Judaism: a Retreat from Biblical Monotheism
The history of the Jewish people is clearly divided into two periods: before and after the expiatory death of Jesus Christ. As the Sacrifice for the sins of the world had not yet been carried out, Old Testament history continued, the entire meaning of which consisted in waiting and preparation to meet the coming Savior. Messianic expectations were particularly pronounced during the last decades before the arrival of the Savior into the world. People not only in Jerusalem, but also in other cities and villages of Palestine, waited for the Messiah foretold in the Holy Scripture.
Time was fulfilled. The Messiah came, but Jewish leaders, Pharisees, and Sadducees condemned him to death. But why were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes offended? Why was it enough for the Samaritan woman to reveal the secret side of her life for her to gladly believe that the traveler standing beside her, weary from the road and asking her for water, was Christ (see John 4:42)? Why did the Pharisees and scribes, who were witnesses to the magnificent miracles performed by Jesus and knew the Scriptures better than anyone else, stubbornly refuse to recognize Christ? Finally, one more question: why did they hate Him, despite the fact that he delivered many people from terrible disease and suffering?
The answer must be sought in the peculiarities and character of the spiritual life of the leaders of Israel. Religious life demands of a person self-attentiveness, moral sensitivity, humility, and pure intentions. Without this, the heart gradually hardens. A change inevitably occurs, the consequences of which are spiritual death.
“The Jews imagined the Messiah as a powerful earthly king, who would exalt the them above all nations and make them wealthy and powerful.”
Already before the beginning of our Savior’s Gospel of the Heavenly Kingdom, the Jews had begun to imagine the Messiah as a powerful earthly king, who would exalt them above all nations and make them wealthy and powerful. This concept of the Messiah corresponded to their spiritual and moral condition.
For a proper understanding of the prophecy inspired by the Holy Spirit, not doctrinal erudition, but pure, uncorrupted faith was necessary.
The consciousness of lawyers and scribes, corrupted by sin, did not notice the parts of the Old Testament in which the spiritual qualities of the promised Messiah are given: "behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass" (Zech. 9:9); " Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth" (Isa. 42:1-3; cf.: Matt. 12:20).
Despite all the seemingly multifaceted events preceding the trial of the Savior of the world, there is only one reason for such a grave sin to have been committed—the people were rooted in sin and loved it. They seethed with anger at He who had come to the world to conquer and destroy sin.
After Christ the Messiah, who came to save the world, was slandered, profaned, and put to death, the spiritual death of the chosen people began. The Lord Jesus Christ spoke to the Hebrews directly, "He that hateth me hateth my Father also" (John 15:23). This means that the monotheism of the Hebrew leaders became entirely formalistic.
“In literature, Old Testament religion, which ends with the conclusion of the New Testament, and Judaism, are often confused. This association is completely wrong.”
In literature, Old Testament religion, which ends with the conclusion of the New Testament, and Judaism, are often confused. This association is completely wrong. The expectation of the Messiah, which permeated the centuries-long history of the religion of the descendants of the Prophet Moses, ended. The goals and aspirations of the Hebrews, led by the Pharisees and Sadducees, stayed on Earth. Earthly well-being, wealth, success, and power became core values. In keeping with these, they imagined the anticipated Messiah.
However, the prophets foretold the coming of another Messiah—the Suffering Messiah. The Prophet Isaiah, who is called the "Old Testament Evangelist" (see Saint Jerome, Letter to Paulinus) because of his many prophesies and the precision of their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, speaks about this with impressive clarity and precision.
What then is the true Messiah? "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth… for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand" (Isa. 53:7-10).
“Were the Jews familiar with the 53rd chapter of the Book of Prophet Isaiah? Not all of them. Usually during weekly readings at the synagogue this chapter is omitted.”
Were the Jews familiar with this chapter of the great prophet? Not all of them. Usually during weekly readings at the synagogue this chapter is omitted. Here is an excerpt from the memoirs of Rosa Price, who survived the horrors of several Nazi concentration camps and accepted Jesus Christ. Her daughter became a follower of the Savior Jesus, but she adhered to old misconceptions. "I ran to the rabbi. He would tell me different Scriptures with which to challenge my family. In response, they would give me five more. At the urging of my family, I asked the rabbi about Isaiah 53. He said, “No Jew reads that, especially not a Jewish woman.” So I couldn’t read it. The same for Psalm 22. There are 328 prophecies of the coming of the suffering servant Messiah. I asked the rabbi about almost all of them. Finally, the rabbi told me not to come to the synagogue anymore because I had read him Isaiah 53" (Rosa Price. The Survivor // Sid Roth. They Thought for Themselves. WWP, 2007).
