TAAM: Torah Answers for Anti-Missionaries

This page deals with Torah Answers in the category:

Myths that Muddy the Waters : About Yeshua & His Apostles

(Last Update:  16-oct-13 )

This page deals with objections to teachings of Yeshua or the rest of the New Testament (about Himself, Torah and G-d).  For objections to Yeshua as Messiah, or faith in Him, based on arguments from Torah and Jewish tradition, see Objections & Questions : from Anti-missionaries.


1. "Jesus required renouncing the Jewish faith and abandoning Torah, and told people to follow him instead."
2. "Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable."
3. "I read the teaching about divorce in Matthew 5, and it looks to me like Yeshua is directly contradicting Torah."
4. "Where are we commanded in the Torah to 'love your neighbor and hate your enemy'?"
5. "What about those outright pagan statements like 'DRINK MY BLOOD AND EAT MY FLESH'?  Cannibalism is not Jewish!"
6. "Matthew has Jesus saying he would divide families. No teaching in Judaism says Mashiach will turn families against themselves."
7. "The NT teaches that Jesus is G-d, therefore embracing Jesus is idolatry."
8. "The New Testament repeatedly misquotes verses from the Tanach."
9. "The NT called Jesus 'the Lamb of G-d which takes away the sin of the world,' referring to the Passover Lamb. The Passover lamb did NOT take away sin."
10. "Matthew says Jesus 'lived in Nazareth... to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene".' There is no such prophecy."
11. "There is a really big problem in the geneology of Jesus - Matthew says one thing and Luke says something else."
12. "It is claimed that Yeshua's adoptive father Joseph gave him the right to David's throne. Since when does adoption bestow lineage on a Jewish boy?"
13. "If Yeshua's 'birth-father' was G-d, then he could not trace his tribal lineage through Yehudah."
14. "How could Jesus say he is 'Lord of the Sabbath'? The argument he puts forth seems to be breaking the Shabbat."

1. "Jesus required renouncing the Jewish faith and abandoning Torah, and told people to follow him instead." 


Those who have read Yeshua's words for themselves know that He never taught any such thing.  And although the anti-missionary writing this didn't mention the disciples, we will show that they likewise never taught any such thing. But because of the 2000 years that have passed since then, a short historical review is necessary.

Requiring Jewish disciples to abandon Torah is a teaching that developed in the Christian church after its leaders in Jerusalem ceased to be "from the circumcision" (around 135 CE - ie, the Bar Kochba revolt). Under Gentile leadership, it has historically tried to "prove" that the Jewish faith is wrong, and that Jews should convert to the newer, superior belief system under the authority of Gentiles (or Gentilized Jews). The history of church-synagogue relations for many generations has influenced the Jewish people with this warped understanding of the teachings and example of Yeshua and His apostles.

But the switch didn't come easily; the anti-Torah faction in the Church had to issue a series of decrees forbidding Torah observance and imposing excommunication on the dissenters, in a doctrinal battle that lasted more than 100 years. For a quick view, compare the words of the church father Irenaeus (186 CE) who defended Torah observance for Jewish disciples (Against Heresies III:12:15) as against the creed of the Council of Laodicea (364 CE) which declared (canon 29) their disciples must work on Shabbat or be "anathema" (accursed), and prohibited participating in the Jewish feasts (canon 37), particularly unleavened bread for Passover (canon 38). This produced a split between the western and eastern churches. When the latter group continued to support Jewish observance together with their Jewish brethren, the bishop Chrystotom (387 CE) harshly denounced them (Adversos Judaeos, often assumed to be an attack on the Jews but actually directed at the Jewish Christians).

By the late 500s CE, Pope Gregory I was condemning Jewish-Christian Shabbat observance as a spirit of "antichrist", quoting Yeshua's own words in Luke 13:15 for his support (ironically, Yeshua's argument for showing mercy on Shabbat by using rabbinic precedents). The notorious Spanish Inquisition (1480-1530), also perceived as an attack on the Jews, was established in order to purge the church of "crypto-Jews", Jewish converts who still followed Torah commands. Jews who refused to convert to Christianity were forcibly expelled, whereas "conversos" were "examined" under torture for signs of Jewish "heresy", and those found guilty were publicly executed (not only in Spain, but also in Sicily, Mexico and South America). The lesser-known Portuguese Inquisition focused almost exclusively on Jewish Christians, hunting them from Brazil to India.

The rejection of Torah obligations being incumbent on Jews "forever" continues to be taught in the Catholic Church and many other churches, and even among some Messianic Jews.  Those Jewish followers of Yeshua who honor the Torah with their statements (and perhaps a few ceremonial props), but do not practice the Torah commands given by G-d as signs to Israel, are compounding the confusion for Jewish onlookers.  The gap between lip-service and conduct gives rise to the accusation that the Jewish disciples of Yeshua are simply "Christians dressed in Jewish costume".  However, this impression is unfairly extended to disciples of Yeshua who have been faithfully keeping the Torah precepts from heartfelt conviction before G-d that this is a "covenant for all your generations".  Rabbinic paranoia about "crypto-Christians" hiding in the Torah community results in occasional "inquisitions" to identify anyone who is considering Yeshua's Messianic claims, and (if they can't be "deprogrammed") to expel them from the Jewish world.

Whenever a Jew is taught to abandon or marginalize any of the Torah Covenants (there are at least two presented in Torah), he/she is being taught something foreign to the New Testament.  Anyone who teaches that parts of the Law of Moses were annulled is directly opposing Yeshua's teaching, and will be given a low rank in the Messiah's kingdom: 

Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Torah until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. - Matt.5:17-19

Sometimes translated as the "Law and the Prophets", this phrase refers to the commands given to the participants in the Sinai Covenant, including the "signs" of those who belong to that Covenant. These were given in Torah and confirmed in the Prophets, foremost among them male circumcision (Lev.12:3, Josh.5:7-9), Shabbat observance (Exod.31:13, Ezek.20:12) and dietary laws (Lev.11:43-45, Hosea 9:1-4). 

