Rabbi Harvey Falk defends “Jesus the Nazarene’s
Mission to the Gentiles
Divine Mission to Bring the “Good News” to the Gentiles
By the Seven Noahide Laws
By Robert Mock M.D.
Hillel said: Be You of the Disciples of Aaron,
One who Loves Peace, Pursues Peace,
Loves Mankind and Brings Them Nigh to the Torah. Avot 1:12
It was in 1756 that the Synod of Constantinov in modern Ukrainia sought the assistance of Rabbi Emden for his skills to suppress the Shabbatean movement. The foundational messianic thrust of the Shabbateans came from reinterpretation of the mystical book called the Zohar. In spite of his piercing and sometimes caustic spirit, there was one attribute that all of his contemporaries yielded to his opinion; his critical power of analysis based upon his strict foundation of Orthodox Judaism.
This quest led Emden to study the foundations of all messianic movements. Here is where he began a thorough analysis of the historical roots of Christianity. Here is where he sought to discover the original intention of the Jewish messiah, Yahshua ben Yosef (Jesus son of Joseph) and the Pharisee Shaul (later the Apostle Paul) who became Yahshua’s disciple and Apostle to the Gentiles.
Rabbi Emden then came to the conclusion that Jesus and his Apostle to the Gentiles (Paul) lived their lives completely in harmony with the Torah and the Halakha (how to keep the Torah and the full “letter of the Law”). He also came to believe that it was the intention of Jesus to break the bondage of the lights of Torah and scatter them to the entire Gentile world on the ancient rabbinic commands called the Noahide Laws.
Emden then reinterpreted the Gospels and found them in harmony with the premise that the Jewish law was eternally binding upon all Jews and that they practiced halakhic observant Judaism all the days of their lives. These concepts were revolutionary in 1757 when he wrote a letter to the Council of the Four Lands. These concepts are still revolutionary today.
Rabbi Emden’s first revolutionary concept was that Yahshua haNotzri (Jesus the Nazarene) was fully a Jew and throughout His entire life and ministry, He lived a life in complete harmony with the Laws of Moses that were given to the Israelites at the mount called Sinai. As he stated:
Rabbi Jacob Emden – “Therefore you must realize – and accept the truth from him who speaks it – that we see clearly here that the Nazarene and his Apostles did not wish to destroy the Torah from Israel, God forbid…” [Rabbi Jacob Emden, Seder Olam Tabbah Vezuta (1757)]
Concerning the Apostle Paul who was well known in the Jerusalem culture as Rabbi Shaul from Tarshish, Rabbi Emden accepted freely Paul’s testimony the he was the student Pharisee in training with the Pharisee School of Hillel. Paul’s rabbinic master and mentor was Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, the grandson of Hillel the Elder. We see the implications of the Apostle Paul in his relationship with his young disciple, Timothy. The fact was apparent that Apostle Paul throughout all of his teachings and writings truly lived his life as an observant Jew.
Rabbi Jacob Emden – “You may therefore understand that Paul doesn’t contradict himself because of his circumcision of Timothy, for the latter was the son of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father (Acts 16), and Paul was a scholar, an attendant of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, well-versed in the laws of the Torah. He knew that the child of a Jewish mother is considered a full Jew, even if the father should be a Gentile, as is written in the Talmud and Codes. He therefore acted entirely in accordance with the Halakha (“Way” or the “Path” of applying Torah law to everyday living) by circumcising Timothy. This would be in line with his position that all should remain within their own faith (I Corinthians 7). Timothy, born of a Jewish mother, and the law of a Jews, and had to be circumcised, just as he was enjoined to observe all commandments of the Torah.” [Rabbi Jacob Emden, Seder Olam Tabbah Vezuta (1757)]
What Rabbi Emden did come to realize in his study in the mid-18th century, was that Jesus the Nazarene took an ancient Jewish law that certain Gentiles also had an inheritance in the “world to come” and put it into action as His mission to the Gentile world. This God-given inheritance had been cast aside by part of the schools of the Pharisees. It was never-the-less accepted by the rabbinic sage and Sanhedrin president (Nasi) Hillel the Elder and his disciples. There was also evidence that they, neither Jesus nor Paul violated any of the 613 commandments given to the Israelites (Jewish people today) at Sinai but by implementing these ancient “seven commandments of the Sons of Noah” enhanced the Torah ideal that the Jews were given the responsibility to be a “light to the world.”
Rabbi Jacob Emden – “As I have said earlier – that the writers of the Gospel never meant to say that the Nazarene came to abolish Judaism, but only that he came to establish a religion for the Gentiles from that time onward. Nor was it new, but actually ancient; they being the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah, which were forgotten. The Apostles of the Nazarene then established them anew. However, those born as Jews, or circumcised as converts to Judaism; one law shall be to him that is home-born, and unto the stranger are obligated to observe all commandments of the Torah without exception.” [Rabbi Jacob Emden, Seder Olam Tabbah Vezuta (1757)]
Rabbi Emden wrote a letter to the Council of Four Lands. This council was the central institution for the Jewish self-governance in Poland. This letter came because they sought his expert opinion for guidance. They wanted to know whether they were permitted, according to the Torah, to inform the civil and ecclesiastical authorities about the heretical sect of the Shabbateans called the Frankists.
