I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Misunderstanding the argument with Peter and Paul: A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

In Galatians 2 Paul relates an incident where he rebukes Peter and Barnabas for eating with Gentile Christians and then when the more strict Jewish Christians (who followed the Shammai tradition) visited they ceased eating with the Gentiles. Most Christians interpret this passage in regard to kosher food laws and assume that Peter and Paul no-longer observed kashrut. This however is not the case. Peter and Paul observed kashrut as did all the Jewish Christians who were zealous for the Torah and the Jewish customs (see Acts 21). If this was not about kosher food laws what was it about? One needs to understand the context of their situation. At this time the Pharisees were divided into two main groups the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai. After the death of Hillel, Shammai and his followers seized control of the religious Sanhedrin and imposed 18 articles of rigid separation of Jews with Gentiles. These 18 articles were opposed by the Hillelites and their followers consider the day they were imposed as a day of mourning. These rules meant that Jews not only couldn't sit at the same table with Gentiles but they couldn't even enter their homes.

The Holy Spirit taught Peter that these eighteen articles (gezerot) were not binding by showing him through a vision of animals that he should call no man unclean whom God has cleansed and taking Peter into a Gentile house. His vision of the animals did not mean it was ok to eat non-kosher food but it used animals to give Peter the message that the 18 articles of the House of Shammai were of no-effect for the Jewish Catholics. This artificial barrier or wall between Jews and Gentiles was abolished by the Cross. These 18 articles were later abolished by the Rabbis after the destruction of the Temple when the Hillelites gained full control of the Sanhedrin once again and it is taught in the Talmud that a voice spoke from heaven and decreed that these laws were abolished and that wherever the teachings of the House of Hillel differed from those of the House of Shammai the teachings of the Hillelites was the Halakah.

The Pharisees who Jesus identified as the 'leaven'[Chametz] were the Shammaites or Shomerim (the observant ones). The Talmud speaks of seven different types of Pharisees. Five of these groups are described in a negative way and they are known as 'Chametz' by Jesus as there were five kinds of "chametz" to be avoided on Passover. One of these groups are called the Shikmi who follow the actions of their founder known as Shechem or the Shechemite Pharisee. The city of Shechem was the Samaritan religious centre and after John Hycanus destroyed their Temple many of the Samaritans entered Judaism. They are the group Jesus speaks about when he says that they lay heavy burdens on men's shoulders. The use of the word 'shoulders' is an allusion to this group as the word for shoulder in Hebrew is similiar to Shechem. The Samaritans were also known as Shomerim and Shechemites. Another group were called the Nikpi who knocked their legs together and walk with small steps thus showing how 'humble' they were- this group were masters of 'fake humility'. They would also put off doing good deeds by elaborate cautiousness. A third group were the Kizai who would walk around with their eyes closed and smash into walls and draw blood in their efforts to avoid looking at women. A fourth group were the Medukhia or Hankaia Pharisees who are described like a pestle in a mortar. Like a pestle they oppressed, ground and smash down people by their exaggerated observances. Always looking for the faults in others rather than looking skyward to the heavens. A fifth group were those self righteous pharisees who would think they were so good at observing all the Torah that they pompuously would inquire about doing more. Two groups were associated with the matzah of Passover- they were the Essene followers of Menachem (the reverent mystics) and the followers of Hillel (the humble peaceloving Pharisees).

Paul had been brought up in the Hillelite tradition but later joined the Shammaites and took on their fanatical ideas about observance and salvation. After his conversion he returned to the teachings of the school of Hillel on relations with the Gentiles and salvation. Even though his teacher Gamaliel (the grandson of Hillel) was Nasi (Davidic President) of the religious Sanhedrin he was outnumbered by the Shammaites. It is these teachings of Shammai that Jesus opposes as contrary to the Law of Moses and in this the Hillelites stood on the side of Jesus. They made their own man-made traditions equal with the Traditions of the Sages. The Shammaites taught that it was not possible for Gentiles to enter the World to Come and that it was the strict observance of Torah that gave salvation and thus all Gentiles were doomed. The School of Hillel taught otherwise and saw salvation not in observance of the Torah but in the coming of the Messiah and that Gentiles who lived according to the laws of Noah could attain to the World to Come. These Gentiles were known as the God-fearers (Ger Toshav).

According to the Shammaites those like the Hillelites who had social communications with Gentiles were living 'like Gentiles' not like observant Jews and the Shammaites persecuted and even killed some of the Hillelites. Paul rebukes Peter and Barnabas for relapsing into these rigid Shammaite observances of separation when they already in the eyes of the House of Shammai were living 'like or as Gentiles'. Paul was horrified to think that Peter might by his example encourage Gentiles to feel that they must become Jews in order to be equal citizens in the Church. By Peter and Barnabas' actions they were re-erecting the wall of separation between Jewish and Gentile believers. Salvation is gained through the grace of the Messiah not through observances. Observances, whether the particular Jewish observances or the observances appropriate for Gentiles, aid in ones sanctification but salvation comes from the Redeemer and Saviour with an act of Divine Grace.

For more on this topic see "Jesus the Pharisee" by Rabbi Harvey Falk.

Also see this Shammai article
Also see this on Bet Shammai and bet Hillel


Anonymous said...

Thank you for blessing us with your knowledge. I am learning so much by reading your teachings, and am very grateful that God sends us such searching and brilliant minds to help us in our lives. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


Athol Bloomer [Aharon] said...

Don't know if you are the same Anonymous or two different ones. it might be nice if you signed your post with a name , even a fake one so I will know who is who.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2 different from Anonymous 1.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to your teachings, as I like the way you are able to bring Jew and gentile together. I think this has been lost over the last fifteen hundred years or so!! You have a brilliant mind, and I am so blessed by God that I have found this site and can learn knowledge to ponder on, that I have not seen anywhere else. I too am anonymous because I don't have a blog or site, and just browse through to learn. Please keep posting your work. Thanks, Antonia.