Sunday, December 5, 2010

Traditions of Men vs. The Gospel of Yeshua (Jesus)

The following was originally written as a private response to a personal email to me posing questions about the proper place of the law in our Christian lives. Since I have received similar questions from other individuals, I thought it would be appropriate to post it as a blog. I have modified it for the purpose of protecting the identity of the person it was originally written to.

As a Torah (law) keeping Christian, I have received many sometimes borderline hostile responses from otherwise well meaning Christians, to my assertion that the law is not rendered invalid, "fulfilled" by Jesus, or as some put it, done away with by Jesus. (1) In other words, they contend that He fulfilled it, so now we are no longer obligated to keep it. Yet in the same breath, these same individuals will assert that all the moral laws contained in the Torah are still valid and intact. In other words, they tend to pick and choose based on some interpretation of certain New Testament scriptures. Where in scripture is a distinction drawn between the moral laws and the so called ritual worship laws? Where did God the Father or Yeshua the Messiah ever make such a distinction? It is my contention that the Bible is the unified Word of God, the inspired writings of the old Testament Prophets and Apostles of Yeshua (Jesus). Being a unified book, we should figuratively rip out the blank page between the New Testament and the Old Testament and treat it as a truly unified book.

I have a great deal of trouble with “traditions of men” when they interfere with or are put in place of the Torah of God. I find that this is the primary cause of concern of Jesus throughout the Gospel accounts where He is dealing with the Scribes and Pharisees. When we read the teachings of Rabbi Shaul (Paul the Apostle), we look at them through a lens of man made doctrines and traditions that has become the modern Christian church. We say to ourselves that these words of the Apostles must line up with the established doctrines and teachings. But we have the cart before horse. The doctrines and teachings of the Church must line up with the scriptures!

There is one key area with which we can agree that we have common ground. That being that salvation is only by the grace of God through the Messiah Jesus/Yeshua. Salvation cannot be earned by following the “Law of Moses” or any “traditions of man”. I have never advocated that any person is “required” to follow the law in order to achieve salvation. It may surprise most Christians to know that the Jewish people also have always understood that salvation is a gift from God and not something to be gained through “works”.

In the story of the exodus we have a picture of this concept. The Children of Israel were slaves, in bondage and under a heavy burden in a land not their own in Egypt. The LORD sent Moses, a type of Messiah, to bring them out of this bondage and to take them to the land that was promised to them some ten generations earlier through Abraham. It has always been the desire of God to dwell with man here on the earth. This is quite clear from the creation story in Genesis.

Redemption from their bondage and slavery from Egypt was needed, just as we, today need redemption from our slavery and bondage to sin. A pathway was given and the Children of Israel were to choose life or death. A spotless lamb was to be slain and the blood placed on the door posts and lintels of their homes. This was a free will choice between life on one hand, and death on the other. It is the same choice we face today. We can choose life by accepting the sacrifice of the Lamb that God provided (ie: Jesus/Yeshua) and live, or we can choose to remain in sin and die.

Redemption came to those who chose life and obeyed and accepted the sacrifice of the lamb. This redemption was a free gift from God. They did not have to follow a complicated formula of laws and rules to receive this redemption. All that was necessary was the acceptance of the sacrifice of the lamb. This simple act set them free!

They then began their journey to the Promised Land, but first they had to cross the Red Sea. This was their “baptism”, the event where they left their sin behind. You know the story, they passed through on dry ground, several million of them, the mixed multitude and all their possessions. They were hotly pursued by the Egyptian army who foolishly tried to follow them through the parted waters. The Egyptian army, were all drowned. These Egyptians had not accepted the lamb and thus their disobedience was their death.

The Children of Israel then met the LORD at Mt. Sinai where they received a new covenant. They received a contract from God. That is what a covenant is, a contract between two parties. This new covenant at Mt. Sinai, was given only AFTER redemption from Egypt through the “blood of a lamb”. It was given AFTER their baptism through the Red Sea and the destruction of the remains of the Egyptian army!

Now God has always desired to dwell with man. We are made for fellowship with God and for no other purpose. But man is sinful by nature because of disobedience. God is just the opposite. He is righteous and holy and what is sinful can not remain in His presence. So this new covenant at Mt. Sinai is both a revelation of God the Father and an answer to the question of how we should live in the presence of God so that we may dwell with Him.