In light of this global statement by Yeshua, the next verse implies that the conduct of the scribes and Pharisees (the forerunners of the rabbinic system) did not "keep and teach" the commandments, and that their standard of righteousness was not even minimally acceptable:

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not ENTER the kingdom of heaven. - v.20

Nevertheless, He taught His disciples to observe the oral laws that these Jewish leaders handed down, while being careful not to imitate their conduct:

Then Yeshua spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. - Matt.23:1-3

The "chair of Moses" refers to the administering of Oral Law (Torah sheh ba'al peh), that is, interpretations and directives for Jewish life based on commands in the Written Law. 

The apostles of Yeshua - including Paul - taught their Jewish disciples to obey this entire body of Law (summarized under the shorthand description of "circumcision", such as in Gal.5:3).  They also were careful to honor the "customs" that were passed down to the people of Israel (Acts 21:21, 28:17).  When the rumor began that they were teaching their disciples to abandon these, the New Testament writer reported it as a malicious lie (Acts 6:13-14). Paul in particular was a victim of this rumor (Acts 21:21-24), and he was asked by the other apostles to demonstrate that "you walk in an orderly manner, keeping the Torah" by observing a provision found only in Oral Torah (Num.6 does not allow for someone else to finance a Nazirite's sacrifice, or to join him in its conclusion).

Therefore we have to distinguish between the "Law and customs" as opposed to the "teaching and traditions" formulated by the scribes and Pharisees, which Yeshua condemned because they were in opposition to G-d's word (the written Torah) and/or they defiled pure obedience to G-d (Matt.15:1-20 and Matt.16:1-12). True faithfulness to Torah places obedience to G-d above obedience to men (Acts 5:29).

Due to all the above history, Jewish disciples of Yeshua today who stay faithful to Torah will often trigger antagonism and even curses from both Jewish and Christian sources.   Antagonistic Christians resent the conditional obedience to their (church) authority, while antagonistic Jews resent the conditional obedience to their (rabbinic) authority.  The opposition has nothing to do with either Christians defending Jesus or Jews defending Torah. It's pressure to submit to a human system of control.


2. "Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable. (see John 1:45 and 9:16, Acts 3:22 and 7:37)" [from "Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus", Rabbi Shraga Simmons, Aish Ha-Torah website]


The clear statements of the New Testament mentioned in the previous entry should already put to rest any such notion. What is interesting in this particular objection is that the first and third examples given here actually state the opposite: that Torah and its commandments are not only "applicable" but are the JUSTIFICATION for accepting Yeshua as Messiah:

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." - Jn.1:45

Moses said, 'THE L-RD G-D WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. - Acts 3:22-24

Acts 7, the source for the fourth example, goes one step farther, using the Torah to show how often G-d's messengers were rejected. The verse cited here is part of a testimony not only validating Torah commands from Sinai as "living oracles", but even supporting rabbinic teaching that G-d gave Moshe the Torah through an angelic mediator. On the other hand, this testimony debunks another rabbinic teaching, using the Torah account to remind us that Israel did NOT honor Moses as is generally claimed:

This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, 'G-D WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.' This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.... - Acts 7:37-39

The second example is the most complex, and actually demonstrates the rabbinic sophistication of Yeshua's Shabbat observance. We will therefore analyze it in greater detail, with rabbinic commentary for context:

Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." - Jn.9:16

Why only "some" of the Pharisees?  The context was a dispute about whether a prophetic sign had taken place, and how that would affect their judgment of Yeshua's act.  The Torah implications are extremely interesting. First, here are both sides of the Pharisaic dispute (our emphasis added):

They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, "He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see." Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath "
But others were saying,
"How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again, "What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?" And he said, "He is a prophet."
- Jn.9:13-17

Identifying Yeshua as a prophet in this incident is an implied reference to the rabbinic principle known as "hora'ah la-sha'ah" (literally, "directive for the hour"). This principle acknowledges that for a prophet, being sent by direct order from G-d to do a specific sign carries a greater authority than everyday Torah commands. At such a time, the obstructing Torah command must be considered temporarily suspended ("for the hour") until the prophet could carry out the Divine command.

This reasoning justifies various Torah commands that were violated by those performing G-d's will. For example:
-- Moses making a bronze serpent, despite the prohibition against making
"a graven image in the form of any figure...the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground" (Deut.4:16-18).
-- Elijah offering a burnt offering on Mount Carmel, in spite of the command to only offer these "in the place which the L-rd chooses in one of your tribes [ie, the altar in Jerusalem]" (Deut.12:13-14).
-- Ahimelech the priest feeding David with the holy Bread of the Presence, which was reserved for the priests only (I Sam.21:6, compared with Lev.24:9).
-- Mordechai telling Esther not to reveal that she was Jewish (Est.2:10), which presumably prevented her from keeping many Torah commands in the Persian king's palace. This also violated the Torah command not to give daughters of Israel in marriage to pagan men (Deut.7:3).

In these and other cases, it is assumed by Jewish teachers that G-d had instructed His servants to set aside Torah commands that were usually required, because something greater was at stake, or because the act itself contained an important message to His people. This was at the heart of the "division" over Yeshua - it appeared that a notable "sign" had been performed, which justified His decision to set aside a rabbinic (oral Torah) command.

Even without prophetic authority, rabbinic teaching has always recognized that Shabbat laws can be overridden by physical danger. While some Pharisees allowed only for "pikuach nefesh" (danger to life), later rabbinic law became more lenient concerning health issues that were not dangerous: for example, a fire could be lit on Shabbat for the comfort of a woman who had given birth within the last few days. There were further distinctions made between explicit Torah prohibitions (dereita) and rabbinic derivatives (derabbanan): derabbanan violations to help a bedridden patient could be done by a Jew "with a shinui" (making a change from the everyday way of doing it).  This resulted in at least one opinion (recorded in Shulchan Arukh) that cures violating "derabbanan" commands could be applied to vital body parts that were not in danger, by means of a "shinui". (Where danger was perceived, even "dereita" commands could be violated.)  

