Does the Church believe that the Oral Torah was given to the Jewish people?


#1

In Judaism, it is believed that G-d gave the Jewish people BOTH the Written Law (Torah) and the Oral Law (Torah). The Oral Torah was given to all the Jewish people at Mount Sinai who were actual witnesses to the Revelation of G-d, whereas the Written Torah was penned later by Moses who was inspired by G-d. The Written Torah, important as it is, is therefore only a synopsis of the Oral Torah, which goes into significantly more detail on many matters. Later, the Oral Torah itself was codified in the Talmud. Does the Church believe that the Written Torah is a synopsis of the detailed Oral Torah given to the Jewish people? If not, how does the Church explain many commandments in the Written Torah that are not spelled out because they assume a more complete understanding by the Jews that they acquired from the Oral Torah?


#2

Very interesting question. Since the Catholic Church holds firmly to both oral and written Apostolic Tradition, and since it is derived/evolved from Judaism, it is fairly clear to see that the same view would have to be taken toward the Torah, inasmuch as it was not written at the time, but rather, much later. In like manner, the New Testament scriptures, particularly in the prologue to Luke (Luke 1:1-4) testify to the oral teaching which went before and which was just then being written for posterity. In those verses, we see that a (student) given the name of Theolphilus, had already been well instructed in the Christian faith, and that Luke wrote his Gospel only to confirm the oral teaching that Theophilus had already received. This appears identical in nature to the Jewish view of the Torah. Here is a link to the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Torah and on the Pentateuch.


#3

Considering the writings came about after the oral teachings, I'd say that the Church would say that the written teachings come from the Oral teachings. Similar to how we see the New Testament Scriptures having been written after oral teachings were already being taught.


#4

[quote="po18guy, post:2, topic:338219"]
Very interesting question. Since the Catholic Church holds firmly to both oral and written Apostolic Tradition, and since it is derived/evolved from Judaism, it is fairly clear to see that the same view would have to be taken toward the Torah, inasmuch as it was not written at the time, but rather, much later. In like manner, the New Testament scriptures, particularly in the prologue to Luke (Luke 1:1-4) testify to the oral teaching which went before and which was just then being written for posterity. In those verses, we see that a (student) given the name of Theolphilus, had already been well instructed in the Christian faith, and that Luke wrote his Gospel only to confirm the oral teaching that Theophilus had already received. This appears identical in nature to the Jewish view of the Torah. Here is a link to the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Torah and on the Pentateuch.

[/quote]

Thank you for the explanation and links. It's informative to read what the Catholic Encyclopedia says about such things.


#5

[quote="bzkoss236, post:3, topic:338219"]
Considering the writings came about after the oral teachings, I'd say that the Church would say that the written teachings come from the Oral teachings. Similar to how we see the New Testament Scriptures having been written after oral teachings were already being taught.

[/quote]

So much for the concept of sola Scriptura, it appears.


#6

[quote="meltzerboy, post:5, topic:338219"]
So much for the concept of sola Scriptura, it appears.

[/quote]

Just another reason why I'm Catholic :D


#7

[quote="meltzerboy, post:5, topic:338219"]
So much for the concept of sola Scriptura, it appears.

[/quote]

Ha! Seriously, the Catholic Church has never accepted the idea of sola scriptura. The New Testament wasn't codified until about 300-400 years after Jesus. St. Paul's letters are the earliest New Testament writings, and even in his letters, he is writing to places that he has already preached. As for the Torah, Catholics believe that the Torah (we call it the Pentateuch, as we've broken it up into 5 books instead of the original single scroll) was generally written down from oral traditions, as were much of the Hebrew Scriptures.


#8

As the other posters have pointed out I do notice that the Catholic and Orthodox belief in Scripture and Tradition does have some affinities with this idea.

I should note though that this whole Tannaitic idea of the 'Oral Torah' has a bit of a complicated history. Josephus in the late 1st century mentioned that the Pharisees had inherited ancient traditions from earlier generations (Antiquities 13.297-298).

What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. And concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them, while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side. But about these two sects, and that of the Essenes, I have treated accurately in the second book of Jewish affairs.