“Rabbis assert that Isaiah 53 speaks of the Jewish people.”
How did the lawyers, who knew many parts of the Old Testament Bible by heart, explain the chapter? In the period of the Talmud's formation, the scribes recognized that the 53rd chapter was a prophecy of the Messiah's coming. However, beginning with the famed Hebrew exegete Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki; 1040 - 1105), rabbis assert that the 53rd chapter speaks of the Jewish people. A simple reference to the text can refute this belief.
- "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isa. 53:4). Whose grief did the Jewish people take on and whose sorrows did they carry?
- "With his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5). Who has been healed by the wounds of the Jewish people?
- "For the transgression of my people was he stricken" (Isa. 53:8). If it is speaking of the Jewish people, then who suffered punishment for the transgressions of the Jewish people?
- "And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death" (Isa. 53:9). When and in which grave are the Jewish people buried?
In the holy Old Testament books there are signs of the appearance of Christ (the Messiah) and in it are described his chief characteristics. Of the prophecies on the coming of Christ into the world in the Old Testament, before all else it is necessary to note the vision of the prophet Daniel, foretelling even the year of the Savior's death. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined" (Dan. 9:24-26). Week (seven) is understood as 7 years, and 70 sevens consists of 490 years. It is the timeframe for the "end of sin." Here, we are talking about Christ the Savior's atonement for people who have violated the will of God and fallen from grace. In the prophecy, the Messiah is directly indicated ("to anoint the most Holy"). To calculate the amount of time given here, one must turn to historical sources, noting the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem, which fell as a result of the Babylonian destruction in 586. The count of seventy sevens begins from the date of the reconstruction of Jerusalem. The decree for the restoration was given by Artaxerxes Longimanus in the 20th year of his reign. He came to the throne between December 18, 465 and December 18, 464 BC. The seventh year of his reign, from which the countdown of weeks begins, comes in 458 or 457. From this time period to the time of the appearance of Christ our Lord, 69 weeks (483 years) should pass.
The Forerunner of the coming of the Messiah is also mentioned in the Old Testament. "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 3:1). Dwellers in Palestine knew the Holy Scripture and saw in John, who preached repentance, the Angel of the Covenant predicted by the prophets. Thus, people from all of Jerusalem and all the outskirts of the Jordan came to him (see Mark 1:5).
In the holy books of the Old Testament, there are prophecies of all of the main events in the life of Jesus the Messiah. The prophet Micah identified the place of birth: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Mic. 5:2).
The Word of God demonstrated the great spiritual gifts of the future Anointed One. "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (Isa. 11:1-2). All of this was fulfilled by Jesus: "... the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:28-29).
Through the prophets, the Holy Spirit indicated a special distinguishing feature of the Messiah, the extraordinary power of wonderworking: "He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert" (Isa. 35:4-6). When the two men came to Jesus from John the Baptist to ask, "Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?" (Luke 7:20), the Lord before all else points to the miracles he has performed: "The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me" (Luke 7:22-23). The people knew that the Messiah would be characterized by the miracles he performed. "Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?” (Matt. 12:22-23).
A mind corrupted by sin could not notice the parts of the Old Testament in which the spiritual qualities of the promised Messiah are given: "Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass" (Zech. 9:9).
1. The Jews, having rejected the Messiah as the incarnate Son of God, could not remain in the scope of the Revelation given in the Old Testament. Gradually, to the Law given by God, the Pharisees and scribes added 613 commandments: 365 positive commandments and 248 negative commandments.
The Lord rebukes the Hebrew teachers of the law. "For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8). Faith in God as a real, absolute Person—this is monotheism—is replaced by ritualism. In Judaism, the authority of the Talmud is greater than the Torah (Pentateuch). The famed rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes, "If the Torah is the foundation of Judaism, then the Talmud is the central pillar supporting the entire spiritual and philosophical edifice. In many ways, the Talmud is the most important book in Jewish culture, the backbone of creativity and of national life. No other work has had a comparable influence on the theory and practice of Jewish life. The Jews always recognized that as a people, their preservation and development depends on the study of the Talmud" ("What is the Talmud?").
What is this "central pillar" of Judaism? I will introduce an excerpt from the Tract Sabbath, with commentary from Rabbi Pinchas Kehati: "The cripple may go out with his wooden leg; such is the decree of Rabbi Meir, but Rabbi Jose prohibits it. If the wooden leg has a receptacle for pads, it is subject to defilement. Crutches are subject to defilement by being sat or trodden upon; but one may go out with them on Sabbath and enter the outer court (of the Temple). The chair and crutches of a paralytic are subject to defilement, and one must not go out with them on the Sabbath nor enter the outer court (of the Temple). Stilts are not subject to defilement, but nevertheless one must not go out with them on Sabbath."