What is relevant at the moment is that eye problems were considered more urgent than other ailments, even where no permanent danger existed; the Talmud records agreement about putting salve on one's eyes during Shabbat, to fight the onset of an infection. Unlike the debate over being bedridden, there was no requirement that the eye patient had to be in pain or unable to move.  The implication was that a threat to the function of the eyes was considered to be at least as important as the threat to a limb. (Go here for the sources, mainly Shabbat 129a and Beitzah 22a.)

The Pharisaic debate was over a Shabbat incident, in which Yeshua made clay by spitting into the dirt, and then mixing it into mud and putting it on the man's eyes. The violation was either in the mud-making, which constituted "kneading" on Shabbat (one of the 39 rabbinically derived categories of forbidden work), or in performing a cure when there was no danger to life.  Assuming for the moment that G-d did not specifically command Yeshua to do that as part of a prophetic sign, we can argue that since kneading is a rabbinically defined "melachah" rather than explicit Torah, and making clay is one step further removed from kneading bread, His act was two levels weaker than "dereita".  Certainly such a marginal prohibition might be set aside to cure someone of lifelong blindness (clearly more debilitating than being temporarily bedridden or having a simple eye infection).

Add to this the fact that water is normally used to make clay from dirt: Yeshua's substitution of saliva can be viewed as a deliberate "shinui", in recognition of the sanctity of Shabbat even in performing a marginal violation. (Other than this, there is actually no rational explanation for using spit.)

With all that said, Yeshua hints at the prophetic nature of His act, implying "hora'ah la-sha'ah" that should have made the above discussion unnecessary.  He declares beforehand that "the works of G-d" were about to be displayed in this blind man (Jn.9:3-4); and He states afterward that the entire incident was spiritually symbolic. ("For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." - Jn.9:39) Both are typical characteristics of a prophetic act, as we can confirm in our review (above) of the actions of other prophets recorded in Tanach.

However, we know that false prophets can do signs as well.  The test is whether they use that power to turn people away from the God of Israel (Deut.13:1-2). When the healed man was examined on this point, he gave the credit to G-d: "We know that G-d does not hear sinners, but if anyone is G-d-fearing and does His will, He hears him... If this man were not from G-d, he could do nothing." (v.31,33)  Thus the Torah test results indicated a true prophet, but those who claimed to see the light of Torah "became blind" (turned away from Torah) at that point. This became sin in them (v.40-41).


3. "I read the teaching about divorce in Matthew 5, and it looks to me like Yeshua is directly contradicting Torah. The statement in Matt. 19 that Moshe allowed divorce because of hard hearts, "but it was not this way from the beginning" - where is the Torah source for that? 
Anyway, it was G-d, not Moshe, who gave the Torah, including these explicit commands for how to go about divorcing a wife: '...then let him write her a bill of divorce, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.'  (Devarim 24: 1)"


Yeshua's teaching, referred to here, is:

It was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; but I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. - Matthew 5: 31

The Torah referred to is Deuteronomy 24:1, which our questioner has presented as Divine instructions on how to carry out a divorce.  This is a misquote of Torah.

In reality, the passage is neither a command nor a permission concerning divorce; it is instruction on what is (or is not) permitted AFTER a divorce. The entire passage reads:

When a man takes a wife and becomes her husband, and it happens that she does not find favor in his sight, because he found in her some indecent thing, and he wrote her a bill of divorce, and gave it in her hand, and sent her out of his house; and she has gone out of his house, and has gone to belong to another man; and the last man hated her and wrote her a bill of divorce and gave it in her hand and sent her out of his house, or if the last man who took her as a wife dies: her first husband who sent her out cannot return and take her to be a wife to him after she has been defiled.  For it is an abomination before G-d, and you shall not cause the land to sin which the L-rd your God is giving you as an inheritance. - Deut.24:1-4, translated from the Hebrew

Already in Yeshua's day this passage had been "edited" and was taught as instruction concerning divorce.  This is why Yeshua specifies, "It was said..." and not "It is written..." When the Pharisees challenged Yeshua on His teaching against divorce (repeated in Matt. 19), they promoted the same misreading of Torah as our responder:

They said to Him, "Why then did Moses COMMAND to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses PERMITTED you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. - Matt.19:7-8

Yeshua was correcting the misuse of Torah to excuse casual divorce, a rationalization which exists to this day.  His statement about Moshe's reluctance to permit divorce is supported by the fact that there is no "dereita" (written Torah) permission to divorce, much less a "command".  All Torah passages refer to divorce after the fact.  The only exception was in Ezra's day, when the returning exiles were commanded to divorce their foreign wives (unlike Ruth the Moabite or Rahab the Canaanite, who were welcomed into the nation, these women must have insisted on remaining "foreign", refusing to embrace Israel's G-d). This did not justify divorcing Jewish wives, as Malachi made clear (Mal.2:15-16).

The Pharisees did not ask Yeshua for His Torah source concerning the absence of divorce as an option "from the beginning", because He had supplied it already:

Some Pharisees came to Yeshua, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?"
And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore G-d has joined together, let no man separate."
- Matt.19:3-6

Matthew comments that these challengers were testing Yeshua, because He had not taught that divorce was unlawful under any circumstances (see Matt.5:32 quoted above). On the other hand, He challenged the implied accusation of His harshness, by pointing out Torah's "dereita" portrayal of marriage as an irreversible union (quoting Genesis 2:24).  Messiah's stringent position against divorce is confirmed by G-d's own declaration, made in the strongest terms (Malachi 2:13-16). To put it bluntly, G-d hates divorce among His people, He regards it as betrayal of a covenant, and He will even reject a man's offering because of it.

Yeshua's one allowance for divorce (unfaithfulness by the wife) is repeated in Matt.19:9, in answer to those who asked if there were "any reason at all". This exception also has Tanach support, derived from G-d's metaphorical "divorce" of Israel as an adulteress (Isaiah 50:1, Jer.3:8), although even there, the wronged Husband is willing to take back His unfaithful wife if she will only repent. 


4. "Where are we commanded in the Torah to 'love your neighbor and hate your enemy' (Matt. 5: 43)?   I've never heard this teaching in Judaism. I only know about 'loving your neighbor as yourself' (Lev. 19: 18)."


