The Traditions of Early Judaism

Christ’s teaching that the Mosaic Law was the only Law at the time to keep did not apply to the Judaism that developed prior to the advent of Christ. Pharisaical beliefs were annulling many commandments of Moses and teaching the people that they did not have to obey Moses any longer. The people were instructed to obey the Scribes and Pharisees who were accounted to be the representatives of God. This is true! This was exactly the opinion within Judaism in the two centuries before Christ. The main Jewish authorities began to add an abundance of traditional beliefs to the Mosaic religious society. Their religious system was not “to fulfill” the Law, but to abolish much of it!

The outcome of their activities destroyed the very essence of Old Testament religion. This is not often realized by people in the world today but it can be shown, in an absolute way, that the Judaism of Christ’s day was not “the religion of Moses.” Only in an outward and superficial sense did the Pharisaical ways of the first century (which dominated the society) resemble the teachings of Moses. So many new and contradictory teachings entered the mainstream of Judaic belief that even top Jewish scholars today are honest enough to admit that the Judaism of the Second Temple period had drifted far from observing the written commandments of the Old Testament. Their traditions made void much of the Word of God. This fact is echoed clearly in the statements of Christ and the apostles. Notice what Christ said:

“Ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.”

Matthew 15:6

“For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father and mother let him surely die;’ but ye say ‘If a man tell his father or his mother what ye have gained from me is Corba,’ [that is, neglecting one’s parents was proper in order to perform a supposed higher principle of conduct in honor of God], then ye no longer permit him to do anything for his father and mother, thus making VOID the word of God through your tradition which you hand down. And MANY SUCH THINGS YOU DO.Mark 7:10–13 cf. RSV

The fact is, Judaism in the time of Christ was rife with numerous new and diverse laws which Moses or the prophets never thought of, to the extent that it can correctly be called a “new religion.” Most Jewish authorities in Christ’s day no longer believed in the precise teachings of Moses. Christ said: “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me … BUT YE BELIEVE NOT HIS WRITINGS (John 5:46–47).

From a longer article by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., for Associates For Scriptural Knowledge.


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