Monday, November 28, 2016

The origin of Rabbinic Judaism

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky serves as Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He has been featured on Bill Moyers’ Genesis and Christiane Amanpour’s “Back to the Beginning.” The author of ten other books, including Sage Tales: Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud, he has been named to “The Forward 50” and repeatedly to the Newsweek/Daily Beast list of “The 50 Most Influential Jews in America.” His latest book is Aphrodite and the Rabbis: How the Jews Adapted Roman Culture as We Know ItWe highly recommend this book, and after reading the except below about the origin of Rabbinic Judaism, you will understand why. Underlines have been added for highlights.

There is a great deal of debate about what Judaism looked like in that post-Temple period of the first centuries of the Common Era, and I vacillate on whether I should even call it Judaism or, perhaps better: Judaisms

It took quite a few more centuries for Judaism to find a singular expression as “rabbinic Judaism.” In what follows, I speak of Judaism and the Jewish practices of those fellows we call “the rabbis” as though they were one and the same thing. When I refer to Judaism, I am referring to ‘rabbinic Judaism.” This form of Judaism, so overwhelmingly prevalent today, did not become the normative flavor of Judaism until a mere eight hundred or so years ago. I will refer to other forms of Judaism; but the literature of the rabbis and their practices have stuck with us, and that very stickiness, along with the fact that I am a rabbi, leads me to speak of Rabbinic Judaism as “Judaism” in the pages that follow, without further qualification.

Who were those rabbis, and what was their Judaism? When the Jerusalem Temple and its priesthood came tumbling to the ground, it could not be put together again. What I have called the Israelite religion of pre-70 CE, when those Temple and cultic institutions still existed, was replaced after 70 by other religious phenomena: what is called today Judaism. It has long been a given that Christianity arose from the Roman Empire, assimilated its culture, and became Western Civilization. In this book I will show that Judaism had a similar arc. When the Israelite Temple cult ended, it was replaced by Judaism — ultimately a religion that was shaped and defined by rabbis, who themselves were comfortable denizens of the Roman world

Those ancient rabbis are the forebears of the modern rabbis of all varieties and denominations who still lead Jewish institutions to this very day. At the outset, the rabbis confronted the loss of the Jerusalem Temple with determination, originality, courage, and panache. In the face of the loss of the sacrificial cult and exile from Jerusalem, this small group of sages and their disciples in each generation built Judaism — a Roman religion that fit comfortably in the broader culture and so was able to survive for the ages

The earliest leaders of the “rabbinic” Jewish community are portrayed in later texts as having come to leadership roles while the Second Temple still stood, around the turn of the millennium. Hillel the Elder, his colleague Shammai, and Gamaliel are names we associate with the beginnings of Judaism. Hillel and Shammai are not called rabbis, but each is given the title “elder.” When we refer to Hillel the Elder, it is not because there was some younger guy also named Hillel running around at the same time. “Elder” was Hillel’s title, as it was the title for Shammai and Gamaliel. In the religious community, the title “elder” persists in the church in its Greek usage: presbyter.

When the rabbis look back at Hillel, they note that he was originally a Babylonian. Yet the earliest generations of rabbis lived and taught in Roman Palestine. The rabbinic movement expanded eastward into Iraq, or Jewish Babylonia, only from around 220 CE. I emphasize that the Judaism of the rabbis was a product of the Land of Israel in its beginnings and was only later exported to the Diaspora. When the rabbis themselves narrate their origins, they always recall that Hillel — one of their founding fathers — was Babylonian, as though it were foreordained that rabbinic Judaism would flourish there, too. It didn’t have to be that way, especially since what became a major center of Judaism, Babylonia, flourished under a different political empire and different culture than either the Jerusalem Temple or the earliest rabbis. 

I tell you again and again in this book that the rabbis were Greco-Roman Hellenists, I should also disclose that the rabbis of Babylonia certainly inherited aspects of Hellenism from their rabbinic forebears but lived in the Sasanian Empire, where the dominant culture was Zoroastrian. Jews are nothing if not complicated folks. 

Yet for all that, from 70 CE to approximately 200 CE, the rabbis remained a fairly small group of men with no more than a dozen or so leaders in any given generation. I like to remind my own rabbinical students that on any given day there are more rabbis in-house at the Jewish Theological Seminary than there were in any given generation of the early centuries of rabbinic Judaism.  Each rabbi back then had a circle of disciples, and some of these students traveled from rabbi to rabbi in order to master the oral traditions they transmitted. 

