Mattityahu Jewish New Testament

chapter 23
1. Then Yeshua addressed the crowds and his talmidim:
2. “The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim,” he said, “sit in the seat of Moshe.
The seat (Greek kathedra) of Moshe. The Midrash Rabbah says:
"They made for him [Moses| a katedra like that of the advocates, in which one sits and yet seems to be standing." (Hxodus Rabbah 43:4) Pesiktu diRav Kahana 1:7 mentions the seat of Moses, and the editors of the English edition comment:

"The particular place in the synagogue where the leaders used to sit was known metaphorically as the seat of Moses or as the throne of Torah, symbolizing the succession of teachers of Torah down through the ages." (William G. Braude and Israel J. Kapstein, Pesikta diRav Kahana, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1975, p. 17)

A third-century C.E. "Chair of Moses" from Korazin (11:21) is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; a photograph and description may be found in Biblical Archeology Review 13:5 (1987), pp. 32-35. According to the Hebrew University scholarly journal Tarbitz I. p. 145, they can also be found in Hamot, Tiberias and Delos (Greece). The ГогвА-teachers and the P'rushim... sit in the seat of Moshe, exercising the power of "the cohen or judge in office at that time" (Deuteronomy 17:8-13), officially interpreting the Torah. There are some who understand this verse to mean that, according to Yeshua, the Oral Torah, as expounded in Orthodox Judaism, is binding on Messianic Jews today. I do not believe this, because I think Yeshua had already initiated a process transferring halakhic authority from the cohanim, judges and rabbis to the emissaries and later leaders of the Messianic Community. See 18:18-20&N and Messianic Jewish Manifesto, Chapter V.

3. So whatever they tell you, take care to do it. But don’t do what they do, because they talk but don’t act!
4. They tie heavy loads onto people’s shoulders but won’t lift a finger to help carry them.
Compare the remarks of the modern Orthodox rabbi H. Loewe:
"Rabbi Me'ir used to say, 'If I have ruled for others lenientlу, for myself I decide with stringency.' And conversely, in branding excess. Rabbi Huna describes the
Pharisee who, lenient to himself, teachers others to obey the hardest rules." (C. G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, A Rabbinic Anthology, New York: Schocken Books edition, 1974, p. lxxix)

5. Everything they do is done to be seen by others; for they make their t’fillin broad and their tzitziyot long,
T'fillin are small leather boxes containing parchment scrolls on which are written excerpts from the Tanakh (specifically, Deuteronomy 6:4-9,11:13-20, Exodus 13:1-16). Observant Jewish men past bar-miizvah age (13) strap one on one arm and the other around the head during the morning weekday synagogue service, in literal obedience to Deuteronomy 6:8, "You shall bind them [that is, God's mitzvol] for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes." Other English versions of the New Testament have here the word "phylacteries"; this transliterates the Greek word used in the text, "phulakterion," which means "safeguard, amulet, charm," and thus does not reflect the purpose of t'fillin.
Tzitziyot. See 9:20N.

6. they love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues,
7. and they love being greeted deferentially in the marketplaces and being called ‘Rabbi.’
Rabbi renders Greek rabbi, which transliterates the Hebrew (compare 8:19N). The word means, literally, "my great one," and, less literally, "my master," "my teacher." It became a title of respect used for Torah scholars by everyone, even those of the same or higher rank. Thus the Talmud says,

"Whenever King Y'hoshafat, King of Y'hudah,sawa/fl//mc/cA#Mam|"wise student," "scholar"] he would rise from his throne, embrace him and kiss him, and call him, 'Avi, avi' ['My father, my father'], 'Rabbi, rabbi' ["My teacher, my teacher'], 'Mari, mari' ['My lord, my lord']." (Makkot 24a; parallel Ketubot 103b)

8. “But you are not to let yourselves be called ‘Rabbi’; because you have one Rabbi, and you are all each other’s brothers.
9. And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father.’ because you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
10. Nor are you to let yourselves be called ‘leaders,’ because you have one Leader, and he is the Messiah!
But you are not to let yourselves be called "Rabbi"... "Father"... "leaders."

The Hebrew Christian scholar Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum holds that this passage prohibits Messianic Jewish congregations from calling their leaders "rabbis" ("The Quest for a Messianic Theology: Statement," in Mishkan #2 (Winter 1985), pp. 1-19; with "Response" by myself in the same issue, pp. 20-23; and "A Comment" by him in Mishkan #3, pp. 67-68).

