Does “Jewish Fables” = the Torah?

Titus 1:14, Jewish fables. Many people in the mainstream church are content to dismiss the Torah merely as Jewish fables having little or no relevance to Christians. Yet, the same preachers will passionately promote Christmas trees, Santa Claus and Easter bunnies. So what’s wrong with this picture? 

Moreover, many Bible teachers in the mainstream church teach that this verse refers to the Torah. They use it in attempting to prove that the commandments of the Torah are no longer valid for believers. Is this correct? In reality, Paul can’t be referring to the Torah here without contradicting himself elsewhere. In numerous places, he strongly upholds and defends obedience to the Torah (Rom 3:31; 7:7, 12, 14; 13:8–10; 1 Cor 7:19; 9:21; Gal 3:10; 6:2; 2 Tim 6:14; Tit 2:14) and even claims to follow it himself (Acts 21:24; 24:1425:8; 28:17; 1 Cor 9:21). He must be talking about the Jewish traditions of men, which Yeshua said in Matthew 15:3–9 and Mark 7:7–9 make of non-effect the word of Elohim. 

In fact, this is exactly what Paul is referring to here in this verse when he says “Jewish fables and commandments of men.” This is not a reference to the Torah the commandments which, in truth, came from YHVH Elohim and not from men. In the same verse, Paul contrasts these commandments of men with “the truth” from which men have turned away. 

So what is this truth that Paul references here? Since Bible defines its own terms, we must look to it for the definition of the word truth. Elohim is the source of truth (Deut 32:4 cp. Pss 86:11; 89:14; 117:2), he is truth (Ps 25:10; 31:5; 33:4), and his Torah is truth (Ps 119:142, 151). 

Truth is the opposite of a fable. One example of a Jewish fable and a commandment of men would be the idea that one can’t be saved unless they’re first circumcised (Acts 15:15:1, 5), which was the subject of the Acts 15 council. Paul vehemently fought this Jewish fable, and the whole Book of Galatians, for example, largely deals with this issue. If Paul had meant the Torah when mentioning “Jewish fables” then this makes Paul into a schizophrenic liar (since he promotes and lauds the Torah and claims to follow it elsewhere), while elsewhere he views the Torah as irrelevant and not necessary to be obeyed. Were Paul against the Torah, this would put Paul at odds with Yeshua who upheld the Torah (Matt 5:17–19) and with himself when he said to imitate Yeshua the Torah-keeper as he himself did (1 Cor 11:1). 

From this brief discussion, it should be obvious to a logical minded person that Paul doesn’t have the Torah in view when he mentions fables in this verse.


6 thoughts on “Does “Jewish Fables” = the Torah?

  1. Amen. Just like when Paul took Timothy to get circumscised because Timothy had a Jewish mother. He was keeping Torah and Oral Torah which goes by the mother.

    • Actually, I don’t see Paul having Timothy circumcised as being a nod to extra-biblical Jewish tradition. It was, in fact, simply following the Torah instruction about circumcising males. This had nothing to do with whether one’s mother was Jewish or non-Jewish. You are correct about one’s lineage being determined by the mother and not the father. This is an extra-biblical Jewish traditions that came about after WW2 because so many Jewish women were raped during the war. That’s another discussion.

  2. There’s clear evidence of the rule of matrilineal descent in Biblical times in the story of Ezra and the returning exiles.
    Ezra was heartbroken, tearing his garments in mourning and prayer to G‑d. A large crowd gathered, and joined with Ezra as he prayed and wept.

    Next, the verse states:

    And Shechaniah, the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, raised his voice and said to Ezra, “We have betrayed our G‑d, and we have taken in foreign wives of the peoples of the land, but there is still hope for Israel concerning this.”

    “Now then, let us make a covenant with our G‑d to expel all these women and those who have been born to them, in accordance with the bidding of the Lord and of all who are concerned over the commandment of our G‑d, and let the Torah be obeyed.”

    If the child of a Jewish father is Jewish, why did Shechaniah suggest expulsion of the children born to these women? How was it that Ezra and all the people agreed to his advice? Jewish people historically were greatly attached to their children. How is it that they agreed to send them away?

    Obviously, it was a given that these children were not Jewish. Furthermore, note that Shechaniah states, “and let the Torah be obeyed.” Apparently, everyone understood that this was not a new edict, but a call for obedience to the Torah as it had always been understood by the Jewish people.

    Ezra is one of the last books of the Hebrew Bible. Many have asked why this issue was not raised earlier—even in the times of Moses?

    If the Hebrew Bible provided a detailed exposition of every law and custom, this would be a question. But with even a cursory look it’s obvious that this is not so. Some laws, such as priestly rites and offerings, or the design and artifacts of the Tabernacle are described in detail. Others—generally the most common laws are presented with no specifics at all. For example, we are told to “rest on the seventh day” and “do no work.” What is rest? Are we meant to sleep the entire day? What is work? Does it mean exertion, or productivity, or just anything not enjoyable? The few details that the text provides are of little help. (“Don’t burn fire in your dwellings.” “No one should move from their place.”)

    Moses is told that we are to slaughter an animal “… as I commanded you.” But nowhere are we provided the details of just what Moses was instructed.

    So why are some details provided and others left out?

    One possible answer is that it is only necessary to commit details to writing that are easily forgotten. Those matters that all the people are intimately familiar with are left to be passed down organically and tacitly.

    But whatever the reason, the fact that there is no explicit verse stating which parent makes you Jewish is not unusual.

