The Center for
Messianic Learning 

Unapologetically Pro-Torah
Unashamedly Pro-Israel
Irrevocably Zionist
ב״ה
“… out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Yerushalayim.”
(Isaiah 2:3)
Jew and Gentile (Synagogue and Church), one in Messiah. (Ephesians 2:14)
“For He is our peace, Who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, …”
 

If your life is not in jeopardy for what you believe, you’re probably on the wrong side!
“Indeed, all who want to live a godly life united with the Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.” (2Tim 3:12)
It is what you actually believe that determines how you walk out your faith, “but avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, quarrels and fights about the Torah; because they are worthless and futile.” (Titus 3:9)

Like this page? Share it. MeWe Logo ParlerLogo WimKin Logo CloutHub Others:Bookmark and Share

Please Note: Nothing on this website should be taken as anti-Church. I am not anti-anything or anyone. I am only pro-Torah, pro-Truth, and pro-Grace. Sometimes the Truth upsets our long-held beliefs. Why isn’t my theology consistent throughout this website?

[Explanations of rabbinic citations are HERE]

Developing a
Systematic Messianic Theology

“The purpose of careful theological formulations is not to put barriers in the way of people who are seeking salvation, but to define clearly the truths upon which genuine [Biblical] faith rests, so that people will not be misled by false doctrines.”[Bowman]

The Quest for a New Identity

In this document:

Origin and Purpose of the Synagogue

Judaism in the Late Second Temple Period

The Place of Yeshua-Followers Within Judaism

Judaism After the Destruction of the Temple

The Ascent of Rabbinical Judaism

For over 1500 years, from the time that the Tabernacle was dedicated in about 1445 BCE until the Second Temple was destroyed in 69 CE, the religion of Israel was firmly centered in and about the Tabernacle/Temple. When the Second Temple was destroyed in 69 CE, Judaism was forced to reinvent itself as a “portable” religion.

Origin and Purpose of the Synagogue

The purpose of the synagogue is to provide a venue to facilitate and enhance the Biblical obligation of prayer by adding a communal element. From Moses’ times until the restoration of the Second Temple, we fulfilled the obligation to pray daily by composing our own prayers, and praying privately. We also made pilgrimages to Jerusalem to experience the public services that were conducted in the Holy Temple.

After the restoration of the Second Temple (352 BCE) [following the return from Babylon], the Great Assembly, led by Ezra, instituted the Kaddish, Kedushah, Barechu, and the rest of the standardized communal service (requiring the participation of a minyan or quorum of ten) as well as the obligation for individuals to participate in these services.

There arose both in Israel and the Diaspora places set aside to pray communally. Thus was born the “Place of Gathering”—Beit Kenesset in Hebrew, and synagogos in Greek. The primary public worship experience remained the journey to Jerusalem to participate in and be inspired by the Temple service.

When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 69 CE, the only place for public worship remained the synagogue, which then acquired increased importance as the center of Jewish communal life. The primary focus of Judaism, however, has always been the life of each individual and their home and family, lived in a strong and mutually responsible community. In fact, when a Jewish community starts from scratch, building a synagogue is not the first item on its “to do” list. As set by Jewish law, the priorities as far as setting up communal institutions should be: 1) A mikvah 2) Jewish schooling for children 3) A charity fund 4) A synagogue. Of course, people can—and do—get together anywhere to pray communally.[2]

Judaism in the Late Second Temple Period

Most Christians are used to thinking about “the Church” in terms of denominations: Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Catholics, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Independents, etc., meeting together in little groups (congregations) of people with similar styles of worship and doctrinal understanding. But only on the very rarest of occasions would these diverse-thinking groups of people all come together in the same place at the same time for communal worship, a Billy Graham crusade or a Bill Gather concert, for example.

This was not the case with the Synagogues of the Late Second Temple Period, and certainly not during the first half of the first century of the Common Era. At that time there were essentially three major groups, sects, or divisions of Judaism, with at least five major additional overlapping subgroups.

