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“RABBINIC HERMENEUTICS & CHRISTS PREACHING”

Rev. Paul Conway 2003 Based on the Works of Brad Young in “Jesus, the Jewish Theologian” and “Parables”

I. RABBINIC LITTERATURE: SLIDE #1

A. RABBINIC WORKS OF LITTERATURE

1. Mishnah: Lit. “To Repeat” (Equal to our modern Day Ethics)

2. Tosepta: “Additions” (Additions to the Mishnah)

3. Talmud Babylonian and Jerusalem: “Learning or Study” (Comments on the


Mishnah)

4. Targums: “Translate” (Arabic Translations of Scripture)

5. Midrash: “Search” (Commentaries on scripture verse by verse)

II. TWO MAIN DIVISIONS OF RABBINIC LITERATURE CONCEPTS HALLAKAH


MIDRASH AND HAGGADAH MIDRASH

A. DEFINITIONS

1. Midrash: “House of Study”

2. Hallakah: “The way of Walking” legal lore

3. Haggadah: Lit. “To search” story telling for Bible exposition (cf. Jn 5:39 & 7:52)

B. HALAKAH MIDRASH: THE WAY OF WALKING

1. This is legal in nature

2. Give us instruction on how to live and walk before God

3. 10 commandments would reflect this and commands, procedures

4. Mishnah
a. R. S& S says this R S. & S. says that

5. This is why people think Judaism is legalistic

6. What if archeologists discovered America?


a. 2000 years from now, should the Lord tarry, archeologists who dig up the
American “Bill of Rights” would say we were a very legalistic society. But
that’s not true. What about Mark Twain, Michael Criton, Tom Clancy, and all
the other authors. The same is so with our view of Judaism. It was not limited
to this alone.

C. HAGGADAH MIDRASH

1. Story telling to reach the heart through the mind

2. Bridged the gap between the highly educated and simple people

3. Example: “The Rabbi and the exceedingly ugly man”. (Parables, Brad Young p. 9)
found in Babylonian Talmud Taan 20 a-b
“Hear Haggadah but listen for things from Jesus” Used Humor…

4. Parable of “The man and the two wives”. (Babylonian Talmud B. Kam. 60b.)
a. A rabbi was requested by one student to share some points on Hallakah and
the other asked him to share some points from Haggadah. As he shared
some Hallakah one student prevented him. As he went to share some
Haggadah the other prevented him. He finally spoke out to them and said,
“I will share a parable; to what is this like? [To what may the matter be
compared]? To a man who has had two wives, one young and the other old.
The young one use to pluck out his white hair, whereas the old one use to
pluck out the black hair. He thus finally remained bald on both sides.”

III. CONTRASTING HAGGADAH AND HALAKAH

A. Haggadah inspired while Halakah instructed

B. Halakah gave instruction Hagadah gives vision of why to act and live right

C. Styles of Teachers who debated over which style was greater Halakah or Haggadah
(Babylonian Talmud Sota 40a)

1. “To what can I liken the matter? It is like two merchants, one selling rare jewels
and the other selling common ware. To which one do the people flock? Is it not the
man who sold the common ware?”

D. JEWISH LEARNING AND INTIMACY AS THE GOAL:

1. The goal of study was the knowledge of God.

2. The Root Word “Know” is intimate and same as Adam and Eve “To Know”

3. Abodah. Worship and Work combined into one word.

4. Conclusion: The Jews did not mind studying hard because to them study and work
are synonymous and the end result would be a knowledge of God. An intimate
knowledge of the Lover of their soul. Even the Concept of Love and Marriage is
rooted in work and time. A wife and husband become married but over a lifetime
they eventually fall in love. (E.g. Fiddler on the Roof as husband asks if she loved
him when they got married).

IV. OTHER FORMS OF RABBINIC HERMEUTICS

A. RABBINIC HERMENEUTICAL TERMS

B. Kal vah homer: “From the Light to the heavier matters”

1. Mt. 7:7-11

2. Mt 6:25-30

C. Hekesh: “Striking two things together to understand them better”

1. “To what can I liken this or to what can I compare the matter.”