There is indeed no Torah command to hate our enemies, and that is why Yeshua begins His quote with: "You have heard that it was said..."

He was presumably referring to rabbinic teachings that make a distinction between those in the category of "neighbor" or "brother" - those who merit inclusion in "love your neighbor as yourself", as opposed to others whom Israel is not obligated to love.  In some cases, there is even justification presented to show hatred toward certain people (usually quoting Ps. 139:21: "Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You?")

The hate-worthy groups were identified in Avot de Rabbi Natan (version A, §16): “But hate the sectarians, apostates, and informers... if he acts as your people do, thou shalt love him; but if not,thou shalt not love him.”  (quoted by Dr. David Flusser & Azzan Yadin, Judaism of the Second Temple Period, p.52)  Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:5 includes "those who separate themselves from the community"  as also being worthy of hatred, which can be a broad category depending on how one defines these terms.

According to Flusser/Yadin, the Pharisees of Yeshua's day considered both the Essenes and the Sadducees objects of hatred because of their refusal to accept Pharisaic community norms.  Ironically, the Pharisees themselves were called "perushim" or "separatists" by others. That the hatred was presented as "Torah" is evidenced by the so-called "Birkat Ha-Minim", a 19th "blessing" added to the "18 Benedictions" of the daily prayer by the rabbis at Yavne, which pronounced a curse on various groups.  Scholars believe that Birkat Ha-Minim was originally composed by one group for use against all dissenting groups in second-Temple Judaism (of which there were many).  But wiith the Temple's destruction and the rise of rabbinic Judaism, the curse was revised to explicitly name the "Notzrim", the followers of Yeshua, in addition to the "minim", the heretics. (Go here for this version, found in the Cairo Geniza.)

According to the above rabbinic teachings, Yeshua's disciples should have merited love, for they had not separated themselves from the Torah community.  On the contrary, they were so much a part of the community, and the rabbinic establishment so badly wanted to eject them, that Birkat Ha-Minim was used as a test to flush them out (any Shaliach Tzibbur refusing to pray the curse was automatically excommunicated from the synagogues).   Later versions changed the key word to "Minim" (sectarians) and still later to "Malshinim" (slanderers), but the curse continues to bear the name "Birkat Ha-Minim" to this day.  Rabbinic commentary, such as Darchei Teshuva (Yoreh Deah 155:9), records that the word "MIN" was chosen as an acronym for "Mitalmidei Yeshu HaNotzri" ("those of the disciples of Yeshua the Nazarene").

Yeshua's observation about a prevailing teaching to hate one's "enemies" was confirmed by the brutal infighting of that period of Jewish history, even during the siege of Jerusalem.  Our rabbinic sages have always taught that the second Temple was destroyed because we were guilty of "causeless hatred".  (For some rabbinic sources, go here.)

The recommended rabbinic reversal of that sin is "causeless (unconditional) love", which is (belatedly) an acceptance of the corrected Torah taught by Yeshua:

You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you... (Matt.5:43-44)

Yeshua's teaching is even more interesting, since in the Torah command (Lev.19:18), "you shall love your neighbor" (åàäáú ìøòê ëîåê), the Hebrew word for "your neighbor" can also be understood as "he who is evil to you". We can consider this a revealed alternate reading of the Torah, which from a Jewish standpoint does not destroy the original meaning but is part of the intentional ambiguity built into G-d's word.


5. "Those things attributed to Yeshua that were Jewish in origin, he probably said. But those outright pagan statements like DRINK MY BLOOD AND EAT MY FLESH were probably added by Church fathers.  Cannibalism is a pagan, not a Jewish, ritual!"


This claim doesn't make sense, since there is no record of cannibalism in Roman society, which birthed the Catholic Church and formulated the New Testament canon.  But what are we to make of Yeshua's controversial teaching?   Here is the actual passage:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. - John 6:53-57

Many of Yeshua's Jewish listeners found this to be "a hard saying, who can listen to it?" (v.60)  They were missing an important key.

Yeshua often used physical, visible things as vehicles to teach about spiritual, invisible realities.  When He spoke to Nicodemus about being "born again", this rabbi had the wisdom to bypass the "pshat" meaning -- an old man cannot return to his mother's womb (John 3:4). Yeshua confirmed that this was not "pshat" teaching, by pointing out (v.6) the gap between "flesh" (earthly things) and "spirit" (heavenly things).  Likewise, when He said here, "eat My flesh and drink My blood", He also followed it with a reminder that His words are at the level of "spirit" and not "flesh" (Jn.6:63).

So we need to look past the literal, earthbound fleshly meaning of "drinking blood" to a spiritual application.  No doubt Yeshua's listeners were trying to do that, because they didn't complain that this saying was repulsive or against Torah -- they said it was too "hard".

What spiritual truth can we learn from physical blood? 

Well, nourishment of the body is certainly one of its life-giving activities.  As modern biology has proven, the body cells quite literally "eat" the nutrients brought by the blood and "drink" the water it carries (which is 70 percent of all cell matter). This activity is nonstop, powered by the unceasing circulation of the blood through the body from a person's birth (and even before).  Every cell depends on that nonstop supply.  Any cell or organ that is removed from the body, or loses access to this food and drink by a loss of blood circulation, will die in a very short time.  A body that loses too much of its blood will die altogether.

Now let's examine the Torah teaching that drinking blood is forbidden.  Because the blood is identified with the life of a creature (Lev.17:14, Deut.12:23), the message is that blood is created to give life ONLY to its own body - from within that creature.  If another creature tries to appropriate that life, he/it can only do it from the outside. 

A man might slaughter a creature and eat its blood with the meat, which is an abomination to G-d.  Or another creature might attack it and devour its blood with the meat, which characterizes many "unclean" animals and birds that Jews are forbidden to eat.  As for the option of drawing off blood while the creature continues living, this is the way of a vampire (demonic creature of the night) or a leech, tick, mosquito, etc (disease-carrying parasite).  Even on a physical level, we see that none of these blood-feeders can absorb "the life" that is in the blood; once it's ingested, the blood becomes just another kind of food that decomposes in the digestive tract.  On a symbolic level, we are repelled by such creatures, and the term "bloodsucker" is a nasty name.

