WHO IS A JEW?

Introduction:

There has been considerable debate about who is a Jew. Is this process determined by blood, by religion, or by both? For those who believe the Talmud, the issue has been settled on the basis of one's loyalty and belief. The Talmud is very clear: "whoever repudiates Idolatry is accounted a Jew [Meg 13A]". (1)

Therefore, it is clear ANYONE who renounces idolatry is a Jew or "Israel". In other words, there are only two camps in the Biblical world - - those who renounce false gods and are loyal to Adonai - - Jews - - and those who deny Adonai and are loyal to false gods - - Idolaters. To be "Israel" is to be one who does not believe in the wrong things. In the Mishnah, Israel consists of all those who were born in Israel, except for those who deny the principles of the faith.

Furthermore, no passage of the Mishnah is more concrete and explicit than Sanhedrin 10:1 - A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. This portion of the Mishnah defines Israel. According to this section "to be Israel" is to be part of a social group that gives its individual members life in the world to come.

We know who "Israel" is because we are told who is "not-Israel". Those who choose to exclude themselves from this group are excluded by their own choice to reject the stated belief. These, the non-believers or sinners, clearly are not part of Israel by choice. However, there has always been a remnant of Israel, a remnant, which always had faith and the right choice. Paul followed this logic when he wrote the book of Romans.

Following this logic, a major door opened for the Gentile to be included on the basis of his faith and choice. In the Mishnah-tractate Sanhedrin 10:3 - A to R, tells of the generations of the flood, and the dispersion and the men of Sodom not having a share in the world to come. Therefore, this implies that all gentiles except those specified have a share in the world to come.

 Consider the following: The Torah brought Israel into existence and Gentiles who accept the same Torah belong on equal terms, Israel then is understood to be the people of God whether Jew or Gentile. The result is a change from the ethnic group into the universal one as a measure of what Israel is and who its members are.

Early rabbinic Judaism in no way defined "Israel" in ethnic terms. Early Jewish writings state that the Gentile not only enters first-class citizenship in Israel; but also state a Gentile who keeps the Torah is in the status of the High Priest. Allow me to quote from the Sifra to Ahare MOT CXCIV:2

15 A. "...by the pursuit of which man shall live;"

  1. Scripture says "by the pursuit of which man shall live"
  2. And so he says, "And this is the Torah of the priests, Levites. And Israelites,' is not what is said here, but rather, " 'this is the Torah of the man, O L-rd God'" [II Samuel 7:19]
  3. And so he says, " 'Open the gates and let the priest, Levites, and Israelites enter it' is not what is said, but rather 'Open the gates and let the righteous Nation, who keeps faith, enter it'" [Isaiah 26:2]
  4. And so he says, "This is the gate of the Lord. Priests, Levites, and Israelites...' is not what is said, but rather 'the righteous shall enter into it.'" [Psalms 118:20]
  5. And so he says, "What is said is not 'Rejoice, Priests, Levites, and Israelites,' but rather 'Rejoice, O Righteous, in the Lord'" [Psalms 33:1]
  6. And so he says, "it is not 'Do good, O Lord, to the priests, Levites, and Israelites,' but rather, 'Do Good, O Lord, to the good, to the upright in heart'" [Psalms 125:4]

I. "Thus, even a gentile who keeps Torah, lo, he is like the high priest".(2)

The Laws of Idolatry:

The issue is not whether the competing gods have a less developed ethical system; the issue is who has the power and the numbers of the people living in idolatry. In the weekly reading of the Torah, you will find in Deuteronomy 13, Parsha "Re'eh", the laws pertaining to the punishment of Idolatry.

 In listing the 613 Mitzvot, Moses Maimonides [RAMBAM], one of the first codifiers of Jewish law, listed, according to his count, the following:

  • [456] Not to hearken to the idolatrous prophet
  • [457] Not to consent to the person who entices others to Idolatry
  • [458] Not to hearken [ listen ] to the person who entices others to Idolatry
  • [459] Not to deliver the false prophet from death
  • [460] Not to plead for the life of the false prophet to idolatry
  • [461] Not to withhold evidence to convict the False Prophet to Idolatry
  • [462] Not to entice another to Idolatry
  • [463] To search and examine witnesses thoroughly
  • [464] To burn down an apostate city and slay its inhabitants
  • [465] Not to rebuild an apostate city
  • [466] Not to derive any benefit from the wealth of an apostate city

Laws 464, 465, and 466 are also explained in more detail in the Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:4 - A, C, D, and E. Mishnah Sanhedrin 11:5 - Bgives the definition of a false prophet: "anyone who prophesies concerning something which he has not actually heard or concerning something which was not actually said to him"(3) was a false prophet. The family was the "hub of life", but, so serious was this problem that God was willing to destroy the family because of Idolatry [Deuteronomy 13:7-10]

Deuteronomy 13 is the chapter the Sanhedrin was following when Peter and John was being judged in Acts 3:5-22. Acts 4:5-12, gives the account of the trial of Peter and John by the High Sanhedrin after the healing of the lame man and the preaching regarding the resurrection of Yeshua [Jesus]. The High Sanhedrin consisted mostly of a sect called "Sadducees" who did not believe in the resurrection. Peter's preaching on the resurrection after the evening prayer service at the Temple put the entire system of their beliefs in jeopardy.