Redemption comes first as a free gift through the sacrifice of a lamb, then comes a public declaration, a baptism, where we leave our sins behind, drowned in the water. We then open up His word, the Bible, and study to show ourselves approved. We begin our journey to the “Promised Land” to dwell with God and conform our lives to His will. To be holy because He is holy. The exodus story is a perfect picture of how to build a relationship with God. We clearly see that it is all His doing. It is His redemption plan, not our own “works” that save us.

Those of us in the so called “Messianic” movement are often misunderstood on this point. First off, I do not like the term “Messianic”, because it is just that, “messy”. You will find doctrines all over the map just as you will among mainstream Christian denominations as well as among the Jewish people. I prefer to use “Hebrew Roots” although that too can become “messy” because of misperceptions. I am in pursuit of the “Original Church”; an historic, cultural, and doctrinal understanding of Messiah from a strictly Biblical perspective dating back to the beginnings of creation through to the time of Jesus’ first coming. I do not agree with many of the people on my Facebook friends list or with some of their comments that they may leave on my blog posts. I don’t delete them unless they wonder off topic or become personal attacks, etc. But I encourage discussion, and the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.

It is difficult enough to understand language and culture here in the United States with the wide ranging political disagreements over constitutional issues. The constitution was written a little over 200 years ago and we argue over what the words really mean and what the “intentions” of the founding fathers were. Now we are trying to do this with the scriptures which are 2000 to 4000 years old and from a vastly different culture and language! Our interpretation, and hence, translation of scripture is skewed by our own prejudices, traditions, and perceptions. It is not an easy task to strip these things away and get to the original intentions and thoughts of the writers of the scriptures.

We must put ourselves in the “mind of the author” in order to clearly understand the scripture. Without first doing this, we are left open to interpretations never intended by the writers. We see something that appears to be obvious in our Bible, but our perception is skewed due to our failure to understand the historic, cultural and linguistic context in which it was written.

Let me give you an example outside scripture. There was a 16th century mathematician and astronomer named Nicolaus Copernicus. He created quite the controversy in his time by proposing that the old view of the universe as being earth centered was in error. We now accept the concept of a heliocentric universe without question, but in his day, this was a revolution in the field of science and a heresy in the Church. People could just look up in the sky and see for themselves that everything revolved around the earth. Scientist, mathematicians and philosophers affirmed it and Church doctrines demanded it. There was just one little problem, called the planets. They seemed to wander. They would speed up, slow down and appear to move backwards against the sky at irregular intervals.

The mathematicians and astronomers had a cosmological system and they knew it to be true. They had proofs and observation going back to ancient times. All they had to do was find the answer for the small, insignificant wandering planets. They developed a new theory called homocentric spheres, spheres within spheres, having a common center, the earth. They proposed epicycles and deferents, an orbit around a point on another orbit. They developed the idea of eccentrics, orbits with displaced centers. These were tremendous mathematical inventions and served to preserve the earth centered universe that must be true because we can all just look up in the sky and there it is. But the mathematical solutions preserved a false cosmology and in so doing, prevented people from seeing the real universe as it actually existed.

There were little bits of data left behind that could not be explained, but were the key to showing the fallacy of the entire system. This data was ignored by science and religion because it challenged the “system” and no one dared challenges the system! It was the system itself that provided the means by which all scientific and theological information was processed and interpreted.

Now for the paradigm shift. There are a people on the earth who have been labeled as “wanderers”, planetai in the Greek, from which we get the English word “planet”. These people are the Jews. Following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE and the later Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE, the Jewish people were forced out of their land for the next 2000 years.

The Church, over the centuries, has made the term “the Wandering Jew” a reproach. John Chrysostom, the 4th and 5th century Arch Bishop of Constantinople wrote: “The Jews say that they hope to see their city restored! No, they are mistaken. The Temple will never rise again, nor will the Jews return to their former polity… He whom you crucified did afterwards pull down your city, scatter your people, and disperse your nation throughout the whole world.” (2) Talk about blatant anti-Semitism, and from a revered Church Father. He obviously hadn’t read Ezekiel. From chapter 44 on, Ezekiel speaks of the millennial reign of the Messiah where the Temple is there in the city, and Messiah rules from Jerusalem! The return of the Jewish people to the Promised Land is the single most overtly prophesied event in the Bible and we are seeing the beginnings of its fulfillment in our time!