You may click above to read a copy of the complete letter written during the Shabbatai Zevi messianic heresy by Rabbi Jacob Emden, called the Seder Olam Rabbah Vezuta (1757) The letter is concerning Jesus the Nazarene, the halakhic Torah observant rabbi defending the rabbinic School of Hillel the Elder.
This group, whom could truly be called the “sons of Satan,” were threatening the very existence of Orthodox Judaism. The Frankists were disciples of the false messiah, Shabbatai Zevi. They were seeking to destroy the foundation of Judaism by “distorting various kabbalistic formulas that violated Jewish law and practiced sexual immorality.”
In this same letter to the Polish rabbinate, Rabbi Emden established the case that the formation of the Christian faith came from a Jewish rabbi called Jesus the Nazarene. Jesus, along with His disciples, was born into and lived their lives as fully observant Jews. Some of these disciples did give up the practice of living the life of being an observant Jew. Yet they remained as Jewish-Christians. They did not wish to fully observe all of the 613 commandments given in covenant with the Jewish people.
This did not diminish the fact that the original founder of Christianity lived a life fully in compliance with all the Torah prescribed laws that were to be lived and practiced “forever” by all Jewish people.
Rabbi Jacob Emden – “But the Nazarene and his Apostles observed the Sabbath and circumcision as mentioned earlier, for they were born as Jews. They observed the Torah fully, until after a period of time a few of them decided to give up the Torah among themselves completely. They said that its observance was too difficult for them and agreed to remove its yoke from their neck (Acts 15).” [Rabbi Jacob Emden, Seder Olam Tabbah Vezuta (1757)]
The life of Jesus the Nazarene from the time of His birth was a life that was lived fully in compliance with the life of Torah. The Jewish disciples accepted that the Jewish Torah covenant was also their covenant with God. Yet they, as a “covenanted people” worshipping together in the Hebrew Nazarene Synagogue that was built within the “House with the Upper Room” decided as a congregation that “living the life of Torah” was a burden upon a Gentile who wanted to believe in the God of Israel. In “faith,” like Abraham and Noah who lived before the Torah was given at Sinai, the Gentile believers in the God of Israel were given a separate halakhic observant life. They could live “by faith” in the God of Israel and follow seven distinct commandments of God and thereby be able to associate and worship freely with God’s chosen ones, the Jewish people.
Rabbi Jacob Emden – “Certainly, therefore, there is no doubt that one who seeks truth will agree with our thesis, that the Nazarene and his Apostles never meant to abolish the Torah of Moses from one who was born a Jew. Likewise did Paul write in his letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians) that each should adhere to the faith in which each was called? They therefore acted in accordance with the Torah by forbidding circumcision to gentiles, according to the Halakha, as it is forbidden to one who does not accept the yoke of the commandments. They knew that it would be too difficult for the Gentiles to observe the Torah of Moses. They therefore forbade them to circumcise, and it would suffice that they observe the Seven Noahide Commandments, as commanded upon them through the Halakha from Moses at Sinai.” [Rabbi Jacob Emden, Seder Olam Tabbah Vezuta (1757)]
It was amazing that for a rabbinic giant that was regarded as one of the strictest Torah observing Jewish sages in Europe, one who castigated his own rabbinic colleagues for not remaining faithful to their covenant with HaShem, the God of Israel, had kind words to say about Jesus the Nazarene, whom he compared to the Jewish Sages. Rabbi Emden accepted that Jesus’ message did not come as a Jewish rebel with the intent to take away, detract from or to diminish the Jewish covenant responsibilities with the Torah. To Emden, Jesus came to strengthen and to fulfill the Torah’s divine intension; to bring a message that there is a God of Creation that loves His own people and Who wants to establish a personal relationship not just to the Jews but to all mankind.
Rabbi Jacob Emden – “The Nazarene brought about a double kindness in the world. On the one hand, he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically, as mentioned earlier, and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah. And on the other hand, he did much good for the Gentiles (providing they do not turn about his intent as they please, as some foolish ones have done because they did not fully understand the intent of the authors of the Gospels.” [Rabbi Jacob Emden, Seder Olam Tabbah Vezuta (1757)]
Finally in closing, Rabbi Emden to his rabbinic colleagues emphasized the main responsibility of the Christian faith to:
(1) “observe that which was commanded to you by your first teachers (Jesus and the Apostles) and to
(2) “assist the Jews in the observance of their Torah.”
Here is his remarkable closing.
Rabbi Jacob Emden – “You, members of the Christian faith, how good and pleasant I might be if you will observe that which was commanded to you by your first teachers; how wonderful is your share if you will assist the Jews in the observance of their Torah. You will truly receive reward as if you had fulfilled it yourselves – for the one who helps others to observe is greater than one who observes but does not help others to do so – even though you only observe the Seven Commandments.
