The Talmudic Writings - Their Origins
Chapter II

“To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isa. 8,20.

No doubt every lover of the word of God, especially the student of the New Testament, has often wondered what the Saviour meant when he rebuked the Pharisees and other teachers of His time for holding certain traditions; or, what Paul had reference to where he mentioned certain persons’ obeying the laws and ordinances of men. For instance, in Matthew (Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13) we find the Jewish leaders condemning the disciples of Jesus for not washing their hands according to the traditions of the elders; and Jesus in turn condemning them for frustrating the commandment of God, in order to observe their tradition, The Saviour referred to this many times, (Matt. 9:14) and it is mentioned in the epistles.

2. In Colossians we find this statement:

    “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.’’ (Col. 2:8)

And again another statement:

    “(Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using ;) after the commandments and doctrines of men.” (Col. 2:20-23)

Again, in writing to Timothy, Paul says:

    “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.” (2 Tim. 2:14)

Again, in writing to Titus, the same apostle says:

    “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Titus 1:14)

3. Similar statements, (2 Peter 2:1-3, 12-18; 3:16; 2 John 7; 3 John 9,10; Acts 20:28-31) too numerous to mention, abound in the teachings of the Saviour and of the apostles, and have awakened inquiry in the minds of every thoughtful reader of the word of the Lord. This is especially true of those who are not familiar with the teachings and writings of the Jewish rabbis. To gain an intelligent idea of these scriptures, and the reason for the Master’s statement of them, is the purpose of this chapter concerning the writings of the Talmud.

THE TALMUD A COMPENDIUM

4. The Talmud is not the writings of one man, nor of a mere set of men; it was not formed in a day, in a month, nor in a year. It was a growth and a development of the savings of the supposedly great teachers, covering a period of many centuries. The Talmud was begun soon after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity several centuries before Christ, and was completed about the middle of the fourth century after Christ. The Talmud consists of two general divisions: the “Mishna,” a commentary or text on the Old Testament Scriptures, containing nearly five thousand mishnaioth, sections, or traditions; and the “Gemara,” the commentary of the Mishna, containing hundreds and thousands of laws, illustrations, allegories, commentaries, and a lot of other definable and indefinable sayings on anything and everything. Milman, the church historian, calls the Talmud:

    “That wonderful monument of human industry, human wisdom, and human folly!”

5. There are two Talmuds, known as the “Talmud Jerushalmi,” or Jerusalem Talmud; “Talmud Bo-vel,” or Babylonian Talmud, so called because the men who commented on the Mishna dwelt at Jerusalem and at Babylon. It may he of interest to the reader to follow the development of the Mishna, since this was what constituted the basis of the Jewish traditions at the time of Christ.

6. The Jews on account of their sins were sent into Babylonian captivity. (Dan. 1:1,2; 2 Chron. 36:14-21) Here they remained in exile for seventy years. (Jer. 29:10; 25:11, 12) While in this state of captivity, the Scriptures were little known among them. They had very little of the word of God, occasionally a roll of the Scriptures having been laid up by some very godly man. (Dan. 9:2) By the study of the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, (Ezra 10; Nehemiah 10 and 13) it will be seen that the people in general had greatly departed from the word of God in their captivity, and had lost sight of their worship of God. Ezra, Nehemiab, Mordecai, and other men of God, sought to bring about a restoration of the word of God to the people, and associated with them men who would teach the people the pure word of God.

7. In the days of these leaders, the truth was held up before the people, and much good was accomplished; but after their decease a new generation, as it were, arose, and these followed not in the ways of their predecessors. Of the men who sought to bring about a reformation, the Talmud says:

    “As soon as the men of the Great Synagogue met together they restored the law to its pristine glory.’’ (As quoted in The Talmud; What It Is, by Dr. Bernard Pick)

THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE

8. These men who were the successors of Ezra and his associates, were formed into a sort of college, called, K-nesseth Hagdola, the Great Synagogue or Synod, the last member of this order being “Simon the Just” who died about the second century before Christ. The one great object of these men seemed to be to protect the law, or to make a fence or hedge about it, that it should be impossible for the people ever to depart from it. It can easily be understood that when the teachings of any people were left to the minds of just a few, who were to regulate their every mode of living, even to the least detail and minutia, the religion of the people would soon dwindle into mere formalism; their piety would consist in the observance outwardly of the legal enactments of these teachers; and at the same time there would be built up a sort of spiritual despotism, with these men as the ecclesiastical despots. This is but a logical conclusion of the result of such religion. And this is exactly what happened to the Jews; so that when Christ came, the people were bound with the fetters of human tradition, and were enslaved by the spiritual despots, otherwise known as rabbis.