D. Word plays: “using metaphor’s to convey a concept” e.g.

1. Gentle as doves wise as serpents

2. Mt 11:28 Take my yoke upon you”

E. Non Canonical Books and NT Interpretations has expanded version of this and its origin

V. THE PARABLES WITH LIGHT FROM RABBINIC LITTERATURE:

A. INTRODUCTORY THOUGHTS:

1. Parables are Jewish Teaching Tools

2. Different from folklore that uses animals and unrealistic things e.g. Aesop Fables.

3. Simple: Heavenly story with an earthly meaning

4. Rabbis were attempting to reach the heart through the head.

5. Key to a parable. “What’s the Point”


a. Many make the mistake of allegory and attempt to develop theology from
multiple meaning and characters.
b. An arrow best represents a parable. Many parts aiming with one point to hit
the bulls-eye of the heart.
c. Easy to miss it’s true meaning by applying allegory or misunderstanding the
point.
d. E.g. The Good Samaritan… Who is my neighbor? Most say the person in
need, but Jesus said, “Who was a neighbor to the man in need?” The teacher
in the Law replied “the one who showed mercy”. Jesus was really hitting on
hatred and prejudice toward our enemies, not helping those in need.
Although one could conclude that from all the people who didn’t help the
man in need.

VI. RABBINIC AND NT LITTERATURE ALLUSIONS

A. “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be forgiven when
you pray. Does a person harbor anger against another any yet seek for healing from the
Lord? Does he have not mercy toward a man like himself and yet pray for his own sins? If
he himself, being flesh maintains wrath, who will make expiation for his sins? Remember
the end of your life and cease from enmity Sirach 28:2-6a.

B. Cf. Mt 5:23-24 call for reconciliation

C. The unmerciful servant. Rabbinic concepts of forgiveness

VII. CONCEPTS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD SHEDDING LIGHT ON THE PARABLES

A. INTRODUCTORY THOUGHTS:

1. Partner parables, not twins, more like tag team. Two angles on one truth

2. First cluster is a mustard seed and dough with yeast or leaven

3. Second cluster is a hidden treasure and a pearl of great price

4. Misinterpretation: Jesus is the treasure and the pearl. The other people misinterpret
the concept of when and where the kingdom Jesus is talking about.

B. JESUS, THE KINDGOM OF GOD OR HEAVEN AND MISINTERPRETATION

1. Jesus does not give us a dictionary version of what the kingdom is. Rather, he tells
his listeners what the kingdom is via short, yet powerful parables.

2. Many well meaning NT Scholars misinterpret the messages of Jesus by applying


new techniques. Unless one understands the Rabbinic Parabolic concept and Jewish
thought behind the kingdom of God it is easy to misinterpret the true message.

3. Well meaning scholars gone wrong


a. Kingdom Now: We as believers so impact the world that it becomes
Christian and because of that Christ returns.
b. Future Kingdom: Applying Eschatology to Parables that it refers to the
kingdom yet to come. This in part by applying Apocalyptic literature e.g.
Revelation.
c. Life after death: Many who say the kingdom Jesus is referring to is the one
only experienced upon death and welcome into heaven. The “Other World”
or Kingdom.
d. Realized Eschatology: A scholar who said it is a kingdom yet to come but
was partially experienced during the life of Christ
e. So what did Jesus Teach about the kingdom?

C. THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED AND LEVEN

1. (SLIDE #2) “What is the Kingdom of Heaven like? And to what shall I compare
it? It is like a grain of mustard seed to which a man took and sowed in his garden;
and it grew and became a tree and the birds of the air made their nests in its
branches.”

2. (SLIDE #3) “And he said, to what shall I compare the kingdom of heaven? It is
like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flower, till it was all
leavened.” (Mt.13:31-33 Lk. 13:18-21 Mk. 4:30-32)

D. (SLIDE #4) GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

1. Mustard seed the size of a grain of salt can grow in hostile dry rocky conditions,
strong enough to move boulders as it grows and eventually multiplies its size a
million times over.

2. Leaven: a.k.a. yeast. Used negatively in NT as hypocrisy and Sin (Gal. 5:9 1 Co.
5:7). Used here to represent the kingdom of God.

