Book: Judaism— Revelation of Moses Or Religion of Men?
"The Law of the Lord is complete, restoring the soul.”

Without question, the centerpiece of Judaism is its “oral tradition,” often called the “oral Torah.” Rabbi Aaron Parry, Educational Director of the west coast branch of the international organization “Jews for Judaism,” writes: “For Jews, belief in the oral tradition that is [compiled in] the Talmud is an essential cornerstone of [our] faith. This point, in fact, cannot be overstated” (The Talmud, p. 9). Moreover, it is a key tenet of Judaism that one cannot correctly understand or apply the principles of the written Torah without the interpretive help of the oral law. Parry defines the oral law as the “verbal explanation of the laws that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai” (p. 4). He asserts that “without the Talmud [the final written form of the oral traditions, completed about 500 AD], we [Jews] have no way of knowing how to interpret and apply the [written] laws of the Torah” (p. 4). “Jews believe that virtually nothing of the Torah can be properly understood without the Talmud.....” (p. 9; emphasis added).

According to Parry, to command that no work be done on the Sabbath is insufficient—because, he says, the Law doesn't define “work.” He argues that “only through an unwritten [oral] tradition are we able to know what constitutes the Torah's definition of work” (p. 5). Thus, Jews look to their oral traditions to tell them in the most specific manner possible what activities involve “work” on the Sabbath. As part of the oral law, there are literally hundreds of rules—ranging from the trivial to the absurd—designed to regulate Sabbath observance alone. In fact, virtually every imaginable activity of daily life is covered by such oral traditions (see Appendix Two, where some of these laws are reproduced from Rabbi Solomon Ganzfried's Code of Jewish Law).

Avi ben Mordechai—who once actively followed the Talmudic code of law—writes that in Judaism “there is an inseparable bond between the written Law of [God] and the oral law of the rabbis” and that “neither can exist without the other.” Moreover, from the perspective of the rabbis, “it is impossible for life to be regulated only in accordance with the written code of Moses, because, as the rabbis teach, the written code is vague and has no clarity or definition” (Galatians: A Torah-Based Commentary in First-Century Hebraic Context, p. 79; emphasis added). It is the rabbis who teach that the Scriptures are inherently insufficient. However, this idea is proven utterly false by Nehemiah 8:1-8, where Levitical scribes are shown to be quite successful at giving the “sense” of the Law and causing the people to “understand” the Torah readings—all without the help of an adjunct oral law.

This argument is at the heart of Judaism. If the Torah is inherently insufficient, then a supplementary set of oral instructions would make a welcome addition. But as we will see, the Law of God as presented in the Pentateuch is quite sufficient on its own—and this key premise of Judaism is in direct conflict with numerous clear passages of Scripture. One particular passage, for example, stands out: How can the Jew explain what David wrote in Psalm 19:7, that the “law [Torah] of the LORD is perfect” (KJV)? Here, the Hebrew word for “perfect” clearly means complete, full, whole, unblemished, lacking nothing. David adds, “The testimony of the LORD is sure”—meaning it is confirmed, established, verified. How can such a clear passage be reconciled with the Jewish idea of an adjunct “oral Torah”?

Connected to this assertion is the additional Jewish claim that both the written Torah and the oral Torah came into existence at the same time— that both were given to Moses at Sinai. According to Parry, the traditions were allegedly “transmitted orally from God to Moses, and from Moses to the generations that followed him” (p. 4). As mysterious knowledge “whispered in Moses' ear,” the traditions were never intended to be written down, but passed on from sage to pupil across successive generations. They were the “secret knowledge” of the sages. Joachim Jeremias writes that “the whole of the oral tradition . was an esoteric doctrine that . could not be propagated by the written word since it was the 'secret of God,' and could only be transmitted orally from teacher to pupil.” (Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, p. 241). Of course, once the cryptic traditions were written down in the form of the Talmud, they lost their esoteric character—making the idea of an oral tradition appear even more contrived.