9. After the last one of the Great Synagogue passed away, the leaders of the people, who were the learned men, took the name of Sophrim or scribes (a) because their business was to teach the people the contents of the Books of the Law, and to be the expositors of the Scriptures.

Their great burden seemed to be to make a hedge about the law; so to circumscribe the word of God, according to their ideas of it, that the people should be fenced in by what they said, and hence their teaching came to be regarded as of equal importance with the word of God. Yes, in fact they regarded their teachings above the word of God.

THE ORAL LAW

10. In the book, “Ethics of the Fathers,’’ we find this statement concerning the purpose of these men:

    “They said three things: ‘Be deliberate in judgment: train up many disciples; and make a fence for the law.’”

11.  This they did, and did it well. These sayings of the teachers were not written in a book, but were handed down from one to another; and hence received the name, Torah Shel Ba-peh, the law of the mouth, or oral law. The Bible, or the Scriptures, were called, Torah Sh-bek-thav, or written law. While there were many of these scribes or teachers, there was always a great leader, who had the general supervision of the period in which he lived. When one man passed away, he was succeeded by another. Thus after Simon the Just, Antigonos of Socho, a disciple of this Simon, became the great leader. Every one of these leaders had disciples; sometimes they had many; and from among these disciples the successor was appointed. Thus of Hillel, the great teacher, it is said that he had eighty disciples. Thirty of them were worthy to have the glory of God rest upon them as it did upon Moses; thirty, that the sun should stand still at their command as it did for Joshua; twenty were only moderately learned. The greatest of these eighty disciples was Joshua, son of Uziel, of whom it is said, that when he studied the law, every bird that flew over his head was at once burned up.

12.  This Antigonos received the oral law from Simon; and one of the things he said was:

    Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward; but be like servants who serve their master without receiving a reward, and let the fear of heaven be upon you.”—” Ethics of the Fathers.” Chapter 1.

Thus one rabbi after another would leave certain sayings which would be handed down to his successors; and these were preserved. Then if any teacher made a statement that some of the people doubted, all that was necessary for him to say would be: “I heard such and such a rabbi say it.” This would end the discussion.

THE RABBI TO BE FEARED

13.  As a result of these methods, the oral law kept increasing, and regulations kept multiplying. The words of the rabbis became law to the people; and in studying the Scripture it must be interpreted only in the light of the rabbis. As a result, the rabbi came to be looked upon as a sort of deity; and was to be feared even as God. A few illustrations may be to the point:

    “As a man is commanded to honor and fear his father, so he is bound to honor and fear his rabbi more than his father.”

    “If a man should see his father lose something, and his rabbi lose something, he is first to return what his rabbi has lost, then to return that which his father has lost.”

    “If his father and his rabbi be oppressed with a load, he is first to help his rabbi down, then assist his father.’’

    “If his father and his rabbi be in captivity, he is first to ransom his rabbi, after that his father, unless his father be a disciple of a wise or learned man.”

    “Thou must consider no honor greater than the honor of the rabbi, and no fear greater than the fear of the rabbi. The wise men have said, ‘The fear of thy rabbi is as the fear of God.’” – Quoted in “Old Paths.”

And the rabbi who first introduced this last saying is Rabbi Eleazer, son of Shamuang, which saying is found in “Ethics of the Fathers,” chapter 4.

We find still further:

    “It is forbidden to a disciple to call his rabbi by name, even when he is not in his presence.”

    “Neither is he to salute his rabbi, neither to return his salutation in the same manner that salutations are given or returned among friends. On the contrary he is to bow down before the rabbi, and say to him with reverence and honor, ‘Peace be to thee, rabbi.”—ibid.

14.  The reader will no doubt see a new meaning in these words of the Saviour in the light of the above statements:

    “And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” (Matt. 23:7,8)

TEACHINGS OF RABBIS PLACED ABOVE GOD’S WORD

15.  They were putting themselves in the place of God to the people; their saying; were placed upon equality with God’s teachings. Hence we read that the written law was like water; but the oral law, Mishna, was like wine; the Gemara, like spiced wine. Some went so far as to say that the words of the scribes are lovely above the words of the law (meaning the written law), for the words of the written law are weighty and light; but the words of the scribes are all weighty. One rabbi Judah, son of Tamai, said:

     A child at five years should study the Bible, at ten the Mishna, at fifteen the Gemara.” —“Ethics of the Fathers.”

