User:Standforder/Debate over oral Torah

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Debate over the Oral Torah[edit]

This article is contains critical debate regarding the Oral Law which later composed in written form. Devote followers of mainstream Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism on the other hand regard the Oral Torah and its now recorded form the Talmud and rabbinic literature to be “the word of God” and “the central pillar” of the rabbinic faith. “No other work has having had a comparable influence on the theory and practice of Jewish life.” According the some Rabbinic tradition came from Mount Sinai, where it is believed the prophet Moses had God revealed the Oral Torah along with written. He then recited the information to the seventy elders and selected Levites. After which it was later re-organized and finally composed in written form. Several centuries several hundred scholars attempted a thorough reconstruction and wrote it down what was remembered of the oral law to record the debates over what it is and how it is to be interpreted.


Critics reject this and the idea rabbinic Oral Torah as being “the word of God.” Tenth century Karaite author Salmon ben Yeruham wrote his belief regarding this regarding rabbinic Jewish party and their recorded Oral Torah: “your deeds are but falsehood and rebellion against God…There is no true Law in them.”

Historically speaking, the Pharisees composed the orthodox rabbinic party and were its supporters. The first century Jewish Historian Flavius Josephus reports its opponents included: both the Sadducees party and the Essenes community but both had some followed some non-biblical guidelines.

Many of the first century common Jewish people (“am ha-′arets”) were also look down for not following the rabbinic oral code. The Samaritans community still to this day, regret the authority of the Mishnah but have other guidelines. As well as followers of John the Baptist, as well as the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, a first century Jew, later known as the Christians, and the Karaites parties some followed also some non-biblical rules. Later Islam was to also follow and it also regretted the religious authority of the rabbinic Oral Torah.

Claim of Divine origin[edit]

Rabbinic Judaism maintains the Oral Torah clarifies the Holy Tanakh and it is inspired and revealed to the ancient Rabbinic sages. The oral traditions descended from the Pharisees and formed the basis of contemporary Orthodox,Conservative, Reconstructionist, & Reform Judaism. Though all of these have somewhat different views of it.

On the other hand, the Oral Torah has been called into question by religious and non-religious opponents as for example, Christians groups, Muslims (Islamic groups), even Reform and conservative Jewish movements, as Jewish Karaites, Samaritans community, and Mandaeans. There also secularists, as for example, some freethinkers, agnostic and atheists. Some historians also question the considerably differing views on era of the Tanakh and, the era of the Rabbis.

One example cited is the difference found the Mishnah in Tractate Shabbat in which states, that there are some “nine hundred and seventy-four generations before” what Genesis says is the first created man Adam. Even within the world of Orthodox Judaism there are differing views as to the recorded rabbinic oral law.

Another difference which can be cited regarding Theology, the state of person in death. The Talmud speaks of the dead contacting the living. “Probably on account of the influence of Platonism,” says the Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, states “[rabbis] believed in the pre-existence of souls.” Jews, God and History states that though the Pharisees carried on "the torch of Jewish ideology and religion." "The torch itself had been ignited by the Greek philosophers.”

The Encyclopedia of Judaism commented: “The Oral Law is not a definitive code; it includes many diverse and even conflicting opinions.” Jewish author Nathan Ausubel wrote in his book called The Book of Jewish Knowledge that the later recorded rabbinic tradtions were “a large assortment of pointless naïvetés, taboos, superstitions, demonic lore, myths…which mar the Talmud may also be found in the religious and philosophical writings of the Greeks and the Romans, of the Church Fathers and the medieval Christian Schoolmen.” Another long conversional subject for example includes the Seder ‘Olam Rabbah and other Talmudic chronological works which have caused much considerable discussion among Jewish scholars.