Judaism's claim of a Sinai-based oral Torah is highly suspect. Was the so-called oral law actually given to Moses by fiat—whispered into his ear—or did it evolve over centuries as Jewish sages attempted to “explain” the written Torah? David Stern says the oral law is simply the “accumulated tradition handed down over centuries”? (Jewish New Testament Commentary, p. 18; “Matt. 3:7”). Note the key word, accumulated. Paul Johnson writes that the oral traditions subjected the written Torah to a “process of creative development” in which laws could be “adapted to changing conditions” (A History of the Jews, p. 106). Note the key phrase, process of creative development.

Ari Goldman writes that some non-Orthodox Jewish scholars admit that there is a “clear separation between the [written] Torah and its offspring, the Talmud and the oral traditions. These scholars trace how the [oral] laws were added, updated, and even abrogated by rabbis over time.”(Being Jewish, p. 259; emphasis added). He says that any approach that sees the Law and the oral traditions as inseparable “flies in the face of historical fact.” Ultimately, Goldman considers the Talmud a book of “Jewish law, lore, custom and superstition” (p. 260). The 1905 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia takes a similar approach: “The Mishnah [a portion of the laws composing the Talmud] represents the culmination of a series of attempts to bring order to the vast mass of traditions which had been transmitted orally for many centuries.... The compilation of the Mishnah is not, however, the work of one man, or even of the scholars of one age, but rather the result of a long process extending over a period of two centuries” (“Mishnah”; emphasis added).

So much for God whispering into Moses' ear.

Even those rabbis who claim the oral traditions were delivered to Moses along with the written Law readily admit that the oral law still had to be developed from what was implied in the written Torah. In his rather straightforward book, What Do Jews Believe?, David S. Ariel writes that the Jewish sages believed “every word of the [written] Torah had some mysterious meaning that could be deciphered and from which new laws could be discovered” (p. 139; emphasis added). Thus, the so-called “oral traditions” were actually “discovered” by deciphering the written Torah. Ariel adds, “The [written] Torah, in [the rabbis'] view, was open to interpretation and amenable to uncovering new applications to life” (p. 141). Again, note the key phrase, open to interpretation. In fact, “the rabbis imply that the oral tradition—the rabbinic system of interpretation of [the] Torah—has as much legitimacy as the Torah itself” (p. 142; emphasis added). The Talmud itself states: “There is greater stringency in respect to the teachings of the Scribes than in respect to the [written] Torah . so that a biblical law may [if deemed necessary] be transgressed” (BT Sanhedrin, 88b).

Ariel continues (perhaps unintentionally) to debunk the myth that God actually whispered the “oral Torah” into Moses' ear at Sinai—showing instead that the oral laws are nothing but humanly-devised traditions supposedly based on the written Torah. He writes: “According to the rabbinic tradition, the revelation of God at Sinai was not the final word. [With apologies to David, the Law is less than “perfect” after all.] Revelation of God's teaching continues in the process of deliberation throughout history by competent and learned Jews who meditate upon God's word and law. This interpretive tradition invests the continuous unfolding of the divine revelation not in God but in the wisdom of the rabbis and the rabbinic tradition” (p. 141; emphasis added). An astonishing statement to say the least. The Word of God is represented as insufficient; but any further “revelation” comes not from God, but from the interpretive wisdom of “competent and learned” rabbis! Continuing: “The basis for this [assertion] is the belief that everything that was, is and can be known from God was revealed at Sinai, but that much of the content of the revelation was implicit, rather than explicit, [hidden] within [the] Torah. Jews can derive new insights, laws and interpretations after Sinai, all of which are implicit within the Torah text.....” (p. 141; emphasis added).

Ariel justifies this position by stating that the “commandments in the [written] Torah, reflecting a different society from the one in which the rabbis lived, often required interpretation, refinement, elaboration, and change in order to render them applicable to new situations. Every legal code generates an evolving system of continuing legislation and legal authorities who can authorize the application of the original laws to new circumstances. This [freewheeling interpretation of God's Law] is what the rabbis provided in the tradition of Oral Torah and in the institution of the rabbinate” (p. 142; emphasis added).