In short, the only pure way for you to drink blood is through your cells and organs, which naturally receive your own blood and the life it carries throughout your body. 

We know that the Torah given to Moshe was an earthly reproduction of a Heavenly Torah, which the sages say was written not on stone, but with "black fire engraved on white fire" (Midrash Rabbah - Devarim 3:12, Talmud Yerushalmi - Shekalim 1:1).  So this teaching about "the Life in the Blood" originally had a Heavenly (spiritual) meaning.

Putting all this together, we discover a deep truth:  The only pure way to receive the Life of G-d that Messiah brings is to "drink" it from INSIDE, as part of His spiritual Body. This Life cannot be accessed outside of Him; that would make us spiritual "bloodsuckers", a practice that is repulsive to G-d. 

That is why Yeshua didn't explain how He expected people to "drink My blood".  He only said, "No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." (Jn.6:65)  Those who could only conceive of "drinking His blood" from the outside were clearly not part of Him. Those who did come to Him would absorb His Life on a moment-by-moment basis: "he...abides in Me, and I in him." (v.56)  And whether they understood this difficult saying or not, those who were following Him knew they would not receive Life anywhere else (Jn.6:67-68).

In conclusion, there is no better physical symbol than blood to describe how Messiah's disciples receive their spiritual life from Him on an ongoing basis. In the spiritual realm, the Life that is circulated throughout the Body of Messiah is the Life of G-d that the Messiah supplies to each individual, drawn from the Father's limitless, eternal Life.  Being cut off from His Life even for a short time would result in spiritual "cell death".

Just as our cells live continually in us, and we inhabit our bodies, those who belong to Messiah live in G-d, and the Spirit of G-d inhabits us.  The idea of G-d living in us is not a Christian idea, but a Torah promise that is simply confirmed in the New Testament (Exod.29:45-45, Lev.26:11, I Kings 6:13, Ezek.43:7, 2 Corinthians 6:16).  The idea of us living in G-d is also a Torah concept (Isa.8:14, Ps.31:20, Ps.90:1, Ps.91:9), which gave rise to a rabbinic name for G-d, "Ha-Makom" (literally, the Place). 

With Yeshua's source of Life being in G-d (Jn.6:57, quoted above), this ensures that our feeding from Him does not become idolatry.


6. "Matt. 10:34 has Jesus saying: 'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn "a man against his father..."'
When Mashiach comes, there will be world peace and Eliyahu will return the hearts of the fathers to their children, etc. (Isaiah 11, Malachi 3: 22-24).   I am not familiar with a teaching in Torah or Judaism that says Mashiach will bring a sword, turning families against themselves."


The coming of Messiah will bring world peace, IF He is received.  If He is not received, He cannot help but cause division, for some will receive Him, even if most do not.  This is confirmed by our own sages, who agreed that both roles would be fulfilled. They also taught that the rejection and division would have to come before the acceptance (see the relevant rabbinic comments here). 

Yeshua was referring to the days foreseen by the prophet Micah, in which the land would be filled with unfaithfulness:

For son treats father contemptuously, Daughter rises up against her mother,  Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man's enemies are the men of his own household. - Micah 7:6

The Mishna also quotes this passage and describes in the most unflattering terms the spiritual conditions in the days when the Righteous King of Israel would be revealed.  In quoting Micah, Yeshua was applying this rabbinic prediction to His own generation.

By saying that He had "come to bring a sword", Yeshua was going one step farther than what the Mishna would eventually record; He would not merely witness the enmity within these lawless families, He would actually cause it by virtue of His own faithfulness to Torah.

With all that said, the context for this verse in Malachi (4:1-6, 3:19-24 in Heb) not only says nothing at all about "world peace", as our anti-missionary friend supposed. On the contrary, it paints a picture of violent separation between the wicked and the righteous, "a day that comes burning like an oven... "and you will trample the wicked; they will be ash under your feet."


7. "The NT teaches that Jesus is G-d. Therefore, embracing Jesus is idolatry. Even if you call him by the Hebrew name 'Yeshua', he is still the Christian god."


This impression has been given to Jews because of a Christian tendency to teach "Jesus is G-d" in an unscriptural way.  They don't just see Him as bearing the Name and Nature of G-d and being equal with G-d (which are actually rabbinic Messianic concepts), but they talk about Him as though He replaced G-d - a notion which cannot be found even in the New Testament.  There are some Christian churches that go so far as to reject the Trinity in favor of one God who is "Jesus only", implying among other things that that there was no G-d in Heaven while Jesus was on earth.

The concept of Yeshua being the honored "begotten Son of G-d" is still a problem for many Jews.  But again, this is because the Torah concept of "Son of G-d" has been suppressed for generations.

Finally there is the widespread use of images in Christianity, which convey to Jews the idea of idol worship - statues and icons of Jesus and saints in Orthodox and Catholic worship; artistic portraits of Jesus in Protestant circles; Christians kneeling before a cross to pray.  To those Jews who point to this use of images as idolatry, we would point out that many Hassidim and Israelis from Middle Eastern countries display images of their favorite Tsaddikim, which are often stylized or gilded portraits just like Christian icons, yet the Jewish community does not accuse them of idolatry.


8. "The New Testament repeatedly misquotes verses from the Tanach. Just a quick check of the Masoretic Hebrew text shows that the NT writers didn't know their Jewish Bible very well. Sometimes even the books where the quotes are located are wrong. "


This criticism is based on a lack of knowledge about how the Masoretic text came into existence, and about the Tanach in Second Temple days. The ignorance is compounded by a childlike trust in a community that doesn't really know THEIR Jewish Bible or how it evolved into the version we have today.

It has been long argued that without a functioning knowledge of Tanach Hebrew, one cannot completely grasp the message(s) of the Scriptures, and erroneous readings can result. This is certainly true; the Hebrew has built-in ambiguity that cannot be captured by translations.  Of course, many Jews today cannot read the Hebrew of the Masoretic text, which puts them in the same predicament as many non-Jews. 