I have written similarly in my pleasant work Torar Ha-Kena’ot that the Jew who observes the Torah, but doesn’t support it, is considered among the cursed, and the Gentile who does not observe the 613 commandments, but supports it, is considered among the blessed.” [Rabbi Jacob Emden, Seder Olam Tabbah Vezuta (1757)]
How did Rabbi Jacob Emden come to this remarkable evaluation of Jesus the Nazarene whom he recognized to be the founder of Christianity? These ideas were not just a momentary insight into the study of a remarkable scholar that was promoted during a time of crisis for the Jewish people in Europe and later abandoned. In an era that even extends to this day, when the orthodox Jews are hesitant to write about Christianity much less enter into any dialogue with Christians, here was a “recognized” Jewish authority who was universally acknowledged to be a “Torah sage” by all Jews including the ultra-orthodox who wrote concerning the Mishnah in Avot 4:11:
Avot 4:11 in the Jewish Mishnah - “Every assembly that is for the sake of Heaven will in the end be established. Their assembly (Christianity and Islam) is also for the sake of Heaven, to make Godliness known amongst the nations, to speak of Him in distant lands; they have accepted virtually all of the Noahide Commandments, aside from many fine practices which they have endorsed and accepted; He grants prophecy to those who have sanctified themselves sufficiently.” (“Lechem Shamayim” quoted in “Jesus the Pharisee, A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus” by Rabbi Henry Falk, Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Boulevard, Mahwah, N.J. 07430, 1985, page 15)
The evidence exists that Rabbi Jacob Emden never abandoned his original study of Jesus the Nazarene that appeared first in a letter in 1757 to the Polish Council, called the Seder Olam Rabbah Vezuta. He republished this letter later in his book, the Sefer Shimmuch. To some liberal Jewish rabbis today, Rabbi Emden is “recognized to be the ‘prototype’ of the unyielding Orthodox rabbi, because he refused to compromise in any manner with those movements he considered threatening to traditional Judaism.” (Rabbi Henry Falk, “Jesus the Pharisee, A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus”, Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Boulevard, Mahwah, N.J. 07430, 1985, page 15)
Yet today his books, including his prayer books are prized volumes in many Jewish homes.
We ask ourselves, how could this orthodox sage of Judaism, Rabbi Jacob Emden, come to this remarkable conclusion of Jesus the Nazarene? This was the study of a second orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Harvey Falk, who in the mid eighties of the 20th century published a remarkable study on the life and purposes of the ministry of Jesus the Nazarene.
This study of the Nazarene included an in depth revelation of the historical context surrounding the Pharisee culture of the two great rabbinic schools of Judaism in the first century before the Common Era (BCE) and the first century after the Common Era (CE); the Yeshiva (school) of Hillel (Beit Hillel) and the Yeshiva of Shammai (Beit Shammai).
Rabbi Falk was an orthodox Jewish rabbi who in his book, “Jesus the Pharisee, A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus,” is recognized as the second attempt by a rabbinic scholar to demonstrate that “Jesus of Nazareth consistently upheld the views of the rabbis of the School of Hillel, and that all his criticism was directed at the School of Shammai and their followers.” The thesis developed in this book records the rise and fall of the School of Shammai from 20 BCE to 70 CE. This era included the entire life of Jesus the Nazarene, the era just prior to the birth of Jesus, throughout his ministry, death and recorded resurrection and the rise of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem that became the Mother Church of the Christian faith.
Within this book, Rabbi Falk develops his thesis that parallels these basic historically demonstrated facts during the Temple culture of Herod’s Temple and the rise of the Christian Church into the second century.
Rabbi Harvey Falk was an orthodox Jewish writer whose writings centered on rabbinic Judaism and its relationships with our contemporary modern culture. In 1955, he was ordained as a Jewish rabbi at the Mesivta Torah Vodaath. This seminary was established in 1918 as a male only Jewish seminary, founded as a Haredi yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York. Binyamin Wilhelm, its unique visionary founder was convinced that Judaism would win in the battle of the acculturating and rapidly assimilating American Jewish community in the early American society.
This yeshiva was first headed by Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mandlowitz. The headmaster of the yeshiva during the days when the rabbinic student, Harvey Falk, was studying in their institution was the grandson of the Yeshiva’s founder, Binyamin Wilhelm, better known as Rabbi Yisroel Belsky.
Belsky is recognized as a “Rosh Yeshiva,” a Torah scholar in a school of higher Talmudic study in Hasidic Judaism. The stature of this Torah scholar is only secondary to the “Rebbe” that is the head of any certain Hasidic dynasty.
We also get a clearer picture of the father of Falk’s mentor and headmaster, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky when we learn that he was the son of Chana Wilhelm Belsky, the daughter of yeshiva founder Binyamin Wilhelm who was married to Rabbi Dov Beryl Belsky, a former student of Chofetz Chaim in Radin.
To understand who the author of “Jesus the Pharisee” is to understand that he was first ordained as a Torah scholar and teacher from a Haredi school that was founded by a Haredi Jewish visionary. This “visionary” sent his son to be a disciple or student of Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaKohen (1838 -1933) who was called “The Chofetz Chaim.” The influence of this Jewish giant in the study of justice and kindness was phenomenal. It was Chaim’s desire to fulfill his Creator’s wish; to lift the worth of an individual’s life.