In the end, Ariel admits that while the oral traditions—what he calls a codified “system of Jewish behavior”—may have their origins in the written Torah, they are ultimately “the product of Rabbinic Judaism” (p. 161; emphasis added). At the same time, however, he claims that the idea of a Torah-deciphered oral tradition “gives divine sanction to the [entire] rabbinic system” (p. 139).

Divine sanction? On whose authority? What kind of credibility did these so-called “competent and learned” Jewish sages actually possess? Where in the entirety of Scripture is such a “rabbinic system” supported?

Rabbi Parry asks a similar question: “How do we know that the oral laws have not been corrupted over time? The Talmud . is full of disagreements. Is this not proof that the information is inaccurate?” Unable to answer with authority, Parry appeals to tradition: “[Our] traditional Jewish practice . holds that the Talmud represents God's divine will and instruction. We trust in the power of the sages of each generation, and their followers, to accurately transmit it” (The Talmud, pp. 9-10). This chain of transmission, by the way, purportedly includes some 120 generations of sages from Moses to the completion of the Talmud in about AD 500.

By the frank admission of the Jews' own scholars, Judaism is clearly a religion based on blind trust in men—certainly not in God. The so-called oral Torah is nothing more than an accumulation of human ideas—rabid commentary, eccentric musings of self-professed “wise sages” who simply could not (or would not) allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves. It is indeed as Michael Hoffman writes: “Where the sufficiency of Scripture is denied”—and it is grossly denied in Rabbinical Judaism—”the fallacies and [vain] imaginings of man come to the fore” (Judaism Discovered, p. 146). The so-called “oral Torah” is just that—a fallacious imagination of men.

The Jewish idea of “secret wisdom” privy only to a select rabbinate is totally unbiblical. Deuteronomy 29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God”—not to an elite group of “competent and learned” sages— “but the things which are revealed [in the Scriptures] belong to us and to our children forever”—why?—”so that we may do [live by!] all the words of this Law” (verse 29). The knowledge of how to obey and please God is clearly revealed in the Scriptures—fully and completely. No secondary, interpretive “oral law” is needed.

God's Law Extant From Creation

The spiritual principles behind God's Law—such as love, mercy, outgoing concern, giving—have always existed, as they are integral aspects of God's own character. At creation, God ordained specific laws to govern His relationship with mankind—such as the seventh-day Sabbath (Gen. 2), which was later codified as the Fourth Commandment (Ex. 20). Though unstated, other laws of God are apparent from the creation of man. In instructing Adam and Eve, it is obvious that God intended for them to worship and obey Him above all—thus, the First Commandment was in effect from day one. God created other laws to govern human relationships. In murdering Abel, Cain was guilty of breaking the Sixth Commandment; he began, however, by coveting (prohibited by the Tenth Commandment) his brother's enviable relationship with God. (It is interesting to note that one cannot covet in a physical, letter-of-the-law manner. Coveting only occurs in the mind— thus, it is always spiritual.) Cain had been warned that sin desired to “have him,” as it were (Gen. 4:7). Indeed, his hatred of Abel preceded his act of murder—which, as Jesus pointed out, meant that he was already guilty of breaking the spiritual intent of the Law (Matt. 5:22). According to the apostle Paul, “where no law is, there is no transgression”—no sin (Rom. 4:15). Thus, if Cain was struggling against sin, there must have been a law in force—for “sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4; KJV).

There are numerous additional examples which can be used to demonstrate that God's laws were fully in force from the creation of man. Genesis six describes the corrupt, evil state to which mankind had degenerated in just a few generations. By what criteria or standard was man deemed evil and sentenced to destruction via the flood? Of that same generation, Noah was righteous before God (Gen. 7:1). Again, by what criteria was Noah judged as righteous? It is apparent that God's basic laws had to be fully in force in order for God to render such judgments—and such laws likely existed in some “codified” form even before Sinai.

In fact, long prior to Sinai, God said the patriarch Abraham “obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Gen. 26:5). We even see Abraham tithing to the priest Melchizedek in Genesis 14:20. Abraham's faithfulness was of course critical to not only God's plan to raise up the nation of Israel, but to the promise of the Messiah Himself. God's covenant promises to Abraham are absolute because of his faith and obedience. Is it any wonder, then, that Abraham is called the father of the faithful (Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:7, 29); as such, Abraham's example of faithful obedience is central to the Christian calling (Heb. 11; James 2).

