JUDAISM, THE JEWS' RELIGION
The best way to understand what Judaism, the Jews' religion was like when Jesus Christ started his ministry with the original twelve disciples is to view it from the experience of a person that was born near the beginning of the first century in the Roman city of Tarsus, located at the NE corner of the Mediterranean Sea. The person I am referring to is Saul also called Paul, (Acts 13:9) the son of a Pharisee, whose father probably had a business of tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3) and was a Roman citizen. Therefore, Paul had the privilege of being born free, a Roman citizen, (Acts 22:28). In Philippians 3:5, Paul states his genealogy. NKJV. (5) "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee."
At the proper age, perhaps 13, Saul was sent to Jerusalem and completed his studies under the famous Gamaliel, a Pharisee and eminent doctor of the law, (Acts 5:34). Paul speaks of this in Acts 22:3-4. (3) "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Ci-lic-i-a (a province, Acts 23:34), but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, (the Jewish traditions) and was zealous toward God, as you all are today. (4) I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women."
Gamaliel taught Paul not only the laws of the Old Testament, but all the Jewish oral traditions of the fathers. Gamaliel did not teach Paul the gospel and commandments of Jesus Christ because the Jews' did not believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah. And because they did not believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah, they did not receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
Notice what Paul taught after his conversion. Galatians 1:11-14, (11) "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. (12) For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. (13) For ye have heard of my former conduct in Judaism (in the Jews' religion, KJV), how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. (14) And I advanced in Judaism (the Jews' religion, KJV) beyond many of my contemporaries in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
Both words, Jews' religion, in verses 13 & 14 in KJV are Strong's #2454, Ioudaismos; from 2450; "Judaism", i.e. the Jewish faith and usages:--- Jews' religion.
The word traditions in verse 14 is Strong's #3862, for the Greek word paradosis, par-ad'-os-is; from 3860; transmission, i.e. (concretely) a precept, specifically the Jewish traditionary law:--- ordinance, tradition.
Let us look at these definitions in "Webster's New World Dictionary" to help give us a better understanding in English.
transmission, noun, 1. a transmitting 2. something transmitted.
precept, noun, a rule of moral conduct; maxim.
Jewish, noun, of or having to do with Jews or Judaism.
ordinance, noun, a statute or regulation, esp. a municipal one.
tradition, noun, 1. the handing down orally of customs, beliefs, etc. from generation to generation. 2. a story, belief, etc. handed down in this way.
Paul was taught by Ga-ma-li-el the traditions of the fathers and before his conversion he did persecute the church of God because they were not following the traditions of the fathers but were following the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The persecutions to the followers of Jesus indicate Paul's fanatical zeal to Judaism, the Jews' religion. At his first appearance as a young man, in Acts 7:58, Saul was already an acknowledged leader in the Jews' religion. This was when Stephen was stoned to death. Acts 8:1 states: "Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles." Also in verse three it states: "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison."
Acts 26: 9-11, tells us of Saul's attitude. (9) "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (10) This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my voice against them. (11) And I punished them often in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities."
Jesus and his disciples were not following the traditions of the elders, this is why Saul was so enraged against them and persecuted the saints. In Matthew, chapter 15, we can read where the scribes and Pharisees confronted Jesus Christ about their traditions. We will start reading in verse (1) "Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, (2) "Why do Your disciples transgress the traditions of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." (3) He answered and said to them. Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? (4) "For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and your mother; and, He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death. (5) "But you say, Whoever says to his father or mother, Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift
to God" (6) then he need not honor his father or mother. Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.
They had already transgressed the Lords instructions which are found in Deuteronomy 4:2: "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Also Deuteronomy 12:32, "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it."
Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees they are wrong and transgress the commandment of God because of their tradition. Continuing in Matthew 15: (7) Hypocrites! "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: (8) This people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me." (Quote from Isaiah 29:13.) (9) And in vain (#3155, folly, to no purpose) they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (10) When He had called the multitude to Himself, he said to them, Hear and understand: (11) Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. (12) Then His disciples came and said to Him, Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying? (13) But he answered and said, Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted will be uprooted. (14) Let them alone, They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a ditch. (15) Then answered Peter and said to Him, Explain this parable to us." Continuing in verse (18) "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile a man. (19) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: (20) These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man." Also let us read Marks account which reveals other traditions not mentioned in Matthew's account. Mark 7:4, 8, 9. (4) "When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. (8) For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men -- the washing of pitchers and cups: and many other such things you do. (9) He said to them, All to well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition."
Another example of Jesus Christ and the disciples not following the traditions of the Jew's religion. The night before Jesus Christ was crucified, Jesus and the disciples observed the Passover on the date the passover lamb was to be killed, at the beginning of the 14th day of the first month. Read Mark's account of the Passover found in Mark:12-26. Notice what happened after the Passover. In verses (43-46) Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, and (v-53) Jesus was taken to the high priest and those assembled with him, the chief priests, elders and scribes. (V-64) They accused Jesus of blasphemy and they all condemned him to be guilty of death. Mark 15:1, (latter part of verse) "They bound Jesus and delivered him to Pilate." We will continue reading in John 18:28-29. (28) "Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas (the high priest) to the Prae-to' ri-um (The margin of my bible defines this as "The governor's headquarters."), and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Prae-to' ri-um, lest they should be defiled, [#3392, to contaminate (ceremonially), defile] but that they might eat the Passover. (29) Pilate then went out to them and said, What accusation do you bring against this Man?"
