Over the next couple of programs we’re going to look at what our faith is supposed to be built on.
We’ve mentioned before the first Diaspora, which was when the Jews were taken into captivity to Babylon after the destruction of the first Temple. That Diaspora had a time limit to it. 70 years. (Jer 29:10) We also know that God promised that there would be another Diaspora that the Jews would return from, but the second Diaspora had no time limit at all.
When Titus Vespasian sacked Jerusalem in 70AD, the second Diaspora began and while there has always been a Jewish presence in Israel for the past 2,000 years, Israel didn’t have its own sovereignty restored until 1948 when it was reborn. There are now more Jews living in Israel today than there are Jews living outside Israel, but, at least 6 million Jews are still living in the Diaspora that began 2,000 years ago, so they are returning and Israel is sovereign once again, but the Diaspora isn’t over yet.
The problem for Judaism really became apparent since before the second Temple was destroyed, although the corrosion of Judaism had already well and truly underway.
Isaiah 29:13-14, The Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honour Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts for from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I’ll once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”’
Isaiah lived before the first Temple was destroyed, he lived in the 8th century BC and the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple around the end of the 6th century BC.
What does that mean?
How does Judaism maintain itself, a system which is dependent on the sacrificial system of a functioning Temple, when the Temple no longer exists and there’s no determined time frame for the next Temple to be built? How can Judaism survive when God has rejected that sacrificial system?
The passage in Isaiah is God speaking about His people who had an outward demonstration of honouring Him, however, their brand of honour toward Him was not founded in God’s Word, but rather is traditions that they had learned so well, they were simply going through the motions of following traditions. God promised that He was going to do some marvelous, something wonderful that would bring an end to their man-made traditions that they thought were so wise and discerning. What was the wonderful, marvelous thing God had planned?
In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, when the Temple was rebuilt, there was a revival of sorts that embraced ‘applicational traditions’, and this meant that Pharisaic traditions that developed out of trying to understand how to live out the Law of God morphed and grew into what is today called Rabbinic Judaism.
The authority of these religious leaders has been assumed from the teaching or belief that the human traditions were actually given to Moses on Mt Sinai, known as the ‘Oral Law’, and that the authority to interpret or expound on them continues to belong to the Rabbis. When the Temple was destroyed, sacrificial and ceremonial requirements couldn’t be performed anymore, so Judaism had to be redefined as a works-based religion of obeying and fulfilling traditions and accompanying actions and this meant that the traditions had to be external from the Word of God. The Word of God required sacrifices and ceremonies be performed in the Temple. No Temple means no sacrifices and no ceremonies. Next best thing are traditions and rituals surrounding those traditions.
There’s a story in the Talmud (not inspired Scripture) about two famous rabbis and their argument about Akhnai’s Oven. (Baba Metzia 59b)
Basically, the story is about a guy called Aknai who had an oven made of clay, he made it bigger by cutting it up, rejoining the pieces with some additional material but he then approached the Sanhedrin – the religious leaders – to find out from them if the new version of the oven was kosher or non-kosher…clean or unclean. The problem was that one group of rabbis considered it to be kosher, while another group considered it to be non-kosher. Rabbi Eliezer from one group used some supernatural signs to prove that the oven was kosher, signs like water in an aqueduct running uphill and a fig tree uprooting itself and then replanting itself on the other side of the garden. Finally, rabbi Eliezer said, “If I’m right, the heavens will prove it!” Right then, God spoke with an audible voice out of heaven and said, “Rabbi Eliezer is correct!”.
However, rabbi Joshua said, “it’s not in heaven!” What he meant was this; God no longer makes decisions in heaven; father, the rabbis are commissioned to make those decisions on the earth. He also went on to say, “Turn aside after a multitude.” By that, he meant, the majority rules and therefore, if the majority say something is right or wrong, then that makes it right or wrong.
The very interesting thing about the quotes of rabbi Joshua, is that he quoted verses from the Bible, but he actually quoted them out of context in a bid to win the argument.
Rabbi Joshua said in his final argument that, “The Torah itself is to be uncovered not by prophets, nor even by God’s miracles or audible voice, but by man’s interpretation and decision making.” Sadly, this became the model upon which Judaism transformed itself when there was no longer a Temple and a sacrificial service to follow and fulfill.
Jesus became quite cranky with the religious leaders of His day because they were already top-heavy and overly burdensome with man-made traditions that were not based on Scripture and today, it’s even more top-heavy with mad-made traditions and rules that are an effort, an attempt to make up for the fact that they can’t fulfill the sacrificial and ceremonial Temple laws.
In the next program, we’ll continue to look at this conundrum, and what God was leading His people, both Jew and Gentile toward, when He removed the capacity to fulfill the sacrificial and ceremonial Temple laws and what it means for our faith. This helps us understand what our Christian faith is built on.
Based on an article at oneforisrael.org