Jewish Tradition Forgotten By Messianic Judaism

 

     In Messianic Judaism, many of the Holy Days and traditions of Judaism are observed. They do not want to leave the Jewish identity, heritage, and culture behind. Most Messianic Jews appear to be much more "zealous for the Law (Torah)" than their Gentile Christian counterparts. However, there is one Jewish tradition that they have completely abandoned.

Jewish Tradition and the Scriptures
     The  first line of many Messianic Jewish doctrinal statements reads like this: "We believe... that the Scriptures are verbally inspired of God and they are without error in the original writings, and they are the supreme and final authority for faith and life."  Since the original writings have perished, we must rely on copies of the copies of Scripture. Right? Well, what did the original writings say would happen to themselves and what does Jewish tradition say about the preservation of the Scriptures?

Jews Entrusted With Scripture.
     "What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God." Romans 3:1-2. God told Moses in Deuteronomy  4:2, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." Again in Deuteronomy 12:32, God said "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." Because of this command, the Jewish Torah was not copied in a haphazard fashion. The process was so accurate it still amazes historians today. For thousands of years, Jewish scribes carefully copied the original manuscripts of sacred Scriptures without any error.

     Notice the beginning of the history of biblical preservation: "And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee," Deuteronomy 31:24-26.

     Here we see the beginning of the sacred trust given to the Levites to safeguard the Scriptures. The "writings of words" referred to here are the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, also known as the Law or Torah (Hebrew ) or Pentateuch (Greek). From that time forward, the religious leaders of Israel became the zealous guardians of the Scriptures. Later, after the Babylonian captivity of Judah, these Scriptures were practically worshipped as much as was the Creator Himself. It could be said that the love that the Jews had for the Law was tantamount to idolatry! They watched over these Sacred Writings more carefully than any other possession in the Holy Land. Joshua, Moses' successor, also instructed the Israelites to have a special concern for all the words of the Law, Joshua 8:35.  In the time of Joshua, the entirety of the Torah was read to the children of Israel. A great reverence for the Scripture had developed within one generation after the Exodus.  We also see that, the Levites were not the only ones involved in preserving the Scriptures. God knew that the day would come when His people would reject Him as their king and that they would insist on having a human king, Deuteronomy 17:14-15.

     But notice what God instructed the new king to do: "And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them," verses 18-19.

     The kings of Israel not only had to study and obey the Law, they also had to write their own personal copies of that Law!

The Rules of Copying
     Now, the result of this reverence was the creation of a system of copying which is nothing less than astounding. The Levites had to create a system of making new copies of the Bible as old copies wore out and had to be destroyed. They knew it would be easy to make a mistake in copying a new transcript, so here is what they did. They developed elaborate and meticulous rules for transcribing. They decreed that when a person was making a new text, he had to copy the original page with such exactness that the number of words on a page could not be changed. If the original page had 288 words, then the page being copied had to have the same 288 words. Each line on a new page had to be the exact same as the line on the old page. If the first line on the original page had nine words, the first line on the copy page had to have nine words. After a page was copied, the number of letters on that page was counted and compared with the original. After a page was copied, each letter was counted and compared with the original. After a page was copied, someone would check to see what the middle letter was on the copy and the original.

     "A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals, the length of each column must not extend less than 48 or more than 80 lines; the breadth must consist of 30 letters.  No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory... Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene, between every book three lines. Besides this the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, and wash his whole body" (Hebrew Text of the Old Testament, Davidson). The scribes were not allowed to copy sentence for sentence or even word for word. They had to copy letter for letter. After a page was copied and checked by another, still a third person would check to see what the middle word was on the page. Then, when the whole book was finished, another would count the phrases. This process was so accurate they could pinpoint the exact middle of a book simply by letter count and would check the verse at that point as one of the methods of confirmation. If a single error was found, the entire manuscript was destroyed to ensure that it could never be used as a master copy in the future.

     These are just a few examples of the great detail that went into ensuring the accuracy of the Scriptures. There were many more steps taken in the process. All of this could be characterized as a "fence to the Scriptures (Massorah) because it locked all words and letters in their places... It records the number of times the several letters occur in the various books of the Bible; the number of words, and the middle word; the number of verses, and the middle verse; the number of expressions and combinations of words, etc... All this ...for the set purpose of safeguarding the Sacred Text, and preventing the loss or misplacement of a single letter or word" (Bullinger, The Companion Bible).

