Forums Hebrew Christians, Messianic Jews “One For Israel” the Modern Doninists: The Talmud

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    • Brother Gilbert Joseph
        Post count: 87

        “One For Israel” the Modern Doninists: The Talmud

        It is rather sad that in our day we are seeing the rise of “Doninism” in which Jewish believers in Yeshua are attacking the Talmud and the Rabbinic tradition and opposing it to the written Torah and to Christianity. This is embodied in the group calling itself “One for Israel.” This group of Israeli Jewish believers in defending their beliefs that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah sets out to condemn the Talmud as a source of Torah knowledge and learning. This is actually an evangelical Protestant approach and rhetoric in which they would also pit the New Testament against the Oral Tradition of the Church. Catholics need to be cautious that they don’t get sucked into this thinking and become anti-Semites and anti-Judaism.

        Nicolas Donin was a Jew of the 13th century who denied the Jewish Rabbinic Tradition and only accepted the written Torah. He was excommunicated from the Jewish community by Rabbi Yechiel of Paris. He and some of his followers then launched an attack on the orthodox Jewish community by appealing to the Pope and the Catholic Church to condemn the Talmud. Some accounts claim that Donin was a Franciscan Friar, others that he became a Dominican Friar, whereas Robert Chazzan believes that Donin and his circle were not converts to the Church.

        At first the Church authorities accepted this anti-Talmudic proposition of the Doninists and began an investigation. However, the Pope then later withdrew from the earlier condemnations but the damage had been already done which led to the civil authorities burning the Talmud and banning it. This whipping up of hatred and lies about the Talmud misled many devout Christians into an anti-Talmudic and more anti-Jewish attitude which sadly increased over the next few centuries. However, it would seem that the Church while condemning certain blasphemous interpretations of some passages of the Talmud never accepted formally that the Talmud itself was heretical. The Pope of the time seems to have come to accept that the Jewish people could not adhere to their Jewish fidelity to the Torah without the aid of the Talmud once he reflected on the further investigation of these claims by the Doninists against the Talmud. (see Robert Chazzan, “The Condemnation of the Talmud Reconsidered (1239-1248)” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish ResearchVol. 55 (1988), pp. 11-30). Some later Popes even ordered and encouraged the printing of the Talmud and other Jewish literature. St Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619) one of the greatest but most neglected of the Doctors of the Church used the Talmud and other Jewish rabbinic literature in his explication of the Catholic Faith and Scripture.

        While it is true that some Rabbis have distorted and misused the Talmud in order to slander Jesus and Christians so are these modern day Doninists distorting the Talmud and its teaching. A classic anti-Semitic misuse of Talmud is about a child that is raped under a certain age is not considered as having lost their virgin status. This can sound terrible at a surface level until one realises it is talking about the rights of such a child for the purposes of marriage laws and contracts and that such a child retains fully their status as a virgin with an unbroken hymen in the same way as if she had had an accident with a stick that broke her hymen. It is not saying that such an immoral and wicked crime didn’t happen or that it is a lesser crime than the rape of a child over that age. It is referring to her dowry status in law.

        In the past in many cultures, including the Jewish, marriages were arranged and Jewish law regulated that by decreeing that a girl could only be betrothed (erusin) if she was over three years old. One needs to also know of the Jewish customs of betrothal (erusin) and marriage (nissuin). The two events were separated and in the betrothal stage the girl remained with her parents and did not have intercourse. It was only after the marriage ceremony and she moved to live in her husband’s home and only then if the girl or woman was mature enough sexually (reached menstruation or child bearing age) that intercourse was allowed. Jewish betrothal however could only be broken by death or a divorce. Thus if someone raped a betrothed girl over three then he was not only guilty of child abuse and rape but of violating a married woman. Her legal status is thus the same as if she was a woman who had had full fledged intercourse for the purposes of the law. This is in no way meaning that it is fine for her betrothed husband to have intercourse with her (he is probably a child too anyway). Others who are more knowledgeable of the Talmud and its legal tradition than I am could explain this better than I do. It is my understanding that the child bride could not move to the household of her husband (usually the house of her father-in-law) until she was over 9 years old (nissuin) and of course there would be no sexual relations until the girl was of child bearing age. However while the Talmud gives the age limits this does not mean that this was the age that most girls were betrothed and married. It has varied at different times and places. Thus it is very easy to take Sanhedrin 55b:7 and Yetuvot 11b out of context if one doesn’t know the background or what kind of discussion it is. Is it a criminal law, financial, religious/moral or aggadic/mystical discussion?

        The Rabbinic Tradition does not accept every opinion recorded in the Talmud but only the consensus in much the same way as the Catholic Church accepts the consensus of the Fathers of the Church on certain teachings. In fact the Talmud gives the differing opinions on different sides to an issue which then may help to clarify an issue in a deeper manner.

        One must also realise that Jews love to use hyperbole in order to make and stress a point as did Jesus and St Paul in the New Testament.The Rabbis of the Talmud use the same approach. If one tries to interpret this in a literalistic manner they will totally distort the intention and meaning. Did Jesus really mean to chop one’s hand off or to hate one’s parents? Did St Paul really want someone to castrate themselves? No this was the use of Jewish hyperbole. Just as the Church Fathers represented the beliefs, science and prejudices of their time so did the Talmudic Rabbis or Fathers.

        With the advent of St Lawrence of Brindisi and his Biblical based explication of Scripture and the Catholic Faith by the use of the Church and Jewish Fathers a new understanding is possible and this new direction in the Church has now had papal approval when St Lawrence was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959. Those of us who are Jewish believers need to listen to the Church’s documents on evangelisation in regard to Jews and not get carried away with our own agendas and enthusiasms. While we can dialogue with and support those Messianic Jews who treasure both their faith in Yeshua as the Messiah and respect the Jewish Rabbinic tradition, we must be cautious with those that use arguments against Jewish tradition in the same manner as they use arguments against Catholic Tradition. Of course these groups do give some good arguments and ideas in defense of the Messiah Yeshua in Scripture especially drawing on their knowledge of Hebrew as Israelis which we can agree with and we can agree with their disagreements with those Rabbis who are distorting the Oral Torah in order to downgrade women and others groups such as Christians. However we must be careful to not put all the Rabbis in the same boat and to thus destroy the authentic and the good in the Jewish traditions and writings.

      • David Moss
          Post count: 38

          Excellent, Br.Gilbert.

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