Prior to the Maccabean revolt[1] (ca. 185-160 BCE), Judaism was rather well united. However, under both Greek and Roman rule many Jews tended to adopt the Greek, or Hellenized, lifestyle. These Hellenistic Jews were opposed by a more traditionalist group known as the Chasideans (not to be confused with modern Chasidic Judaism). As the Seleucid Greeks began to oppress the Jewish people, they united and revolted against the Greeks. For the duration of the 25-year Maccabean war Judaism remained fairly united, but after the war the Jewish people divided into three main groups: the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Each of these major groups contained many variations, or sub-groups, much the same way as there are sub-groups within American political parties. For example, within both the Republican and Democratic parties there are those who consider themselves as conservative, moderate, and liberal; there are also scores of special-interest congressional caucuses, or sub-groups, within the Congress. (Remember that in first-century Israel there was no separation of religion and politics.)

After Israel came under the control of the Roman Empire, a group of political activists known as Zealots arose, who both advocated and attempted to bring about the overthrow of Rome. A particularly violent subgroup of the Zealots was a band of assassins known as the Sicarii (also spelled Sacarii), or assassins, after the Latin word for the short icepick-like daggers with which they dispatched (usually via a quick thrust to the base of the brain) anyone they felt to be a Roman sympathizer. Among Yeshua’s talmidim were at least two members of the party of the Zealots: Simeon Zealotes (Simon the Zealot) and Yehudah Sicarius (or Judah the Assassin), usually translated into English as “Judas Iscariot.”[3] Bar Abba (Barabbas, or Son of a Father), who was released by Governor Pilate in exchange for Yeshua’s execution (Matt 27:11-25), is thought to have been a notorious Sicarius.

The Pharisaic tradition was the only one of these groups to survive the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE by more than a very few years, and is even now not very far removed from modern Rabbinical Judaism. The Sadducees quickly dissolved after the destruction of the Temple because without the priesthood and temple service they no longer had a reason to exist. The Essenes were quickly wiped out by the Roman armies because their monastic communities provided such easy targe

The Place of Yeshua-Followers Within Judaism

The Jewish followers of Yeshua during the first century did not organize themselves as a recognizable organization outside of mainstream Judaism. They didn’t run through Judea building churches or even creating home churches. They didn’t “convert” to “Christianity.” They continued to live as Jews alongside the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots (the Essenes were separatists), continued participating in their local synagogues, continued to walk in accordance with God’s Torah, and they “continued faithfully and with a singleness of purpose to meet daily in the Temple” (Acts 2:46). They simply identified themselves as members of a new Jewish sect known as HaDerek, “the Way.” And that was the status of Messianic Judaism until the Messianic “heretics” were “cast out of the Synagogue” (excommunicated) by Chief Rabbi Akiva during the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (fought circa 132–136 CE). [More at “Judaism in the Late Second Temple Period”)

Judaism After the Destruction of the Temple

When Jerusalem fell in 70 CE,  most of the existing sects of Judaism disappeared. The Temple was destroyed (in 69 CE) so there was no further function for the Sadducees (who ran the Temple); the Zealots were all killed, captured, dispersed, or absorbed into mainstream Judaism; Qumran and the other Essene  communities were overrun and destroyed. This left only two major sects: the Pharisees and the Messianics, or HaDerek.

The Pharisees and Messianics maintained fellowship together in the Synagogue until the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. At that time Rabbi Akiva (the Chief Rabbi) declared that all who failed to recognize Shimon Bar-Kokhba as the Messiah were heretics. The followers of the true Messiah Yeshua could obviously not acknowledge a false messiah, and that resulted in all true Messianic Believers being put out of Synagogue fellowship.

From 135 until 324, Pharisaical Judaism and Messianic Judaism went their separate ways. Pharisaical Judaism gradually evolved into today’s Rabbinical Judaism, and Messianic Judaism absorbed an ever-increasing number of Gentile Believers, until the Jewish Believers became a relatively small minority within what was still considered a “sect” of Judaism.