3. Both of these parables are talking about the growing power of Gods kingdom in
ones life.

E. (SLIDE#5) LEVEN AND GROWTH IN RABBINIC LITTERATURE

1. Leaven used in a positive manor in rabbinic literature. Many times it is likened to


the peace of Shalom: (M. Higger, The Treties Derech Eretz, 2.248, 84)
a. “Great is peace-for as peace is to the earth so is leaven to the dough. Had the
Holy One, blessed be He, not given peace to the earth, the sword and the beast
would have devastated the world”

2. Another place rabbinic writing compares the inner working of the Torah (Word of
God) to the inner force of leaven.
a. “It is written; because your fathers have forsaken me and have not kept my
Torah. (Jer. 6:11) If only they had kept observing my Torah! Indeed, if they
forsake me, everything would turn out well provided that they keep studying
my Torah. Because even if the did forsake me, but kept occupying
themselves with the study of my Torah, it leaven [inner force], through the
engagement with it, would be so powerful as to bring them back to me.”

3. These insights together with Jesus’ context tells us the Kingdom of God is not some
political force one can impose on others or some futuristic kingdom yet to come in
the last days or upon death.
4. It’s a kingdom here and now with a growing force in the life of the individual. Like
leaven in dough or a mustard seed in the ground; it is destined to work its way
through the entire life of the believer.

5. Growth of Gods Kingdom in our life comes from allowing his planting and his word
to take residence within us. The power of the Gospel and Kingdom is its growth
contained in the seed and the leaven. It is destined to do great things.

6. Growth in the kingdom produces a believer subject to its rule and under its power.
It produces a believer who is Meek, a peacemaker, able to go the extra mile, is poor
in spirit, hungers and thirsts for righteousness, and can turn the other cheek.

7. The power lies in the leaven. If you allow it to work into every area of your life it is
destined to rise up and dominate every part of it. It effect only what we kneed it
into. If you only give God a portion of the dough that is all it works for.

8. The power lies in the seed. If you allow the kingdom to be planted into your life,
regardless of how rocky the soil or hostile the environment, it is destined to grow in
amazing proportions.

F. THE VALUE OF THE KINGDOM. HIDDEN TREASURE AND A PEARL OF GREAT


PRICE

1. (SLIDE #6) “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a
man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and
bought the field.” Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine
pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had
and bought it” (MT. 13:44-46).

2. They look the same but are really communicating two messages. Another pair of
partner parables on the kingdom of God.

3. One is a man who stumbles on a treasure, while the other man has spent his life
dealing with pearls. After years of handling treasure he finds one worth possessing
for himself.

4. The essence of these parables deal with how much one values Gods kingdom rule in
their lives. They catch a glimpse of its tremendous value and do what it takes to
possess it.

G. (SLIDE #7-9) MISINTERPRETATION OF THESE PARABLES AND ALLEGORY

1. Many have misinterpreted the point Jesus was trying to make because they have
used allegory.

2. Allegory. Making things in a story symbols of a deeper meaning.


3. Origen, The Father of Allegory. An early church Father who applied a new
hermeneutic that said there were two meanings. The obvious one and the hidden,
more spiritual one. Below is an example of Origen applying allegory to the parable
of the hidden treasure.
a. “And you will give the same application, if the field containing the hidden
treasure be Christ, for those who give up all things and follow Him, have, as
it were, in another way, sold their possessions, in order that, by having sold
and surrendered them, and having received in their place from God-their
helper-a noble resolution, they may purchase, at great cost worth of the
field, the field containing the treasure hidden in itself.”(Origen,
Commentary on Matthew 10.6). {ANF, 1:496}

4. A Parable about Allegory by Paul Conway:


a. “To what can I liken allegory? To what can it be compared? It is like a
young lady who receives a compliment from a handsome young man then
tells all her friends she is engaged to be married.”

5. As well meaning as Origen and many scholars today are, their interpretation of
Christ and the treasure our not the true message Jesus was trying to convey here. Is
Christ a precious treasure? Yes! Is he more precious than silver and gold? Yes!
But is there a message he wants us to understand that many are missing? Yes!
Allegory robs scripture of the true message being communicated into a well-
intended idea, but an idea the speaker never intended to communicate.

6. I want to have all God wants for me, and I wish to understand all he says to me,
even if it means disagreeing with some.

7. Let’s dig a little and see if we can unearth the treasure of the message Christ was
trying to give us.

H. (SLIDE #10) TREASURE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD AND JOSEPHUS

1. Josephus gives us insight on why a treasure might be hidden in a field


a. “Of the vast wealth of the city no small portion was still being discovered
among the ruins. Much of this the Romans dug up, but the greater part they
became possessed of through the information of the prisoners, gold and
silver and other most precious articles, which the owners in view of the
uncertain fortunes of war had stored underground.” Josephus Jewish Wars
7.113-115

2. In a day when no banks existed the safest place to store wealth was a safe place in
the ground. Many stored possessions in the ground in hopes to return to them after
danger had passed.

