Yesterday, a well-meaning reader of this blog posted a question in the comments section. He wondered why I didn’t come to the “higher level” spiritually by following the oral traditions of the modern-day Jews who are the spiritual descendants of the ancient Pharisees of Yeshua’s day. As supposed proof that we should, he quoted Matthew 23:2 and 3 where Yeshua declares that because the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, we will come to a higher level in our spiritual walk do whatever they tell us to do. (My short answer to this questions is this: If they haven’t discovered the most obvious truth that Yeshua is the Messiah, then…well, I’ll let you guess what the rest of my response would be.)
This is, in fact, a fair question, and is one that many who are leaving churchianity find themselves asking when they begin to explore the Hebraic roots of their faith.
Here is my long response.
Matthew 23:2, Moses seat. Here Yeshua is speaking against the leaven of the Pharisees and their non-biblical traditions and doctrines of men. They had omitted the weightier matters of the Torah. Moses’ seat in Matt 23:2 is easily misunderstood today when we don’t have all the facts. Because the Pharisees sit in Moses seat, Yeshua told his disciples to observe whatever they tell you to observe. The problem is that most people have no idea what Yeshua was really saying here. “Moses’ seat” was a colloquial expression that was understood by his listeners of that day, but the meaning is lost to most who read this passage today. Moses’ seat refers to a literal throne-like chair that sat in Jewish synagogues (where the Pharisees were the officiants) from which the religious leaders would make judgments concerning spiritual and civil matters. (One can type in “Moses’ seat” into an internet search engine and find actual photos of these seats that have discovered in ancient Jewish synagogues.) In a modern church, it would be like the pastors and board of elders making decisions for the church body they minister over. These leaders do not have the authority, however, to change the word or law of Elohim—only to administer it. Even the pope has a throne from which he makes rulings for the Roman Catholic Church.
Matthew 23:3, Whatever they tell you. The discussion that follows is in response to the idea that because the Pharisees (and the modern rabbinic Jews who are their spiritual descendants) sit in Moses’ seat, we should do whatever they tell us to do including following their traditions and oral law. Some even have embraced the idea that following rabbinic Judaism is to walk a higher spiritual road (because they ostensibly understand and observe the Torah. What is the truth of the matter and what is Yeshua really saying in this passage?
Admittedly, there is much we can learn from our Jewish brothers. If you have read my Torah study guides and commentaries and my hundreds of teachings, you would know that I draw heavily from the wisdom of the Jewish sages. My approach is very multi-faceted and my learning is very broad. In my mind, and in the mind of Yeshua and apostles (as we shall point out below) the sun does not rise and set on the Jewish sages. Moreover, the Judaism of today is not that of Yeshua’s era. It is true that the rabbinates of today are the direct Continue reading