At AllFaith.com I share numerous studies into the world's religions based on my personal quest for Truth. Over the years this research has led me to embrace Judaism. That is now the main focus of the domain.
On my blogs I share many of these studies and invite your questions and comments.
Also see my Xanga Blog.
~ John of AllFaith
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Matthew 23:1-3 and Jewish Authority: With emphasis on the Sheva Mitzvot
"The Earth Belongs to HaShem and the Fullness Thereof."
A Noahide reader named Byran asked about the authority of the Rabbis, especially regarding the Sheva Mitzvot (the Noahide Seven laws). My reply may be of interest to some of those seeking to understand the relationship between the Elders of Israel and the Noahide Nazarene Way.
First the verse in question:
Mathew 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 23:2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
The qualifier Y'shua places here is of critical importance. Obey them, but do so properly.
First, we must always be vary careful to understand who is being spoken to at any given point in Scripture and what the intended message being shared is. Understanding context is always vital.
Y'shua was speaking here to his fellow Jews, not to Gentiles. He was clarifying to them that he was not preaching in opposition to the leaders of the Jewish people. He clearly accepted their authority over him as a Jew. He was however anointed by HaShem to call them to return to the truths expressed in the Written Torah, which he insisted they had lost sight of (during their Babylonian captivity).
Towards the end of this chapter and in the beginning of chapter 24 the Master directly tells the religious leaders of his people that due to their lack of loyalty to HaShem and His Torah Holy Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) would be destroyed and Gentile powers would trod Eretz Israel under their feet until the End of the Times of the Gentiles:
Luke 21:24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Both Jews and Gentiles are currently at odds with HaShem's Holy Will as the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), the B'rit Hadashah (New Testament books) and Master Y'shua make clear. As Gentile/Noahide followers of Y'shua we are answerable to his teachings first and foremost because he is our Cohen Gadol (High Priest), our Mediator with HaShem (I Timothy 2:5). His teachings are perfectly harmonious with those of the Tanakh, even though his interpretations occasionally differ from those of the Rabbis, the Karaite elders and other Jews.
The Way is a Noahide inclusive reform movement that offers a different way of looking at the Torah. Y'shua challenged their interpretations and their devotion to HaShem, not their authority. Indeed his acceptance of their authority is why his harshest words were reserved for them. For instance:
Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
The Sheva Mitzvot are certainly applicable to all Noahides. They were after all given directly given to us before there was a called-out Jewish religion, even before the birth of Abraham:
1. Worship Only HaShem 2. Honor and Praise HaShem 3. Respect and Protect Human Life 4. Respect the Family 5. Respect the Rights and Properties of Others 6. Respect the Sanctity of all Life 7. Pursue Justice
As for our being under the authority of the Rabbis at this time however, I don't see that in the Tanakh or the B'rit Hadashah. This is an area where I differ with most people who call themselves Noahides.
Gentiles living among Jews are answerable to them ("strangers in the gate" etc) however we have our own covenants with HaShem and our own responsibilities as talmidim (followers) of Y'shua.
Once the Kingdom is established there will be a Jewish priesthood to whom all will submit, but even then, there will be Noahide priests as well (like Melchizedek to whom even Abraham tithed). HaShem is the God of all people: of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.
As Apostle Paul explains in Romans 11 we followers of Y'shua have been "grafted in" along with the Jews in the service of HaShem as two peoples of one faith (Romans 11:28,29). The Book of the Acts of the Apostles records how the early Way followers sought the Will of Ruach HaKodesh (HaShem's Presence) in this matter. Their determination:
Acts 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Does this nullify the Seven laws? No.
However understand that a central pillar of Y'shua's reform movement has to do with freeing everyone ("Shabbat was made for man not man for Shabbat") -- Jews and Noahides alike -- from legalism (compare Galatians 3:1-). He calls us all to be responsible spiritual adults who need not cite rules and regulations to know and do what is right:
Micah 6:6 Wherewith shall I come before HaShem, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? 6:7 Will HaShem be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth HaShem require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Or as Y'shua explained:
Matthew 22:35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 22:38 This is the first and great commandment. 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
As talmidim of Y'shua we understand the Torah to be our school master (Galatians 3:24,25). All who live godly lives will fulfill the Sheva Mitzvot automatically because the Seven Laws have been placed within our consciousness to perform.