life.”
A search of the TaNaKh [Old Testament] for references to Messiah only heightens their disregard for the Apostolic Scriptures. In all of the TaNaKh, Messiah is not named, nor is the importance of “trusting” in Messiah to be found (or so they falsely conclude). They begin to complain that the Apostolic Scriptures simply cannot live up to their billing as Scripture, being only “self-validating.”
The slide of course will not end with this philosophical position. There are quite a few paths that come from this, none original, and yet all away from the very Messiah that introduced them to the Torah.
Ironically, the people who claim no support for the Apostolic Scriptures in the TaNaKh, are utterly dependent upon various commentaries upon the TaNaKh. They regularly cite Rashi, Rambam, and various Midrashim. This is an admission that something is lacking in a complete understanding of TaNaKh.
They can readily see that the TaNaKh contains progressive revelation. They understand that, and yet fail to use the most ancient of Messianic source texts: the Apostolic Scriptures. They can cite Talmudic, Midrashic, and Chassidic sources for their understanding of Messiah, and yet they fail to use the most complete revelation of the Person and Mission of Messiah ever given to man: the testimony and record of martyrs – the Apostolic Scriptures.
Judaism recognizes the testimony of martyrs to be the most stable of foundations. We know conclusively that the writers of the Apostolic Scriptures gave their lives in martyrdom as testimony that their words were true. Of all the twelve disciples, only John died a peaceful death, and even he was tortured for his faith. The rest were beaten, tortured, and then murdered because they would not renounce their conviction that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel.
We hear the challenge that if Yeshua were the Messiah of Israel it should somehow make a difference in living a Torah observant life (which it does, by the way). That is a challenge to the countless martyrs throughout the millennia. It mocks their standing as the righteous in their generation. It mocks their martyrdom. The arrogance of such a challenge is breathtaking.
Mockery is not a new thing in this damnable slide. It has always been used to turn men and women from trusting in Yeshua as Messiah of Israel. Some early followers of Yeshua were falsely accused of being against the Temple, the Torah, and their own Jewish people. In modern times, professional agitators have received fame and fortune by ridiculing the very Scriptures that they claim to have studied.
Beloved, the measure being used is not just. If the Apostolic Scriptures are to be discarded, then we have no faith at all. For every complaint against the Apostolic Scriptures’ authenticity, a worse complaint exists for the Torah itself. Men who enrich themselves by attempting to tear down the authenticity of the Apostolic Scriptures, only make a mockery of themselves. In their “critical theory” the works of Shakespeare cannot stand as authentic. Indeed, even articles and books that they themselves have written in the computer age cannot withstand the same tests they claim are necessary for authenticating the Apostolic Scriptures.
The works of the sages are very beneficial. They can give us insight, context, and even practical support for our faith and our lifestyle. But they are not on par with the Apostolic Scriptures. G-d forbid that we even contemplate such a thing. The TaNaKh teaches us much about our faith – but not everything. Judaism recognizes that as well. We need more than the Torah. We need the Apostolic Scriptures. The Apostolic Scriptures are not merely interesting writings. They are the inspired commentary on the TaNaKh. They are Scripture.
Do not be deceived by those who doubt the need for, or the authenticity of, the Apostolic Scriptures while at the same time consulting the Mishnah, Talmud, Midrashim, Tanya, etc. We have been given a good testimony. In the Apostolic Scriptures we have been given a complete picture of Messiah. His name is Yeshua. He was born of a virgin. He died for sins not His own. He was resurrected. He will come again and establish His Kingdom in Jerusalem. And we are His witnesses.
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the L-rd, the G-d of the spirits of the prophets, has sent His angel to show His servants what must soon take place.”
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
Does it matter if one walks away from the knowledge that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel? Indeed it does…
“I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And whoever will not listen to My words that He shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.”
The first slip may seem minor. The slope, however, is very steep and recovery is highly unlikely. The bottom for most is outright atheism. How sad, that some intending to be more authentic eventually renounce not only the Apostolic Scriptures and Yeshua, they will be without any faith at all.
It is arrogance to think that once you start this slide, you can stop before you reach the bottom…