Early a Torah scholar and never accepting a role as a rabbi, this Chofetz Chaim remained self-supported by his grocery store that was run by his wife in the Polish town of Radin. This fact alone should be emulated by the number of rabbis in Israel today who want to be subsidized and then potentially compromised by the Labor Zionist government of Israel today.
Chofetz Chaim became one of the great personalities in modern Jewish history. He was fondly named after his most recognized book, “Chofetz Chaim.” This book was first published in 1873 on the laws of Lashon Hara, the forbidden speech of slander as stated in:
Psalms (Tehillim) 34 - “Who is the man that desires life (chofetz chaim)…keep your tongue from evil.”
This book was later followed by “Ahavas Chesed” that was written on Love and Kindness. Yet Chofetz Chaim’s most important book on the observance of the Torah (Jewish Law) is the “Mishna Berurah” that is recognized as probably the most important work on Jewish Law in our modern era.
Rabbi Harvey Falk later went on to study at the Academy for Higher Learning and Research in Monsey, New York. This religious institute was called the Bet Medrach Elyon Talmudic Research Institute. Here is where the research and eight year preparation went for the publishing of his book, “Jesus the Pharisee.” Here in the school first founded by Reb Chaim Heller where the Enlightenment, first started in Eastern Europe, came to America and began to mix Torah scholarship with modern scientific knowledge.
It was here in this Talmudic Institute, the first modern Jewish scholarship emerged on the Jewish attempt to reclaim their own son, Rabbi Yahshua ben Yosef (Jesus son of Joseph.) What we see is not a Liberal, Conservative or Reform Rabbi who may have amalgamated his belief systems with non-Torah ecumenical theologies. We see that Rabbi Harvey Frank was actually an orthodox Jewish rabbi, this time trained in the culture of Haredi Judaism or those known as the Ultra-Orthodox. Let us begin now to recreate the life and times of Jesus from the eyes and studies of Rabbi Harvey Falk.
Towards the end of the first century BCE, Rabbi Hillel the Elder (70 BCE – 10 CE), who was of the lineage of the House of David (Ketubbot 62B), was elected in 30 CE as the President (Nasi) of the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. He was called the “Prince of Israel.” According to history, his reign as the Nasi continued until his death about 10 CE.
Hillel became the founder of one of the two great rabbinic schools of the Pharisees; the Beit Hillel. Born in Babylon, he migrated to Judea and supported himself as a woodcutter. A reportedly shy and inauspicious person, he became one of the most revered and influential rabbis in all Judaism.
Known for his humility, Hillel demonstrated a kindness, gentleness and love for all mankind. There was one thing special about Hillel: his kindness and love was not just for the Jewish people but included the non-Jewish Gentiles also. On his death in 10 CE, he became known most for these sayings:
Rabbi Hillel - "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" (Pirkei Avot 1:14)
Rabbi Hillel – “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest (is commentary, the explanation); go and study it. (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat 31a) See the ethic of reciprocity or "The Golden rule")
Hillel was the president of the Sanhedrin when a young Davidian arrived into Jerusalem for the Passover in the year of his bar Mitzvoth. This was in the year 6 CE. This historical text has always puzzled scholars as to how the young boy Jesus, arriving into Jerusalem, would soon find himself in the midst of all the leaders and elders of Israel. The text only says that “the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem.” There in the midst of the Beit Mikdash, the temple of Herod, we find Jesus alone with the “Torah teachers.” As the historical text states, He would “astound” them with His insight and comprehension of the Torah.
Luke 2:46 – “ Now so it was that after three days they (parents of Jesus) found Him in the temple (Beit Mikdash), sitting in the midst of the (Torah) teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”
Who were these Torah teachers and why were they so interested in the lad Jesus? As we now know, the leading teacher and scholar of the Pharisees and the “Torah teachers,” was the “Prince of Israel” called Hillel the Elder. He was also was the President of the Great Sanhedrin. Did Jesus just “linger” behind because in His curiosity about the truths of Torah? Did Jesus find himself, in an event that He cherished throughout His youth, in the midst of the Schools of Hillel and Shammai? This appears to have been an event that Jesus cherished in His youth.
Would we be so bold to suggest that the young boy Jesus came to the temple by the invitation of the Nasi of the Great Sanhedrin and the Torah scholars, not from the School of Shammai but those that were in sympathy with the aging Hillel the Elder? Four years later (6 CE), Hillel would be dead. There within the Great Sanhedrin were Torah teachers and Elders of Israel that were in sympathy with the Essenes and were no doubt disciples of Hillel and Menahem the Essene.
What we know from Jewish genealogy might give us some insight. Jesus the son of Joseph was of the lineage of King David. Since both his mother and father were of the House of David, He was recognized to be a double Davidian. As such, Yahshua (Jesus) was eligible to sit as an “Elder of Israel” in the hereditary seat of David in the Great Sanhedrin. This seat of David, up to the time of the death of Jesus, hanging on the “tree,” was occupied by Joseph of Arimathea.