My view is that a literalistic approach here is inappropriate, since Yeshua also warns against being called "father" or "leader," terms everyone uses. The context leads me to believe that Yeshua here is prohibiting believers from accepting unearned honors, rather than outlawing three titles. A leader is to be humble, a servant (20:25-28); if he is given any title at all, he is not to become puffed up. Others in the community are to guard against making invidious distinctions between "clergy" and "laity" by bestowing titles.

My own objection to the use of the title "rabbi" today is not theological but ideological and practical. What should a "Messianic rabbi" be? A pastor under another name? I think the term "rabbi" sets up Jewish expectations which ought to be fulfilled. A Messianic Jewish congregational leader who accepts the title "rabbi" without having training adequate to qualify him as a rabbi in a non-Messianic Jewish setting is accepting honor which he has not earned and to which he is not entitled; and this does violate Yeshua's injunction.

Should a Messianic rabbi have s'mikhah (ordination; see 21:23N)? If so, should it be Messianic or non-Messianic? If Messianic, who is qualified lo grant it? Messianic Judaism at present has very few ordained rabbis and no accrediting agency. At present, in order not to embarrass the Messianic Jewish movement, 1 urge leaders without rabbinic training to resist letting themselves be called "rabbi."

11. The greatest among you must be your servant,
12. for whoever promotes himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be promoted.
13. “But woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! For you are shutting the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, neither entering yourselves nor allowing those who wish to enter to do so.
The manuscripts which add v. 14 probably borrowed from Mk 12:40 (see note there) or Lk 20:47.

15. “But woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! For you are shutting the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, neither entering yourselves nor allowing those who wish to enter to do so.
You go about over land and .sea (o make one proselyte. Modern Judaism does not consider itself a missionary religion, and already by the time the Talmud was written Jews had become cautious about receiving converts (see Yevamot 47a). But in the second century B.C.E. the Idumeans were forcibly converted to Judaism, and apparently in Yeshua's time there was still active proselytizing by the Jewish community. For more on this topic, see 1С 7:17-20N, 1С 4:1-2N, Ga 5:3N. Also see Appendix, p. 931.

16. “Woe to you, you blind guides! You say, ‘If someone swears by the Temple, he is not bound by his oath; but if he swears by the gold in the Temple, he is bound.’
17. You blind fools! Which is more important? the gold? or the Temple which makes the gold holy?
18. And you say, ‘If someone swears by the altar, he is not bound by his oath; but if he swears by the offering on the altar, he is bound.’
19. Blind men! Which is more important? the sacrifice? or the altar which makes the sacrifice holy?
The altar which makes the sacrifice holy. Exodus 29:37-38: "...the altar will be most holy, and whatever touches the altar will become holy. This is what you are to offer upon the altar: two lambs a year old every day, continually."

20. So someone who swears by the altar swears by it and everything on it.
21. And someone who swears by the Temple swears by it and the One who lives in it.
22. And someone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and the One who sits on it.
The rabbinic elaboration of the laws pertaining to oaths is found in Talmud tractate Shvu'ot.

23. “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah — justice, mercy, trust. These are the things you should have attended to — without neglecting the others!
24. Blind guides! — straining out a gnat, meanwhile swallowing a camel!
Tithes. The cohanim and L'vi 'im were debarred from owning hereditary land but were to be given a tithe (tenth) of all produce (Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21); a second tithe was to be consumed by the owner in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 14:22-27); and a tithe for the poor replaced the second tithe in the third and sixth year of the seven-year cycle that culminated in the year of sh 'mittah, in which the land was allowed to lie fallow. The rabbinic elaboration of the law of tithes is found in Talmud tractates Ma 'aserot and Ma 'aser Sheni.

The weightier matters of the Torah —justice, mercy, trust Yeshua seems to be alluding to Micah 6:8:"... what does Adonai require of you but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God?"

These... you should have attended to — without neglecting the others! Yeshua clearly upholds keeping even the minutiae of the Law. Those who encourage Messianic Jews to stop observing the Torah are ignoring his advice both here and at 5:17-20&NN above. Nevertheless, the main point in this and the following verse is that one should properly order one's priorities so as to live a life pleasing to God.

