This idea encouraged the Protestants to adopt the Hebrew Canon rather than the traditional Christian Canon of the Septuagint. Protestant bibles therefore do not contain seven books ousted as ‘apocrypha’ by the Rabbis at their meeting in 90 AD: Wisdom, Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus and I and II Maccabees. 5
At first writing had been avoided. By means of the halakha (‘oral transmission’) in the schools of the Rabbis, the words of the great Rabbis had been passed, with great attention to verbal accuracy, from generation to generation. After 90 AD however there grew up a literature called the Haggadah. This literature was less authoritative but covered a huge range of subjects including magic and astrology. From the second century onwards these collections simply kept growing with the addition of all kinds of often gross and strange writings until, by the fifth century, it had become a small library called the Talmud (‘teaching’). The Talmud consists of the ‘Mishnah’ (‘repetition’), the body of Jewish law, and rabbinical comments (‘Gemara’) which often take the form of stories and folklore. The codification of the Mishnah happened in the second century AD, but its sources are much older. The Gemara was collected during the following two or three centuries. The Mishnah (in the Talmud) contains a codification of the traditional prescriptions of the Rabbis. Although this compilation of Jewish customs and legalistic refinements dates from about 140 AD, there is no doubt that it gives a true impression of the common observances of our Lord’s day. There are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud (‘Talmud Yerushalmi’) and the Babylonian Talmud (‘Talmud Bavli’). The latter became the authoritative version. It contains thirty-six tractates of about two and a half million words. Its translation has been published in 73 volumes. 6
On our Lord, all the Talmud shows us is that, however much they wished to, the Jews could not deny that He existed, or that He worked miracles. Otherwise for extra information on our Lord’s Life, the Talmud is worthless. In the Talmud five disciples are assigned to Jesus, of whom only Matthew (‘Matthai’) is named. These are able to work cures in his name. He himself is accused of using magic spells learnt in Egypt. This almost complete silence of the Jewish records on our Lord can only reinforce our conviction of the authenticity both of His Resurrection and of the New Testament scriptures about Him. (Such ‘extravagant’ claims as those made by the Apostles about our Lord would have been easily discredited, if they had been in any way false.) The Jews possessed an efficient world wide intelligence network and certainly, had any ‘confessions’ of body-stealing or of forgery of scriptures been forthcoming, the Jews would certainly have seized upon and broadcast such confessions as much as possible and preserved them in their Talmud. 7
Indeed the Romans likewise possessed an efficient empire wide intelligence network. They too would have been only too willing to seize upon and publicise any ‘confessions’ for discrediting and thereby destroying the foundation event and documents of the newly born Faith.
Published on Nov 29, 2011
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...