The inquiring Jew who wants to know exactly what the Hebrew of a Tanach verse says, who lacks a working knowledge of biblical Hebrew, and who implicitly trusts in the "unbroken chain of Torah teaching" safeguarded by the rabbinic establishment, must rely on the Tanach translation(s) offered by the rabbinic community.  And here we have an embarrassing dilemma: Many rabbis have never studied the Prophets in a direct manner, by reading the Hebrew straight from the Tanach.

Another dilemma is that today's Masoretic text was not the only version of Torah and Prophets that our people possessed during our long history.  It is simply one variant chosen from a range of Tanach versions that were circulating during the time of the Masoretic scholars. Before the completion and distribution of "the" Masoretic text (roughly 9th century CE), a number of competing Tanach manuscripts were in circulation, which were favored by different rabbinic schools (including several Masoretic versions). Some of these are found in fragmented form among the Dead Sea Scrolls and date back to Second Temple times. A few even conflict in small ways with the variant eventually chosen by the Masoretes. For more details, go here.

The acceptance of variant manuscripts of Torah and Prophets in second Temple times sheds light on the NT quotes which are labelled "misquotes" because they differ slightly from our Masoretic text. Another variation, still evident in Talmudic times, was that the arrangement of the Tanach was not fixed. Not only was the book order different from ours (Isaiah was the last in the Nevi'im, and Ruth was first in the Ketuvim), but multiple Prophets were written on one scroll, for fear that the smaller books would be lost if written separately (see Bava Batra 14b). This fluidity in the grouping of the Prophets sheds light on NT references that cite a longer prophetic book when the quote was actually from a smaller one. For example, Matthew 27:9 locates Zech.11:12-13 in "Jeremiah", and Mark 1:2 quotes Mal.3:1 as coming from "Isaiah"; it's likely these were the prophets appearing first in the scrolls containing the quotes.

In short, it is reasonable to assume that Yeshua's disciples were conscientious in quoting the Torah or a Prophet accurately - according to the version favored by their Rabbi. Some of the NT quotes apparently came from the Septuagint as well; contrary to modern Jewish objections, in second Temple times this was an authoritative version of the Jewish Bible.


9. "According to the NT, John the Baptist called Jesus 'the Lamb of G-d which takes away the sin of the world,' referring to the Passover Lamb.   This shows how ignorant of Torah the New Testament writers were. The Passover lamb did NOT take away sin... not at the time of the Exodus or any time afterward."


The last statement is correct; the Pesach (Passover lamb) was not a sin offering.   But the error is not in the New Testament; it is on the part of the Christian/Messianic groups who have been teaching that John the Baptist and/or John the disciple (who quoted John the Baptist, Jn.1:29) had made such a connection. 

The fact is, a careful search through the Torah will reveal that no male lambs ("seh" or "kevess" in Hebrew) were identified as atoning for sin ("hatat"). You find bulls, goats, rams, female lambs, heifers, and turtledoves for sin offerings. A "kevess" was used for a "guilt offering" ("asham"), but it was only for a Nazirite, who actually hadn't sinned (Num.6:14), or for a leper who had recovered from his disease (Lev.14:10). In contrast, a male lamb ("seh" or "kevess") was designated for firstborn offerings, peace offerings, or whole burnt offerings; and the Pesach "seh" was allowed to be either a lamb or a goat.

There was, however, another lamb commanded by G-d in Torah, without explaining its purpose: the "continual burnt offering" ("olat tamid"), which was to be offered evening and morning every day.  Our sages passed down the oral teaching that the "tamid" was actually a sin offering for the nation (go here for a more detailed explanation).  Not only does this fit perfectly with John's proclamation as the Lamb that "takes away sin", but it makes sense that John the Baptist would have known about the Tamid's purpose, being the son of a priest (see Luke 1). This also explains Yeshua's prayer on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34), which applied His sacrifice to this huge national sin of ignorance.  

Yeshua's disciples understood that His death was foreshadowed by the lambs sacrificed repeatedly, evening and morning, which were nevertheless spoken of as though they were one continual offering ("olat ha-tamid").  This is the Torah source for the NT teaching that Messiah is a High Priest who "does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices... because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" (Hebrews 7:26-28). It's no coincidence that "once for all" easily translates into Hebrew as "achat l'tamid".  Incidently, the rabbis taught the same thing about Messiah's sacrifice. 


10. "Matthew 2:23 says Jesus 'lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene".' There is no such prophecy; the writer showed his ignorance of Tanach."


The "ignorance" morphs into sophisticated Tanach knowledge when we examine the Hebrew behind Matthew's statement, which connects with Messianic prophecies concerning "Netzer", the Branch, such as Isaiah 11:1-3. In addition, there are alternate readings of ðöøé that can be gained by shedding the "nikud" of the Masoretes.  See our explanation in "A Review of Jewish Commentary on the Messiah".


11. "There is a really big problem in the geneology of Jesus - Matthew says one thing and Luke says something else.  How can you trust the New Testament when it can even keep the man's family line straight?"


In general, divergence of New Testament details from the Tanach can be traced to the Septuagint (and its Hebrew source), which was widely used in second-Temple times, 800 years before the Masoretic text (the source of today's Hebrew Scriptures and their translations).  And for the record, even within the Masoretic text there are confusing geneologies: consider how I Chronicles presents the sons of "Hur, the firstborn of Ephrata". I Chron.2:50-51 names Shoval, Salma and Hareph; but 4:1-4 says Shoval was a son of Judah and gives a completely different list of sons for Hur; and the same two passages clash over who is "the father of Bethlehem".

But in the geneologies of Matthew and Luke, we have more complex and interesting situations which have their parallels in Tanach.