The point here is that God had established His Law as a righteous way of life long before the first Jew was born—long before the so-called oral law was ever imagined. This same precept-based way of life formed the basis of the all-important covenant promises given through Abraham— promises from which sprang the Old Covenant nation of Israel, and from which will yet come the New Covenant millennial reign of Christ. Where do we read in Scripture that Abraham—who figures so prominently in Judaism—ever second-guessed God's Law? Or that he felt God's precepts were in need of some kind of “higher interpretation” or “further development”? How was it possible for Abraham to please God—to become the “father of the faithful”—without the so-called oral law to guide him? The truth is, we read simply that Abraham “obeyed” the straightforward, clear-cut laws, commandments and statutes of God. How is it, then, that God's way of life—defined perfectly by His laws, commandments and precepts—is deemed in Judaism to be in sore need of an additional “oral” law?

The “Church in the Wilderness”

Because of its extensive code of traditions, Judaism deviates significantly from the pure way of life defined by the commandments, statutes and precepts of God as originally delivered to the children of Israel through Moses. While ostensibly an attempt to interpret the Torah—or perhaps build a hedge about the Law to prevent it from being broken—the oral law, in many cases, obscures the clear meaning of the Scriptures.

Jesus Himself warned that the Jews' traditions resulted in “nullifying the authority of the Word of God” (Mark 7:13)—rendering it “of none effect” (KJV). He said the Jews practiced many such traditions—all of which had been “passed down” (verse 13), showing again that such oral laws had accumulated over time, being passed from sage to pupil.

Because of the Jews' fixation with tradition, Judaism becomes the ultimate in self-deception wherein its adherents literally worship the true God in vain (Mark 7:7). Here, Mark quotes from Isaiah, who was already dealing with a similar condition in his time: “And the LORD said, '[This] people draws near Me with their mouth, and with their lips [they] honor Me [they say all the right things] but their worship of Me is made up of the traditions of men learned by rote, and their fear toward Me [and thus their lack of true obedience] is taught by the commandments of men' “ (Isa. 29:13; also read Isaiah 58, an indictment against those who practice a form of religion without substance).

Thus, Judaism is a thorough, yet subtle, corruption of the pure way of life God had established through His Law under the Old Covenant. That Torah-centered way of life was intended to position the people of Israel as God's singular, premier nation—the standard after which all the nations of the world would ostensibly model themselves. “[This law] is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples [of the nations] who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'..... [For] what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I [Moses] set before you this day?” (Deut. 4:6-8). As a “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6), Israel was to represent God and His way of life to the world. God's perfect Law, as originally given in codified form, was quite sufficient to not only govern the nation of Israel, but, ultimately, the entire world. In fact, the law that was given to the “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) is the very law Jesus Christ and the glorified saints will administer in ruling all nations in the age to come—for “out of Zion shall go forth the Law” (Isa. 2:3). Israel, of course, never realized that grand potential, writing instead a long history of apostasy and rebellion. As we have seen, Israel's failure to carefully follow the Scriptures is what ultimately spurred the development of Judaism—a man-made religion of humanly-devised laws and traditions.

Leading up to the exodus, Moses was to present God to the children of Israel as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:15)—thus emphasizing not only the covenant promise of deliverance as detailed in Genesis 15:13-16, but the covenant promises of nationhood. As their journey to the Promised Land proceeded, the burgeoning nation soon found itself bound to the God of their fathers by their own con-tract—the Old Covenant—based on a codified form of the same laws, commandments and precepts that governed God's relationship with Abraham.

The nation of Israel was required by God to live a way of life that was already well established; indeed, the holy, righteous laws of God are decidedly not “Old Covenant”—nor are they “New Covenant.” They are simply the laws of God—which, at their core, are based on profound, eternal spiritual principles. It is important to understand the completeness of the “Torah-based” way of life that God gave to the “church in the wilderness.” Judaism, while claiming to be in full support of the written Torah, purports that the laws of God are insufficient, that one cannot live a godly life without additional, more detailed guidance (the oral law is immensely detailed). But the Scriptures reveal that the laws and commandments of God—as given to the children of Israel—are fully sufficient, complete and without need of further development.