From this last statement it is seen that three times as much value is placed upon the words of men as upon the words of God. The person as he comes to years of maturity should regard the words of the Scripture only one-third as much as he does the words of the rabbis. Yes, they go so far as to say:

    Yea, though they should tell thee that thy right hand is the left, and the left hand that it is the right, it must believed.” “Sanhedrin”

It is not surprising, then, that the Saviour condemned those teachers for making void the word of God by their tradition. By the multiplicity of maxims they enslaved the man; they put the word of God aside, in order that their words might be highly esteemed

.16. There were times when there were several leaders, and frequently these leaders would disagree as to their ideas of the Scriptures, or Scriptural exposition. Which is right? was often the question, as the people were only to understand the law interpreted and expounded by these men. The common people were never supposed to understand the Scriptures for themselves; this is why, no doubt, we find the following statement:

    “But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.”

    “They answered and said unto him. Thou wast altogether born in sins, and doest thou teach us? And they cast him out.” (John 7:19; 9:34)

17.  It was only the wise and educated who were expected to know the Scriptures; whatever these men said must be final. An appeal to any other source meant excommunication. (John 9:22; 12:42) No doubt this is why Nicodemus came to Christ at night. (John 3:1-10) This will also explain why more of the people did not receive Jesus.

HILLEL AND SHAMMI

18. Two of the most noted contemporary teachers were Hillel and Shammi, who flourished about the time of Christ’s first advent. Each represented a different school of theology, and they frequently were engaged in strong arguments. On one occasion there arose a heated discussion about a hen that laid her eggs on the Sabbath, - whether or not it was lawful to eat such egg or eggs. As a result of this strong debate, an entire treatise, called, Bet-sa, meaning egg, is written on this subject. Hillel stuck to his legal decision, and what he claimed would be the position of the other great rabbis; namely, that the egg was not to be eaten. Shammi, however, who was of the more lenient class, claimed that it could be eaten. What was to be done? Both of these men were held in great esteem. Their disciples were sitting by and awaiting the outcome. The whole structure of their interpretation of Scripture might crumble should either admit defeat.

19.  Finally one of the leaders raised his voice, and shouted, Bath-kol, literally the daughter of a voice. This was their substitute for the spirit of prophecy. They claimed this was the way that God revealed Himself to them. When some person said, Bath-kol, (b) a hush fell upon the entire company.

“What said the Bath-kol concerning the point under discussion?”

This was the reply:

    “Both are the words of the living God, yet the rule of the school of Hillel should be followed.” – “Eruvin.”

20.  Is it to be wondered at that the Saviour said they strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel? (Matt. 23:24) Can we not see why the Saviour condemned them and their teachings, and why the apostles warned the people against listening to them?

DISTORTING SCRIPTURE

21.  Knowing their misinterpretation of Scripture, we can the better understand what the apostle Peter meant when he said that there were some who wrested the Scriptures to their own damnation. (2 Peter 3:16) The word of God was made of none effect through such twisting and distorting. The people were taught to believe anything and everything and whatever came from these men to them must be the word of God.

22.  It was not difficult for these teachers, in view of such license and arrogancy, to claim that the word of God had more than one interpretation, and, whichever way the scripture was interpreted was lawful. As a result it was claimed that every passage of Scripture had at least four different interpretations, to which were given the following names:

    Peshat, or the simple way. This is taking the text as it reads.
    Derush, or the spiritual way.
    Remez, the allegorical or parabolical way.
    Sod, the secret way.

From the first letter of each of. the four words, Peshat, Remez, Derush, and Sod, the acrostic PaRDeS was formed; hence the word, Paradise. It having been established that Scripture could be interpreted, it was found that four ways were not sufficient; hence this Hillel formed what is known as the seven rules of interpretation. This method was followed for a time, until Rabbi Ishamel raised it to thirteen rules, and finally one, Rabbi Jose of Galilee, (c) introduced what is known as the “thirty-two rules of interpretation.” And the Talmud itself says that the law can be interpreted in forty-nine different modes. From the foregoing, we can the better understand why the Saviour said on one occasion:

    “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Matt. 22:29)

23.  Scores, hundreds, even thousands of laws and interpretations were made from the Scriptures; they surely succeeded in making a fence for the law; but the law and the Scripture had dwindled into a mere form of words. (Rom. 2:20) They had the shell, but did not taste of the sweetness of the nut within.