The Role of the Scribes
      The ancient Israelites kept a copy of the Scriptures in the first Temple. They put it inside the Ark of the Covenant. This copy became known as "The Temple Scriptures." Even though the first temple was destroyed and the Jews were taken to Babylon, the Scriptures were preserved. In the Babylonian captivity, a group of Levites who became known as the Scribes painstakingly copied and disseminated the Scriptures to other Jews. One of the most important historical figures during this time was Ezra. He was not only a scribe, but the last of the Old Testament prophets. He probably wrote Chronicles and is said to have fixed the Old Testament canon around 400 B.C. After the Jews returned to Palestine, the Scribes continued to take an active part in preserving and distributing the Scriptures. When the second temple was built, another master copy was put in the Holy Place. Even after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Scribes continued their work. They were eventually replaced by the Massoretes, who were in charge of preserving the Scriptures from approximately 500-1000 A.D. These new custodians of the Scriptures have left us the Masoretic text.  Has the Old Testament been accurately preserved for us today? Absolutely! Jack Finegan, a noted Bible scholar said, "It has been  ...estimated that there are ...variations in hardly more than a 1000th part, of the text." This means the Old Testament is at least 99.9% true to the original! According to Jewish Talmuds and Targums, the Scribes whose job it was to copy and preserve Old Testament books were called Masoretic. The Hebrew Word means wall or fence. Their careful and meticulous copying of the Old Testament manuscript, which today is known as the Masoretic Text, was a fence of protection in keeping the text absolutely accurate to the original. When I say absolutely accurate I mean just that. They did not just copy the text like we do when we copy a verse from the Bible by reading the phrase and then copying the phrase. They were absolutely meticulous. How meticulous? They had counted and knew exactly how many letters, for example, were in the book of Genesis: 78,064. They knew more than that: they new exactly how many letters of each letter of the alphabet were in the book of Genesis. They also knew how many letters there were from the beginning of the text and from the end of the text to the middle of the text. They also knew what the middle letter in the book of Genesis was to be. After copying a book of the Bible, if after counting from the ends to the middle the count was not accurate or the letter in the middle was not correct, or there were more or less letters of any given letter of the alphabet than there should have been, that manuscript was discarded and burned because of its unreliability to the original text. As proof of this accuracy, consider the Masoretic and Yemenite translations of the Torah. Some time ago, the Yemenite Jews were separated from their brother Jews in the Middle East and Europe. Despite a thousand years of copying their manuscripts in isolation, only nine Hebrew letters in the entire Torah were found to differ from the accepted Hebrew Masoretic text. Not one of these nine changes the meaning of a word.

The Oldest Biblical Manuscripts & Inscription
     What kind of proof do we have of just how meticulous they did protect the accuracy of a copy from the original?  The Dead Sea Scrolls are made up of some 40,000 inscribed fragments. From these fragments more than 500 books have been reconstructed. They were first found in February or March of 1947  by a Bedouin shepherd boy by the name of Muhammad in a cave on a cliff on the west side of the Dead Sea about eight miles south of Jericho. They had been placed there around A.D. 68 by the Qumran religious community. The value of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSC) were that the oldest most recent Hebrew MSS we possessed up to this discovery was 980 A.D. Because this was true, until the discovery of the DSC it was difficult to prove that what we had was an accurate transmission since the time of Christ. The Hebrew Text of Isaiah was dated at 125 B.C., more than 1000 years older than the Hebrew Text of Isaiah we possessed. When our most recent copy of the Hebrew Text of Isaiah was compared with the DSC MSS, it was found to be more than ninety-five percent identical, and the five percent of variation consisted mainly in slips of the pen and variations in spelling. The variations that existed in no way changed the meaning or communication of the text which means that the teachings of the manuscripts weren't altered at all. Concerning this accuracy, Wilson concludes: "The proof that the copies of the original documents have been handed down with substantial correctness for more than 2,000 years cannot be denied. That the copies in existence 2,000 years ago had been in like manner handed down from the originals is not merely possible, but, as we have shown, is rendered probable by the analogies of documents now existing of which we have both originals and copies, thousands of years apart, and of scores of papyri which show when compared with our modern editions of the classics that only minor changes of the text have taken place in more than 2,000 years and especially by the scientific and demonstrable accuracy with which the proper spelling of the names of kings and of the numerous foreign terms embedded in the Hebrew text has been transmitted to us."