In Deuteronomy four, Moses reminded the children of Israel of the day they stood before God at Sinai, when God said, “Gather the people to Me, and I will make them hear My words so that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and [that] they may teach their children [to do likewise]” (verse 10). At that time, God “declared to [them] His covenant which He commanded [them] to perform, even the Ten Commandments” (verse 13). As shown by this passage, God's instructions to the people were given in a most direct fashion; in fact, there is not even the slightest hint that the people would have difficulty figuring out how to follow God's commandments—that they would need the “interpretive” help of a secondary, oral Torah. Moses concludes: “Therefore, know this day and fix it in your heart that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath. There is none other. Therefore, you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you this day, so that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and so that you may prolong your days upon the earth which the LORD your God gives you forever” (verses 39-40). The children of Israel were to follow only what God had spoken directly and what was made publicly known through Moses. In a similar passage, God said: “Write these words for yourself, for in accordance to these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” (Ex. 34:27). Again, this passage—like so many others—leaves no room for an oral tradition originating with Moses and being passed down to subsequent generations.

In fact, God admonished the Israelites to teach their children, emphasizing that they were to be instructed in the same laws and precepts. “And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes—to fear the LORD our God for our good always so that He might preserve us alive, as it is today. And it shall be righteousness for us if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God as He has commanded us” (Deut. 6:24-25). To the Hebrews, righteousness was clear cut. It did not depend on mysterious traditions handed down from one generation to another; it did not require access to the “secret knowledge” of the sages. All that was required was that they faithfully and wholeheartedly observe God's laws and commandments.

As we've seen, God is a God of covenants. Scripture explicitly says that the Ten Commandments formed the “words of the [Old] covenant” (Ex. 34:28). And God warned Israel that He would judge the nation based on that agreement, even avenging their breaking of that covenant (Lev. 26:25). How could God righteously judge the nation of Israel on their obedience to a law that was, by design, impossible to follow without the added “insight” of a so -called oral law? Obviously, such a notion is quite absurd!

The Old Covenant was written—it was, so to speak, “on paper.” Thus, it could be enforced. Even in Daniel chapter seven, we see that God will judge the coming end-time “beast” based on what will have been recorded in writing—as “books [of judgment] were opened” (verse 10). God can enforce and make judgments based on a written, contractual law; but an oral law that is not fixed in writing—that is continually evolving—cannot be enforced. Thus, even if such a law existed—which it does not, except in the minds of deceived Jews—it could never be binding.

We have already noted what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 29 about the “secret things” of God—that they belong to God, and thus remain hidden. Conversely, the things God has revealed through His prophets (Moses being the foremost) were put into writing and belong to the people—openly and clearly, with nothing held back—that they might obey and please God. In a similar passage from Isaiah, God says, “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark [hidden] place of the earth. I did not say to the seed of Jacob, 'Seek me in vain.' I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right” (Isa. 45:19). It is most difficult to square this passage with Judaism—which teaches that God did in fact utter the oral law in secret, and that it is quite vain for one to attempt to follow the Pentateuch without the assistance of that oral law. In truth, however, God has been very straightforward with how He expects people to live.

Notice what Moses wrote concerning this very subject. After emphasizing that the people were to listen to the voice of God and to follow what was written (not passed down orally) in the Book of the Law, Moses said, “For this commandment”—the way of life defined by God's laws—”which I command you today is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven that you should say, 'Who shall go up to heaven for us, and bring it to us, so that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea that you should say, 'Who shall go over the sea for us to bring it to us, so that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may do it” (Deut. 30:10-14). This passage clearly debunks the Jewish idea of the insufficiency of the Torah—for God's Law was not beyond Israel's understanding or ability to keep; it was no great, hidden mystery; it was not vague, complicated or half-baked. Rather, it was near, in their mouth and heart, indicating the intimate connection the people were to have with the Law. The phrase “in your mouth” means they were to become conversant with the Law—until, ideally, it was thoroughly incorporated into their hearts and minds (see Deuteronomy 6:6-9 on how the Israelites were to teach God's Law daily to their children so that it might be in their hearts). Thus, familiarity and understanding are implied. No second, oral Torah was required. All that was needed was a child-like heart willing to obey—which, as we will see, was the only thing “missing” under the Old Covenant.

