7. Where is the scriptural evidence?
We now move on to the final missionary objection to the living traditions of Israel. The missionaries ask – where is the scriptural evidence? Why does scripture not explicitly say – “there is an oral law”?
For someone who has an understanding of the living legacy of our nation, this question is meaningless. It would be like pointing to a map and asking “where does it say here that there is a real country”? Or like pointing to a teacher’s roll book and asking “who says that there are any three dimensional people in this class”? This is what the Torah is talking about. It is talking about a living law. It is talking about a real spiritual entity called “Sabbath”, and another called “purity”, it is obvious that the author of this book wants you to live out these spiritual entities on a personal basis.
This question is meaningless from another angle. The question is predicated upon the Evangelical template of the structure of faith. The Evangelical Christian believes that all revelation must be contained in the Bible, hence the assumption, if it is not in the Bible it can’t be true. The truth of the Bible comes first for the Christian, and everything else must flow from there. The problem is that this faith structure is not supported by the Bible. Nowhere does the Bible say that all revelation must be contained in the Bible. The Bible cannot be the first truth, because it must first be established that the Bible itself is true. The same method that God employed to tell us that the Bible is true, tells us that the living tradition of our nation is true. It is the living tradition of our nation itself, which tells us that the Bible is true. And it says this in the Bible.
The Bible itself tells us how God established His truth in Israel. God had spoken to the Jewish people. God had taken the nation out of bondage in Egypt. God did these things directly and openly. The people did not need to hear about these matters from a prophet neither did they need to read it in a book. God ensured that the later generations of Jews will also encounter these events on the experiential level. The methods that God designated to pass the impact of these events to the future generations are the national observances, and the telling and retelling of the story from father to son (Exodus 10:2, 12:14,25,26,27, 13:8,9,13,15,16, 34:18, Leviticus 23:42,43, Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:20,21, 16:3,12, Judges 6:13, Psalms 44:2, 78:6). The foundational events through which God established His faith amongst His chosen people, are to be found in the hearts of this same people. The truth of scripture stands upon the testimony that God established in Israel’s heart (Psalm 78:5). The power of Sinai and the exodus as it reverberates through the body of Eternal Israel is the pillar upon which God established faith in Israel. In other words, it is the national testimony which corroborates the Bible. If this testimony is to be considered invalid, then the Bible itself has no leg to stand on.
Another way that the Bible testifies to the truth of the national traditions is in the way it emphasizes the corporate entity. Most of the commandments are addressed to all of Israel with the singular “You”. Corporate Israel is to observe the Law as one. This would be impossible if there was no united understanding of the Law. If all we had to go by was the written word and the written word alone, the nation would splinter into fragments, each insisting upon its own interpretation of the Law.
The corporate entity of Israel is enjoined to appoint judges and establish courts that are to adjudicate all matters of God’s Law (Deuteronomy 16:18). In order for any system of justice to operate it is necessary that there be an authoritative interpretation of the Law. If there were to be no authoritative interpretation of the Law no one could be declared guilty by the courts. Every violator could justify his actions by appealing to his own interpretation of the Law. The only way this can be understood is when we realize that the corporate understanding of the Law is incumbent upon every individual.
Furthermore, there are many laws which are not sufficiently explicated in the words of the scripture alone. Let us take the law of tithing as an example. Numbers 18:21 teaches that all tithes belong to the sons of Levi. Deuteronomy 14:22-27 tells us to take the tithes of our crop to the chosen place and eat it together with our families. In the next paragraph (Deuteronomy 14:28-29) we are told to give the tithes of the third year to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow. On the basis of the written word alone one would not know the proper procedure of tithing the crops. This commandment is incumbent upon every farmer (- the vast majority of the population in the agricultural society of biblical times), yet the scripture itself does not fully explain the procedure. Without an authoritative national understanding that reconciles these seemingly contradictory passages, the system of tithing would not work.
Another series of laws that are not fully revealed in the pages of scripture are the laws pertaining to the holidays. Scripture emphasizes the importance of observing the holidays in their proper times, yet scripture never informs us how we should construct the calendar. The holidays are to be observed in unison (Deuteronomy 31:11). This cannot happen if there is no authoritative method of creating a calendar. During the Second Temple era, when some elements in Israel began rejecting the authority of the Pharisee leaders, the calendar was one of the first areas they took issue with. Since the details of the calendar are not specified in the Five Books, and since the corporate understanding of the calendar relied on living leaders to apply the principles of the calendar, these schismatic communities refused to observe the Pharisee calendar. (It is interesting to mote that the early Jewish-Christian community did obey the Pharisee leadership in this regard). The observance of the holidays would be impossible if all the information given to the nation were the words recorded in the Five Books.
The laws of forbidden work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), the laws of forbidden fats of the animal (Leviticus 7:23), and the civil laws of Exodus 21 and 22 would be quite difficult to observe if all the information we had to go with was the words recorded in the Five Books. These laws were obviously meant to be taken seriously, yet the written word is open to various interpretations. If the nation is expected to follow these laws, we can be sure that they were given an enhanced understanding. These laws are practically meaningless without an Oral Law.
Yet another method through which scripture validates the Oral Law is where mention is made of details of the law that are not explicated elsewhere. The wording of scripture indicates that no new law is being presented, but rather the reader is expected to be familiar with these details. Deuteronomy 26:14 has the farmer declaring that he has not eaten of the tithes while in a state of mourning nor has he given of them to the dead, details that are mentioned nowhere else in the Five Books. Numbers 31:23 has Elazar telling the soldiers details to the purity laws that are not presented elsewhere. We can see that the laws came with explications that are not written in the text.
Finally and most simply, there is one commandment where scripture is most direct and explicit in reporting to us that an extra-scriptural explanation came along with the commandment. This commandment is the law that prohibits idolatry. The text goes to great lengths to describe that the nation as a whole was granted a prophetic revelation which made clear to them who it is that they are to worship, and who it is that they are not to worship (Deuteronomy 4:9 – 39). It is clear that God felt that the written word will not be enough to convey the full meaning of the commandment, and additional revelation was necessary. This was given to the nation together with the admonition to pass the message on their progeny (Deuteronomy 4:9). If there is one commandment in which scripture tells us that there is a supplement to the written word alone, it is this commandment of idolatry. It is precisely here where all of Christendom (with the exception of the Unitarians) rejects the Jewish legacy. The Christian rejection of the Jewish legacy is not rooted in a respect for scripture.
Originally posted on: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/the-council-of-my-nation/