Book: Judaism— Revelation of Moses Or Religion of Men?

"There is one who accuses you, even Moses.”

What often puzzles the novice reader of the New Testament gospel accounts is the open conflict that repeatedly took place between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders of the day. How could it be that Christ found such fault with their teachings—”beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees”—while at the same time acknowledging that the scribes and Pharisees occupied “Moses' seat”? This apparent dichotomy has led many Christians to assume that the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees were in fact the first-century guardians of the revelation given to Moses at Sinai, and that Jesus opposed the religionists at every turn because He came to “nullify” the Mosaic Law and replace it with grace.

Clearly, such a position places Jesus sharply at odds with Moses. But was Jesus really in conflict with Moses—or did He have a particular axe to grind with those Jewish religionists who only made a pretense of following Moses? The fact is, most Christians naively believe that the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day were the legitimate representatives of the “religion” of the Old Testament—a belief not supported by history or Scripture!

Fully upholding Moses and the written Torah, Christ stated: “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). In one of His many encounters with the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus indicated that they were the ones in conflict with Moses, actually guilty of misappropriating the prophet's name: “There is one who accuses you, even Moses.... And if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe My words?” (John 5:45-47). Showing that they only made a pretense of following Moses, Jesus reproved them, saying, “Did not Moses give you the Law, and [yet] not one of you is [genuinely] practicing the Law?” (John 7:19). Moreover, on several occasions Christ upbraided the Pharisees for “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” He said, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, so that you may observe your own tradition” (Mark 7:7-9; also Matt. 15:3).

Is it possible that first-century Pharisaism—which, as this book will show, is universally acknowledged by Jewish scholars as having been the prototype of Rabbinical Judaism—did not at all reflect the heart and spirit of the Old Testament? Could it be that the true “religion” God revealed first through Abraham and then codified through Moses—which is actually a way of life defined by God's laws and commandments—had over centuries been buried by sages under a mountain of Jewish tradition? And if Pharisaism was not reflective of the teachings of Moses and the Scriptures, then how did such a religion arise in Judah? How and when did the Jews lose sight of the simple Hebraic way of life defined by the Old Testament?

That such fundamental differences existed between the teachings of Jesus and what the apostle Paul would later call the “Jews' religion” (Gal. 1:13-14) begs the question: Was first-century Jewish religion a corruption of the ancient way of life God had given to the children of Israel through Moses? And what of modern-day Judaism—is it not simply a continuation of that same religious system of the Jews' own devising?

In a rather telling comment, historian Paul Johnson writes that there “have been four great formative periods in Jewish history: under Abraham, under Moses, during and shortly after the Exile, and after the destruction of the Second Temple. The first two [under Abraham, then Moses,] produced the religion of Yahweh”—that is, the true way of life defined by God's laws and commandments—”the second two developed and refined it into Judaism itself” (A History of the Jews, pp. 83-84; emphasis added). Johnson admits here that Judaism dates from the time just after the Babylonian Exile, and differs from what he calls the original “religion of Yahweh” formed under Abraham and Moses. Typical of scholars, however, Johnson suggests that Judaism is an improvement over the way of life given through the written Torah—as if God's Law needed to be “developed and refined.” As this book will show, this is precisely the carnal mindset that anciently led to the development of Judaism's centerpiece—the so-called “oral law.”

With a similar perspective, American rabbinical scholar Stephen S. Wise has stated, “The [Jews'] return from Babylon ..... [marked] the end of Hebrew-ism and the beginning of Judaism” (The Other End of the World, Roger Rusk, p. 182). Ernest L. Martin, widely recognized for his scholarly research on Judaism, writes: “History shows—and the Jews themselves admit—that their religion had drifted far away from the simple doctrines of Scripture, commonly called the 'Old Testament.' The Jews had modified God's law and even instituted laws and commandments of their own which were, in many instances, diametrically opposite of the precepts of Moses” (Is Judaism the Religion of Moses?, p. 1; emphasis added).

Again, did Jesus really have a problem with Moses and the Law, or was He simply dealing straightforwardly with the hypocritical religionists of His day? To paraphrase Matthew 16:12, Christ might just as well have warned His disciples to “beware of the religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” identifying the precursor to Judaism for what it really was—a deeply flawed humanly-devised religious system. As this book will show, this Jewish system of religion evolved over centuries, based on a so-called “oral law” allegedly given to Moses along with the written Torah. Over time, this “oral law”—which Jesus called “traditions of men”—grew into a vast code of detailed rules and regulations. Ultimately, the “oral law” was published as the Babylonian Talmud—the undisputed authority for Judaism.

In Exploring the World of the Jew, John Phillips writes that while Jewish life had for centuries revolved around the written Torah, by the first century AD the Law had been “buried beneath vast accumulations of tradition and encrusted with enormous deposits of human interpretation. The Torah itself has been largely superseded in Judaism by the Talmud. The five books of the Torah can be written out in 350 pages. The Talmud takes up 523 books printed in 22 volumes” (p. 55; emphasis added).