Again, the “religion” of the “church in the wilderness” was a godly way of life expounded by the very laws and commandments of God. As such, it was complete; its principles could be applied to any real-life circum-stance—if one had a heart to do so. Contrary to Jewish thought, the laws, commandments and precepts of God do not require “refinement”—nor do they need to be viewed through the lens of a so-called “oral law.”

Shortly before Joshua was to take Israel into the promised land, Moses charged the people concerning altering God's laws, commandments and precepts: “You shall not add to the word which I command you; neither shall you take away from it, so that you may keep [only] the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Nothing was to be added or taken away—because the Law was complete. There was no need for improvement, refinement or fine-tuning via an adjunct oral law. Moses repeated the admonition: “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deut. 12:32). Some Jews will argue that Moses is here including the oral law in what he “commanded Israel.” But the oral law was by the Jews' own admission secret knowledge—it was not given to the people at large. Here, however, Moses is clearly speaking to the entire nation.

Orthodox Jews stubbornly argue that the Talmud does not add to the Scriptures, but is “along side of” them. In practice, however, the oral law does add to the Scriptures because the Talmud is unanimously acknowledged as the lens through which God's Word is viewed. In fact, it is widely acknowledged among Jewish scholars that the Scriptures have been largely superseded in Judaism by the Talmud. (As we will see in Chapter Seven, this “superiority of the Talmud” is a hallmark of Judaism's spirit of hypocrisy.) Jeremias writes: “Only ordained teachers [scribes] transmitted and created the tradition ..... [which] was regarded as equal to and indeed above the Torah” (Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, p. 236; emphasis added). If this isn't “adding to” the Law, then what is?

God made a similar charge to Joshua after Moses' death. “Only be strong and very courageous so that you may observe to do according to all the law which My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law [the written Law] shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate therein day and night, so that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it, for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success” (Joshua 1:7-8). Again, the command to follow God's Law without variance—without turning to the left or right—implies that the Law of God is perfect and has no need of enhancement or refinement. In other words, the Torah was in no way subject to “creative interpretation”—it was clear-cut and needed no “complementary” set of laws to make it work. Note the emphasis in this passage on what Moses had written. Israel was to follow the laws and commandments of God as they were written down. There is simply no allowance here at all for a second, unwritten law.

After much discussion and contemplation, Solomon, the “Preacher” of the book of Ecclesiastes, finally wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter [of living a happy, fulfilling life]: Fear God, and keep His commandments. For this is the whole man” (Eccl. 12:13). Oops. Didn't God realize that His laws and commandments were insufficient for such a lofty goal—that an additional “oral law” would be required if one was to truly achieve wholeness in his life? Such is the absurd thinking behind Judaism. Consider the statement made by the prophet Micah. “[God] has shown you, O man, what is good [through His Law]. And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice [as defined by His laws, commandments and precepts] and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). If, as scholars and rabbis such as Parry believe, the Law of God is inherently insufficient and somehow dysfunctional apart from the Jews' oral traditions, then passages such as these are asking the impossible.

Clearly, God's judgment on Israel was predicated on their adherence to His written Law: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you that I have [through this Book of the Law] set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life, so that both you and your seed may live” (Deut. 30:19). Such judgment would have been patently unjust if a secondary, “secret” oral law was required in order to please God.

The prophet Jeremiah reiterates what was expected of the “church in the wilderness”—and what is expected of us today: “For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices”—or, we might add, concerning any kind of oral tradition—”but this [one] thing I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, so that it may be well with you' “ (Jer. 7:23). Again, the way of life God gave to the people of Israel was apparent—there was nothing hidden, secret or obscure. This passage shows what is uppermost in God's mind when it comes to His relationship with His people: obedience to what He has said—directly and through the prophets. There is absolutely no allowance in Scripture for a so-called oral Torah.

