[b-hebrew] oral Torah
hholmyard at ont.com
Fri Jun 23 08:09:44 EDT 2006
>Here's a basic difference between Christian and Jewish views. In (Rabbinic)
>Judaism, God is considered to have given the Law (written and Oral) once, at
>Sinai (of course, this was an ongoing process which took 38 years). In his
>omniscient wisdom, God made His Torah such, that it would have solutions for
>any possible situation "built in", so that the Torah would NEVER have to be
HH: I want to clarify that this is not strictly a Jewish-Christian
issue, because the Roman Catholic Christians have a similar view to the
mainstream Jewish view. It is a claim that tradition is equally
authoritative as the written word.
> A major componant of the Oral Torah is the "codes" by which the
>Torah itself is to be interpreted, and these were passed down from Moses to
>Joshua and on to the elders, the members of the Great Assembly, and from
>them to what we now call "rabbis".
HH: Is there anything internal to the Scriptures that would indicate the
existence of these codes? I can think of nothing offhand.
> Both preists and prophets are outside
>this "chain of command".
HH: Then there is no chain of command, is there, for who else is there
besides priests and prophets who are God- ordained? The "scribes" are
not God-ordained as a special authority-bearing group outside the
priests and prophets. If there is such a chain of command, the Law
itself ought to instruct us of that fact.
> The function of Priests, that is, decsendants of
>Aaron, is to perform the perscribed rituals in the Temple.
HH: The function of priests was also to teach and to judge. You are
greatly circumscribing the role of priests.
> The function of
>Prophets, that is, people who receive "direct" messages from God, is to warn
>the people of their transgressions or to give them hope for the future, NOT
>to interpret the Law.
>Of course, there were individuals who were either both priest and prophet,
>priest and rabbi, or prophet and rabbi. Ezra was all three, which gives him
>a lot of clout in Jewish tradition. But the functions themselves are
>The Talmud recounts several stories of rabbis discussing a point of Law,
>when suddenly either a heavenly voice or a prophet (even Elijah!) appeared
>and gave "God"'s view on the matter, to which the rabbis replied "It [the
>Law] is not in heaven" (Deut. 30:12) - once the Torah was given to us, we
>have sole authority over its interpretation.
HH: The rabbis, as a group distinct from prophets and priests, have no
special God-given authority that I can recall from Scripture. I
certainly don't see any "chain of command" in Scripture. There are the
"wise men" in Scripture, but these are a group that culturally
functioned in every nation, simply those looked to as wise. There are
the elders, who were heads of the various families. That is certainly a
divinely-approved position of authority, but it is based in culture and
family and gives no special authority in the handling of Scripture.
>Of course, historically speaking, this interpretation has not been held by
>all Jews throughhout history. The Sadducees, who were mostly priests, both
>denied the authority of the Oral Torah and of the rabbis who considered
>themselves to be its stewards. But this has become the "mainstream" view of
>post-Destruction Rabbinic Judaism.
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