When he became Emperor, Constantine (Pontifex Maximus of the Roman version of the Babylon Mystery Religion) desired to consolidate his power over both the civil and religious aspects of the Empire (ca. 311). At that time, Judaism (which included HaDerek as a sub-set, or “sect” of Judaism) was one of the “authorized” religions of the Empire. Constantine, who never actually became a Believer in Messiah, simply decreed that his more-inclusive religion, which he called “Christianity,” would be the “official” and only acceptable religion in the Empire.

On 19 June 325 Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea, from which all the Jewish “Bishops” were specifically excluded. The ultimate result of that council was that the Gentile Bishops essentially outlawed everything “Jewish” from Constantine’s hybrid Roman religion, and all the Jewish followers of Yeshua were forced out into the cold, now accepted by neither Judaism nor the new Roman Church. At this point, they had only two options: deny their Jewishness and convert to the new Roman religion, or deny their Messiah and turn to Rabbinical Judaism. This remained the case until the rebirth of Messianic Judaism in 1967, at the time Temple Mount was taken back from being “trampled underfoot by the Gentiles.” (Luke 21:24)

The Ascent of Rabbinical Judaism

The idea of an “oral torah” apparently finds it roots when “after the restoration of the Second Temple (352 BCE), the Great Assembly, led by Ezra, instituted the Kaddish, Kedushah, Barechu, and the rest of the standardized communal service (requiring the participation of a minyan or quorum of ten) as well as the obligation for individuals to participate in these services.”[4] Jewish tradition identifies the unbroken historical chain of individuals who were entrusted with passing down the Oral Law from Moses to the early rabbinic period: “Moses received the Torah and handed it down to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly.”[5]

So the idea of an “oral Torah” was clearly central to Judaism during the Second Temple Period (516 BCE to 70 CE), but the Temple was central to Jewish worship during that period.

If the very centrality of Jewish worship was the Temple, then how would it be possible for Judaism to continue without that Temple? Clearly the only place for public worship remained the synagogue, which then acquired increased importance as the center of Jewish communal life. But if the foundation for God’s forgiveness and atonement was the sacrifice on the altar in either the Tabernacle or later the Temple, how does one now find forgiveness and atonement, since the Temple and physical sacrifices no longer exist?

Let us look to the Torah for a precedent.

In the book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh had sinned and G‑d was going to punish them. When Jonah showed them the error of their ways, they fasted and prayed, and were forgiven. The same thing happened in the book of Esther. Living in Persia between the first and second Temples, they fasted, regretted their sins and were forgiven. These historical examples clearly show that when there is no Temple, sincere teshuvah (repentance) is all that G‑d demands.

In fact, this was always part of the system. King Solomon himself, in his speech dedicating the first Holy Temple, already anticipates the possibility of Israel being denied access to the holy place:

If they sin against You—for there is no man who does not sin—then You will be angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and their captors will carry them away captive to the land of the enemy, far or near. When they bethink themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captors, saying, “We have sinned and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness”; when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land, which You gave to their fathers, to the city that You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your Name—then You shall hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven, Your dwelling place, and uphold their cause.”(1Kings 8:46–50.)

Here is a thought on contemporary (sacrificeless) atonement:

Our sages tell us [Ethics of the Fathers 1:2] that the world stands on three pillars: Torah, avodah (literally, “work” or “service”) and gemilut chassadim (kindness and charity). We can approach this particular issue from the perspective of any one of these pillars.

Torah: The Talmud says that one who delves into the laws of sacrifices is considered as if he has actually offered a sacrifice. By studying the laws and their meanings, we achieve the atonement and closeness to G‑d that a sacrifice accomplishes.

Avodah: We replace the sacrificial “service of G‑d” with prayer, the service of the heart articulated in words. In the words of the prophet Hosea: “We will render the prayers of our lips in place of the sacrifices of bullocks.” (Hosea 14:3.) As such, the three daily prayers are in place of the daily “services” and sacrifices that were performed in the Temple. On Shabbat we add the Musaf prayer, since an additional sacrifice was offered in the Temple every Shabbat. Another avenue to fill the void.