 When the Sanhedrin asked the question to Peter and John: "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" [Acts 4:7], they were performing their responsibility according to the Torah [Deuteronomy 13:14]. The Sanhedrin was convinced that a verified miracle happened, but was not certain of the means. If it could be proven that the miracle was performed through demons and/or familiar spirits, Peter and John would be guilty of the death sentence as recorded in Leviticus 20:27and Deuteronomy Chapter 13.

In answering the question of Acts 4:7, Peter quotes Psalm 118:22, a Messianic psalm, concerning the rejected stone becoming the chief corner stone. Some of the people on the Council would have remembered this scene and quotation. In Matthew 21:23, these same people asked Yeshua [Jesus] the same question they asked Peter and John. After delivering the two parables recorded in Matthew 21:24-41, Yeshua [Jesus] quotes this exact scripture [Matthew 21:42-46].

Because of Peter's defense [Acts 4:13] the High Sanhedrin perceived that they, Peter and John, had been with Yeshua, and that He had been their rabbi. Caiaphas was one of the men who sat on the Council. It was on his porch that Peter denied knowing Yeshua three times. Now Peter was a changed man, and stood boldly before the Supreme Court of Israel.

Synopsis of Jewish History:

Introduction

The three best known Rabbis after the destruction of the Temple were Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai, Rabbi Meir, and Rabbi Judah Ha Nasi. From these three rabbis came the Jewish worship of God, as it is known today.

Simeon Bar Yohai

Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, a student of Rabbi Akiva, was a mystic man whose ideas are believed to have given rise to the mystic writings known as Kabbalah. His influence reached across many centuries. A thousand years later, one of his disciples, Moses Deleon of Spain, still showed the influence of Simeon Bar Yohai. His book, "The Zohar - The Book of Brightness ", is, in fact, actually attributed to Simeon. This book became the source and the basis of the teachings of Hassidism founded by the Baal Shem Tov. This sect of orthodox Jews still very strongly exists today.

Rabbi Meir

Rabbi Meir was a highly educated man. He was the greatest mind of his generation and his occupation was a scribe. He continued the work started by his rabbi, Rabbi Akiva, who died by being skinned alive by the Romans. He did the greatest part of the work of collecting and categorizing the material of the oral tradition and submitted this work to Judah Ha Nasi [The Prince] who codified them. This material became known as the Mishnah.

The Mishnah's other name is "The Bedrock of the Halacha [Law] and of the Oral Torah". The result was that this created one standard of walk for the Jewish people.

A proper section of the Mishnah called the "Pirke Avot", also known as "The Sayings [or Ethics] of the Fathers" contain many of the wise sayings of Rabbi Meir and Judah Ben Levi, a disciple of Bar Kappara, who was a disciple of Judah Ha Nasi [The Prince]. There were latter rabbinic additions, but Rabbi Meir is believed to have created this section of the Mishnah.

The "Pirke Avot" has six Chapters, and is studied, along with its own commentaries, by orthodox Jews to this today between Passover and Rosh Hashanah. Chapter Six is called 'Kinyan Torah'[The Acquisition of Torah] or 'Perek de Rabbi Meir'[The Chapter of Rabbi Meir], since it opens with "Rabbi Meir said". This chapter, read on the Sabbath before Shavuot, celebrates the giving of the Torah.

Rabbi Judah Ha Nasi

Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi [The Prince], who could trace his lineage to King David and through Rabbi Hillel, became the political head of the Jewish people between 200ce - 217ce. His rabbi was Shimon Ben Yohai. To rebuild the Jewish society destroyed by the Romans and to teach the Torah, Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi [The Prince] codified all the legal commentaries and decisions of the Oral Tradition according to subject matter, cataloging them into the following six main divisions:

  1. Zeraim [Seeds]: Laws concerning agriculture
  2. Mo'ed [Festivals]: Laws pertaining to the observance of the Sabbath, festivals, and the fast days
  3. Nashim [Women]: Laws concerning marriage and divorce
  4. Nezikim [Damages]: Civil and criminal laws
  5. Kodashim [Holy Matters]: Laws concerning the temple services, sacrifices, andshehitah[Kosher Slaughter]
  6. Tohdrot [Purities]: Laws of ritual purity and cleanliness

Each of these divisions, in turn is sub-divided into 70 Tractates [Massekhtot], Chapters [Perakim], and Paragraphs [Mistinayot]

Jerusalem Talmud

There are two Talmuds: The Jerusalem Talmud, also known as the Palestinian Talmud, and the Babylonian Talmud. Both versions have the same first part - The Mishnah. They differ only in the second part - The Gemara. The Jerusalem Talmud is the shorter of the Gemara.