David's Outlook on God's Law

It is quite evident from the writings of David that the simple Torah-based way of life offered to the Hebrew people was complete, functional, understandable—and did not suffer from the lack of a so-called oral tradition. A “man after God's own heart” (see Acts 13:22), David exemplified the very heart and mind of God (in fact, one of the primary purposes of the book of Psalms is to give us a look into the mind of Christ).

David saw the Law of God for what it truly was: a lamp to his feet, a light to his path (Psa. 119:105). He sang, “O how love I Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (verse 97). David's outlook towards God's laws and commandments was nothing but positive, hopeful and certain; indeed, there is not even the slightest hint that he felt the Torah fell short in some way. When reading Psalms, particularly chapter 119, it quickly becomes unimaginable that David could ever say, “God's Law is great, but it's impossible to know how to apply it. I need another law to interpret the Torah—yes, a vastly detailed 'code of conduct.' After all, I don't want to use common sense or put any effort into understanding God's way.”

But what David did say is profound: “Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients because I keep Your precepts. I have held back my feet from every evil way, so that I might keep Your word. I have not departed from Your ordinances, for You have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psa. 119:98-104).

David adds: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, so that I might not sin against you” (verse 11); “Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors” (verse 24). Obviously, David both understood and highly benefited from God's laws and commandments—without an oral law.

“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (verse 130). Notice here that even the “simple”—those naïve and immature—can learn and follow God's way as presented by the Torah. There is simply no need for a supplementary oral law!

Throughout Psalm 119 in particular, we see that David was taught by God as he prayerfully meditated on His word. For example, “Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; yea, I shall observe it with all my heart.... Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I have believed Your commandments” (verses 33-34, 66). God's laws, commandments and statutes are clear, but effort is required on our part to achieve a deeper understanding of God's way of life. The key is a submissive, willing heart and mind—something grossly lacking under the Old Covenant. As we will see, the problem for those caught up in Judaism is precisely that—the lack of a right spirit and approach to God's Word.

As noted earlier, David viewed the Law as perfect, complete— purified seven times like silver tried in a furnace (Psa. 12:6). He proclaimed, “I will never forget Your commandments, for with them”—not through man-made oral traditions—”You have given me life” (Psa. 119:93).

Did Jesus Uphold the “Oral Law”?

That Jesus Christ upheld the written Torah is well demonstrated in Matthew's gospel account: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus “fulfilled” the Law initially by going on to amplify the laws of God by showing their spiritual application. In several passages Jesus says, “You have heard it said” or “It has been said”—each time referring to an Old Testament precept. In each case He adds, “But I say to you”—revealing a deeper, spiritual meaning to the Law that typically escaped the average Jew. In some cases, such as Matthew 5:43, Jesus was referring to the Pharisees' traditions. “You have heard that it was said [by the scribes and Pharisees], 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' “ Moses indeed taught that we are to love our neighbor (Lev. 19:18), but nowhere do the Scriptures say we are to hate our enemies. Rather, the corrupt religious leaders of the day taught Jews to hold Gentiles in contempt as enemies. As will be brought out in Chapter Seven, the Pharisees taught (as does Judaism today) that only a fellow Jew qualifies as a neighbor; in Judaism, non-Jews are actually considered to be subhuman.

Jesus further fulfilled the Law in the perfect manner in which He kept His father's laws and commandments. In fact, Jesus was the “Living Torah”—because he personified the very heart and spirit of the Law of God. This is no doubt what the apostle John had in mind when he wrote that the Law was “given through Moses, while grace and truth”—God's favor and ultimate means of salvation—”came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

It could be argued that the “Sermon on the Mount” of Matthew 5-7 was Jesus' premier discourse on how to live a godly way of life based on the Law. Yet there was not one word spoken about a so-called oral law. Did Jesus miss a prime opportunity to support the “competent and learned” Jewish sages of the day? On the contrary—Jesus' focus was on the Law and the Prophets alone as given in the Scriptures. The fact that He said not one “jot or tittle” (the smallest of letters or accent marks) would pass from the Law proves that He was upholding the written Torah in its precise, original form—with nothing deleted or added to it.