Commentary: "The cripple, a man with one amputated leg, may go out on the Sabbath on his wooden leg, an artificial leg, made according to the size of his shin. Such is the decree of Rabbi Meir, who believes that an artificial leg corresponds to footwear, while Rabbi Jose forbids the cripple from going out with his wooden leg on the Sabbath. According to him, it does not correspond to footwear because the cripple stands primarily with his hands on a cane, while the artificial leg is only for appearance's sake so that his physical handicap would go unnoticed. Thus, the artificial leg on Sabbath is seen as an unnecessary load, and it is prohibited to enter with it. According to the other point of view, Rabbi Jose agrees that the artificial leg equates to footwear, however he is afraid that the man will detach it and will carry over 4 cubits into the public domain, but Rabbi Meir does not have this fear.”
I risk fatiguing the reader, but I will introduce one more place from the Talmud to fully portray the spiritual deadness of ritualism. “There are two acts constituting the transfer (of things which are prohibited) on the Sabbath, which are in turn subdivided into four for a man who finds himself inside a private domain (reshut hayachid). The two acts are, however, increased to four for a man who finds himself outside in the public domain (reshut harabim). How so? For example, a mendicant stands outside (in reshut harabim) and the master of a house inside (in reshut hayachid). The mendicant passes his hand into the house (through for example a window) and puts something into the hand of the master (let's say a basket, so that he might give him a piece of bread), or (another variation) the mendicant reaches out and takes something from the master's hand (a piece of bread). In these two cases, the mendicant is breaking the law of the Sabbath, but the host is not. Or, if the master of the house (being inside) passes his hand through a window and puts, say, a piece of bread, into the hand of the mendicant, or, having put out his hand, he takes an object (a basket) from the hands of the mendicant, who is standing outside on the street, and brings it into the house, the master of the house would have broken the law of the Sabbath, but not the mendicant. This is the first part of the Mishna, which has demonstrated to us what the “two acts” of transferring objects mean, from the position of one who is inside, and from the position of one who finds himself outside. Carrying out any of these acts on the Sabbath is prohibited" (Tract Sabbath).
Instead of a living faith in a merciful God and love towards one’s fellow man, entire volumes of the Talmud are filled with the sophistic disputes of various rabbinical schools over what to do with an egg laid by a chicken on the Sabbath, or about a host giving bread to a beggar, so that he does not break the Sabbath.
What a huge spiritual distance there was between the prophets and the scribes! The first to shine in the faith were those who participated in the source of heavenly wisdom, while others directed their extraordinary erudition to "solving" questions irrelevant to life. The lawyers occasionally thrashed out whether one may move a ladder from one dovecote to another on feast days.
It is obvious that religious life, in which ritualism is the determining principle, will become formalistic. "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men" (Isa. 29:13).
Falling away from the living source of Truth will inevitably lead to dissolution and barrenness. In medieval European church art, the contrast between Christianity and Judaism was allegorically represented in the form of two female figures: the Church and the Synagogue. The south portal of the transept (cross aisle) of the cathedral in Strasbourg (approx. 1230) is decorated with such sculptures. The woman representing the Church, clearly and confidently carries a cross in her right hand as if resting on it. The straight folds of her cloak, flowing down to the ground, make her figure solid and firm. Her head is crowned. Her gaze is cast into the distance. The figure of the synagogue holds to her body a spear broken in several places. The bend of the figure repeats the broken line. Scrolls fall out of her left hand. Her head is downcast. Her eyes are blindfolded, a symbol of spiritual darkness.
2. The next phase of Judaism's retreat from Biblical monotheism was the rise and expansion among the Jews of Kabbalah (in Hebrew qabbalah means acceptance or tradition) of mystical teachings and practices. This esoteric theosophical teaching is in spirit and letter absolutely foreign to the Holy Scripture. Two books initiate an exposition of Kabbalah: Sefer Yetzirah (the Book of Creation) and Zohar (Splendor of Radiance). The former was likely written in the sixth and seventh centuries B.C. Confirmation by the Kabbalists themselves of the existence of Sefer Yetzirah already during the time of patriarch Abraham is absolutely mythical and has no evidence. On the contrary, the presence in these books of philosophical ideas of late antiquity, such as Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and others, completely refutes this view. The author of Zohar is believed to be the Spanish Kabbalist Moshe (Moses) de Leon. It was written in approximately 1300 A.D. The desire of modern Kabbalists to make the author of Zohar the disciple of rabbi Akiva Shimon Bar Yochai (Laitman, M. The Book of Zohar. M., 2003. p. 185) , who lived in the second century A.D., contradicts the view of experts. "The Aramaic language of all eighteen of these sections is throughout the same, and throughout it displays the same individual peculiarities. This is all the more important because it is not in any sense a living language which Simeon ben Yohai and his colleagues in the first half of the second century A.D. in Palestine might have conceivably spoken. The Aramaic of the Zohar is a purely artificial affair, a literary language employed by a writer who obviously knew no other Aramaic than that of certain Jewish literary documents, and who fashioned his own style in accordance with definite subjective criteria. The expectation expressed by some scholars that philological investigation would reveal the older strata of the Zohar has not been borne out by actual research. Throughout these writings, the spirit of mediaeval Hebrew, specifically the Hebrew of the thirteenth century, is transparent behind the Aramaic facade" (Scholem, G. (1954). Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. p. 163).