The geneology of Yeshua in Matthew 1 follows a second-Temple Jewish custom in skipping generations to make a point.  Matthew's decision to skip 4 generations in the line of the Davidic kings (between Jehoram and Uzziah - 1:8, and between Josiah and Jeconiah - 1:11) is similar to Ezra 7:1-5, which skips 6 generations in the priestly line of Aaron (compare I Chron.6:3-14, in Heb. ch.5:29-40).  In addition,  Jewish sources acknowledge multiplied "difficulties" in the Chronicles geneology of Aaron compared to other Tanach books, concluding that the writers were not trying to report a technically correct geneology, but rather to make a statement about the central role of the high priest Zadok: placing him midway between 12 generations from the erection of the Mishkan to the building of the first Temple, and 12 generations from then until the founding of the second Temple. This is remarkably similar to Matthew's emphasis on the symmetry of the generations in the line of Yeshua which marked historic milestones for the people of Israel.  

However, the generations that Matthew chose to leave out of Yeshua's geneology are not random just to make neat categories of 14 generations. The unacknowledged kings had something in common: curses pronounced by G-d.

First, we see 3 kings in a row missing: Joram (Jehoram) the son of Jehoshafat should have been followed by Azariah, Jehoash (Joash) and Amaziah. The line of Ahab king of Israel was cursed (1 Kings 21:21-22), and in 2 Kings 10:10 we read that "there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the L-RD which the L-RD spoke concerning the house of Ahab." But then the man who spoke those words, Jehu, proceeded (v.13-14) to put to death the brothers of Azariah, king of Judah as well! Why? We are told earlier (2 Kings 8:26) that Azariah's mother was "Ataliah the granddaughter of Omri", a roundabout way saying she was Ahab's daughter (see v.18, which plainly says that the wife of Azariah's father Jehoram was "the daughter of Ahab"). Ataliah turned out to be even more wicked than her parents, slaughtering her own grandchildren. It's significant that she saw them not as her own flesh and blood, but rather in spiritual terms as "the seed of the kingdom" (2 Kings 11:1). The only survivor was Joash, who was rescued by Jehosheba, "the daughter of King Yoram, sister of Azariah." The unfortunate fact that Jehosheba was Ataliah's daughter is avoided, as if to honor her by that roundabout identification. Why did the "sister of Azariah" receive such different treatment from "the brothers of Azariah"?  Because she had saved the seed of David.

Torah declares that G-d will keep track of iniquity "to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Deut.5:9-10). In acknowledgement of this truth, and in memory of Ataliah's wickedness in trying to destroy David's seed, Matthew made a point of erasing 3 generations of her descendants as unworthy to be named in the line of Messiah. By the same token, he took the trouble to name three righteous women who had preserved the line of Judah and David under unusually trying circumstances: Tamar the Canaanite who became a harlot and risked death to give Yehuda a descendant (Gen.38), Rahab of Jericho who committed treason against her own people to join Israel and their God (Josh.2 & 6), and Bathsheva the wife of Uriah who suffered for David's sin and later gave him Solomon (2 Sam.11 & 12).

The last missing generation in the geneology is the one after Josiah, which was Jehoahaz and his brother Jehoiakim (2 Chron.36).  Instead, Matthew writes that "Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers, about the time they were carried off to Babylon" (v.11). In the space of only 22-1/2 years following Josiah, Judah went through 4 kings (Jehoahaz, his brother Jehoiakim, Jehoiakim's son Jeconiah, and Jehoiakim's brother Zedekiah), all of whom went into captivity. So it was reasonable for Matthew to count them as one generation. But why did he choose Jeconiah, Josiah's grandson, to represent them?

Here also a curse is involved, on both Jehoiakim and his son Jeconiah (also called Jehoiachin - 2 Kings 24:6, 2 Chron.36:8): "Therefore thus says the L-rd in regard to Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: They will not lament for him... He will be buried with a donkey’s burial, dragged off and thrown out beyond the gates of Jerusalem" (Jer. 22:18).  And the curse on Jehoiakim's son was even worse: "As I live, declares the L-rd, even though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were a signet ring on My right hand, yet I would pull you off; ...Thus says the L-rd, Write this man down childless, a man who will not prosper in his days; for no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah." (Jer.22:24,30) As if to emphasis His rejection, G-d reduces Jeconiah's name to just "Coniah".

Although we don't have a record of Jeconiah repenting, we can assume that he did, because in the end he was not written down as "childless": he fathered Shealtiel in captivity (1 Chron.3:17), who in turn fathered a revered leader of the returning exiles, Zerubabel.  In addition, we see in 2 Kings 24:1 that his father Jehoiakim rebelled against the king of Babylon (contrary to G-d's command through Jeremiah), whereas Jehoiachin/Jeconiah was quick to submit (v.10-12). Because Jeconiah was the repentant one of the 4 kings, he was the most worthy to be called a son of the righteous Josiah; Matthew therefore made him the leader of that generation: "Jeconiah and his brothers."

Luke's geneology presents a different challenge to modern thinking, but one that also has a precedent in Tanach. 

Luke 3:23 says (in the literal Greek): "And Yeshua Himself was... a son (being thought) of Yosef of Eli..." even though Matthew records Yosef's father as Yakov (1:16).  There are several explanations offered. The logic of one explanation is that "being thought a son of Yosef" but actually "being of Eli" means that Eli (and this entire line) belongs to Yeshua's mother, Miriam.  But what justifies naming Yeshua as a "son" of Eli, His maternal grandfather?

Luke was following another Jewish custom - that of naming a head of a household as the "father" of someone in that extended family. This was sometimes done when a woman's line was being traced.  A parallel situation in the Tanach, where we find a similar "contradiction", also involves a woman's line that was assigned to her son, but using the name of her grandfather.

A man named Yair is described in Numbers 32:41, Deut. 3:14 and 1 Kings 4:13 as "Yair, son of Menashe".  But in 1 Chron.7:14, we read that Menashe's physical son was "Machir". Menashe never had a son named "Yair".  Meanwhile, 1 Chron.2:21-23 reveals that Yair is really the son of Seguv, the son of Hezron by Menashe's granddaughter ("Machir's daughter").  The fact that the line of Machir's daughter takes over in identifying Yair rather than his biological father might indicate that Hezron did not raise him, and that Yair grew up in the household of his mother.  And the fact that it's the name of Menashe (not Machir) that carries the line would hint that in Yair's lifetime, the household was still headed by his maternal great-grandfather Menashe. Calling Yair the son of Menashe also indicated that his tribal inheritance was with the tribe of Menashe.