Historical Christianity has theologically defined itself in opposition to, and in separation from, the Jewish people since the 2nd century. As a theological system, Christianity is based upon a Divine rejection of the Jewish people and therefore any Jewish theology. It is crafted in replacement of Israel. It has produced a history stretching back through the centuries and has grown from that definition. This is the great error in perception that exists today. And like the time of Copernicus, there will be a required complete shift in perception and understanding in order for us to see the real “Biblical universe”.

For nearly 2000 years, Christianity has constructed the religious equivalent of epicycles, deferents, and eccentrics, but they have only served to obscure the real problem. For all their ingenuity and manipulation of data over the centuries, the theologians have only obscured the question. It is the system itself that is in error. No amount of theological manipulation of the data will change that. The system will still be wrong. Jerusalem and the Jewish people are, as the Bible shows, the center of Gods purpose in the earth, the center of his dealings with all the people of the earth.

There is no Jesus without Israel. Or, more to the point, there is no such thing as a Messiah without Israel. He lived in this world as a part of Israel; He gave His life as a part of Israel; and He will return as a part of Israel! By definition, Messiah is the King of Israel, representing, defending, and ruling over His people who are the Priests to the Nations of the earth. His life is in His people, and the life of His people are in Him.

This conceptual shift must take place, and we are seeing its beginnings. The Jewish people are returning to their land just as the Prophets said they would. They are also beginning to understand the Messiah in ways we, from our error filled Christian understanding can not possibly fathom. When we on the Christian side of the equation, realize that the Kingdom of God is centered on the Messiah as the King of Israel, centered on His identity as a JEWISH King, then and only then will the universe make complete sense and all the “planets” will cease to wander.

Before we can discuss specific points in scripture, we must approach them from the same point of view. We will just be going around in circles until we come to the understanding that Jesus was a Jew in every sense of the word. He was born a Jew, raised as a Jew, educated as a Jew, taught his disciples as a Jew, was crucified and resurrected as the Jewish Messiah. And He will return as the Jewish Messiah to reign from Jerusalem just as the Prophets have written so long ago!

We must look at scripture in its historic, cultural and linguistic context or we are doomed to the fate of errant theology built upon misperceptions, misunderstandings, misinterpretations and mistranslations. We will just plane “mis” it. I choose to follow the Torah (Law) of God, not to achieve salvation, but because I am saved by His grace and I want to draw near to Him!

שלום ברוך
Shalom and be blessed
Dan Cathcart

(The example of Copernicus was taken from Daniel Gruber’s book titled “The Separation of Church and Faith” published in 2005 by Elijah Publishing.

(1) See my previous blog post titled “How Did Yeshua “Fulfill” the Law (Torah)?” on this blog site.

(2) John Chrysostom, Homilies against the Jews, c.137-407 in Williams, A. Lukyn, Adversus Judaeos: A Bird’s Eye View of Christian Apologiae until the Renaissance, Cambridge U. Press, London, 1935, p.134


  1. Shalom Dan, and thank you for the insights. However it seems to me that the article has a couple of serious flaws.

    "As a theological system, Christianity is based upon a Divine rejection of the Jewish people and therefore any Jewish theology."

    This statement is false, at least as far as the Catholic Church is concerned. True, this belief was unofficially widespread for a long time, but the Church has now officially and explicitly rejected this thesis for at least 60 years. See,en/

    Second, in your discourse against the 'traditions of men' you seem to presuppose the Protestant doctrine of 'sola Scriptura' - the doctrine that all truth has to be contained in the pages of the Bible. This doctrine in itself is not biblical, not Jewish, and not Christian until the great Protestant revolt of the 16th century. Paul himself wrote in favor of oral tradition:

    Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. (1 Cor 11:2)

    Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether BY WORD or our epistle. (2 Thess 2:15)

    Moreover, the history of biblical revelation is one where oral revelation always preceded the written. See:

    Catholics for Israel, Jerusalem

  2. Thank you Ariel for your comment.

    I must disagree totally with your last statement, “Moreover, the history of biblical revelation is one where oral revelation always preceded the written.” You do seem to be suggesting that later revelation from Church leaders are just as valid and supersede the Bible. This ultimately leaves us to be blown about by every wind of doctrine that comes along. God does speak to Godly men and gives revelation. But that revelation will NEVER contradict his word, the Torah. We are commanded to test such “traditions of men”.

