Saturday, August 10, 2013
Yeshua (Jesus) on the Authority of Traditional Law:
To say that Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth and, later, his apostles were uncomfortable with the accepted authority of Jewish traditional law (qabbalah) in their day is an understatement. For Him, it was the acid in his voice, a constant irritant in his throat and the testing of his life. Seldom was He not far from decrying its pervasive influence upon the minds and decisions of the nation’s religious authorities—Sadducees, Pharisees and their scribes. At the end of three and a half years of public ministry, He fell victim to its legal judgment, suffering the death penalty for breaking its nouveau definition of blasphemy His apostles, as adamant as He against the oppressive yoke of post-Mosaic traditional law, followed Him, all paying the supreme sacrifice, but one—the apostle John. All were severely put to the test for their uncompromised and unrelenting conviction against the supreme authority given to the traditional law of the elders, particularly where it overrode the original intent of the Word of God. To them, traditional law (qabbalah) was not of divine origin or sanction. To the elders of Israel it was esteemed so highly it was equivalent to divine law and, at times, countermanded it. Yeshua and his many followers were highly supportive and observant of the teachings of the Torah, Prophets and Writings (the Old Testament or Tanakh). To them it was the written Word of God and must be read, studied and obeyed according to its original intent, not to be reinterpreted to sanction other perspectives. Themselves all Jews, they were not inclined towards accepting the authority granted to traditional, post-Mosaic law, laws made by men that erected a “fence” around the Scriptures. They were particularly incensed by the way its authority was accepted as equal to the Torah, Prophets and Writings—the Word of God. By the time of the first century, the Torah was undergoing redefinition and acceptance to include the law of the elders—oral tradition and any written collections of it. Even today in modern Judaism, the post-Mosaic laws preserved in the Talmud, especially the Mishnah, are typically called “Torah,” along with the biblical Torah. Yeshua and his apostles stood firmly against equating the voices of men, even the wisest of the sages, with the Word of God. What is the Torah? The Torah is the first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In Hebrew, the five books are named, in order, Bereshith, Shemoth, Vayikra, Bamidbar, and Devarim, each book deriving its name from the initial, dominant word of each book. The narrative covers the beginning of the world to the choosing and separating of Israel from among the nations as Yahweh’s chosen people. Within it are 613 commandments. Regrettably, in most English Bibles and commentaries it is termed “Law.” To call it “Law” is a disservice. Half of its pages are family stories of Israel’s ancestors. Though English translators hardly ever render the five books according to its biblical name, we should make a determined effort to read the word as “Torah” where it applies. To refer to the Torah as “Law” misleads the unwitting Bible student to believe the Torah is a five-volume law book and that the faith of Israel is all about a legal code of ethics. Neither is true. The word “Torah” comes from the Hebrew word for “instruct” and literally means “instruction, teaching.” Hardly is the word “instruction” equivalent to “law.” Actually, biblical Hebrew used other words to describe law, most notably the word din. The written Torah was “the instruction” of Yahweh to Israel given to Moses at Mt. Sinai. He wrote it during the forty years immediately after the congregation of Israel gained freedom from Egyptian slavery. Because the fledgling nation of Israel was to be a light of Yahweh to all the nations in fulfillment of its national calling, the Torah was given by Yahweh to help the people live appropriately before Him, each other and the nations. The Torah, therefore, was Yahweh’s colorful, life-illustrated “instruction” to Israel for daily life and conduct (halakah), including its mission to be a light to the nations. What is “traditional Jewish law”? The “tradition, or “traditional law,” is separate from the Torah, even though the strong tendency within Jewish society is to include it with the Torah as a larger embodiment of its instruction. It added new laws and interpreted in new ways the prescriptions of the Torah. Called in Hebrew, qabbalah, which means “reception, tradition,” traditional law emerged after the Babylonian exile ended. A flurry of laws were made by the Great Assembly (500-300 B.C.) and, later, its successor, the Sanhedrin, to erect and enforce a protective “fence” around the Torah to keep the Jewish people from disobeying it. These laws are sometimes referred to as the post-Mosaic laws—i.e., they