25. “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
26. Blind Parush! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may be clean too.
27. “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead people’s bones and all kinds of rottenness.
28. Likewise, you appear to people from the outside to be good and honest, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and far from Torah.
29. “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the tzaddikim,
And far from Torah, or: "and wickedness"; Greek anomia. An especially cutting denunciation when aimed at those who considered themselves the authoritative expositors of the Law. See7:23N.

30. and you say, ‘Had we lived when our fathers did, we would never have taken part in killing the prophets.’
31. In this you testify against yourselves that you are worthy descendants of those who murdered the prophets.
32. Go ahead then, finish what your fathers started!
33. “You snakes! Sons of snakes! How can you escape being condemned to Gei-Hinnom?
34. Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and Torah-teachers — some of them you will kill, indeed, you will have them executed on stakes as criminals; some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.
35. And so, on you will fall the guilt for all the innocent blood that has ever been shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Hevel to the blood of Z’kharyah Ben-Berekhyah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar.
Hevel (Abel). See Genesis 4:8.
Z'kharyah Ben-Berekhyah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar. There is a discrepancy. According to 2 Chronicles 24:20-21, Zechariah, the son ol'Jehoiada was killed "in the court of the house ofiAdonai"; while Zechariah 1:1 identifies the writer of the book as the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, but the Tanakh does not indicate how he died. Possibly Jehoiada had the additional name Berechiah (it was not uncommon to add names); or Jehoiada. who lived to be 130 (2 Chronicles 24:15). was Iddo's father or was Iddo himself (Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 speak of Zechariah as the "son of his grandfather Iddo; see 1: IN on "son of"). Josephus speaks of Zechariah the son of Barach as having been killed in the temple, and Targum Yonatan assigns the same kind of death to Zechariah the prophet. Others would explain the discrepancy as a copyist's mistake.

36. Yes! I tell you that all this will fall on this generation!
Nowhere is it clearer than here and at 21:12-13 that the image of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" falls short of reality. The repeated slashing litany, Woe to you hypocritical 7oraft-teachers ("scribes"; see 2:4N) and P'rushim! angers Jews, mystifies Gentiles and embarrasses Christians, who find Yeshua's remarks intemperate, antisemitic, even "un-Christlike." But Yeshua, like all the prophets, spoke the words of God without fear or favor. He comforted those who were open to him and made repeated invitation to those who opposed him; but when it had become evident that these particular Torah-teachers and P'rushim were hardhearted, closed-minded and interested only in confuting or trapping him, he seized the initiative, revealing his accusers for what they were. Was he "unloving" toward them? Love must sometimes be tough. Even less was he antisemitic: his within-the-family correction was aimed at making these Jewish brothers of his live up to their high calling (and he partly succeeded; see Ac 15:5,21:20,23:6). If Yeshua was unloving or antisemitic, one must say the same of all the Jewish prophets from Moses to Malachi.

A truer measure of antisemitism — as it developed in the Church — is the ease with which the terms "scribes" and "Pharisees" are uncritically equated with "hypocrites," falsely implying that all of them were. For Yeshua, in addressing "you hypocritical ГогаЛ-teachers and P'rushim" rather than "the hypocritical 7ora/i-teachers and P'rushim," restricts his scathing denunciation to a specific group of them. See 3:7N, Mk 12:38N, 1 Th 2:14-16&NN. The Jewish scholar Menahem Mansoor. writing in the Encyclopedia Judaica, also recognizes this:

"While the Pharisees, as a whole, set a high ethical standard for themselves, not all lived up to it. It is mistakenly held that the New Testament references to them as 'hypocrites' or 'offspring of vipers' (Matt. 3:7; Luke I8:9ff., etc.) are applicable to the entire group. However, the leaders were well aware of the presence of the insincere among their numbers, described by the Pharisees themselves in the Talmud as 'sore spots' or 'plagues of the Pharisaic party' (Sot. 3:4 and 22b)." (Encyclopedia Judaica 13:366)

The Mishna remarks that the "plagues" (or "hits" or "self-inflicted wounds") "of Pharisees... ruin the world" (Sotah 3:4). The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds both comment on this in famous passages delineating seven kinds of Pharisees (J. B'rakhot 14b, Sotah 20c; B. Sotah 22b). The following is a hybrid combining elements from both Talmuds with rabbinic expositions; it mentions eight kinds:

There are seven kinds of Pharisees: the "shoulder" Pharisee, who ostentatiously carries his good deeds on his shoulder so all can see them; the "wait-a-moment" Pharisee, who wants you to wait while he performs a mitzvah; the bruised Pharisee, who runs into a wall while looking at the ground to avoid seeing a woman; the "reckoning" Pharisee, whocommits a sin, then does a good deed and balances the one against the other; the "pestle" Pharisee, whose head is bowed in false humility, like a pestle in a mortar; the Pharisee who asks, "What is my duty, so that I may do it?" as if he thought he had fulfilled every obligation already (compare Pp 3:5-6&NN); the Pharisee from fear of the consequences if he doesn't perform the commandments; and the Pharisee from love — either love of the rewards God promises for performing the commandments, or love of Torah itself [no matter which, he is understood here to be the one good kind of Pharisee].

Continuing with B. Sotah 22b:
"Abaye and Raba said to the teacher [of the above passage], "Don't mention the Pharisee from love and the Pharisee from fear, because Rav Y'hudah quoted Kav as saying. "A person should always engage himself in Torah and mitzvot even if not for their own sake [i.e., even if motivated by fear of punishment or love of reward; see above]; because from doing them not for their own sake he will come to do them for their own sake."' Rabbi Nachman ben-Yitzchak said, 'What is hidden is hidden, and whai is revealed is revealed —the Great Tribunal will punish those who rub themselves against the walls, simulating humility [that is. God penetrates hypocrisy, reads hearts and judges truly; compare Lk 16M5&N. Yn2:25]."'

The passage concludes with this quotation from Alexander Yannai, the Hasmonean ruler of Judea (103-76 B.C.E.), who hated the Pharisees:
"King Yannai said to his wife, 'Fear neither the Pharisees nor those who are not Pharisees; rather, fear the tsvu'in who ape the Pharisees, because their deeds are like the deed of Zimri (Numbers 25:14) but they expect a reward like that of Pinchas (Numbers 25:11)."' The literal sense of the Aramaic word "tsvu'in" is "dyed, colored," from which comes ihe metaphorical meaning, "hypocrites"; it also means "hyenas."

37. “Yerushalayim! Yerushalayim! You kill the prophets! You stone those who are sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you refused!
38. Look! God is abandoning your house to you, leaving it desolate. (Jeremiah 22:5)
39. For I tell you, from now on, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai". (Psalm 118:26)
Yeshua's denunciation of the establishment (vv. 1 -36) is combined with compassionate regret at their rejection of him (vv. 37-39). First he talks about them (vv. 1-12), then he speaks to them (vv. 13-36&N).

As if to refute the theology, developed later by the Church, which teaches that God is no longer interested in the Jewish people as such, Yeshua here gives the condition for the salvation of national Israel, as distinct from salvation of individual Jews and Gentiles. In these verses, al the end of his ministry, he addresses the nation of Israel, speaking to its capital, Yerushalayim, and thus continues the Tanakh's tradition of corporate salvation, which will come when Israel as a nation blesses the Messiah, who comes in the name of Adonai. (It is clear from 21:9 in its context that this phrase here refers to Yeshua himself.) The fact that Yeshua will not return until Israel receives national salvation is a powerful motivator for evangelizing Jewish people (see Ro 11:11-12&N, 15&N, 31&N); in fact Jewish evangelism can hasten his coming (2 Ke 3:12&N). For more(see5:5&N,Ac4:12&N,Ro 11:23-29&NN,2C l:20&N. (Also see Maimonides1 "Letter to Ovadyah the Proselyte," quoted in Ro 4:16N.)

Under her wings. Compare the use of such a natural metaphor in the Talmud. A non-Jew comes to Shammai requesting to become a proselyte in order to be appointed cohen gadol. Shammai drives him away with a stick, but Hillel receives him and teaches him in a way that enables him to see for himself that the Torah prohibits a proselyte from holding that office. He returns to Hillel and thanks him: "Gentle Hillel, blessings on your head for bringing me under the wings of the Sh'khinah" (Shabbat 31a). Likewise Moshe is described as being taken to his burial place "wrapped in the wings of the Sh 'khinah " (Sotah 13b).

God is abandoning your house to you, leaving it desolate. As is clear from the use of the word "house" in Jeremiah 22:5, which Yeshua alludes to, he is not speaking here about the Temple, destroyed forty years later by Roman armies, but to the future generations of Israel, who will be desolate of salvation so long as they seek to achieve it by themselves ("abandoning your house to you") and do not welcome God's Messiah Yeshua.

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