The reason the Jews' would not go into the Praetorium was because of the tradition of the Jew's religion. Pilate was a Gentile, and the Jews' were taught by tradition that they would be unclean if they went into the dwelling of one of another nation and would not be allowed to eat the Jew's passover on the fifteenth day of the first month. Pilate went out to them.
Remember when the Lord showed Peter that this Jewish tradition was wrong in Acts, chapter 10. The Lord through the Gentile Cornelius and the vision of all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air were let down to the earth in what appeared to be a great sheet bound at four corners. A voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean. And a voice spoke to him again the second time, What God has cleansed (#2511, to cleanse, make clean.) you must not call common. This was done three times, (Acts 10:1, 11-16.)
When Peter and his six brethren (Acts 11:12) entered Caesarea and came into Cornelius's house, Peter stated the Jews' tradition in Acts 10:28. "Then he said to them, You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with, or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean."
In Numbers 9:10-11 the Lord stated to Moses two things that would cause a man to not be able to keep the Lord's Passover: (10) "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the Lord's Passover. (11) On the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs." This is another example illustrating how the Jews added to the Lord's instructions with the tradition of the Jew's religion.
Also note, at the time of Jesus, the Jew's were observing their passover meal on the fifteenth day of the first month, not on the fourteenth day, that the Lord instructed in Exodus 12: 6, 8, Verse 6 is concerning keeping up the passover animal. (6) "Now you shall keep it until (#5704, as far (or long or much) as.) the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. (8) Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it," Leviticus 23:5, "On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord's Passover." Also Numbers 28:16. "On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the Lord."
The following verses give us details of the events of what happened to Saul as he came nigh unto Damascus and about Saul's conversion. Acts 9:1-21. (1) "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest (2) and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (3) As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shown around him from heaven. (4) Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (5) And he said, Who are You, Lord? Then the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads. (Translated pricks in KJV, #2759, kenteo, (to prick); a point, i.e. a sting (fig. poison) or goad (fig. divine impulse):--- prick, sting. (6) So he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what do You want me to do? Then the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. (V-8) Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. (9) And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (10) Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, Ananias, And he said, Here I am, Lord. (11) So the Lord said to him, Arise and go into the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. (12) And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight. (13) Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem: (14) And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name. (15) But the Lord said unto him, Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. (16) For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake. (17) "And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. (18) Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received sight at once; and he arose and was baptized." (19) "So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. (20) Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. (21) Then all who heard were amazed, and said, Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?"
After Paul's conversion, he did receive persecution from the Jews. The Jews were trying to kill him because he was doing the same thing that those he persecuted did. He now believed Jesus Christ and was teaching the people about Jesus Christ and was not following the traditions of the Jews' religion.
In Acts, chapter 26, Paul told King Agrippa the order in which he preached to the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. Acts 26:19-20, (19) "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, (20) but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance." Also, in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, Paul states some of the things he suffered. (24) "From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; (26) in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; (27) in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-- (28) besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches."
Of the prominent religious sects who existed among the Jews in the days of Christ and the early church were the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were by far the most influential religious sect. The scribes were a class of learned men who made the systematic study of the law and its exposition their professional occupation. They devoted themselves to the preservation, transcription, and exposition of the law. In some scriptures they were called lawyers, (Luke 11:44-46, 52). In the days of Christ, the majority of the scribes belonged to the Pharisee sect which recognized the legal interpretations of the scribes. One of the major differences in beliefs between the Sadducees and the Pharisees was, the Sadducees held only to the written Law, and rejected the oral traditions of the Pharisees.
Josephus, a contemporary Jewish historian and Pharisee that lived during that time recorded the following: (Quote.) "The Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses: and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written Word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. And concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have risen among them. (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 13, Chapter 10, #6). Unquote."
The Sadducees believed that the written Word of God alone was the seat of religious authority. The Pharisees, on the contrary, believed that just as binding as the Law itself were the oral traditions of the claimed oral teaching given to Moses at Mount Sinai when he was in the mount 40 days and 40 nights, along with the rulings and interpretations on the Law made by the scribes over the years. Notice what the scriptures actually says, Exodus 24:12, 18. (12) "Then the Lord said to Moses, Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them. (18) So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights."
Most Jews' then and today will tell you very quickly that Jesus Christ was not the Messiah to come. The apostle John tell us what these people are in 1 John 2:22-23, (22) "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. (23) Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also."
Through the example of Saul, also called Paul, we can understand the hatred of the Jewish religion toward those who believed the teachings of Jesus Christ and did not follow the traditions of Judaism, the Jew's religion.
Now we cannot claim to be ignorant of Judaism, the Jews' religion.
Updated 12-12-10, Art Ryan