At the town of Tiberius the Masoretes, who were a sect of Jews, worked out a system of punctuation to provide the Hebrew script with clear marks for vowels. The basis of Hebrew consists of consonants with the vowels being understood according to certain rules. In addition, the scriptures provided a system of accentuation of the public readings from the Torah. This authentic text is known as the Masoretic Text. This is the text followed by the scribes to this day when they copy the scrolls of the law.

Simultaneously with the Talmud, collections of Midrashim appeared. Midrashim are stories and commentaries, which illustrate passages from the Bible. The Hebraic term "Midrash" means, "to seek" or "to search" [DARASH]. It refers to any "searching out" of meaning of the basis of scripture.

There are four different ways of Interpretation of a Midrash. They Are:

  1. close exegesis, or discussion by each word or phrase of Scripture;
  2. Amplification of the meaning of a passage;
  3. illustration of a particular theme by various passages;
  4. anthological collection around a general topic;

When the rabbis produced the 'Midrashim' its aim was to produce commentaries on scripture. This "commentary" was not to explain the meaning of a document, but designed to give it the status of revelation. (4) The result of these different categories of interpretation was the eleven distinct Midrashim on various books of the Bible.

Nasi Hillel II, a disciple of Rabbi Judah Ha Nasi, published a permanent calendar with directions for calculating the holiday dates.

Based on this calendar, Jews everywhere could make their own calculations and all could celebrate the holidays at the same time.

Babylonian Talmud

When Rabbi Rev and Rabbi Samuel, two disciples of Rabbi Judah Ha Nasi, [The Prince] returned Home to Babylon, they brought back with them the Mishnah. It became the first part of the Babylonian Talmud.

Rabbi Rev wrote the Alenu Prayer for Rosh Hashanah, which is still part of the daily prayers to this day. Rabbi Samuel wrote a shorter version of the Amidah- The eighteen Benedictions.

Saadia Ben Joseph, a great scholar and an Egyptian Jew, became the Babylonian leader of the Academy in Sura. He was a disciple of Rabbi Samuel. He composed an order for prayer and rituals, one of the first Jewish prayer books. This prayer book, called the "Siddur", meaning "Order," is what the prayer books are called today. Moses Maimonides [RAMBAM] gave a fitting tribute. He wrote in his "Epistle to Yemen," "Were it not for Saadia, the Torah might have disappeared from the midst of Israel."

Whenever Jews were in doubt about questions of Jewish Law, they would send messengers to their colleagues in Babylon. The Babylonian scholars composed their answers clearly and concisely. The letters in which the scholars set forth their answers and decisions were known as the Responsa ["Techuvot" in Hebrew].

A study of the collections of Responsa that have come down through the centuries provides the reader with a highly informative survey of Jewish history. Thus the Jews of many lands acquired a knowledge of the Law, and the skill to study, interpret, and use the Talmudic test. The Talmudic tradition became a strong, unifying bond between the many scattered Jewish people. The Babylonian community taught Jews in many lands how to live in the Diaspora and set an example of greatness, scholarship, unity, and dignity.

Summary

This gives a small understanding of Jewish history, but it shows how the lives of these three men, Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai, Rabbi Meir, and Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi [The Prince] made a lasting and significant contribution to the religious Jewish life. Their influence is seen in the following works that is still used today:

  • The Kabbalah;
  • The Mishnah;
  • The two Talmuds [The Jerusalem Talmudand the Babylonian Talmud];
  • The Alenu Prayer;
  • A Permanent Calendar;
  • The Tradition of the Responsa;
  • The first Hebrew Grammar, and
  • The first Siddur;

Who is a Jew?

If a Jewish person says that following Yeshua as the Messiah, which can be substantiated by the Tanakh, is idolatry, how does he justify his own faith and existence?

Think about this: Most of the Jewish faith that the Jewish people follow today directly comes from, or influenced by, by these three men. Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai and Rabbi Meir were disciples of Rabbi Akiva Ben Yosef. Rabbi Judah Ha Nisi [The Prince] was a disciple of Simeon Bar Yohai, which also connects him to Rabbi Akiva Ben Yosef. Rabbi Akiva Ben Yosef was a great man in his own generation, but Rabbi Akiva, by "twisting" a Hebrew word, prophesied Bar Kochba as the Messiah. He was wrong, and led 24,000 of his students down a path of death.