A VOLUMINOUS MASS

24. To say nothing of Gemara, the commentary of the Mishna, the latter alone contains sixty-three tractates, divided into five hundred and twenty-five chapters, consisting of nearly five thousand separate sections, or traditions. Nearly all these were in vogue in the days of the Saviour, and these were the special laws. There were a vast number of others which, while perhaps more secondary, were nevertheless to be observed and obeyed. It should be further remembered that all these thousands of laws were not written at the time of Christ; they were simply handed down from mouth to mouth. During the second century after Christ, they were collected in volumes by a very learned rabbi, called, Rabbi Juda Ha-no-si, the rabbi who was the prince. (d) He gathered these sayings which had been handed down for nearly six centuries, and classified them under six great heads, or divisions, giving these divisions the name of Sederim, Orders. (e) This voluminous work, the Mishna, was the basis for all study of the law. The Bible itself, if studied, must be understood in the light of the Mishna. Of course the people had the scrolls; they read them some, but if they wanted to know their meaning, they must ascertain what the rabbis said concerning them (f) If two or more disagreed upon any point, the people were to believe what all the teaches said. They durst not ask many questions; if they did, they were liable to excommunication. (g) It was further claimed that these expositions of the rabbis were indirect succession from Moses, because it is written that:

    “Moses received the law from Sinai, and delivered it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the men of the Great Synagogue.” – “Ethics of the Fathers,” Chapter 1.

IT IS CLAIMED THAT MOSES RECEIVED THESE TRADITIONS

25. Tradition goes even farther, and says that Moses received these teachings and explanations of the Scriptures form the Lord Himself; and instead of committing them to writing, he spoke them orally to Aaron, to his sons, to the seventy elders, and to all the people; each class having heard him repeat them four times. Still another passage in the Talmud tries, by a perverted interpretation of the following passage of Scripture, to prove conclusively that the oral law was given to Moses:

    “And I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.’ Ex. 24:12. Rabbi Levi argues that ‘the tables of stone’ are the ten commandments. The ‘law’ is the written law in the five books of Moses. The ‘commandments’ are the Mishna; “which I have written’ refers to the prophets and the Scriptures: while the words, ‘that thou mayest teach them,’ point to the Gemara. From this we learn that all was given to Moses on Sinai.” – “Berachoth,” chapter 5.

26.  In view of the above, we should not be surprised that the Jews reviled the blind man, as recorded in John 9, and said:

    “Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.” (John 9:28,29)

But ah! Had they only known and understood Moses and the prophets, they would have understood Him; for Moses wrote of Him.(John 5:46,47) In Moses’ writings were contained scriptures which were fulfilled in Him (Luke 24:44) and which they would have seen, had they only studied them in the light of the Spirit, instead of in the darkness of their tradition. (Matt. 23:17)

IMPOSSIBLE TO FORM CORRECT ESTIMATE

27.  It would be absolutely impossible to give the reader any fair or comprehensive idea of the voluminous mass that forms the Talmud. Its origin we have traced; its composition in part we have seen; its intent we have learned; its results can be better appreciated.

The people left the Fountain of Living Water, (Jer. 2:12,13) and hewed for themselves cisterns, broken ones at that, which could hold no water. Surely, then, we ought to appreciate more the purity of the word of the Lord as revealed by Jesus Christ, made plain by the Holy Spirit. We can also see more clearly many sayings which hitherto have seemed hard to understand, and may it be that our love for the word of God shall become intensified.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES

a.   (Paragraph 9) The title of scribe was not first introduced at this period, as there had for centuries been certain persons whose business it was to write and transcribe the Scriptures. But this period developed a distinct class who, to gain self-emolument, abused the original design of the scribe.

b.   (Paragraph 19) Just when this Bath-kol was introduced among the rabbis and teachers of the Jews is not definitely know. In fact there were many things taught among the Jews, proof for which could not be given from any authority except oral. But it is supposed that it came into existence about two hundred years before Christ. The reason for its introduction, in brief, is as follows:

Ever since the days of Moses, the Lord had led His people by the mouth of the prophets. As long as Israel had one or more prophets of God, she felt in a measure her safety. When the Israelites wished to know anything that concerned their welfare, they went to the prophet; and, if it were necessary for them to know, the Lord answered them by the mouth of the prophet. There were times when the Urim and Thummim were used by the people to know the voice of God; but the mouth of the living prophet was to Israel her sure guidance.