Aphrodite and the Rabbis: How the Jews Adapted Roman Culture as We Know It, by Burton L. Visotzky © 2016; St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY; pp. 8-10.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

What does Jesus want Christians to do -- “Believe Him” or “Believe In Him”?

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most important blocks of the teachings of Yeshua (the real name of Jesus) to have survived the 2000 year journey of being passed down from one generation to the next by non-Jews from a variety of non-Jewish cultures. The problem is that people who did not understand the Jewish culture or the Hebrew Scriptures of Yeshua have copied the manuscripts that have been used to make English translations of his teachings and created the Belief Systems through which over 2 billion Christian view and understand Yeshua's life and teachings. This toxic mix has produced crusades, inquisitions, indulgences, the holocaust, an immunity to the suffering of others, and an estimated 40,000 Christian denominations and paradenominations in America today!

Are the above things Yeshua had in mind for his followers to be actively involved in as he taught his disciples on the mountain that day? This is the Christians today must answer. The bottom line is that it all comes down to one question -- which of the following did Yeshua teach:  

  ● “BELIEVE ME” -- Go and do what I taught.

  ● "BELIEVE IN ME” -- Believe I existed or believe man-made theologies about me.

The answers Christians choose define the purposes of their lives and the priorities of Christianity. Read the complete article by going to --

Monday, November 21, 2016

The 18th Century New Evangelicals

The new Evangelicals were New Light or Separate Baptists from New England, whose leaders began to sift into North Carolina and Virginia in the 1750s, and who soon began to establish their own churches and create new ones. Baptists had appeared in the South earlier in the century – Charleston had had a Baptist congregation since 1695 – but they were quiet, well-mannered folk who were not active proselytizers.

The New Lights, however, were neither quiet nor well-behaved even by Evangelical Presbyterian standards, for they openly attacked the Anglican clergy, ordained semiliterate men as ministers, stubbornly refused to apply for licenses to preach, and valued emotional outbursts in their meetings as a sign of God’s presence and favor.

Through these actions, the Baptists managed to attack most of the underpinnings of colonial order. They denied the authority of the Crown to direct the moral life of the community through the Church of England, as well as the right of the Crown to legitimate religious leadership.

The Separate Baptists did not insist that education should be a prerequisite for ordination. They were scornful of traditional prerequisites for spiritual leadership and did their best to repudiate all traditional forms. The New Light Baptists taught there were three distinguishing characteristics of the true Christian.

(1) A personal religious experience of overpowering emotions rooted in a specific time and place.  So powerful were the emotions released at Separate Baptists meetings that they were often characterized by seizures, convulsions, and uncontrollable weeping.

(2) The immersion in living water of adults who professed faith in Christ Jesus.

(3) Submission to the authority of the church to scrutinize carefully the personal as well as public life of each Christian.

Within four years of their settling in North Carolina, the Separate Baptists had converted enough people to enable six churches to form an association on New Light principles.

SOURCE: Religion in the Old South by Donald G. Matthews © 1977; The University of Chicago Press; Chicago, IL; pp. 22-24.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Yeshua’s Values or Paul’s Secret Gospel?

Yeshua required his disciples to do things, not believe things. What kind of things did Yeshua want his disciples to do?

(1) Learn – The word “disciple” comes from the Latin word discere which means "to learn." The educational model in Yeshua’s movement involves being engaged in face-to-face interactive discussions. Yeshua would have been much more interested in the quality of a disciple’s questions than answers.

(2) Time-Tested Values – Yeshua didn’t use the word values, but that is the best word in our language, in my opinion, that describes what he taught. He lived in a world dominated by Late Second Temple Period Israelite culture. It was not a democracy. There was no “separation of religion and politics.” Rabbinic Judaism didn’t exist. Yeshua didn’t focus on religious rituals or prayers. His teachings were about relationships: relationships of people to Yahweh & relationships of people with each other. The values he taught were about how to have those relationships. They fall into two categories: TZEDAQAH (righteousness) and MISHPAT (justice). They are introduced in the opening accounts of Genesis and are repeatedly taught throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. They are time-tested values.