“The essence of Kabbalah is certainly not pantheism, as liberal scholars believed, but is rather pan-Israelism. The Kabbalistic God is needed in Israel for its salvation.”
Kabbalah is divided into the contemplative (Kabbalah Iyunit) and practical (Kabbalah Maasit). The central aspect of the Kabbalah is Ein Sof (The Infinite). In contrast to the God of the Holy Scriptures, Ein Sof has no name because he is without person, unknowable, and incomprehensible. No attributes can be ascribed to him. Ein Sof makes himself known in his manifestations (not to all, but to Jewish mystics). Ein Sof's chief manifestation is the original man, Adam Kadmon. Through his emanations (flows) the ten sefirot come into being, which are the attributes of God. Ten sefirot represent the mystical body of Adam Kadmon (heavenly Adam). He appears as a result of emanation and has no image or form. The earthly Adam was created in the image of heavenly Adam. The tenth sefirot is called "the Kingdom" or Malkuth. It unites all ten sefirot. In Zohar, Malkuth—or Kingdom—denotes how the Knesset (assembly) of Israel is a mystical prototype of the House of Israel (Shekhinah). In The Dialectics of Myth (XIV. 3), Aleksei Losev writes, “As a very well-educated Jew and great expert of Kabbalistic and Talmudic literature (from which I, with the nasty habits of a European observer, sought to learn exclusively about the Neoplatonic influences in Kabbalah) told me, the essence of all Kabbalah does not at all consist in pantheism, as liberal scholars think, who compare the doctrine of Ein Sof and the Sephirot with Neo-Platonism, but rather with pan-Israelitism: the Kabbalistic God needs Israel for His own salvation, He was incarnated in Israel and became it. Therefore the myth of the world domination by a deified Israel, which is forever contained in God.”
Kabbalists have established a correspondence among the different sefirot with parts of the human body. Becoming familiar with this primitive mythological arrangement of the structure of the universe, it becomes difficult to ignore the question that Kabbalists themselves do not ask: What is the source of this "knowledge"? How does one manage to conclude that the sefirot of the Crown (Keter) is the brow, the Tiferet is the chest, Victory (Netzach) and Majesty (Hod) is man's hip?
The esoteric teachings of Sefer Yetzirah and the Zohar are fundamentally incompatible with the biblical teaching on God, the world, man, and humanity's path to salvation. Contemplative Kabbalah represents a combination of elements of Gnosticism of the second and third centuries A.D. and Neo-Platonism. From the Gnostics, it borrows the teaching of the 10 eons, which comprise the pleroma (universal fullness). Dualism is the link between Gnostics and Kabbalists; the idea of eternal enmity began with good (light) and evil (darkness). Kabbalah's dualistic world view finds a direct expression in Sefer Yetzirah: "Also Elohim made every object, one opposite the other: good opposite evil, evil opposite good, good from good, evil from evil, the good delineates the evil and the evil delineates the good, good is kept for the good and evil is kept for the evil.” It is evident that the teaching, which ascribes evil an ontological status, leads to the justification of evil. In contrast, according to the Holy Scripture, evil was not created by God, but arose as a result of the abuse of the gift of freedom given by God to his creatures, Angels and mankind.
Kabbalistic teaching is an obvious expression of pantheism, a complete retreat from monotheism. God and the world are understood as one complete whole. The world is only a manifestation of God. Pantheism is fraught with internal contradictions. Its logical consequence is inevitably first the derogation of God, and next, denial of him, because all of the world's imperfections are attributed to him.
Kabbalists divide the world into male and female elements. The right and left spheres are respectively male and female. The world is presented as a loving union, as the unification of male and female elements. The relationship between the spheres is interpreted with the help of gender symbolism.
Kabbalah presents itself as a fantastical mix of esoteric occultism, blended with pagan religious and philosophical ideas. It attests to a complete regression from the great and saving teachings of the Bible with its deep and sustained monotheism.