Many scholars and researchers alike question oral narratives being later recorded. Questions regarding accuracy, content if it was rabbinic propaganda? Kofi Asare Opoku puts it this way: “Most often, pieces of information passed on orally are subject to additions & subtractions, modifications, distortions, exaggerations, & confusions, so that it is often difficult to separate the truth from the fiction.” (West African Traditional Religion) Being in the past being even compared, to the child’s game Chinese whispers.

Alternatively, these oral traditions many times have shed light into ancient Jewish and priestly and temple life in ancient time. This information has proved invaluable to historians and researchers alike.

Dissenting views[edit]

Orthodox Judaism[edit]

The term Halakha LeMoshe MiSinai, literally "Law (given) to Moses from Sinai", is used in classical Rabbinical literature to refer to oral law regarded as having been of direct Divine origin, transmitted to Moses at Mount Sinai at the same time as the written Torah, but not included in the Oral Torah's exposition of it. It is distinguished from the written Torah, on the one hand, and Rabbinical decrees, customs, and other man-made laws on the other hand. One such law is the requirement that tefillin be dyed black.

The Samaritans:[edit]

Followers of the Samaritan religion (See Samaritanism) reject the rabbinic party including their oral traditions and literature. They have criticized recorded rabbinic oral law as wrongfully “supplementing the Torah”, they also they cite the differences between the two branches of Theology for example on subjects as how to trace lineages through the maternal line or the Paternal and interpretation on things as tefillin.


The Sadducees were a "Israelite religion" which flourished during the Second Temple period. One of their main arguments with the Pharisees (later known as Rabbinic Judaism) was over their rejection of an oral Law. As can be seen, in the works, of Flavius Josephus(Yoseph ben Mattithyah) - [Jewish Antiquities. Book XIII. 10th Chapter]


Essenes, a monastic group of people, largely composed of Levite priests. Little is known about them.

Karaite Judaism:[edit]

Another group which rejected the oral law was Karaism. It is believed to arisen within roughly two centuries of the completion of the Mishnah. Karaism developed as a reaction against the Rabbinic Judaism of Babylonia. The central concept of Karaism is the rejection of the Oral Torah, as embodied in the rabbinic literature, in favor of a strict adherence to the Holy written Law only. This opposes the fundamental rabbinic concept that the Oral Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai together with the written Law the Holy Torah. Some Karaites later took a more moderate stance, allowing that some element of tradition (called sevel ha-yerushah, the burden of inheritance) is admissible in interpreting the Torah and that some authentic traditions are contained in the Mishnah, though these can never supersede the plain meaning of the Written Law. During the ninth and tenth centuries C.E., Karaite scholars excelled in their study of the Hebrew language. They considered the written Hebrew Scripture text, not the oral traditions, to be holy. Some Karaites became careful copyists of the Tanakh because of this.

Reform Judaism:[edit]

With the rise of Reform Judaism, during the nineteenth century, the authority of the Oral Torah was again questioned. The works of rabbinic literature regarding Oral traditions was seen by Reform Jews as a product of late antiquity having relevance merely as a historical document. In some cases a similar view was taken of the written law as well, while others appeared to adopt a neo-Karaite "back to the Bible" approach, though often with greater emphasis on the prophetic than on the legal books.

See also[edit]


  • The Essential Talmud, by rabbi Adin Steinsaltz ISBN-10: 0465020631 ISBN-13: 978-0465020638
  • The New Encyclopedia of Judaism ISBN-10 0814793886 ISBN-13: 978-0814793886
  • Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics ISBN-10 0567065057 ISBN-13: 978-0567065056
  • Book of Jewish Knowledge, by Nathan Ausubel ISBN-10: 051709746X ISBN-13: 978-0517097465
  • The New Complete Works of Josephus, by Yosef ben Mattithyah. ISBN-10: 0825429242 ISBN-13: 978-0825429248
  • West African Traditional Religion, by Kofi Asare Opoku
  • Ta‛anit, V, pp. 116, 117, translated by A. W. Greenup.

External links[edit]





Refutation of allegations concerning recorded the Oral Torah[edit]