What we also know is that Joseph of Arimathea, the “Prince of David,” was the maternal uncle to Jesus the Nazarene, the brother to Mary’s father, Heli (Eliakim or Joachim), as documented in the lineage of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. During the trial of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Great Sanhedrin and appeared to be a secret disciple of Jesus and as many scholars may suggested, the Essenes. We also know that the Essenes appeared to be the secret guardians of the descendants of the House of David, as they were waiting in expectation for the coming of the messiah, the Maschiach of Yisra’el, from a descendant of King David. This one fact can only be assumed; Jesus was one of the most watched and carefully guarded young men in Judea and Galilee by certain temple leaders,
Here in the Court of Hewn Stones next to the Holy Place of the temple at Jerusalem, we find convening a meeting by Hillel the Elder, the Nasi or President. Did he invite only those remaining Torah scholars of the Pharisee school of Hillel and sympathetic Elders of Israel that included Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea?
Here we also find this remarkable Jewish lad, who now was recognized to be an astounding student of Torah not being interrogated but in dialogue and discussion with the headmaster of the great rabbinic school of Hillel plus some of his greatest Torah scholars who were in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover.
When Hillel was nominated to the seat of the Nasi or prince of the Great Sanhedrin, in 30 CE, his chief assistant, the Vice-President or the Av Bet Din was Menahen, who was known to be an Essene. According to the historical scholarship, Menahem and Hillel had very similar views on the Torah and the Jewish legal laws on how to keep the Torah that was called the halakha. There was another important fact; they viewed the Gentile world around them with affirmation and loving kindness and affirmation.
It was this Menahem the Essene that was identified by Rabbi Jehiel Heilprin in the Seder Ha-Dorat 2:271 as the Menahem that Herod the Great gave praise for prophesying about Herod’s rise to power over Judea. In the testimony of Josephus, we find evidence of Menahem the Essene and his prophetic gifts but also testimony that Josephus aligned himself with the Essenes with the words, “We thought it proper to relate these facts…to declare what hath happened among us,” might be reference not that Josephus was writing this testimony as a Jew but as a pacifist Essene Jew.
Flavius Josephus – “Now there was one of these Essens, whose name was Manahem, who had this testimony, that he not only conducted his life after an excellent manner, but had the foreknowledge of future events given to him by God also.
This man once saw Herod when he was a child, and going school, and saluted him a king of the Jews; but he, thinking that either he did not know him, or that he was in jest, put him in mind that he was but a private man; but Manahem smiled to himself, and clapped him on his backside with his hand, and said, “However that be, thou wilt be king, and wilt begin thy reign happily, for God finds thee worthy of it; and do thou remember the blows that Menahem hath given thee, as being a signal of the change of thy fortune; and truly this will be the best reasoning for thee, that thou love justice (towards mankind) and piety towards God, and clemency towards thy citizens; yet do I know how thy whole conduct will be, that thou wilt not be such a one, for thou wilt excel all men in happiness, and obtain an everlasting reputation, but wilt forget piety and righteousness; and theses crimes will not be concealed from God at the conclusion of thy like, when thou wilt find that he will be mindful of them and punish thee for them.”…from that time he (Herod) continued to honor all the Essens.
We have thought it proper to relate these facts to our readers, how strange soever they be, and to declare what hath happened among us, because many of these Essens have, by their excellent virtue, been thought worthy of this knowledge of divine revelations.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, XV, x, vi)
According to the Talmud we read:
Talmud, Sukkah 28A – “Hillel the Elder had 80 disciples, 30 of whom were worthy of the Divine Spirit resting upon them…30 of whom were worthy that the sun should stand still for them…the greatest of them was Jonathan ben Uzziel, the smallest of them was Johanan be Zakkai…” (Also agreed to by the Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim, end Ch. 5)
It was the least of them, Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai that was nominated to be the nasi (Prince of Israel) after the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman armies of Titus in 70 CE.
The Special “Mission to the Gentiles” by Menahem the Essene and the Disciples of Hillel
Ten years after the inauguration of Hillel the Elder to the Nasi or President of the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and Menahem the Essene as Hillel’s Vice–President or Av Beit Din a mysterious event occurred. The year was about 20 CE and suddenly, as recorded in the Hagigah 16B, Menahem the Essene took 80 “pairs of disciples” and left the religious politics of Judea forever.
In a conflict recognized in both the records of the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmud, it was recorded that 160 disciples of the Nasi Prince of Israel Hillel the Elder and his vice-chair in the Sanhedrin, Menahem the Essene, left Jerusalem. Where did they go? Why did they leave at this time?
According to the Talmud we learn that Hillel the Elder had eighty disciples:
Talmud, Sukkah 28A – “Hillel the Elder had 80 disciples, 30 of whom were worthy of the Divine Spirit resting upon them…30 of whom were worthy that the sun should stand still for them…the greatest of them was Jonathan ben Uzziel, the smallest of them was Johanan be Zakkai…” (Also agreed to by the Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim, end Ch. 5)
It was Hillel the Elder that was the leader of the Sanhedrin when King Herod began his great building program in what would eventually become the Temple of Herod, the largest and most opulent building in the entire Roman Empire. It was the dynasty of Hillel, his son and his descendants that would remain as the President of the Sanhedrin throughout this era till the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple of Herod in 70 CE. We also now know that one of the eighty disciples of Hillel the Elder and recognized as the “smallest of them”, called Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, was nominated to be the Nasi (Prince of Israel) and leader of the Sanhedrin, after the fall of Jerusalem.