were laws and dictums made by Jewish sages to govern the “walk” (halakah) of Israel. These post-Mosaic, post-exilic lawmakers were effusive in law-making, creating laws for almost every imaginable human situation in life, from the most intimate to the sublime. Whereas the Torah was much more limited in its scope of commandments, practically nothing was outside the scope of one or more of their laws. By reading the voluminous Talmud (which embodies much of the oral tradition—the Mishnah—and its commentary, the Gemara,), and the two volume Tosefta (another collection of laws), you come to understand the overwhelming capacity of the post-Mosaic court system to “bind or loose” the Jewish people. Mostly, however, they “bound” them to what became an unbearable legal yoke. The finest literary construction and summary of the Jewish code of law and ethics is Maimonides’ 14-volume, Mishneh Torah, written near the end of the twelfth century. “He condensed the entire Jewish lore contained in the Bible, the Mishnah, the two Talmuds, the midrashic literature, and the responsa of the Geonim (Teshuvoth ha-Geonim)” (Philip Birnbaum, Encyclopedia of Jewish Concepts, Hebrew Publishing Company, Rockaway Beach, NY, 1979, p. 402). The making of laws to protect the Jewish people from violating the Torah, it seemed, saw no end during the Persian, Greek and Roman periods. This legal code, established and reinforced by the court system, by the first century became the time-honored “tradition” of Jewish life. Such legal observance was deemed “Torah observance,” though, in fact, it was Torah observance according to traditional law, the legal “fence” around the Torah. Traditional law became another slave master for Israel. The history of ancient Israel is the repeating story of slave masters and freedom from them, only to return to them again and again. The Jewish people came out of Egypt resolved to not serve another slave master like Pharaoh. Yet, at during their forty years of wandering in the Sinai Peninsula, many were willing to surrender their freedom, choose a leader from among them, and return to their Egyptian slave quarters. But a more pervasive desire for an imaginary slave master held sway over them well before their Egyptian enslavement. This desire was to believe in and serve idols—the false gods of pagan lore. The story is traceable to Rachel, the wife of Jacob, who kept the idols of her home when she fled with her husband from Laban. At Mt. Sinai when Yahweh gave the Torah to Moses, with notable exceptions among the Levites, the redeemed people of Yahweh turned from Him, their liberator, to their hand-crafted golden image of a calf which they declared to be “Elohim.” The emotional and irrational captivity of Israel to idol worship proved more difficult to escape than any Pharaoh. The desire for paganism lingered pervasively throughout the history of ancient Israel. After two separate exiles for idolatry, the Assyrian and, later, the Babylonian exile, a new resolve to avoid the trappings of idolatry emerged. After the Babylonian exile ended with the decree of Cyrus, in their new found freedom in the post-exilic world, the nation, again, resolved to not be under another slave master. In short time, however, in their official determination to avoid idolatry, the leaders organized a Great Assembly of 120 elders. Their mission was three-fold as outlined in the opening words of Perkei Avos (i.e., Ethics of the Fathers): “Be deliberate in judgment, develop many disciples and make a fence (seyag) for the Torah” (1:1). The last of the three purposes—“to make a fence for the Torah”—ensnared the new “fathers” of Israel and the nation as a whole. In their zeal to protect Israel from disobeying the Torah and returning to idolatry, they developed an unbearable legal code that was imposed uniformly on the Jewish people with dire consequences for any breaches. Then they treated it, spoke of it and revered it as if it were divine law equivalent to the Torah. The new laws added to, and, at times, took away from the ancient way of knowing and observing Torah. The people of God had another slave master. Compounding it, they considered their new slave master to have the legal weight of divine law. No idol was needed. Legal words and enforcement of them became the “divine instrument” in their hands. Yeshua (Jesus) and his apostles did not hold the traditional law of these fathers in divine esteem. Some laws had merit, but assigning them the weight of the divine Torah was unconscionable to Yeshua and his followers. They knew it was counter productive and destructive to the purpose for which Yahweh called and established the nation of Israel. Of course, their lives would be imperiled for their outspoken view. Yeshua’s (Jesus’) complaint about the “fence for the Torah.” During his ministry, Yeshua (Jesus) constantly addressed the abuses of the Torah, Prophets and Writings caused by