In the same way, the two lines of Yeshua, through mother and father, are faithfully recorded, but in a distinctly Jewish fashion.  A possible explanation for describing Yeshua as being in Eli's household might be the same as above - that His adoptive father Yosef passed away in Yeshua's formative years, causing Miriam to move back to her father's house (which would also account for Joseph disappearing from the gospel narratives).  Miriam's line was necessary to show that Yeshua's right to the throne of David was inherited not just through adoption by Yosef, but also through blood ties through His mother.  Yeshua had no blood ties on Yosef's side, because He was conceived by a direct act of G-d, planted in a virgin without human sperm. (For answers to different objections surrounding of the "virgin sign" verse in Isaiah 7, go here.)


12. "In your list of rabbinic commentaries on the Messiah, under section 2: 'Messiah, Son of Abraham, but greater than Abraham,' the author makes a comment about Yeshua's lineage and refers to Yeshua's adoptive father as part of that lineage. Since when does adoption bestow lineage on a Jewish boy?"


This has a Torah precedent.  Yakov Avinu adopted Yosef's sons Efraim and Menashe as his own (Gen. 48:5).  There are no doubt rabbinic opinions as to why he felt it necessary to do that when they were already part of his extended family, but one effect was that they took on the lineage of Yakov - from then on, they were called the "sons of Yakov" (not "grandsons of Yakov" or "sons of Yosef").  In fact, in verse 6 Yakov expressly makes a distinction between those two and any other children Yosef might have.  The change in lineage gave them an inheritance they wouldn't have had otherwise - the right to settle the Promised Land. 

Yeshua's adoption was necessary from the same Jewish point of view.   In Second Temple days, Jewishness was (in Galut communities) already being traced though the mothers, but tribal inheritance was still through the fathers.  So while Yeshua's mother Miriam was also of David's line, Yeshua's tribal inheritance and rights to the throne of David might have been in doubt. For Torah background on an inheritance passing through the mother, go here.  Regarding general membership in a tribe, see the following objection.


13. "Making a case for adoption with Yacov taking Yosef's sons might be valid, but if so, it was only a one-time event to form the nation. There is no Torah example of someone after this (man or woman) whose tribal lineage was not traced through the birth-father, according to Numbers 1:18. 
If Yeshua's 'birth-father'was G-d, then he could not trace his tribal lineage through Yehudah."


If this is true, we have a big problem with Calev, son of Yefunah. His father was a Kennizite (Josh.14:6), one of the tribes native to Canaan which Israel would eventually disinherit (Gen.15:19).  And yet he was appointed tribal leader of Yehudah.  Throughout his life, Calev continued to be known as "the Kenizzite", even while receiving the highest commendation possible from the G-d of Israel (Num.32:12). His faith resulted in his inheriting the holy city of Hevron (Josh.14:14).

The only possible explanation for this is that at some point, Calev and/or his family had been adopted by the tribe of Yehudah.


14. "How could Jesus say he is 'Lord of the Sabbath'? And what does that mean? The argument he puts forth in defending his disciples is not logical to me. They WERE breaking the Shabbat." 


This incident is recorded in 3 of the gospels: Matt.12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28, Luke 6:1-5.  The Pharisees (forerunners of rabbinic leadership) challenged Yeshua concerning the way His disciples were behaving on the Shabbat.

At that time Yeshua went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath."
But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of G-d, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.
But if you had known what this means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
- Matt.12:1-8 

The Torah community, then as now, understood that picking grain was a form of "harvesting", something forbidden on the Shabbat (implied by Exod.34:21). Luke (6:1) writes that they were also rubbing the grain in their hands to remove the husks, which was technically "threshing", one of the rabbinically forbidden forms of work.  The first note here is that Yeshua made no objection to the charge that the disciples were breaking the Shabbat. His answer in fact confirmed it, for He cited two Tanach incidents showing overriding circumstances that suspend Torah commands.

The case of David (1 Sam.21:4-6, 5-7 in Heb.) involved hunger and lack of alternatives.  The priest at Nov understood this to override the normal law that restricted the holy bread to priests only (Lev.24:9).  The priests "breaking the Sabbath" was clear in Torah; the required offerings for the Shabbat involved several violations (slaughtering, lighting a fire, roasting, etc.).  The command to replace the Bread of the Presence on the Shabbat (Lev.24:8) implies that they were allowed to bake as well (1 Sam.21:6 says that the replacement Bread was "hot"). The common thread between them was the innocence of those breaking the Shabbat laws under THOSE circumstances.

The question that remained was: Were the disciples exempt in the same way as the priests or David?  If they were accompanying and serving the Messiah, the Holy One sent by G-d, then surely their service was as great as that of the priests in the temple. For which is greater - the temple, or the One to whom it belongs?

"...And the Lord [äàãåï], whom you seek, will suddenly come to HIS temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the L-RD of hosts. - Mal.3:1

Yeshua concludes with a rebuke from Hosea 6:6 ("I desire mercy and not sacrifice"), applying it to hasty judgment of those who appear to be guilty but are not. Then He declares that Messiah ("Son of Man" being one of His titles) is not only Lord of the temple, but also of the Shabbat.  As "Angel of the Covenant" (the literal Hebrew of the above verse), He has the authority to define and correct understanding of the Shabbat, a sign of that Covenant (Ex.31:16-17).

The passage in Mark ends the incident with a different observation, offering another perspective: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the son of man is lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27-28)  Since the Shabbat was created to serve man and provide rest (even for slaves), that makes men the lords rather than the slaves of the Shabbat. The Sabbath laws should therefore be aimed at providing comfort and abolishing burdens, such as unnecessary hunger.  This principle is upheld consistently in other places, especially in disputes between Yeshua and the Pharisees over healing on Shabbat (see above).





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