What is the Talmud?
Traditionally the Talmud is the supreme source-book of law, as it takes the rules listed in the Torah and describes how to apply them to different circumstances. Although technically not a legal code (other works were created for that purpose) it is the ultimate source material that is used to decide all matters of Halakha (Jewish law).
Hmm. sounds strangely like the Bible Doctrine and Practice and Conference Decisions, with the BD&P being the Talmud and the Conference decisions being the “other works.” You know, the one used to decide all matters of Holdeman law.
What is the Mishnah?
The Mishnah is a document that describes a life of sanctification, in which the rituals of the Temple are adapted for communal participation in a world that has no Temple, which escapes the ups and downs of history.
So we see here that the Jews took the Torah, the early scriptures, and begin to create writings about them. They interpreted the Torah, they elaborated on it, and they described it. In order to keep the law, they began to create more laws to protect the law. They built a fence around the law in order to keep the people at a far enough distance from breaking the law that the law might be kept safe. In this manner they laid many heavy burdens upon the backs of the people and began to be very judgmental and self righteous.
Let us take a look at Mark, chapter 7. In this chapter the Pharisees are complaining to Jesus that the disciples have been eating without washing their hands. Verse 3 says “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash [their] hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.” Now notice this…it says “following the tradition of the elders.” It was not in the law that it was a sin to eat without washing the hands, but in fact it was a tradition of the elders. The Pharisees were trying to condemn the disciples for something that was not a commandment of God, but rather one that had developed out of a wish to make the law more legal and more perfectly kept. Verse 4 goes on to explain other ways in which the ritual of washing had evolved. Verse 5 says “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?” Oh,the Pharisees were judgmental tale bearers. They wanted to see someone condemned. They were laying a trap. The Pharisees were not about mercy, but judgment.
Then Jesus has some very stern words for them. (verses 6,7) He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.
Jesus calls them HYPOCRITES for the way they want to pass judgment on their fellow brethren for things that are the commandments of men. This scripture should convincingly prove that God does not go along with the commandments of men. He knows that when men make their own commandments with the self righteous hypocritical goal of keeping the law safe, that they are actually doing nothing more than laying traps for others and creating legal means to do away with those who displease them. Jesus did not speak well of these men. Look at what he says in verses 9 and 10; For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”
This should be quite alarming. Jesus did not smile and pat them on the head for their strictness in keeping the law. Instead he condemned them in the harshest terms. He is angered by the fact that they try to stand in the place of God and condemn and judge. Further on in the chapter Jesus goes on to interpret other parts of the law for them, as it seemed that the Pharisees were interested in the strictness of the letter, and not the aspect of love and mercy, and the true condition of the heart. They loved to condemn, and all the while Jesus knew that inside their own hearts they were ravening wolves, whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones. How can it be any different today? If you write a book of legal definitions, taking a stand on many things and defining them according to the traditions of the elders (the lineage) and you make a legal document, such as the conference decisions which determines the fact that people can be punished thus and so for various infractions, then how can you be anything but a Pharisee? If you have Rabbinical Writings, how are you any different? There is no need for interpretation, there is no need for defining, there is no need for making punishments that fit the crime. Read the Word of God. Study who Jesus was. Strive to be like him. Love your fellow man. Do good to others. Love God. Or, you could go to the BD&P and study the consistent wearing of the beard, the proper way to greet a brother (kissing with dry lips) or the proper way to carry out a baptism, an ordination, etc. These are important things no doubt, but not things that need to be written in legal terms and followed to the letter. The wearing of a headcovering can become an extremely technical and legally charged issue. This is not the way it is meant to be. The message of Jesus has been so misunderstood. What will it take to make people see the truth of his message?
These “laws” can seem harmless enough under ordinary circumstances, but when the ministers wish to do away with someone who is an irritation to them, they can so readily then invoke the law. They can expel someone by pointing out where they broke the law. What rank legalism! What a shame! What would Jesus say? And don’t tell me that this doesn’t happen. People can find themselves not so much afoul of he law, but rather in fact of the fence that was built to protect the law. If they listen to a radio, they are bumping up against the fence. The admonition against the radio is said to keep people safe from the danger of listening to much ungodly talk and sensually charged music. It might be true that this is a helpful law, but YOU CANNOT MAKE A LAW TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE AND ENFORCE IT BY EXCOMMUNICATION AND HAVE GOD’S FAVOR. Jesus taught strongly against this. Do these men read the Bible? Do they have the most basic understanding? What demon of deception and self righteousness has so ensnared their minds that they cannot see?
May God have mercy, we need all we can get.