Four Proofs there was no Oral Torah
|Written by Ron Cantor|
What is the Oral Law? And, is it from Elohim?
Orthodox Jews maintain that when Elohim gave Moses the written commandments, he also gave him a secret Oral Tradition or Torah she-be’al pe. This was a purportedly a code of conduct and interpretation passed down from generation to generation. The Oral Law supposedly was Elohim’s instruction on how to live out the 613 commandments in the Torah, in addition to other commands in general.
Interestingly enough, the Oral Law is now written down. Around 200 CE Rabbi Judah Hanasi codified, or put into writing, the foundational documents of the Oral Tradition for fear that it might be lost.
Was there really an Oral Law that Moses received?
In short— no . And it can be easily proved.
First, if the Oral Tradition truly came from Sinai then it would have been completely supernatural that it was passed down for over one thousand years unchanged. If my wife sends me to the store to buy five things, unless I write them down, not only will I forget to buy what she asked me to, but I will return home with things that she didn’t ask me to buy! So if it was supernatural, then there would have been no need to write out the Oral Torah as Rabbi Judah Hanasi did in 200 CE. If Elohim had watched over it since Moses, surely He could continue.
Secondly, there couldn’t have been an Oral Law because in the time of King Josiah, they had lost the Book of the Law and it appears that they didn’t even know what Passover was or certainly how to celebrate it! The Temple was in ruins and the King ordered its restoration. In the midst of this great undertaking the Torah was recovered.
The king called all the people together and they read the Book of the Covenant. Together, they renewed the covenant with Yehovah. King Josiah ordered that the Passover be celebrated.
To summarize, the Torah had been lost as the Temple was in ruins. The king of Israel and the priests did not even know what Passover was—or at least, the details of proper Passover observance. Since the Mishna (the Oral Law in writing, as part of the Talmud) speaks of the Passover at length—in fact it has an entire tractate (major section) called Pesachim (Passovers) that teaches in incredible detail how to correctly celebrate Passover—it had to have been created after the time of Josiah. (In fact, the instructions are so detailed, that it becomes ridiculous to think that Elohim is that mechanical. If you want a brief look, check this out. )
In addition, had there been an Oral Law passed down from Moses it was certainly forgotten. And unlike like a Written Torah, that could be found in the ruins of the Temple, it would be impossible to recover an Oral Torah.
Third, we find an interesting passage in the Torah that refutes the idea of a non-written Torah.
Could it be any clearer? Elohim shared all His laws with Moses and then Moses wrote down everything . In the Hebrew it says Kol Div’re Yehovah—all the words of Yehovah. There was no secret Oral Tradition; all was written. (Here are a few more passages you can reference: Deuteronomy 30:10, 31:9, 24, 26, and Joshua 1:8).
And fourth, one primary reason the Word of Elohim needed to be put down in words was to protect Israel from deception. An Oral Torah would have led to all kinds of duplicity and many would have changed it for their own purposes. Keep in mind, the Children of Israel, my ancestors, went through many periods where they forsook Yehovah. Not only would an Oral Law have been abused by leaders during such a time—it would have been eventually ignored and utterly forgotten.
The idea of an Oral Law is not unique to Judaism. Virtually every religion has an Oral Tradition. The Pope’s rulings become the Oral Law of the Catholic church. Catholics claim the Holy Spirit guides their magisterium—that is, the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Islam not only as the Koran, but also the Hadith, ‘the collections of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammed.’ (Wikipedia) Hinduism is based on an every evolving oral tradition.
So Where did the Oral Law come from?
One of the most respected Talmudic scholars in the world, Michael Rodkinson, writes in the very first sentence of his highly respected The History of the Talmud:
In other words, the Oral Tradition was merely the customs, teachings and opinions of Jewish leaders throughout the centuries. It would be no different then the teaching of a popular author today… had he lived millennia ago.
For instance, recently in Israel one of the most influential religious leaders, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, 84, declared that iPhones and other smartphones are immoral (because of ease of ability in obtaining pornography) and that Orthodox Jews cannot own one. In Judaism these types of declarations are binding because it is taught that Elohim has given the rabbis the authority to make these pronouncements. Now if this had happened around 300 CE (when iPhones were still in the first generation) it would have been recorded in the Talmud.
Not everything in the Talmud is bad and not everything good. It is opinions and traditions. That’s it.
The Tradition of the Elders
Yeshua cleary did not believe that the Oral Law came from Sinai, as He referred to it as “The Traditions of the Elders.” In fact, the Pharisees themselves referred to it as “The Traditions of the Elders” (Matt. 15:2). Yeshua rebuked the Pharisees for putting these traditions above the Word of Elohim. (Mark 7:9) To be clear, Yeshua was not against all tradition, but against the elevation of mere tradition to Scripture status —and sometimes above it.