Updated: Jan 21
In Hebraic understanding the written Word of God, or the Bible, is called Mikra, meaning that which is read. In order for something to be read it first has to be written. So, the Mikra is the written Word, or it is referred to as that which is written.
However, to understand the New Testament one must also understand what the Jewish people call the Mishna. Mishna means that which is repeated. The Mishna refers to their oral torah.
Hebrews believed, today as well as throughout their history, that when Yahweh (God) gave the Torah (teachings and instructions) to the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai that He also gave them the oral torah (Mishna). They believe that this oral torah was given to Moses by God and then he verbally handed it down to the people and they “repeated” this oral torah generation after generation. The Mishna is the halakhah to the Jewish people. Halakhah is a Hebrew term meaning “walk, manner of conduct”. In other words the purpose of the Mishnah was to teach people how they were suppose to walk out the teachings and instructions of Yahweh which were given at Mt. Sinai.
By the time of Yeshua the oral torah was placed on a higher level of obligation than the doctrines of Yahweh. The Pharisee's of the day, which today is Rabbinic Judaism, taught the people to observe and teach these traditions as doctrines of God. By doing so they placed heavy burdens on the people. Burdens that were not placed there by the Word of God but by the traditions of man. Yeshua came against these traditions.
The oral torah (Mishnah) was repeated orally until around 200 AD, at which time a Rabbi, Judah Ha-Nissi, wrote down the oral traditions that had been taught from between 325 BC until 200 AD. This was to preserve them due to the Jews being dispersed around the world. Today the Mishna is preserved in the Talmud. The Talmud is composed of the Mishna and further commentary on scripture and the Mishnah by Rabbi's since 200 AD.
I laid the foundation above to make this one point. When the New Testament is being read and studied it is very important that one have an understanding of the oral traditions of the Jews. A true Biblical student should study the Talmud as well as other ancient Jewish writings so that they can understand their mindset. This mindset influenced the writing of the New Testament, since the authors were Jewish. Since, to a Jew, there were TWO Torahs, one oral and one written, one must be able to discern which Torah is being talked about when the word “law” is being mentioned.
No writer in the New Testament is mis-understood more than the Apostle Paul. One must remember that Paul (Shaul in Hebrew) was a student of the MOST FAMOUS Rabban Gamaliel. Gamaliel was over the Sanhedrin during the times of Yeshua. He was one of the most renown Rabbi's of the first century. The Apostle Paul would have been an expert in all matters relating to the oral torah as well as the written Torah. He was a very well educated man. Even the Apostle Peter tells us in II Peter 3:15-16 that the words of Paul are difficult to understand and that un-taught and un-stable people twist his words to their own destruction. If the words of Paul were sometimes difficult for the people of his day to understand, how much more would they be difficult for us to understand today? We must not be an un-taught people!
The New Testament, and especially the letters of Paul, sometimes give us clues as to which Torah is being talked about. Here is a rule of thumb to be remembered – whenever the scripture says, “that which is written”, or “it is written”, it is referring to the Commands of Yahweh. This would be the Mikra. Whenever the scripture says things like, “you have heard it said”, or “as the law says”, then the Mishna (that which is repeated) is being spoken about.
I can not examine every scripture using these words, but here is a good example, from the writings of Paul to explain “that which is written.” Galatians 3:10 -”For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (KJV) This is a quote from Deuteronomy 27:26.
Now, a good example of that which is repeated can be found in Paul's letter to the Corinthians.
I Corinthians 14:34 - “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.”
What law says women are not permitted to speak in assembly? The written Torah? No! The oral tradition of the Jews? Yes, exactly! That is what is being mentioned in this verse? Paul is not giving instructions to obey here, he is making a declarative statement in verses 34-35, reminding his readers of what the oral law says! In Jewish tradition, and according to the Mishnah and ancient Rabbinial writings, women were not permitted to speak in the Synagogues. They were not permitted to even read aloud from the Torah scrolls in Synagogue. They were not even permitted to sit with the men in some synagogues, but had separate seating arrangements. How do I know this? Because I have read it in their Talmud and other ancient literature. This is no secret. One can find this on most any Jewish website as the practice still exists today (except in rare cases). Notice that in verse 34 the words “they are commanded” are in italics in the KJV. This means that those words were not in the original manuscripts. They were added by the translators.
Paul was writing his epistles to answer questions that had been asked of him regarding halakhah (how one was to walk out Torah). We don't have the questions that were asked of him. Those letters no longer exist or haven't been found. What we have are the answers. It could be like listening to a one sided phone conversation. I believe it highly posssible that verses 34 and 35 should be in quotation marks. Here the Apostle Paul could be quoting what they said to him in a letter regarding the conduct of women in the assemblies.
What is the Apostle Paul's reaction to the oral tradition? We have the answer in verse 36. Paul gives a stern rebuke to the men who have made up such oral traditions that are not “written” doctrines of God. He asks if the Word of God came from them (meaning the men only) or if it (the Word of God) only reached them (the men)? No, in fact, the Word of God came to all, both male and female.
I have only given one example in this lesson. There are many more.
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Meet The Rabbis, Young, Brad H., Baker Academic, 2007