Testimony of Two Rabbis

Around the turn of the 1st century there were two main streams of Phariseeism, those that followed the school of the great Hillel and those that followed the school of Shammai. From within the school of Hillel there arose a number of great rabbis, one being Rabbi Gamaliel, who was the grandson of Hillel himself. Rabbi Gamaliel is mentioned in the Talmud, and it says of him, that ‘when he died righteousness perished from the earth with him’. The Brit haDasha writings mention Rabbi Gamaliel in Acts chapter 5 as saying ‘if this council or this work be of men, it will come to nought, but if it be of Adonai, you cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found to fight even against YHWH’ [Brit. haDasha, Acts 5:34-39]. He was talking of the apostles work as they were preaching and doing miracles in the name of Messiah Y’shua. Rabbi Gamaliel himself had a number of famous Rabbis. Two of these were Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Sha’ul of Tarsus. The entire future of the Jewish religion would follow one of these two men.

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was one of those who survived the slaughter of Jerusalem, by the armies of the Roman Empire in 70 a.d. This is also when the second temple was destroyed. He knew that there was now a problem in continuing the faith which Moses passed down in the Torah without a Temple. He summoned a council at Yavne near Tel-Aviv, which is situated west of Jerusalem, and there re-shaped Judaism. Over a number of years Rabbinic Judaism as we know it evolved. 

Some of the differences were as follows:

1. Instead of the Levites and the Cohenim (priests) being the spiritual authority in the community, the Rabbis would be the new spiritual authority within the community.

2. Instead of the Temple being the centre of worship, the synagogues became the centre of worship (the development of the synagogue began soon after the Babylonian captivity and so was a natural platform from which to launch Rabbinic Judaism).

3. Sacrifices brought for the atonement for sin, were replaced with acts of kindness and prayers ( which can never atone for sin, even if certain Rabbis tell you they can, they cannot, for as it is written ‘It is the blood that makes atonement for sin’ Lev 17:11]. HaShem instructed Moshe that atonement can only be made by the shed blood. Yeshua spoke of His own blood as being that of the New Covenant from Elohim – see Jeremiah 31:31.

4. The Birkat haMinim (The heretic benediction) was now formulated. This was to cause people who believed that Y’shua was the Messiah, to be self excluded from the synagogue. It was formulated by Rabbi Samuel around 90 ad. [See Berakoth 28b-29a], it is the 12th Benediction of the Shemona Esreh. The Cairo Genizah version of the Birkat haMinim was published around the turn of the 20th Century and read as follows ‘for
apostates (meshumaddim) let there be no hope, and the dominion of arrogance, do thou speedily root out, in our days; and let Nozrim (Believers) and minim perish in a moment, let them be blotted out of the living and let them not be written with the righteous’.

5. Along with many other changes Rabbinic Judaism evolved into a hybrid religion. A religion in which there is no true provision for the atonement of sins, in its present framework.

What about Rabbi Sha’ul of Tarsus?

Rabbi Sha’ul of Tarsus was also a disciple of Rabbi Gamaliel, in the school of Hillel. He was one of the most zealous Rabbis in 1st century Judaism, and to begin with he persecuted Jewish people who believed that Y’shua was the Messiah. It is recorded of him that ‘breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of Y’shua, went unto the high priest, and desired letters of him to go to Damascus, that if he found any of ‘the way’ whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem’ [Brit haDasha, Acts 9:1-2]. On journeying to Damascus he personally gave record of a ‘great light that shone around me, and I fell unto the ground and heard a voice’ [Brit haDasha, Acts 9:3-6 and 22:6-7]; he goes on to tell that the voice was of Y’shua the Messiah, which led to his belief that this man Y’shua was in fact the Messiah. At one point in his life Rabbi Sha’ul of Tarsus said ‘Messiah has redeemed us from the curse of the Torah (Law), being made a curse for us: for it is written cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree.’ (Deut 21:22-23) [Brit. haDasha, Galatians 3v13]. The curse of the Torah is death.

At the end of Rabbi Yochannan ben Zakkai’s life, as he lay on his bed, knowing that he was about to depart from this life, the Talmud tells us in Berakoth 28b, that he was crying and weeping and his disciples came to him and said

‘ Lamp of Israel, Pillar of the right hand, mighty hammer why are you weeping, why are you crying, why is your soul in distress, mighty hammer ben Zakkai? ‘

and Rabbi ben Zakkai said

‘ I am about to meet the King of Kings, the Holy One, HaShem, blessed be His Name, and before me there are two roads one leading to paradise and one leading to Gehinnom, and I do not know to which road HaShem will sentence me to’

I find it sad to know, that the founder of Rabbinic Judaism had no assurance of salvation. Here was the heart of the man speaking forth!

At the end of Rabbi Sha’ul of Tarsus’s life while in prison, undergoing persecution for his faith, he wrote to one of his friends saying:

‘I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is now at hand I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which Y’shua the righteous judge shall give to me at that day, and not to me only but unto all them that love His appearing ‘
[Brit. haDasha 2 Tim 4:6-8]

It is therefore true and glorious to know that there is full assurance of salvation for all who believe in Messiah Y’shua. Only He has claimed to be The Way, The Truth and The Life. (See Yochanan 14:6 – Brit haDasha)


Date : 30/11/-0001    

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