When asked concerning the way to eternal life, Jesus said “if you desire to enter into life, keep the [written] commandments” (Matt. 19:17). In Luke we read of a similar account. “Now a certain doctor of the law [scribe] suddenly stood up, tempting Him, and saying, 'Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' And He said to him, 'What is written in the Law? How do you read it?' “ Again, Jesus' reference is only to the written Law, not an oral law.

“Then [the scribe] answered and said, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.' And [Jesus] said to him, 'You have answered correctly. Do this, and you shall live' “ (Luke 10:25-28). “Do this”—the laws and commandments as written in the Torah. Christ deliberately omitted any mention of the scribe's precious oral laws. Thus, not only did Jesus decline to endorse the Jews' traditions, He relegated them as nonessential in terms of salvation.

Concerning these same great commandments—love for God and love for neighbor—Jesus said, “On these two commandments hang all [the teachings of] the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40). In other words, the entire Torah—and the Prophets (and Writings) as they expand on the Law of God—can be summarized by the spiritual principles of love for God and neighbor. If the acclaimed “oral Torah” was so important, why did Christ not include it here? Do not the oral traditions of Judaism likewise reflect and support love toward God and neighbor? As will be brought out in Chapters Seven and Eight, Judaism's cherished traditions have nothing to do with genuine love for God or neighbor; rather, Talmudic Judaism is hypocritical, self-serving and creates only an illusion of righteousness.

As we have seen in Chapter One, Christ sharply upbraided the Jewish religious leaders of His day not only for their hypocrisy, but for their man-made traditions that resulted in “nullifying the authority of the Word of God” (Mark 7:13). Of course, Judaism rejects Jesus as the Messiah and discounts the entire New Testament—so His condemnation of their traditions falls on deaf ears. But for the Christian, it is significant that Jesus never once upheld the validity of the so-called “oral Torah”—thus demonstrating the exclusive nature of the Scriptures.

The Abrahamic Faith Once Delivered

Late in the 60s AD, the apostle Jude encouraged believers to “fight for the faith, which once for all time has been delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). When Jude refers to the “faith once delivered,” he uses the term faith in the sense of a way of life. The Greek pistis refers not to mere belief, but to a conviction so profound that it leads the believer into a definite way of living.

For the early Church, that faith was established upon the teachings of Christ and the apostles—but it was built firmly on the foundation of the Old Testament Scriptures. In fact, the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to “continue in the things that you did learn and were assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and [remember] that from a child you have known the holy writings [the texts that make up the Old Testament], which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. All [such] Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:14-16). As the context shows, the “Scripture” to which Paul refers is what we now call the Old Testament (by this time, what would become the New Testament consisted of only a few early apostolic writings).

Thus, it can be said that the “faith once delivered” is the very way of life defined by the Law, Prophets and Writings. That first-century “way” (Acts 19:23) originated in the “Torah of faith”—as given to Israel and as expanded on by the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ.

Considering the undeniable connection of the Church to the Old Tes-tament—and the fact that the Church was composed almost exclusively of Jews during its earliest years—why did Jesus' followers never recognize the validity of a so-called oral Torah? Did they not understand that the written Torah was, as the Jewish sages contend, inherently insufficient?

James says that there is but “one Lawgiver, Who has [the] power to save and to destroy” (James 4:12). Does the Lawgiver really need our help? Why is it the Jews have felt the need to remake, reinvent, or refine the Law of God? Why indeed should the Law of God even need refinement?

Have the Jews really somehow improved upon God's “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25) by adding to it their elaborate code of traditions? Was the Hebraic way of life defined by the Torah somehow flawed, incomplete, deficient? As a nation, Israel repeatedly fell far short of adherence to God's Law. Does this point to a failure in some way of the Law itself—thus indicating a need to further “develop” the written Torah? Or—as we will see in the next chapter—does it not indicate a failure on the part of the children of Israel in their application of God's Law?