The Bible is the Most Wonderful and Precious Book in the World. 
We must also be aware that the Bible is under attack. Satan, who succeeded in selling the first "revised" edition of God's Word to Eve in the Garden of Eden, has surely been busy in this 20th Century along the same lines. We know about the "population explosion" and the "explosion of scientific knowledge," but we are also in the middle of a "Bible translation explosion"-a veritable flood of new Bible translations, versions, revisions and paraphrases, all claiming to be the "most accurate," the "most readable" and the "most up-to-date." The publishing and sale of these new Bibles has become a highly profitable business, employing all the psychological approaches of modern advertising to sell them to the public. Some think this proliferation of Bible versions is wonderful. But serious-minded, thoughtful people must eventually ask, "Which Bible is the real Bible, the true Word of God that He promised to preserve?" In 2 Corinthians 2:17, the Spirit of God warned against the "many which corrupt the word of God." Therefore, it is not surprising in studying Church History to discover that such attempts to corrupt the Word of God were clearly evident in the altered, polluted and revised manuscripts purporting to be the Word of God. Unfortunately, many people today fail to see that even greater corruptions of the Word of God are taking place before our eyes. The purpose of this article is to share with God's people, simply and briefly, some of the important information we have found in studying this important subject.

What Does the Bible Say About The Original Writings?

  1.  "The WORDS (extent of preservation) of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven time.  THOU (agent of preservation, God) shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation  FOR EVER (period of preservation)." Psalms 12:6,7  This verse shows that the very WORDS are inspired and preserved by God, not just the ideas or teaching.

  2. "For verily I say un to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled," Matthew 5:18. Jesus had a chance to correct the scribes if they were wrong. Not only did He not make any corrections, but He insisted that "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).

  3. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my WORDS shall not pass away," Matthew 24:35. He did not say that His Word would not pass away.  He testified that the very WORDS would stand forever.

  4. "The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever," Psalms 33:11.  What is the counsel of the Lord?  The Word of God.  How long does this verse say it will stand?

  5. "and His truth endureth to all generations," Psalms 100:5c  Every generation will have a copy of the Word of God.

  6. Psalms 111:7, 8  says, "ALL  his commandments are sure.  They stand fast FOR EVER and EVER.If I understand this correctly, God will preserve EVERY commandment FOR EVER.

  7. How about this one?  "Thy word is true from the beginning; AND EVERY ONE OF THY RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENTS ENDURETH FOREVER," Psalms 119:160.

  8. "But the word of our God shall stand for ever" Isaiah 40:8b  Pretty self-explanatory.

  9. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my WORDS shall not pass away," Matthew 24:35.  Notice the emphasis He place on the WORDS.  Again, not just his ideas but the very words.

  10. In Matthew 28:19,20 Jesus required the church to teach ALL THINGS whatsoever he commanded.  How could the church teach ALL THINGS from a Bible with thousands of deletions, additions, and changes?

  11. "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail,"  Luke 16:17.  A tittle is smaller than an apostrophe.  

     Many more verses could be given but I think this is sufficient to prove my point.   Therefore, we conclude that the originals inspired by God are promised to be preserved for ever. Hence, they are still around today exactly as they were penned down.  If God was powerful enough to inspire the originals, could He not also preserve them from human corruption?

     If God promised to preserve every single word of His Word, where is this Bible?  Is it one of the translations that is constantly changing?  Or is it one that can not make up its mind what verses are supposed to be included and which should be deleted?  While recognizing the extreme difficulties involved in translations of any kind and especially of a book as important as the Bible, we are convinced that God gave us the King James Bible-and that it will be far better for us to expand our vocabulary in order to understand its terminology than to continually re-write the Bible to suit those who will not be able to understand it anyway apart from the New Birth, or Christians who are too lazy to study.

     It is true that some English words have changed in their meaning and others are no longer in common usage. Such words are comparatively few and can easily be comprehended with the use of a good dictionary; but if the word is missing altogether, what then? Untold confusion is caused by the promotion and use of so many different Bible versions. Why don't more pastors and Christian leaders see this? Congregational reading is becoming virtually impossible. Bible memorization is most difficult. And just think of the uncertainty which results when some verses are in the Bible, some are in with brackets around them, and some are missing completely. And many, whether in the text or in the footnotes, have their validity challenged. For all of these reasons and many more, we conclude that modern Bible versions are dangerous and that God's people should beware of them. We close with a plea to all who love the Lord and His Word-look into this important question quickly and carefully. Then join us in seeking to alert and warn others concerning these subtle and devastating attacks being made upon God's Holy Word.

 
     
 
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