It is thought that the "tradition of the fathers" he had in mind, together with customary laws and interpretations developed over the centuries, may have formed the basis of what the later rabbis would call the Oral Law. However, there are also people (such as rabbi Jacob Neusner) who caution against reading the concept of the 'Oral Torah' into Josephus. Neusner for instance notes that no mention of an Oral Torah or a dual Torah occurs in pre-70 pericopes except for the late story about Hillel and the convert, certainly not weighty evidence (it first occurs in the Babylonian Talmud, codified around six hundred years later). Even Josephus only says that pre-70 Pharisees had traditions: nothing is said about these coming from Moses (they are instead ascribed to "the fathers"), nor about whether they were in oral form, nor even how these teachings were actually handed down.

What they argue is that the notion of the "Oral Torah" as taught in modern Judaism is actually a post-AD 70 development of the academy at Yavneh, and later, Usha in the Galilee. Teaching that their traditions are of divine origin as the written Torah is seen as a way that the rabbis might have consolidated their authority in that period of uncertainty.


#9

[quote="patrick457, post:8, topic:338219"]
It is thought that the "tradition of the fathers" he had in mind, together with customary laws and interpretations developed over the centuries, may have formed the basis of what the later rabbis would call the Oral Law. However, there are also people (such as rabbi Jacob Neusner) who caution against reading the concept of the 'Oral Torah' into Josephus. Neusner for instance notes that no mention of an Oral Torah or a dual Torah occurs in pre-70 pericopes except for the late story about Hillel and the convert, certainly not weighty evidence (it first occurs in the Babylonian Talmud, codified around six hundred years later). Even Josephus only says that pre-70 Pharisees had traditions: nothing is said about these coming from Moses (they are instead ascribed to "the fathers"), nor about whether they were in oral form, nor even how these teachings were actually handed down.

What they argue is that the notion of the "Oral Torah" as taught in modern Judaism is actually a post-AD 70 development of the academy at Yavneh, and later, Usha in the Galilee. Teaching that their traditions are of divine origin as the written Torah is seen as a way that the rabbis might have consolidated their authority in that period of uncertainty.

[/quote]

Jesus clearly condemned the Pharisaic twisting of the meaning and intent of the Korban. Of course, this was a 'tradition of men" that had made void the Word as delivered to Moses - a violation of the commandment to honor one's father and mother.


#10

Does the Church believe that the Oral Torah was given to the Jewish people? Hello Meltzerboy.

Q: Does the Church believe that the Oral Torah was given to the Jewish people?

A: Yes but not in its fullness.

God gave Noah (a holy family) Torah although it was not completed, but it was tending toward perfection. Also as God gave Abraham (a holy tribe) Torah, it was not completed but moving closer to perfection. Just as God gave Moses (a holy nation) Torah, it was also not completed (but again tending toward perfection). Likewise God gave King David (a holy kingdom) Torah, yet God’s Law was not yet completed.

Jesus Christ IS the fulfillment of Torah (a holy Church) by the Covenant through Jesus’ blood atoning Sacrifice he poured out for all humanity.

Catholic or “katholika” or “international” or “to the whole” Church.

Since Jesus is the fullness of truth, no further public revelation (revealed truths concerning faith and morals) is ever forthcoming in this world (although it can and continues to be made more explicit).

**God has said everything in his Word **

CCC 65 "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son."26 Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one. St. John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Hebrews 1:1-2:

[INDENT]In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word - and he has no more to say. . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.27[/INDENT]

**There will be no further Revelation **
CCC 66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ."28 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

Looking at it from a Catholic perspective, Protestant methodology with sola Scriptura seems to me very much like the Talmudic Rabbinic Jewish methods of coming to various religious opinions and conclusions except that rabbinic Jewish people are using Scripture and traditions, Protestants are using Scripture alone. This has led to many disputes within Protestantism and rabbinic Judaism that cannot ever have an objective solution in this world.

In Catholicism we are very fortunate to have been given the Magisterium or official teaching office so we can have a profound understanding available to us concerning faith and morals.