We return to the question, why did eighty disciples of Menahem along with eighty disciples of Hillel, leave the dynamic religious culture of Jerusalem? The reason over the centuries has been hotly debated.
The Mishnah in the Talmud describes this debate concerning the fate of Menahem the Essene between the two 4th century Amoraim; Abbaye and Rava the Hasid (the Pious).
Abbaye (280-340 CE) was recognized as one of the most outstanding of the third generation Torah scholars called the Amoraim. Abbaye was the orphaned nephew of Rav Joseph, headmaster of the famed Babylonian Yeshiva (Torah Academy) at Pumpeditha. Both Abbaye and his uncle were descendants of the famous cohen (priest), Eli the High Priest in the days of Samuel the Prophet.
Abbaye (“Nachmani”) had a close personal friend and Torah study-partner called Rava the Hasid (270-350 CE). Here at the site of the modern Iraqi city of Fallujah, the Sunni city of 200 Islamic mosques, forty three miles west of Baghdad, the city of Pumpeditha once hosted for several centuries several important Jewish academies. This Torah center, along with the town of Sura, became the two Jewish centers that gave rise to the Babylonian Talmud. They became the leading Torah centers of all the Talmudic Academies in Babylon.
Abbaye and his friend and Torah study companion, Rava the Hasid were two of up to 11,000 students who came to study at one time in the Torah Academy at Pumpeditha. When the chair of the Yeshiva at Pumpeditha was left vacant by the retiring of Rav Joseph bar Nahmani, both of them were recognized as two of four of the greatest Torah scholars (Abbaye, Rava, Rav Zeira and Raba bar Matana) who competed in debate to head the Yeshivah at Pumpeditha.
This Torah center, along with Sura, became the two Jewish centers that gave rise to the Babylonian Talmud. Abbaye came out in the lead in the debate and became the head of the great Torah academy at Pumpeditha. Rava the Hasid, on the other hand, returned to Mahuza in Babylon and established his own yeshiva. What is of interest is that upon the death of Abbaye, many of the students at the Torah school at Pumbeditha moved and joined the Torah School of Rava at Mahuza.
This Torah School was located at Mahuza, twenty miles southeast of Baghdad. This region was in the growing metropolis that was formed by Ctesiphon (the former capital of the Parthian Empire) and Seleucia (the former capital of the Greek Seleucid Empire) that straddled each other on the banks of the Tigris River. The Yeshiva of Rava the Hasid became one of the intellectual centers of the Babylonian Jewish Community.
Both Abbaye and his study-partner, Rava the Hasid, participated in what is now considered the classic case of Talmudic discourse. These two rabbinic scholars would become recognized in history as some of the greatest of the Amoraim, as they sought to reconcile the conflicts between the testimony of the sages that had risen over the centuries in the compilations of the Mishnah and the Talmud. What was interesting is that in the hundreds of recorded disputes between these two study-partners in the Yeshiva at Pumpeditha, in all but six cases, the sages of Judah have decided in favor of Rava the Hasid instead of Abbaye.
To get a perspective of the Time Line of the Jewish People and its affects on these great debates that affect our understanding of who the historical Jesus the Nazarene was, we also see the rise of the Roman Christian Church. This began under the leadership of Constantine the Great, the British born Roman emperor who was later baptized as a Christian. Constantine the Great, the Emperor of Rome ushered in Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.
It was 300 CE when in the Council of Elvira in Spain that the Christian Church first began to concern itself with the status of the Jewish people. Out of the council came anti-Jewish laws such as forbidden in interracial marriages or even the dining between the Jews and the Christians. It was only forty years prior, when the Jewish Torah Academy at Nehardea was destroyed by the Babylonians and was moved to the town of Pumbeditha.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem – Photo by Robert Mock (2006)
Within another decade (313-315 CE), Constantine the Great began to initiate Roman anti-Semitic legislation that would set the stage for the future medieval Roman Christian discrimination against the Jews. Then between 326 – 335 CE, Constantine sent his mother, Helena, to Palestine on a pilgrimage to identify and mark the “holy places” for Christianity in the Holy Land.
During this period the two famous basilicas, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem were built. Here began an immense investment of the Roman Christians to mark their claim and identity in the land where “Jesus of Nazareth”, the focal person of salvation for all Christians lived and ministered.
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem –
Photo by Robert Mock (2006)
By 337 BCE, Constantius, the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire and the son of Constantine the Great opened the formal Christian policy towards the “pernicious sect” called the Jews by initiating additional anti-Jewish legislation forbidding; the marriage between a Christian and a Jew, female Christians from converting to Judaism and the Jewish ownership of slaves.
In this historical and erupting exchange between the emerging Christian Church and the Jewish people, we re-look at the historical debates between the two Torah study-partners, Abbaye and Rava the Hasid. Out interest is in part of this debate centered on who was Menahem the Essene and why did Menahem and his disciples leave the Torah Academy of Hillel in Jerusalem.