The last Old Testament prophet was Malachi. He prophesied about four hundred years before the coming of the Messiah. After the return of the Israelites from Babylon there were several prophets, such as Zechariah, Haggai, Malachi. Then there were a number of good men of God who were associated with these prophets, to whom the Lord gave special messages; namely, Ezra, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Zerubbable, Joshua the high priest, etc. So that for more than a hundred years, from the time that Israel was delivered from Babylon, beginning with the decree issued by Cyrus, king of Persia, Israel had been under the leadership of one or more prophets of God. These prophets received their messages by inspiration of God, and the people generally recognized in these messages the voice of God, and accordingly followed the light, believing that what these men said was the true word of God.

With the passing away of the last prophet, Malachi, there arose various teachers, as mentioned in the body of this chapter. Some among the leaders who had arisen to distinction, at times questioned the sayings of some of the sages, and so these learned men did not receive the recognition that they felt was their due. At the same time the power of the priests and the Levites was waning, and these men gradually ingratiated themselves and their ideas with the people. The original plan of God was to give His message to the prophet; the prophet would give the message to the priests and Levites; these in turn to the people. Or the prophets at times would go directly to the people with their message from heaven. Ordinarily they would give their utterances to the men chosen of God to be the teachers of the people.

So the sages and leaders realized that there was lacking an authority among them that was greatly needed to enforce their teachings upon the people. They were really doing two persons’ work, the work of the prophet, and that of the priest or Levite. Where did they get this authority? They greatly felt the need of authority. Hence to make the people feel that their authority was of God, and at the same time lead the people to accept them as the true teachers of God’s word and God’s message, they brought into operation this Bath-kol, this substitute for the voice of God, the spirit of prophecy.

They claimed that the time had come when God did not need to speak to the people by the prophets as He had done; He now was speaking to them through these wise men. That the people might know that their messages were of God, when the wise men came to a place where the people were in doubt as to whether that they taught was really what God wished them to know, there would appear to them a Voice, they said. This Voice was not the same kind of voice that the prophets heard when the Lord talked to them Himself; it was not so strong a voice. So they called this voice Bath-kol. It literally means, the “daughter of a voice.” Since it was not a voice exactly like the voice of God through the prophets, they used the term of substitution. With the rabbis, whenever a thing was not so genuine as the real thing, they would call it be a female name; for the female character among the rabbis was not so strong or so valuable as was that of a man.

That the people might be impressed that this was really so, that God did appear to these leaders, there have been left on record several examples of such intercourse, one of which we will give for the reader’s benefit. Here is the following story from the Talmud:

    “Rabbi Isaac, he son of Samuel, says, in the name of Rav, The night has three watches, and at every watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion, and says, ‘Woe is me, that I have laid my house desolate, and burned my sanctuary, and sent my children into captivity amongst the nations of the world.’” – “Berachoth.” Folio 3.

In commenting on this statement, “Woe is me that I have laid my house desolate,” a great rabbi, Rabbi Jose, said that Elijah the prophet appeared to him once while the former was going to prayer, and when he was through praying, the great prophet gave him authority for the following statement:

    “And he, Elijah, said to me, ‘What sort of a voice didst thou hear in the ruin?’ I said to him, ‘I heard a Bath-kol cooing like a dove, and saying, Woe is me that I have desolated my house, and burnt my sanctuary, and sent my children into captivity amongst the nations.’” – Ibid.

The leaders said that his voice was not recognized by any one, save the person to whom it was given. No one even in close proximity could hear it, as it was a peculiar voice, known to only the person when it came. In this way, this voice was given to the leaders, they claimed, that the rank and file might know that they were endowed with the authority of God, and that they were teaching God’s word as He would have it taught. The leaders further on claimed that this voice would come only in the night, and it could come only to those who were learned, or who were deserving to understand the knowledge of God.

By this scheme and by this fraud, the leaders led the people to believe that they were receiving their messages from God and that they were being taught the truth of God for the people. It made no difference how many of the leaders of the people differed in their opinions; for whoever heard this voice was right. So that if there were differences of opinion, it taught the people that the voice sanctioned the differences, and the different schools must follow all the opinions.