(3) Eternal Life Based on Actions – Matthew 25:31-46 records Yeshua’s “Salvation Message,” meaning how to have eternal life. According to Yeshua, those who do TZEDAQAH (the righteous) will enter eternal life. What did they do? They fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick, etc. They did what Isaiah taught in chapter 58, Ezekiel taught in chapter 34, and many other places in his Scriptures. For the Creator, taking care of human life was his top priority and that was the top priority of Yeshua too.

(4) Religious rituals are useless without TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT – This is another theme that appears in Yeshua’s teachings, a theme that is also repeated throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Cain and Abel were involved in a religious ritual and that led to the first murder. The people in Isaiah 58 were involved in religious rituals – fasting and prayer -- while at the same time ignoring the living conditions of those around them. Without acts of TZEDAQAH, their rituals and prayers were ignored.

Paul taught a Gospel that he claimed he had been chosen -- before he was born -- to deliver to mankind. He made it clear that Yeshua didn’t teach it and Yeshua’s apostles didn’t know it. It was a Gospel of Glorification.

(1) Glorification -- A mysterious process by which people with flesh and blood living or resurrected bodies will be transformed into Spirit-Beings with glorious spiritual bodies and become spirit-beings with citizenships in heaven, where they will live forever.

(2) God foreknew and predetermined those who will be glorified. -- God foreknew and predetermined those who will be glorified to share the likeness of the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brothers (Romans 8:29-30).

(3) Paul’s Gospel required for Glorification -- God will call those he predetermined to be glorified through Paul as he proclaims his Gospel.

(4) Righteousness by answering Paul’s call. -- God will justify (make righteous) those who answer Paul’s call. It is a mystical experience done to a believer.

(5) At some unknown date in the future God will glorify the justified. – This will take place when Christ descends from heaven. The dead in Christ will rise along with the justified that are alive. They will all be caught up together in the clouds and experience, simultaneously, a transforming immortalization and receive their new glorified spiritual bodies.

(6) The justified will go to heaven. -- The glorified will then be taken to heaven where they will live with God forever. Nothing is said about everyone else or what happens on earth.

Later Christians removed the “foreknew and predetermined” part of Paul’s message and replaced it with things like freewill, church membership, correct beliefs, having an emotional experience, etc. Today, there are thousands of Christian denominations, many more independent churches and even more individualized Christians who have Buffet Belief Systems (they pick and choose what they want from other Belief Systems and create their own) – and obviously they do not agree on what to believe.

We have had almost 2000 years of Christian religions based on modified versions of Paul’s Gospel that produced crusades, inquisitions, endless protests, heated conflicts and church splits over beliefs. Needless to say, if Christians had followed the teachings of Yeshua and adopted his values which place the protection and preservation of human firstthose things would not have taken place. So why is Paul’s Gospel still so popular?

(1) Most Christians aren’t aware of the histories of their religion or Values of Yeshua.

(2) No church that I know of teaches Yeshua’s Values Message as their Salvation Message.

(3) Paul’s Gospel is easy! A person doesn’t have to do anything but “believe” to go to heaven.

Of course, the serpent in the Garden of Eden persuaded Eve and Adam that all they had to do to become like God was take a bite of a piece of fruit!

What does Yahweh care about? It is you and your life, and the lives of everyone else. What does he want people to do? Based on what Yeshua taught, our conclusion is that he wants people to reveal his image through their words and actions in their daily lives by doing acts of righteousness and justice.

(1) If you consider this information important and would like to see much more like it, let us know by liking the “Real Yeshua Facebook Page” -- CLICK HERE.

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Jim Myers

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What kind of believer are you?

Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor's video -- What kind of believer are you? -- is a must see for every believer. Why are there so many conflicts between people who claim to be worshipers of the same God? Do you really think Jesus intended to create all of those different denominations of Christians who can't agree on what should be believed, much less work? They do not event teach what Jesus taught about how to enter eternal life? 

That old way of thinking -- and controlling Christians lives -- is changing rapidly in the information age. Christians of the future will demand transparency from their church leaders & each other, beginning with the origins of their belief systems. Rabbi Leynor's video addresses this in a way you have never heard at church -- but that is about to change. Churches of the future will make this a top priority -- if they want to grow and survive. 

View Rabbi Leynor's short video at --

We are in the process of setting up a new Facebook page for Christians who understand the importance of transparency, the importance of understanding the teachings of the Real Yeshua, and grasp the urgency of finding common ground to incorporate their values in real life. If you are interested in this and would like to be kept up to date on our activities and new information, please go to the Christians for TOV Facebook page and like it --