I. TREASURE AND THE TORAHS VALUE IN RABBINIC LITTERATURE


1. An example of someone finding a treasure in a field from Rabbinic Literature: The
parable is playing on Pharaoh realizing the treasure of Israel after he let them free
and pursued them to bring them back.
a. (SLIDE #11) “Rabbi Simeon B. Yachai taught: [The Egyptians were] like a
man who inherited a piece of ground used as a dunghill. Being an indolent
man. He went and sold it for a trifling sum. The purchaser began working
and digging it up, and he found a treasure there, out of which he built
himself a fine palace, and he began going about in public followed by a
retinue of servants-all out of the treasure he found in it. When the seller saw
it he was ready to choke, and he exclaimed, “Alas, what have I thrown
away.” Song Rab. 4.12.1 and a parallel found in Pesik. Rab Kah. 11:7

2. Another reference in Rabbinic Literature likens the cost of Torah learning and one
Rabbi’s value of studying the Torah.
a. (SLIDE #12) “Rabbi Johnanan was once going on foot from Tiberius to
Sepphoris, accompanied by Rabbi Hiyya B. Abba. As they passed a certain
field, R. Johanan said: “This field used to belong to me, and I sold it so that
I could devote myself to the study of the Torah. They came to a vineyard and
R. Johanan said: “this vineyard used to belong to me, and I sold it in order
to devote myself to the study of the Torah.” They passed an olive press and
he said the same thing. Rabbi Hiyya began to weep. Why are you weeping?
he asked. He replied “I am weeping because you have not left yourself
anything for your old age.” He said to him “Hiyya my son, think you so
little of what I have done in selling a thing which was presented after the six
days, as it says, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth (Ex. XX,
II)? But the Torah was given after forty days, as it says, and he was there
with the Lord forty days. And it also is written then I abode in the mount for
forty days (Deut. 9). When Rabbi Johnanan was laid to rest, his generation
applied to him this verse; “IF A MAN WOULD GIVE ALL THE
SUBSTANCE OF HIS HOUSE FOR LOVE for the love which Rabbi
Johnanan bore to the Torah he would be utterly Contemned. (Song Rab.
8.7.1) cf. MT. 19:28-30

3. A Rabbi who would not trade his place of living among Torah learning for great
wealth because of His value for the Torah:
a. “ Rabbi Jose, the son of Kisma, said, I was once walking by the way, when a
man met me and greeted me, and I retuned his greeting. He said to me,
Rabbi, from what place are you? I said to him, I come from a great city of
sages and scribes. He said to me, if you are willing to dwell with us in our
place, I will give you a thousand golden dinars and precious stones and
pearls. I said to him, Even if you were to give me all the silver and gold and
precious stones and pearls in the world, I would not dwell anywhere but in a
home of the Torah.” Mishna Abot 6:9

J. (SLIDE # 13) VALUING THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN ONES LIFE

1. What makes something valuable?


a. Diamonds only worth $6.00 (Created market)
b. Water or diamonds in a desert? Water is valuable!

2. The Torah was life to the Jew, the Reign of God in their life. This is why John says,
“The word became flesh” because it was already spirit.

3. What we want and what were willing to pay for determines what we value

4. Whether you find it by accident have spent your life looking for the one thing worth
selling out for when you find the Kingdom of heaven and see its value you will
rejoice

5. The Kingdom reign will cost you everything, but it is worth it!

6. One Mans dung heap is another mans palace. Not all will see the value of the
kingdom.

K. THE GROWING POWER OF THE KINGDOM


1. Gods reign in your life when he is allowed to throne himself upon your heart, will
overtake every area of it.

2. Let God begin to reign in your life, give him a chance to plant in your soul, to knead
the yeast of his kingdom in your Spirit and Gods power and growth will multiply his
work in your life.

3. No matter how rough the soil, all he needs is a chance to plant in your life.

4. You must work the kingdom through every area of your life. Can’t be savior
without being Lord.

5. Growth will be so amazing other will be able to find refuge on the strength of your
life because of its growth in you.