the growing web of human laws to fence in the Word of God, including its covenantal sign, the Sabbath, and the ban on speaking the name of his Father, Yahweh. His wonders and miracle stories often addressed these abuses in some way. For Him, the “fence” imposed by the Great Assembly and, later, the Sanhedrin, was an unwarranted and untenable yoke upon God’s people. The Scriptures should be enough. The addition of traditional law (qabbalah) opened the way for another slave master, not one of foreign imperial might, but of their own making. He saw the voluminous legal work of “fencing the Torah” done by the Great Assembly as a departure from truth and the practice of it. The members of the Great Assembly had created a new order of rules for Torah observance in striking conflict with the spirit of the Torah, Prophets and Writings. The new yoke was not the yoke of the kingdom of Yahweh, but a heavy yoke too hard to bear individually or as a chosen nation. Yeshua (Jesus) preferred the ancient Torah, not the new one. Each morning devout Jewish men intentionally put on the yoke of traditional law through a series of recitations. Two key recitations are expressed in the statements qabbaloth ol malchut shamayim (“receiving [the] yoke of [the] kingdom of heaven”) and qabbaloth ol ha-mitzvuoth (“receiving [the] yoke of the commandments”). Yeshua (Jesus), though familiar with these twin statements, did not recite them. He was the giver of the kingdom of Yahweh, not the receiver.. Instead, he offered an alternative to the unbearable yoke of tradition: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and “you will find rest for your souls.” For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30) In another biblical narrative, Yeshua (Jesus) sternly criticized the Pharisees and scribes in accepting (qabbaloth) and fostering the traditional law (qabbalah) of “fencing” the Torah. Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Yeshua [Jesus] from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? … And [by this] you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your traditional law [qabbalah]. (Matthew 15:1-3, 6; cf. Mark 7:1-5) This is a remarkable statement in contrasts. Yeshua’s disciples did not observe the fence of laws around the Torah, at least not on an authoritative level where it was more important to obey these manmade laws than the Word of God. The Pharisees and scribes, however, neglected the Word of God, excusing it with new laws that allowed them to circumvent the Torah, Prophets and Writings for their own benefit. Which was better: to obey God or man? This was the question of the day for Yeshua and his disciples (cf. Acts 5:29). One of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) famous twin parables, often misinterpreted and misapplied, addressed this issue. The first parable concerns sewing new cloths on old cloths. The second parable addresses the putting of new wine into old wineskins. Most today, it seems, teach that “the new wine” that figures in the parable is better than “the old wine.” Yeshua did not. Luke’s Gospel (5:30-39) preserved the larger context where the last line spoken clinches the case for the preference of “the old wine” in “the old wineskin”: The Pharisees and their scribes [began] grumbling at his disciples [for violating traditional law], saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Yeshua [Jesus] answered and said to them, “[It is] not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the [disciples] of the Pharisees also do the same [in keeping with traditional law], but yours eat and drink [disobeying post-Mosaic traditional law].” And Yeshua [Jesus] said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? But days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” And also He was telling them a parable [in this regard]: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. Otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new [wine]. For he says, ‘The old is [what is] good.’” In effect, Yeshua (Jesus) told the Pharisees and their scribes that He and his disciples preferred “the old wine” in “the old wineskin” that is divine wine above their “new wine” in their “new wineskin” that is conceived, enacted and enforced by man. In both parables the Pharisees and their scribes were the advocates of “the new cloth” and “the new wine.” How so? The last of the two parables is clearest for it explains the first parable as well. What, then, is the obvious application of the old wine since it was the better of the two choices, according to Yeshua (Jesus)? Like the new cloth, the new wine was counter productive and destructive, rending apart the old wineskin. The old wineskin of Torah did not need the new wine of traditional law poured into it. New wine was suitable only for new wineskins. Meanwhile, the new wine that redefined Torah observance was destroying the old wineskin of Torah and