Phillips adds: “The Torah is clear and concise, part of the inspired Word of God. The Talmud is wordy, rambling, argumentative, inconsistent, sometimes witty, sometimes boring, sometimes brilliant, sometimes inane. The laws of the Talmud constitute cold concrete poured over Jewish life and hardened by time into a rigid prison for the soul.... [For the Jew] the chief instrument of ..... blindness to biblical truth has been the Talmud” (pp. 55 and 57; emphasis added).

Michael Hoffman has spent decades researching the Jews' religion. He concludes that “everything about Orthodox Judaism is either a distortion or a falsification of the Old Testament because it is based on ..... traditions that void the Old Testament.....” (Judaism Discovered, p. 145). Jesus Himself noted that the Jews' orally-derived traditions had a nullifying effect on the Scriptures (Mark 7:13). Arguing that Judaism only poses as the “religion” of Moses, Hoffman adds: “Talmudic texts can be minefields of deception and pits of derangement and bogus reasoning as befits those who would replace the Bible with their own authority. Most of the laws of the religion of Judaism have no biblical warrant; they contradict and nullify the Word of God” (p. 146; emphasis added). Indeed, Judaism's predecessors had to violate the Scriptures in order to reject Jesus—for the Scriptures testified of Him as the Messiah (John 5:39).

As this book will demonstrate, it was precisely because of the Jews' denial of the Scriptures as the exclusive revelation of God that the religion of Judaism developed. The prophet Hosea had already warned of those who would reject true knowledge (Hosea 4:6), and the apostle Paul appropriately described Pharisaic Jews as those who possessed a zeal for God, but one that was not based on true knowledge (Rom. 10:2).

Ultimately, it was the Jews' rejection of Jesus that sealed their fate. With a hardness of heart that had long been prophesied, they would remain shackled to a humanly-contrived, burdensome “code of law”—a works-based pseudo-righteousness (Rom. 9:31-33). Paul, however, makes it clear that the Jews' unbelief will one day be resolved. He states that “God did not repudiate His people whom He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). He goes on to reveal that a “partial hardening of the heart has happened to Israel” and that, in time, “all Israel shall be saved” (verses 25-26).

Emphatically, Judaism is the product of carnal thinking, developed by those who, as we will see, completely missed the spirit and intent of the written Torah. Without question, the idea that Judaism is the consummation of the “religion” of the Old Testament makes a mockery of Scripture and turns truth upside down. It's time we understood—and righted the truth.

About This Book

There are many books on Judaism—most of which fall into one of three categories. First, there are those written by rabbis and Jewish scholars designed to “educate” the non-Jewish public. They enthusiastically portray Judaism as a wonderful religion, always connecting it to the Old Testament. The inexperienced reader is led to believe that Judaism is indeed the legitimate continuation of the “religion” of Moses and the prophets. The fact that the Talmud is held as superior to the Scriptures is hidden or understated.

Second, there are numerous books on Judaism written by well-intended Christian authors. Unfortunately, these books typically whitewash the entire subject, leaving the reader to erroneously conclude that Judaism is in fact based on the Old Testament—and that Judaism is, of all things, the precursor to Christianity. Touting the virtues of the mythical “Judeo-Christian brotherhood,” the key flaws and aberrations of Judaism are overlooked. After all, from their perspective, if Jews would only accept Jesus, they would be almost . Christian.

Third, there are a few books (also written by “Christians”) that deal unnecessarily harsh with Judaism. While they are not anti-Semitic, they do tend to be unbalanced and condemning. We are to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24), but in a spirit of kindness and mercy. Such books typically dredge up as much “dirty laundry” on the Jews as possible, but fail to offer significant hope for the future of the Jewish people. And none of the books written even from a Christian perspective succeed at getting to the root of the problem with Judaism—which is intensely spiritual in nature.

This book is different. It pulls no punches, but it is fair. The historic origins of the religion are examined along with key examples of its modern-day application. How and why did Judaism develop? What were the major influences? What fundamental ideas and circumstances led to the origin and advancement of the so-called “oral law”—and the Jews' subsequent abandonment of the Scriptures as the sole authority in human affairs? How does the practice of Judaism differ from the way of life presented in Scripture— and what spiritual harm, if any, is done to those who attempt to live by the Talmudic “code of law”? Importantly, this book examines Judaism from a spiritual perspective, dealing with the foundational causes of the religion. Moreover, this book holds out hope, showing that the Jews will yet fulfill their God-ordained role in the age to come.

Chapter One carefully examines the religion's Pharisaic underpinnings as revealed in the New Testament; to be sure, Jesus' many encounters with the Pharisees provide authoritative insight into the nature of Judaism. Chapters Two through Four trace the origin and development of the religion from its earliest “seed stage” in Babylon and post-exilic Judea through the Hellenistic and Maccabean periods and on into the latter part of first-century Palestine.