    Deuteronomy 13:1-5 MKJV 1 If a prophet rises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder which he foretold to you occurs, saying, Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them, 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slaves, to thrust you out of the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put the evil away from the midst of you.
    The two scripture quotes you gave are being taken out of context. I am referring to their historic, cultural and linguistic context. Let’s take the first one:

    1 Corinthians 11:2 MKJV 2 But I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and you keep the doctrines as I delivered them to you.

    Remember this is Paul (Rabbi Shaul) speaking. He is writing to the believers in Corinth sometime before his death in 68 CE. What doctrines or traditions would he have delivered to them? This is the most important question to answer here. The Greek word translated as “doctrines” or “traditions” depending on which English translation you are reading, is “paradosis”. It is defined in the Strong”s Concordance and Dictionary as follows:

    paradosis, par-ad'-os-is. From 3860; transmission, i.e. (concretely) a precept; specially, the Jewish traditionary law:--ordinance, tradition.

    This word is used almost exclusively in the Septuagint, the 3rd century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanakh, in direct reference to the Jewish law, the Torah. Rabbi Shaul would have been intimately familiar with the Septuagint and its unique Greek grammar and word usage to convey Hebrew cultural thought and religious concepts to a Greek speaking Synagogue of believers residing in Corinth in the 1st century.

    When we subsequently read this scripture to mean that later revelations are to be accepted as “doctrine” and “traditions” which do not meet the test as defined in God’s word (the Deuteronomy passage above) then we are indeed following after other gods. “All truth” as you put it, does not have to be contained entirely within the pages of the Bible, but all truth MUST line up with God’s word, His Torah. That is the covenant He made with us. Signed, sealed and delivered in the Blood of Yeshua the JEWISH Messiah.

    I stand by the statement that “As a theological system, Christianity is based upon a Divine rejection of the Jewish people and therefore any Jewish theology.” The Christian church is built upon a history and a foundation of the replacement of Israel and the Church is new people chosen by God.

    I encourage you to keep reading and studying God’s word. I pray that His Spirit will reveal to you His divine nature and His Jewish Messiah.

    Shalom and Be Blessed

  3. Dan - your wrote: that salvation is only by the grace of God through the Messiah Jesus/Yeshua. Salvation cannot be earned by following the “Law of Moses” or any “traditions of man”. I have never advocated that any person is “required” to follow the law in order to achieve salvation. It may surprise most Christians to know that the Jewish people also have always understood that salvation is a gift from God and not something to be gained through “works”.

    1) Please share your source whereby the Jewish people have always understood that salvation is a gift from God and not somthing to be gained through "works".

    What you state is contrary to Torah. AND is not what Judaism/Torah teaches. If a person occupies himself with Torah and charity all his sins are forgiven, as it says "Mercy and truth atone for sin" (Prov.16:16); "Mercy" is charity, as it says "Pursuing charity and mercy" (Prov. 21:22), and "Truth" is Torah, as it says "Buy truth" (Prov.21:23).

    2)Please share from the Jewish scriptures where Salvation comes ONLY through the messiah. Again, this is contrary to what God teaches us in Torah.

    Psalm 119:155
    Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.

    The above scriptue speaks nothing of salvation of our soul coming via a messiah (as Jews know that this is not the role of the messiah)

    Holding my breath to see if you will post this.

  4. Shalom Tidbits of Torah,

    I think you missed the point of this blog. The exodus experience is all about salvation by grace and not works. By “works” I am referring to the need to do something to earn redemption or salvation, not works as in “mitzvoth” or obeying the commandments. All the Children of Israel, in bondage in Egypt, had to “do” was to believe God then follow a simple instruction. Faith came first, obedience second. The set of instructions that came to be known as the Torah were given AFTER redemption or salvation, not before!

    I have many Jewish friends from Orthodox to Reform and many in between. How can there be such a wide range of doctrines and teachings among the Jews? How can there be the same, if not greater, range of doctrines (read denominations) among the Christians? It says in Jeremiah 31:

    Jeremiah 31:31-34 NKJV 31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- 32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

    Tell me, how can this be done by us through our efforts? The answer is it cannot! As the finger of God (ie: Spirit of God) wrote the Torah on tablets of stone at Mt. Sinai, this same Spirit of God will write His law (Torah) on our hearts. That is an act on His part, not ours! So, as with the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, what should be our response to the “New Covenant” once we accept it as written on our hearts? Should it not be obedience to His instructions, His Torah?