should be emptied out. The Pharisees and scribes, with great skill, had redefined Torah observance as obedience to the oral tradition of laws passed down by the Great Assembly and enforced by the Sanhedrin. of God. Under present conditions, reflected in the state of affairs of the Jewish state, the people of Israel were torn by the internal pressure of the new wine poured into their old wineskin and could not sustain it forever. What was the old wine but the revelation of Yahweh in history as the Living Torah from the beginning, including but not exclusive to the giving of the written Torah at Mt. Sinai. The Torah from the beginning was the Messiah Yeshua with his eternal commandment to love God and love one another. In 1 John 2:7, among other places, one of Yeshua’s apostles, namely John, taught the same thing. He taught that the old commandment, i.e., “the old wine,” as Yeshua termed it, was presented to the world “from the beginning” without regard to nationality. In his careful wording, John pushes past the giving of the written commandments at Mt. Sinai, and well past the Noachide laws, to the beginning of creation by using the Hebrew word bereishith (“in-beginning-of”). The same word is the first word of the Hebrew Bible. This is what he wrote: Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had in-beginning-of [bereishith] [i.e., Yahweh’s revelation as the Word in Genesis 1]. What is “the old commandment”? John answers it in the following verses 9-11—to live or walk in “the Light of the world” from creation, namely, Yeshua (Jesus). To do so, you must receive (qabbalah) Him as the light and demonstrate Him as reflectors of his light through loving others and, thereby, loving God. John does not violate ancient Hebrew understandings of Scripture at all. When the “new wine of the fence around the Torah” was imposed on Israel, the Great Assembly pushed “the old commandment” from the beginning of time forward in time a bit to Mt. Sinai, missing the point of Yahweh’s revelation in history altogether. They fenced the cosmic and historic events of Yahweh’s revelation out, fencing Him in along with the Torah, concealing Him from the people of God, hiding his Name. This new wine that “fenced” the Torah was self-destructive for the chosen people of Yahweh. Let it belong elsewhere in new wineskins, but not among the chosen people Israel as the new Torah observance. The apostles chaff under the heavy yoke of the “fence.” The disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) continued his teachings to call the lost sheep of Israel to repentance, to return to Yahweh and belong to his kingdom. After the death, resurrection and ascension of Yeshua (Jesus) to heaven, and upon the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the festival of Shavuoth (Pentecost), the apostles began to call the people of Israel (and, after a time, to call the Gentiles) to receive the light-weight yoke of the kingdom of God. The apostle Peter, seeing the Holy Spirit poured out upon believing Gentiles, chaffed under the oppressive yoke imposed by the Great Assembly and, later, the Sanhedrin. In prophetic character, he called the Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) back to their ancient roots written in the Torah, Prophets and Writings away from the post-Mosaic, post-exilic laws that misled the nation. He saw traditional law (qabbalah), as his Master did, in conflict with the purposes of Yahweh. The heavy yoke, in his own words, “put God to the test.” He expressed his genuine concern to Jewish believers given to the accepting of traditional law for handling questions and issues of life where God’s Word should be the authoritative word. For example, in regard to the admission of Gentiles into the fellowship of believers in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), he said: And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us. And He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke [traditional law] which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Yeshua [Jesus], in the same way as they also are. (Acts 15:8-11) Peter remained Torah observant in the Messiah, but transitioned away from the laws regulating Torah observance as following the “fence of the Torah” as he, likely, was taught from childhood. Later, the apostle Paul reminded the Galatians of his former zeal for the tradition [qabbalah] of the elders before Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) was revealed to him: For you have heard of my former manner of life among the Jews, how I used to persecute the assembly of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing among the Jews beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13-14) He then explained his persuasion for the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). In matters pertaining to the “fence” around Torah, including the covenant signs of circumcision and the Sabbath, and the ban on speaking the Name, he saw it as an unbiblical barrier to receiving the revelation of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) as the fullness of Torah in flesh. Consider what he wrote to the Galatians in 4:9-5:1 about slavery to the Torah observance demanded by traditional law. He contrasts it with legitimate observance of Torah in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), the ancient and true order of Torah observance from the beginning. Bracketed words explain the context and are not part of the biblical text. Bold lettering is for showing emphasis: But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years [according to the post-exilic rules of observing the “fence” around Torah]. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain … So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? They eagerly seek you, not commendably, [i.e., the advocates of the post-exilic rules of observing the “fence” around Torah regarding circumcision, Sabbath and the Name]. And they wish to shut you out [of your true faith in the Messiah] so that you will seek them. My children, with whom I am again in labor until Messiah is formed in you—but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. Tell me, you who want to be under Torah [as defined by the rules of the “fence” around Torah imposed by the Great Assembly and Sanhedrin], do you not listen to the [true] Torah? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is metaphorically speaking, for these [women] are [illustrations of] two covenants: one from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves. She is Hagar. Now this “Hagar” is Mount Sinai in Arabia [where the written Torah was given] and corresponds to the present Jerusalem [where the “fence” of Torah is practiced], for she is in slavery with her children i.e., present Jerusalem modified Torah observance to conform to the yoke of traditional law]. But the Jerusalem above is free [from this yoke of slavery]. She is our mother … And you brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him [who was born] according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman [i.e., follow the true Torah given to Moses and found in the persons of the Messiah Yeshua].” So then, brothers, we are not children of [the covenant of] a bondwoman, but of the [covenant of] free woman. For freedom Messiah set us free [from the post-Mosaic order of Torah observance]. Therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Paul remained Torah observant in the Messiah, but was no longer “fence” observant as he once taught and enforced as an apostle (shaliach) of the Sanhedrin. Supreme authority of traditional law (qabbalah) seen as “tempting God.” The resistance of Yeshua and his disciples to the post-Mosaic traditional law was predicated on what they knew: the authority granted to traditional law and its enforcement was the same as tempting Yahweh. Opinion did not matter about its virtues or lack thereof. Only truth mattered, and the supreme authority granted to traditional law came down on the wrong side. In the apostle Peter’s reasoning to admit Gentiles into the body of fellowship with believing Jews, he declared that the heavy yoke of traditional law “put God to the test” (Acts 15:10). What did he mean? The Aramaic Peshitta forms the sentence this way: “And now, why do you tempt God by putting a yoke on the necks of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we could bear?” To test God is to tempt God—to strive against Him to see if He will respond, if at all. The Hebrew word for “test” or “tempt’ is nasa. At the root of the word is the idea “to lift up,” in this case, to lift up and set a standard for trial, for testing. It appears in Exodus 17 when the congregation of Israel is freshly delivered from Egyptian slavery and is found in the desert thirsting for water. “The people strived [nasa – tested] Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” They wanted him to be tested at a higher standard than themselves. Moses reminded them that he was not the one they were testing. He asked, “Why do you test [nasa] Yahweh?” (17:2). Moses was then threatened by stoning. The people ignored his warning and tested God anyway. In an act of deliverance for Moses, Yahweh instructed him to take his rod and strike the rock at Horeb. When he did, water gushed forth, enough to supply the water needs of the congregation of Israel. Moses “named the place Massah and Meribah because of the striving of the sons of Israel, and because they tested [nasa] Yahweh, saying, “Is Yahweh among us, or not?” (17:7). It is like saying, “We are facing a crisis here in the desert. Now would the real Yahweh stand up?” When Moses gave Israel the Shema for daily recital (Deuteronomy 6:4), he told them to teach the Torah to each new generation and to stay away from idols. Then he said, “You shall not put Yahweh your God to the