Gemilut Chassadim: Giving charity, giving of oneself, is also considered to be a method of finding atonement. One who gives his hard-earned money to charity is, in a sense, truly giving of himself—sacrificing himself for the greater good. This might be the ultimate form of sacrifice, as he is really giving something of himself—money that could have been spent for his personal benefit and gain.

After all is said and done, though, your question should really remain a question. We should ask this question of G‑d every day, asking Him when He will return to us the Temple in Jerusalem, so that we will once and for all truly be able to fill this void with the real McCoy.[6]

Judaism has always been based on a very high standard of ethics as found in the Torah. But now “[t]he Talmud says that one who delves into the laws of sacrifices is considered as if he has actually offered a sacrifice. By studying the laws and their meanings, we achieve the atonement and closeness to G‑d that a sacrifice accomplishes.” We no longer have either the Temple or its Altar (which, after the days of the Tabernacle, were by no means “portable”), but now we have the Talmud which serves us as the basis for our “portable religion.”

“If the Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism, then the Talmud is the central pillar, soaring up from the foundations and supporting the entire intellectual edifice.”[7] But why the emphasis on studying Talmud as opposed to studying Torah alone? Because when we read in the Torah “… the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work, …” (Exod 20:10) the question immediately arises, “What constitutes ‘work’?” How is “work” defined in the Torah? For the definition we turn to the “Oral Law” as preserved in the Talmud.

“We know very little of the origins and early development of the oral law, since information on cultural and spiritual life in the First Temple era is generally sparse, But from various hints in the Bible, we can ascertain how the oral law evolved to interpret and complement written legislation. … As long as the Jewish people spoke and wrote biblical Hebrew, the transmission was carried out with ease, but even then, a tradition, an “oral law” was needed to preserve the meaning of words. … The basic task of the oral law, therefore, was to transmit the meaning of words.”[8]

So in modern Rabbinical Judaism, the synagogue has replace the Temple as the primary place of worship, and the dedicated study of Torah (as interpreted by the Talmud), avodah, and gemilut chassadim have replaced the sacricial system. Judaism has become a truly “portable” religion.


  1. Resentment among the Jews to Greek rule in Judea grew steadily, culminating in 167 BCE with the outbreak of a revolt against the Greeks in response to the sacrifice of a pig on the Temple altar by Antiochus Epiphanes. Judah Maccabee defeated Antiochus’ army and liberated Jerusalem in 165 BCE. He purified the Temple and reinstituted the sacrifices. On the 25th of Kislev the Jews inaugurated the Temple and offered up the first sacrifice to the Almighty on the new altar. The inauguration festival for the Temple lasted eight days, and is commemorated as the Festival of Lights, or Chanukah. For more information read the apocryphal Books of the Maccabees plus Josephus’ Wars of the Jews. [RETURN]

 2. “Who Invented the Synagogue?” at Chabad.org accessed 19 December 2021. [RETURN]

 3. “Iscariot” was not his last name as many suppose, but rather a description of both his political affiliation and his character. How appropriate a title for the one who was to betray Yeshua to be murdered. [RETURN]

 4. “Who Invented the Synagogue?” at Chabad.org accessed 19 December 2021. [RETURN]

 5. “Oral Torah” at Wikipedia, accessed 18 November 2021. [RETURN]

 6. “Atonement in the Absence of Sacrifices?” at Chabad.org, accessed 20 December 2021. [RETURN]

 7. Adin Steinsaltz, The Essential Talmud, p 3. [RETURN]

 8. Ibid. pp 10-11. [RETURN]

Originally posted on Monday, 20 December 2021

Lookup a word or passage
in the Bible


BibleGateway.com
Include this form on your page
Blue Letter Bible Search Tool

Range Options:

e.g. Gen;Psa-Mal;Rom 3-9

Page last updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2022 10:46 AM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

Anxiously awaiting Mashiach’s return
ANXIOUSLY WATCHING FOR MASHIACH’S RETURN,
SPEEDILY AND IN OUR DAY. MARANA, TA!