Jason Colavito has an interesting piece about “rows of teeth” and ancient giants supposedly supported by the Talmud. It’s really about a plagiarized reference, but giant fans (no World Series pun intended there) will find it interesting. I left a comment that should be visible in 24 hrs.
Basically, the Talmud and similar rabbinic material is the LAST place you’d want to go to do exegesis in the Hebrew Bible. It’s really a compendium of speculation and not much more. If you think “the rabbis” were busy doing careful exegesis of the OT in its original context, you’re sadly mistaken. They were interpreting the OT in light of their own community’s (better, communities’) religious arguments. They had no access to the comparative material so crucial today for getting back to the Hebrew Bible’s true context — the context that produced it (i.e., the ancient Near Eastern world). The Talmud is sort of like listening to celebrity Christian mega-pastors — you’ll occasionally come across a valuable insight and be entertained a bit, but most of the time you’re thinking, “What are these guys on?”
And for you Christian “rabbinic fans” (is the Hebrew Roots movement into the rabbis?), these are the same guys who missed the theological content of most of your New Testament. Yeah … go to them for insight. Good idea.
(And spoiler: the “two rows of teeth” citation turns out to be wrong).
To answer your question about the “Hebrew Roots” movement being fans of the rabbis, I and many friends would be accused of being in the Hebrew Roots movement by more traditional Christians, but most of us distance ourselves from the term because of the actions and teachings of some of the more visible members of the movement. In my experience, most of us do not really like the rabbis in part for the following reasons:
The rabbis and Talmudic Judasim in general are direct religious descendants of the Pharisees, and Jesus himself fussed at the Pharisees for their traditions that frequently nullified the actual commandments of God.
Because many (most?) rabbis are anti-Christian, we can’t really trust the answers they give us if we ask them questions
The rabbis often teach that non-Jews (by which we have to assume they “non-Israel” since Jews were only one tribe of 12, and only 1 of 2 even in the southern kingdom) should not follow Torah, and that is exactly the opposite of one of the main beliefs that “Hebrew Roots” (or rather, Torah-observant) Christians follow
They will frequently speak of “Torah” without distinguishing between “Written Torah” (in general referring to the Pentateuch) and “Oral Torah”, which refers to their traditions which, in many cases, directly contradicts the written bible, and is now itself in written form in the Mishnah and spread throughout the Talmud.
Understood; makes sense in its context.
Good quips, Dr Heiser. These are all realizations I had to come to during my own sojourn in forced sympathy with “Hebrew Roots.”
To answer your question about the Hebrew Roots movement, no, most of them are not into the rabbis. They would agree with you that Rabbinic Judaism abuses the Hebrew Bible for its own ends, and always beat around the bush in addressing the New Testament. Unfortunately they have their own arrogance and even antisemitism, and tend to see themselves as the true, “Torah observant” Israel, the few and (very) proud that have unlearned all the “paganism” of the culture and are living out the tradition-less, merely-Biblical Judaism. NWO paranoia and Lost Tribes theories abound. All this, whilst pretending that Paul supports rather than refutes them, because the New Testament canon of Athanasius is not a standard they wish to abandon. They occasionally make an example out of the purity of the Samaritans and/or Karaites, but the fact is, both ancient groups have an ethnicity, an enduring tradition and a stringency of observance that the Hebrew Roots people would never impose on themselves. They are an odd bunch, modern yet pretending to ancient faith. Only in America.
interesting; would not have thought the lost tribes stuff was so important.
Like any group, there are variants. There are definitely HR groups that believe perhaps the growing interest in Torah observance is really the promised re-awakening of the Northern Kingdom scattered throughout the nations, and perhaps some are originally from those tribes, but there’s not really any way to know. There are plenty those that don’t see themselves any differently than regular Christians see themselves, where the only difference comes down thinking obedience to Torah is expected of believers in Messiah, and then quietly keep to themselves.
It’s easy to remember the weird stuff or to think that every group is as extreme as the someone had the sense to get out of, but most of us aren’t weirdos (among Christians to start with) and you wouldn’t notice any difference. And there are definitely the loud and judgmental evangelists in the movement, but aren’t they spread pretty evenly throughout most flavors of Protestantism anyway?
I still think we have a terminology problem where anything that has any features in common with the Hebrew Roots movement gets lumped in with them. I know Pentecostals that became Torah-observant because their study of eschatology led them to think that Christians would be observant in the future, so they felt it was reasonable to assume that they should be observant now. And they’re just as unhappy being lumped in with Hebrew Roots as some of us that came to it for different reasons.
As a friend points out, the “Hebrew” portion of it is really just one particular hermeneutical tool, a cultural-historical lens, and it doesn’t negate the other contexts we have to pay attention to when doing bible study. Yet it has become a label attached to us which is no more representative than calling us “dictionary users”.
The Oral Torah was a body of law and interpretation given at mount Sinai of equal importance to the written law. In the era of the compilation of the Talmud, persecutions caused its transmission to be hindered and allowed mistakes to creep in. The discussions in the Talmud are just attempts to clarify through discussion what the original law/philosophy is. When the Rabbis added their own material, they clearly stated that it was of rabbinic origin.
Of course the obvious problem here is that the oral Torah is (like parts of the written Torah) demonstrably later than the Sinai period. It didn’t drop from heaven at one moment in time. (Neither did).