It was Abbaye who claimed that Menahem went forth into evil ways stating (Jerusalem Talmud, Hagigah 2:2) that Menahem and his disciples joined a conflicting religious group that is assumed here to mean the Essenes. During this era, the relationship of Jesus the Nazarene and the Essenes was possibly better understood in that era than today. The Essenes were known Hassidim, who fled to the wilderness in protest to the corruption of the usurpation of the office of the High Priest by the Sadducee family such as the House of Ananus. The Essenes also opposed the corruption of the “evil and wicked” Pharisees that were now controlling the Torah education in Jerusalem. Is it any wonder that Abbaye had a negative view towards both Menahem and the Essenes.
On the other hand, Rava the Hasid stated that Menahem the Essene “went forth to the King’s (God’s) service, along with 80 pairs of disciples dressed in silk.” (Rabbi Harvey Falk, “Jesus the Pharisee, A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus”, Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Boulevard, Mahwah, N.J. 07430, 1985, page 49-50) It would be Rabbi David Fraenkel in the Kargan ha-Edah, who would connect the claim that according to Rava the Hasid, Menahem was forced to leave because the Hellenistic Gentiles were putting pressure for the Jews to abandon their religious ways. Here we see the encroachment of Hellenism and Roman hegemony that affected not only the quality but the very essence of Torah living. This was possibly the seed of corruption in the acceptance of Ananus and Caiphas, the high priests, as the non-levitical and non-Zadokian “purchasers of the office of the high priest” in Jerusalem.
Therefore Rava the Hasid, along with most of the later sages of Judah, accepted that Menahem the Essene along with 80 disciples of Menahem and 80 disciples of Hillel went out on a rescue mission to appease “the nations.” This was a world that was swelling with the rising tide of anti-Semitism by the Romans and the rising tide of the Zealot’s hatred against the Romans whom they called Edomites. This “mission” appeared to be even more focused with even a more Judeo-centric purpose: the Essenes were to “establish a religion for the Gentiles” so that friendly Gentiles could surround and support the Jewish people. (Ibid 53)
Up to this date of 20 BCE, the sect of the Pharisees had been under the liberal leadership Hillel the Elder. Hillel had a real concern and care about how to bring the message of the God of Israel to the Gentile world. Suddenly the world of the Pharisees did an about face. The Jews began to internalize their lives. Here began a period of nationalism, isolationism and erecting barriers around the Jewish people in a fortress mentality.
The Rise of Beit Shammai, the Pharisee School of Shammai
With this vacuum of power in the Sanhedrin when Menahem the Essene, the Vice-President of the Sanhedrin left Jerusalem religious politics, the Judean born Pharisee called Shammai (50 BCE – 30 CE) was elected as the Vice President or the Av Beit Din of the Sanhedrin in Menahem’s place. Little is known of Shammai except that he was a builder.
Conflict quickly arose in the Sanhedrin between Hillel the Elder, Shammai and their followers. Shammai began to initiate rules to establish barriers between the Jews and the Gentiles. Known to be an impatient and a brooding person, he was reported to be quick-tempered and dour. He had a concern that the Jewish people had too much contact with the Romans so they as a community would be weakened by the forces of assimilation. Here we see the reason for Shammai’s very strict interpretation of Jewish law.
As documented in the Sanhedrin 85B, as the School of Shammai ascended in power and prestige the spirit of the Zealots and the Sicarii increased in Judea. Along with the rising tide of nationalism came a hatred against the Roman people. Judaism at this time became fragmented and split into two opposing forces.
Over the decades, Hillel continued to be the most popular and revered of the two Torah scholars. It has been suggested by some that Hillel and Shammai themselves did not differ much on many fundamental issues of Jewish law yet their disciples were constantly in conflict. Documented within the Mishnah and the Talmud between the years of 30 BCE and 70 CE, there were over three hundred and fifty clashes between the disciples of Beit Hillel (House of Hillel) and Beit Shammai (House of Shammai). These debates cut to the very heart of Judaism. Even more important it affected how they both saw the rest of the world around them. As a whole, the Torah or Talmudic scholars tended to side with Hillel even though most believed that both views were halakhically valid. As stated in the Sanhedrin 88B, as the two schools of the Pharisees between the disciples of Hillel and Shammai grew larger and more polarized, “the Torah became as two Torahs.” (Ibid 124)
It was the sixteenth century grand sage of the Jewish kabbalah, Rabbi Isaac Luria (“Ari’) who claimed that the rulings from both of the Houses of Hillel and Shammai were enduring rulings on a “conceptual” level. Given the proper time and place, each of them would ascend on a pragmatic level, or the most practical way of living in that era. Whereas the House of Hillel was more lenient and responsive to the sinful state of a degenerate or imperfect society, the rulings from the House of Hillel would be conceived as the best compromise or the ultimate in which we can conform to the divine will during that era.
Yet on the other hand, the rulings of the House of Shammai appeared in an imperfect social culture to be austere and harsh, but in the era of the coming Messiah the rulings of the House of Shammai would represent a lofty ideal in which today may be strict and confining and only understood on a conceptual level. Yet in a future era in which people lived in a higher plane of spirituality when the Messiah returns would make the rulings of the House of Shammai a source of pure delight. Here living the life of Torah in harmony with the Divine Will, will be the era of spiritual ecstasy. When you try to live a life of Torah when the spiritual and literal world around you is in chaos, it will appear that your life is one of cacophony or discordant to an elevated life of purity and holiness.