test, as you tested [Him] at Massah” (6:16). When Satan tempted Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), he “said to him, “… It is written, ‘You shall not put Yahweh your God to the test [nasa]” (Matthew 4:7). When Peter addressed the Jewish congregation of believers in Jerusalem regarding the admittance of Gentiles into the fellowship, he warned them that they were at risk in tempting God. His statement evoked the story of Israel in the desert when the congregation raised up a standard against Yahweh for Him to prove Himself to their satisfaction. They were the judges, He was the judged. To raise a standard against Yahweh was to put Him on trial. Yahweh, in the eyes of the congregation, had to prove Himself to justify his claim to be the God of Israel. In the case at Massah, the people demanded that He prove Himself that He was able to sustain the people He redeemed out of Egypt. Otherwise, their loyalties were elsewhere. In the case of Peter’s statement, the congregation was putting Yahweh to the test on the basis of the authority of traditional law to prove Himself again, this time to justify his right to pour out his Spirit on Gentile believers too. Peter saw it as untenable and dangerous situation for the Jewish believers in Messiah, and so warned them. They built their case against the Gentile believers, and, thus, against Yahweh by “lifting up” (nasa) traditional law to a higher standard than God’s word and Spirit in action. Indeed, this was the sorrowful state of affairs in the first century. Yeshua and his apostles addressed it, and faced consequences for it. Meanwhile, during the early growth of new believers in Messiah after his death, resurrection and ascension, the gospel was freeing Jewish people from the yoke of slavery of traditional law (qabbalah). The prophets replaced by the scribes. After the Babylonian exile, the culmination of laws upon laws to put a fence around the Torah became known as traditional law. The legislative work soon ceased the message of the prophets. The prophets replaced by the scribes. After the Babylonian exile, the culmination of laws upon laws to put a fence around the Torah became known as traditional law. The legislative work soon ceased the message of the prophets. Scribes (sofrim) replaced the prophets. The learned scribes scrupulously made copies of the Scriptures, interpreting them according to their hermeneutic, teaching them to the people. With their propensity for extremely detailed laws, their vast legal work became a heavy yoke on the people of God. With the rise of authority bestowed on their work, elevating it to the level of Torah and the Prophets, the scribes put Yahweh to the test. The fact of the matter, with dependency on traditional law as the primary source of reference to justify or disqualify practically anything, history shows that prophets ceased. Though three prophets (perhaps Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi) may have been part of the original group, along with Ezra, with the rise of the Great Assembly and, later, the Sanhedrin, prophets had no share. The last of the prophets died off with the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s temple. They were gone from the Great Assembly in just one generation. With the restrictive legal code being put in place precept upon precept, any new prophets, if they arose, likely would have met the ire of the elders. Like with John the Baptist, they would have come out to watch and judge, not participate in repentance (cf. Matthew 3:7-10). They would have subjected to trial any prophecy the prophets may have spoke just as they did Yeshua (Jesus) and his apostles. With their set of post-exilic laws, they had become the higher standard for Israel, working against Yahweh. Their higher standard, the qabbalah, also banned the name of “Yahweh,” banishing his Name from among the people. What could a prophet say anyway. Surely they could not say, “Thus says Yahweh,” without suffering the death penalty. Then came Yeshua (Jesus). In his corrective message to the lost sheep of Israel, He reminded them of the validity of the Torah, the Torah from the beginning of creation, which was his self-disclosure in history. He was the fullness of everything Moses wrote, once hidden but now revealed. He explained: Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill [i.e., fill it up]. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Torah until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18) Yeshua (Jesus) was not a replacement of the Torah. He was the living Torah in flesh. Though rejected by tradition-keepers, nevertheless He was Yahweh’s standard bearer. To test Him was to test Yahweh. Observing and obeying Him is the fullness of Torah observance, always was and always will be. He will appear again, this time as conquering King and Judge of righteousness. In the end, his standard is the only one that matters.