Chapters Five and Six deal with the spiritual aspects of the Jews' “oral law,” focusing on how such a “code of law” is actually a cheap, failed substitute for a spirit-led conscience. Chapter Seven reveals the darker side of Judaism, dealing fairly with prominent issues such as idolatry, hypocrisy and racism. Chapter Eight examines the issue of the Jews' spiritual unbelief, and how that unbelief will be reversed in the future as the Jewish people fulfill a key role in God's plan of salvation.

As would be expected, this book leans heavily on the research of numerous scholars, many of which are Jewish. In fact, the author has endeavored to allow the Jews' own sages and rabbis—through various Jewish writings and dozens of quotations from the Talmud itself—to reveal the truth about Judaism and convict themselves. More importantly, the author has widely utilized the Bible. A key point emphasized throughout this book is that, by the rabbis' own admission, Judaism is Pharisaism. Thus, as noted above, the New Testament accounts dealing with the Pharisees are vital to our understanding of the heart and spirit of the religion.

Ultimately, this book was written for Christians—with the intention of answering one overarching question:

Is Judaism the “religion” of the Old Testament as mediated
by Moses and the prophets—or, is it merely a false religion of men?

It is surprising how many Christians (even Sabbatarian Christians) do not understand the true nature of Judaism. This is partly because of “Judeo-Christian” propaganda, which would have us believe that Jews and Christians are spiritually “first cousins.” Indeed, the overwhelming majority of Christians naively believe that Judaism is only a “step away” from their own faith—that if Jews would only accept Jesus as the Messiah, they would essentially be “Christian.” But as this book will show, Judaism—as taught and promoted by Talmudic rabbis—is as far removed from real Christianity as east is from west.

Our society has been conditioned to avoid even the appearance of anti-Semitism. One unfortunate result is that Judaism is rarely held to close examination, let alone criticized. Often, when books such as this are published, Jewish apologists are quick to respond with anti-Semitic charges. Someone gets labeled a Jew-hater, and memories of the Holocaust are invoked. But such an attitude begs the question, “Does Rabbinical Judaism hide behind the cloak of anti-Semitism—using it to repel scrutiny?”

Emphatically, the purpose and thrust of this book is not anti-Semitic. In every religion of men—which would include nominal Christianity, Islam, various Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, and, certainly, Judaism—there are those of the laity who are, for the most part, unwitting victims of false teachings. Clearly, they are to be held responsible for their own carelessness, naivety and failure to, as Paul admonished, “prove all things.” But those held most accountable are the teachers, priests, pastors, scholars, gurus—and rabbis. They too are often deceived; but significant numbers of them are highly culpable in their biased handling of the truth. In Judaism, the rabbinate has shown itself to be particularly plagued by hypocrisy and gross negligence when it comes to the use of the Scriptures—the very Scriptures the Jews were entrusted by God to preserve (Rom. 3:2)!

To be sure, the rabbis—the heirs of the Pharisees—are the focus of this book, not the Jewish laity. In fact, the average Orthodox Jew does not fully realize what the rabbis believe or what the Talmud actually teaches.

Interestingly, more and more Orthodox Jews are coming to see the truth about their religion. For example, Avi ben Mordechai, who practiced Talmudic Judaism for most of his life, ultimately came to see the absurdity of the “oral law.” In his commentary on the book of Galatians, he writes, “I realized that the [rabbis'] halacha [laws] had no end in sight; that it was nothing short of a deep, black hole and an endless system of legal minutiae. It was always tiring for me to try to keep up with all the daily demands [of Talmudic law]” (Galatians—A Torah-Based Commentary in First-Century Hebraic Context, p. 48). Mordechai's statement is reminiscent of what Paul wrote concerning his experience as a Pharisee, that he had once lived according to the strictest sect of the Jews' religion (Acts 26:5; the Greek word means rigorous and exacting—hence Jesus' reference in Matthew 23:4 to Pharisaic “burdens”).

Throughout this book, the author has set the word religion in quote marks when referring to the “religion” of the Old Testament. The reason is that religion is a term laden with baggage. The simple meaning of the word has become tainted by ritualism and ceremony, by hierarchies and corporate organizations, and by dogmatism and politics. Similar terms—such as faith, belief, worship, creed, etc.—function poorly as well. Thus, it is incumbent upon the reader to understand that the true “religion” of Moses as presented in the Old Testament is a righteous way of life based on God's laws, commandments, statutes and judgments. At its core, it is profoundly spiritual, because it is based on eternal, spiritual principles.

Indeed, the “religion” based on the teachings of Moses and the Old Testament is the true precursor to Christianity—and is in no way reflected in the Jewish religion known as Judaism.