Often the Catholic people are great and wonderful, but sadly sometimes not so and this can cause grave scandal and contribute to misunderstandings and confusion regarding non-Catholics of what we teach. Jesus warned us of this. But the teachings of the fulfilled Law are protected either way when transmitted in certain ways (beyond the scope of this thread).

Meltzerboy, I am not trying to push you or any other rabbinic Jewish adherents to affirm this, nor would I push or expect Protestant Christians that may be reading this to affirm these teachings either. I know better (by my experience of discussing the faith with non-Catholics who have rejected or do not know about these gifts available to them). But you asked what the Church believes (presumably what She teaches would qualify as what She believes).

This Magisterium or official teaching office is necessary to complete Sacred Oral Tradition and Sacred written Tradition.

**CCC 95 **"It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."62

In summary . . .

All Three Necessary For Arriving At And Passing On Absolute Moral Truth
[LIST]
*]Written Tradition
*]Oral Tradition
*]Magisterium
[/LIST]

To have objective absolute truth available to us, to have the fulfilled Law accessible to us within the Church in the framework that it is, is in fact a great gift and the Catholics who know this (I DO expect you Catholics who may be reading this to affirm and hold dear to these teachings) should give thanks daily for this bestowal and beneficence of God.

I hope this helps your understanding of what we think in Catholicism Meltzerboy.


#11

I am surely in the minority. I happen to think that the Apostolic Constitutions which include the Jewish Christian adaptation of the Didache have some of the earliest apostolic oral traditions that were given to the succeeding bishops and clergy. Several oral traditions which may have preceded the written NT. Which may explain why we have several NT citations which are found in the Apostolic Constitutions, but necessarily in the earlier NT manuscripts.


#12

Mgr. Jean-Joseph Gaume (AD 1802-1879) recognizes the existence of Jewish oral tradition along the Christian one in his Catechism of Perseverance. He considers it as coming from God while existing outside the Books of the Old Testament. Christian tradition in turn is the Word of God received by the Apostles from Christ and transmitted by the Church.

First Course, Chapter II:

Q. How many traditions are there?
A. There are two traditions, the Jewish and the Christian tradition.

Q. What is the Jewish tradition?
A. The Jewish tradition is the word of God, not written in the Old Testament, but handed down among the Jews, either orally, or in writing.


#13

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 576, seems to suggest that "the whole of the Law" consisted of both "its written commandments and ... oral tradition" or maybe it merely acknowledges that that was the view of the Jews of the Pharisee party in Jesus' day.

However, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) of the Second Vatican Council does not mention an "Oral Torah" or the Talmud but does mention the written books of the Old Testament.


#14

[quote="po18guy, post:9, topic:338219"]
Jesus clearly condemned the Pharisaic twisting of the meaning and intent of the Korban. Of course, this was a 'tradition of men" that had made void the Word as delivered to Moses - a violation of the commandment to honor one's father and mother.

[/quote]

I think we should distinguish between mandated precepts that are passed on from oral traditions extrapolated from the written Torah, and between wisdom literature, parables and commentaries from sages and Rabbis which are experiential formulations of the law and the prophets.

As it might be within the Catholic church between the mandated precepts of the Magesterium and between the charisma of 'saints' within their experiential formulations of the teachings of Jesus.

(I'm winging it here).


#15

[quote="JMJ91, post:14, topic:338219"]
I think we should distinguish between mandated precepts that are passed on from oral traditions extrapolated from the written Torah, and between wisdom literature, parables and commentaries from sages and Rabbis which are experiential formulations of the law and the prophets.

As it might be within the Catholic church between the mandated precepts of the Magesterium and between the charisma of 'saints' within their experiential formulations of the teachings of Jesus.

(I'm winging it here).

[/quote]

Clearly, the form of transmission which G-d desired in both the OT and NT followed the same principle, with revelation being given to the chosen, then taught orally and later reduced to writing. Yet, the written, in both testaments, cannot contain the infinite nature of the revelation of an infinite G-d. Thus, a living authority must be passed on from generation to generation to preserve and perpetuate that revelation.


#16

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