    As I look into the eyes of my Jewish friends as well as my Christian friends, I am drawn by that same Spirit. What is written on their heart is reflected in their eyes! There are far too many Jews and Christians who are caught up in the trappings of religious doctrines and denominational dogmatism that they miss the entire point. God wants to dwell with man! With us, on a personal level! He wants to bless us with His abundant love. Just look at the Aaronic Benediction:

    Numbers 6:22-27 NKJV 22 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 "The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace."' 27 "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them."

    The word that is translated as “you” in the Hebrew is in the singular form! What does that say to us? God wants to bless us each as an individual. He wants to place His name on us as an individual. He wants to come to each of us on bended knee (Hebrew barak: to kneel, ie: bless) bringing the gift of salvation.

    Shalom and be blessed

  5. 1) Dan, thank you for posting my comment as well as posting a response. Your blog did not start off with the Exodus – it started off with “The following was originally written as a private response to a personal email to me posing questions about the proper place of the law in our Christian lives……I have a great deal of trouble with “traditions of men” when they interfere with or are put in place of the Torah of God……There is one key area with which we can agree that we have common ground. That being that salvation is only by the grace of God through the Messiah Jesus/Yeshua. Salvation cannot be earned by following the “Law of Moses” or any “traditions of man” – then you brought it the “Exodus” This statement by Christians is understood to mean the salvation of one’s soul from his sins.

    I’m a very much aware that Jews throughout time have been saved from many situations simply by the grace of God. I am making reference to the Christian’s belief that a soul is saved from “hell” “sins atoned” only by believing in the name of the Christian’s messiah. This can not be found in Jewish scriptures (belief in the messiah to atone for sins).

    You story of the Exodus, was indeed an example of the children of Israel first having faith in God that He will save them if only they would do what He commanded of them. Faith and Action. God teaches us throughout Torah – have faith in Me, Alone and KEEP My commandments.

    I will have to finish this in another post.

  6. 2) Regarding “wide range of doctrines/teachings” - The Mishna teaches that a machlokes [argument] that is for the sake of Heaven, will yield lasting results (sofah l'hiskayem) while an argument that is not for the sake of Heaven will not yield lasting results (ayn sofah l'hiskayem) [Avos 5:20]. The classic examples of noble disputes are the arguments between Hillel and Shammai. The classic example of a non-noble argument is that of Korach and his followers.

    Your reference to Jeremiah 31:31-34

    Dan, being that you are a Christian – is it not true that it is your contention that with the death of Jesus the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah came into effect and the “Old Covenant is obsolete?” (Hebrews 8:13)? But let’s look at the fairly obvious faults to this claim
    a) Was the House of Israel present at the time of Jesus’ death? No, they most certainly were not. They’d been exiled hundreds of years previously, and had not returned. The exact location of those tribes is still lost to us. Yet this verse signifies that the two kingdoms will be reunited. Are gentiles even mentioned or hinted at as being involved in this scenario?

    b) The keyword involved here is not a new LAW, but a new COVENANT. A covenant is an agreement. The Lord never said that any of the Law would change, or that the requirements that came with that Law would change. G-d was simply stating that there will be a renewal of His covenant with the people Israel, and that when that day comes, the Jewish people will no longer falter while walking in G-d's path.

    c) Take note of the last verse, "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Has this come to pass? Does everyone "Know the Lord?" Most certainly not. Those who do not belong to Judaism, Christianity, or Islam comprise one third of this planet. They don’t "Know the Lord!" Clearly, the New Covenant has not yet taken place.

    d) This passage is referenced in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The New Covenant is not something that you need to be told about when it's transpired. That's the key element of Messianic prophecy. The events described are so earth-shaking that no one would fail to see them. It becomes obvious to everyone. You shouldn't need to be told that it happened. The event speaks for itself.
    AND I SO AGREE WITH YOU that our Creator, blessed by His name, wishes to dwell within man. By keeping the commandments of God, Jews and nonJews will most certainly have God dwelling inside them.
    Please respond to question number 2. “Please share from the Jewish scriptures where Salvation comes ONLY through the messiah.” Again, this is contrary to what God teaches us in Torah. Psalm 119:155 Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.

    Shalom and be blessed Dan – I appreciate this dialogue


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