    Nevertheless, Matrilineal descent can be deduced from a passage in Deuteronomy.

    You shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter for your son. For he will turn away your son from following Me, and they will worship the gods of others, and the wrath of G‑d will be kindled against you, and He will quickly destroy you.

    Read those verses carefully. G‑d is warning the people not to intermarry with the people of the land they are about to enter. Neither their sons nor their daughters should intermarry.

    What would you expect next? “For he will turn your daughter away from Me.” Or “She will turn your son away from Me.”

    But that’s not what He says. “He will turn your son from following Me.”

    Who is that son? Who is the “He” that is turning that son away?

    There are only two possible interpretations, and both lead us to the same conclusion.

    One possibility is that this is speaking of the son of your daughter—since grandsons are often called sons in the Hebrew Bible. She is the one mentioned first in the verse, who was taken by a non-Jewish man. That is the “he” that is turning that grandson away. But that grandson is still considered your son.

    That being so, we see that the child of a Jewish woman, even when the father is not Jewish, is still considered Jewish—”your son.”

    The other possibility is that this is speaking of your son, the one who took a non-Jewish woman. The “he” that is turning him away is his non-Jewish father-in-law. By marrying out of the Jewish people, your son has been turned away from G‑d, because his children will not be Jewish.

    Either way leads to the same conclusion. This, indeed, is the ingenious proof text of the Talmud (in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai) when it states that a child of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father is considered Jewish. There is no dissident opinion.

    To anyone who has studied Talmud, that itself is a stunning fact. The Talmud is replete with contending opinions over almost everything. The fact that on the issue of maternal lineage, there is one opinion, universally accepted, is nothing less than astonishing.

    Unless you accept that this had always been the understanding of all Jews.
    Here’s another common question: We see many figures in the Hebrew Bible that married out of their people. Joseph married an Egyptian woman. Moses married a Midianite. King David took a Philistine wife and King Solomon also took wives who were not from the Jewish people. Why is there no mention of any conversion?

    But, hold on. How is it possible that David and Solomon could have abrogated a clear warning of the Torah, “You shall not intermarry with them …” and not be admonished by G‑d for such? Again, the question expects too much of the text. Search through the entire Hebrew Bible, and you will find no mention whatsoever of any process necessary to join the Jewish people. It’s not until the Mishnaic period that we find the requirements for conversion laid out. A person must go through the same process that all the Jews went through when they entered into the covenant at Sinai: Conversion essentially means accepting the laws of the Jewish covenant. The procedure is to do so before a tribunal, immerse in a ritual pool, and bring an offering to the Temple. Men must be circumcised.

    Of course, you could choose to understand from this that there were no converts until the Mishnaic period. You will have great difficulty with the Book of Ruth, the story of a Moabite woman who joins the Jewish people, and with many other Biblical characters from other nations who turn up fighting in the Jewish army.

    It makes more sense to go to the people to whom this text was given and ask them, “How do you understand it?” And their tradition is that converts had been accepted from day one. Why is there no mention of the process? They would answer, “Because it’s obvious. That’s how you enter into the covenant—the same way we all did!”

    • You make a good point, but this doesn’t change the fact that the Torah prescribes tribal affiliation to be based on patrilineal descent (e.g. Num 2:2). (We take the position this blog that nothing else in the Bible or in men’s oral traditions can circumvent the clear teachings the Torah. If it does, it is false and should be rejected as error.) For example, when a woman married a man from another tribe, she and her children became members of that tribe. Not vice versa. Many other examples could be given of the Torah’s patrilineal determinations as well (e.g. the Torah’s inheritance laws, the lineage of the Levites and cohenim, the patriarchs and tribal heads, the kingly lineages, the descendants of Adam listed in Gen 5, the table of the nations in Gen 10). I don’t make the rules, just try to follow them.

      What’s going on in Ezra 10 regarding the men putting away their Jewish born of foreign women children is not an issue of who is Jewish or not, but who is pagan or not. It had nothing to do with Jewishness or determining tribal descent.

      According to the Jews themselves, the Hebrew Bible and the Torah stipulates lineage to be patrilineal, not matrilineal, and that the later is from the Mishnah, not from the Bible ( and In Wikipedia under the article entitled “Matrilineality in Judaism” we read, “As a Jewish Oral Law,[15] matrilineal descent is not explicitly written as a law in the Torah.[16] The Jewish Oral Law, which was codified in the Mishnah in the 2nd century CE, is unequivocal that the status of a child as a Jew follows that of the mother.[17] The Talmud[18] (c. 500 CE) adduces the law of matrilineal descent from Deuteronomy…”

      As far as looking to Rabbinic oral tradition for our spiritual guidance as opposed to the Bible itself, especially when their traditions make of non-effect the clear word of Elohim—something Yeshua said not to do (Matt 15:6-9; Mark 7:9-13), how does that work when considering their antagonistic view of Yeshua as the Messiah?

  3. Yes your right. I was just trying to clarify that this has been an “extra biblical Jewish tradition” much longer than after WW2, because you had said,”This is an extra-biblical Jewish traditions that came about after WW2 because so many Jewish women were raped during the war.”. Many Blessings to you Natan!

    • I had heard that the matrilineal lineage idea came into play after WW2 due to all the raping of women during that horrific period, but I didn’t check my sources. Upon doing so, I discovered, as you correctly state, that this extra-biblical or even contra-biblical tradition goes back long before the modern area. This blog is a place of learning and growing in our understanding on a variety of subjects. None of us know everything about everything. Still learning…

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