What does the Torah say should be done with a false prophet ? Deuteronomy 13:1-5reads, "If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you."

This opens a major question: If the Torah declares Rabbi Akiva as a false prophet do you follow his disciples? I will leave it to you to answer this question.

How does a Jew receive atonement without the Temple ? Is it by repentance, by prayers, or by good deeds? Some people believe they can receive atonement by repentance and prayers. They use Exodus 32:30for their Biblical precedent. Here we see Moses appearing before God to atone for the sin of the golden calf. True, repentance and prayer occurred before the existence of the Tabernacle, but those involved in the sin were punished by death. Moses' prayer saved a nation, but the ones who sinned died at the hand of God. Also, keep in mind that Moses threw himself and Israel upon God's mercy - there was no provision in the Torah for this. God was under no obligation to forgive.

Another verse used for repentance and prayers for atonement is I Samuel 15:22-23, which says, "Obedience is better than sacrifice". This passage is taken, and used out of its context. In this passage, Saul had offered a sacrifice, which he was told by Torah, not to offer. Samuel was not choosing obedience over sacrifice, but was saying obedience validates sacrifice. Both were necessary.

Some people believe they can receive atonement by good deeds. Consider the following: According to the Talmud and Jewish history after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai, not the "John" of the Bible, used Hosea 6:6which reads "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice", and substituted another atonement. Based on this one rabbi, the entire nation of Israel abandoned the atonement through the blood and sought it instead through good works [Mitzvot]

Even Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai did not believe that there could be atonement without the blood. Again, Jewish writings prove this. In the last hour of his life, he was heard weeping loudly and when asked why he was crying, he said: "I go to appear before the King of Kings, The Holy One, Blessed be He. Moreover I have before me two roads, one to Paradise, and one to Gahanna and Iknow not [emphasis mine] whether He will sentence me to Gahanna or admit me into Paradise" [Avot de Rabbi Nathan 40a; Chapter 5].

Again, I ask the question: How does a person find atonement without the Temple? Isaiah wrote that there would be no other Savior than God Himself [Isaiah 43:11]. Yeshua claimed to be the Living Temple [John 2:21]. In Him all the elements of the sacrificial system are found. He is the High Priest, the Offering, and the Tabernacle itself.

There is a term - "BUT NOW" - used eighteen times in the Brit Hadashah(New Testament). [I Corinthians 12:18, 20; 15:20; II Corinthians 8:22; 12:6; Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 2:13; 5:8; Philippians 2:12; Colossians 1:26; 3:8; II Timothy 1:10; Philemon 11; Hebrews 2:8; 8:6; 9:26; 12:16; 12:26]. Paul often used it as a Military term. It means "about face" or "to the rear, march". He was saying "Turn around 180 degrees". BUT NOW, our atonement comes through Yeshua.

This enables us to ask another question: Was there a difference in the way Yeshua taught before and after the Resurrection? I would have to answer "Yes". Before the resurrection, Yeshua taught in parables, and explained them to his "talmidim" [disciples] when they asked. After the resurrection, Yeshua taught the scriptures fully. In Luke 24:44-48, the world's greatest Bible study, it says that He "opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures". In Verse 44, Yeshua began with the "Torah of Moses... the Prophets... the Psalms ...concerning me" [emphasis - mine].

 If Yeshua believed it was important to teach His "talmidim" [disciples] this way of interpretation, it then becomes important that we study the scriptures with this same interpretation. This includes, but is not limited to, seeing Yeshua in scripture as an orthodox Jewish rabbi; as the Messiah with the Messiah's purpose, vision, life, teaching, death, resurrection, and His return; as the Son of God; and as the Son of Man.

 End Notes:

  1. Cohen, A; "Everyman's Talmud"; Schocken Books; Copyright 1949; Page 6
  2. Chilton, Bruce and Neusner, Jacob; "Judaism in the New Testament: Practices and Beliefs"; Routledge; Copyright 1995; Page 79;
  3. Neusner, Jacob; "The Mishnah: A new Translation"; Yale University Press; Copyright 1988; Pages 604-605;
  4. Chilton, Bruce and Neusner, Jacob; "Judaism in the New Testament: Practices and Beliefs"; Routledge; Copyright 1995; Page 68-69;

-----------------

RESOURCES:

  1. Samuels, Ruth; "Pathways through Jewish History"; KTAV Publishing House; Copyright 1977
  2. Grayzel, Solomon; "A History of the Jews"; Penquin Books USA, Inc.; Copyright 1984
Comodo SSL