In this way the leaders usurped the authority of God; and fooled the people by substituting this voice for the spirit of prophecy. In this way the people were being prepared to believe that it made no difference what a rabbi taught. It was true, even though the rabbis differed in their views. In this way, the rabbis prepared the way for the building up of different systems of belief, and in this way the devil was preparing the people, the leaders, and the masses, to reject the true voice of God when it should be proclaimed by John the Baptist and by Jesus Christ.

Is there not in this a great lesson for the church in the twentieth century? Can we not see in this a great type of these latter times? Should we not see the awfulness of allowing man-made tradition and man-made authority to supplant the truth of God and to substitute the voice of God? Let us know the true voice of God as God speaks, and let us not be held down by the teachings and traditions of men. Is there not need of the voice of the true prophet?

c.   (Paragraph 22) This Rabbi Jose, of Galilee, lived about the middle of the second century after Christ.

d.   (Paragraph 24) Rabbi Judah was preeminently called, “The Rabbi.” No other rabbi did so much to hold the Jews together as a people as he did. He was a great scholar, very pious, had accumulated great wealth which he lavished freely; was quite ambitious to build up a permanent ecclesiasticism among the Jews, in which plan he succeeded well. The time, labor, and means expended to gather the mass of traditions which had accumulated for nearly five centuries must have been tremendous; nevertheless he accomplished this before his death. The influence of his work has been so powerful that, like Romanism, it has succeeded in keeping the Jews together as a separate people with their peculiar customs, nearly seventeen hundred years.

e.   The following are the names of the six great divisions of the Mishna:

    First: Zeraim, or Seeds. This division contains eleven tracts.
    Second: Moed, or Festivals. This division has twelve tracts. Nearly all the laws and traditions concerning the Sabbath come under this order.
    Third: Noshim, or Women. This division has seven tracts.
    Fourth: Nezekim, or Damages. This division has ten tracts.
    Fifth: K-do-shim, or Consecration. This division has eleven tracts. These tracts deal largely with the sacrificial system.
    Sixth: T-ho-roth, or Purifications, containing twelve tracts.

f.   The Jewish sages taught the following concerning the time and the manner the law should be studied and understood:

      “Every one is bound to divide the time of his study into three parts: one third to be devoted to the written law; one third to the Mishna; and one third to the Gemara.” – Quoted in “Old Paths.”

It will thus be observed that the rabbis taught the older a person became the less he was to study the word of God, and the more time he was to devote to the traditions and teachings of men. Since these sages were the ones who were to give the true meaning to the law of God, the time would come when all that the people knew of the word of God would be what these men said. Then whatever these sages uttered was to the people the word of God. Human learning supplanted the truth of God. It was therefore easy for them to place the traditions of men above the commandments of God. Rabbinical history and human thought became the study of the people, as though these teachings were the true oracles of God. Is there not a valuable lesson in this for the church now?

g.   The person not informed in rabbinical lore can hardly appreciate what is involved in rabbinic excommunication. It was not merely ostracism. If the excommunicated one did not repent, after a given time, he was considered as dead. Here are one or two Talmudic illustrations:

    “How is an excommunicated person to conduct himself, and how are other to conduct themselves toward him? It is unlawful for an excommunicated person, as for a mourner, to trim his bear or hair, or to wash himself all the days of his excommunication; neither is he to be associated in pronouncing the benediction; neither is he to be reckoned as one of ten, wherever ten person are required. Neither may any one sit with four ells of him.”

    “But if he die in his excommunication, the tribunal send and lay a stone on his coffin to signify that they stone him, because he is separated from the congregation. And it is unnecessary to say that he is not to be mourned for, and that his funeral is not to be attended.”

    “Whosoever remains thirty days in his excommunication without seeking to be absolved, is to be excommunicated the second time. If he abide thirty days more without seeking absolution, he is then to be anathematized.” – “Hilchoth Talmud Torah.”

After the man has been anathematized, the following is the manner of dealing with him:

    “He is not to teach others nor to be taught; he may learn by himself that he may not forget the learning. He is not to be hired, nor to hire. Men may have no dealings with him, nor any business except a little, that he may get a livelihood.” – Ibid.

May we not therefore learn one reason why the Jews in the days of Christ feared to follow the Master? The wise men and the rabbis had the power of excommunication; and to be disloyal to the rabbinic leaders meant excommunication. Hence it is written:

    “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.”

    “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” John 12:42; 9:22.