The “Eighteen Measures” and the Debates between Pharisees Schools of Hillel and Shammai
It was the Jerusalem Talmud that compared the day the School of Shammai gained control over the Pharisee sect in Jerusalem and passed eighteen measures overruling Beit Hillel as troublesome as the day the Golden Calf was built. (Shabbat 17A) What was this edict of the eighteen measures?
Early in the presidency of Rabbi Hillel the Elder, the Nasi of the great Sanhedrin, the two great rabbinic schools of Hillel (Beit Hillel) and Shammai (Beit Shammai) began to consistently assume two opposing interpretations of the Oral Torah. Their formative years were between 30 CE when Hillel became the Prince of Israel and 20 CE, when Shammai became the Vice President of the Sanhedrin.
The “Eighteen Measures” were composed by the advocates or disciples of Shammai. They were rules or laws that were to create barriers between the Jews and the Gentiles, thus isolating with the hopes of protecting and preserving the Jewish people from the evil influence of the Hellenism and the global forces that sought to change Judaism to be like the rest of the world. These “measures” appeared to be a good idea as Judaism, as a culture, appeared to be under siege and threatened, like the Shabbatean crises in the 17th century, to destroy the foundation of Judaism itself. These controversies became the fodder for the great debates between the Pharisee disciples of Hillel and Shammai.
It was Zacharias Frankel in his book; “Darke Hamishnah” that suggested that the first two controversies between these two schools was over the “eighteen measures.” (Shabbat 13B – 17A) To Frankel, the “eighteen measures” were actually composed by the Shammaites to increase the separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. It was obvious that Hillel the Elder opposed these measures that were designed to create a further distance between the Jews and the Gentiles.
The second debate was over the requirements of bringing festive burnt offerings to the temple during the first day of a Jewish holiday. (Betsah 19A-20B) The disciples of Shammai opposed this requirement for the three main Jewish festivals in which all Jewish men living in the Land were required to travel to Jerusalem to attend. Hillel was in favor of the pilgrims arriving to give their offerings on day one.
The date for the initiation of the eighteen measures is still a subject of scholarly debate. Since it was the most fundamental division between the two Pharisee schools of Hillel and Shammai, it would appear that it might have been the trigger for the eventual mass exodus of the 160 disciples of Hillel and Menahem the Essene to the wilderness to establish a religion for the Gentiles. According to the Tosafists (Shabbat 14B), both Hillel and Shammai were present during the debates. (Shabbat 17A and Tosefta Shabbat 1:8) These debates had to have been held before the death of Hillel in 10 CE, when Jesus was about seventeen years old.
Most scholars suggest that these debates occurred before the Common Era (BCE) and during the formative periods of both schools, predominately between 30 BCE and 20 BCE. The tensions were high between the two schools and a neutral ground was proposed; the home of Hananiah ben Hezekiah ben Gurion. He was best known for his scholarly work on the Book of Ezekiel, the leader of the synod that compiled the Hebrew Scriptures called the TaNaKh and the compiler of the “Megillat Ta’anit” the official Jewish scroll on the Jewish fasting days.
It was at Hananiah’s house, they had a retreat (Shabbat 13B) in the hopes that a private setting with a respected scholar would insure peace between the two schools. The problem was that Hananiah was biased. He was the son of Hezekiah, the founder of the Zealot Party that Josephus called a “bandit” and was executed by Herod the Great. It was the Zealots who were pushing for armed revolt against Rome, hated all Gentiles and maintained close ties with Shammai.
On the day that the first vote was taken on the “eighteen measures” several disciples of Hillel were killed by the disciples of Shammai, called the Beit Shammai. Whether it was the Beit Shammai, the Zealots or the assassin squads of the Zealots called the Sicarii (dagger men) is irrelevant. They were initially all closely affiliated. What was recognized in both Talmuds is that swords were permitted to be in the house of Hananiah on that day of infamy.
What is believed is that about 20 CE, Menahem, the Av Bet Din or Vice-president of the Sanhedrin left Jerusalem with his 80 disciples to join their fellow Essenes in Damascus. Shammai the Elder was nominated to become the Av Beit Din (Vice-President of the Sanhedrin). It was about this time that the 80 disciples of Hillel left Jerusalem and joined the Hasidim (Essenes) with the newly arrivals also of the disciples of Menahem the Essene.
It is believed that sometime between the exodus of Menahem the Essene and his disciples and the exodus of the disciples of Hillel, the first debate on the “Eighteen Measures” occurred at the home of Hananiah ben Hezekiah ben Gurion.
Soon after the debate over the “Eighteen Measures,” the second debate occurred. This time it was over day for the Festival burnt offerings. Once again there is agreement in both the Jerusalem and the Babylonian Talmuds, by the day that this debate began; Shammai the Elder had been nominated as the Vice President of the Sanhedrin and the School of Shammai (Beit Shammai) had assumed control over the Pharisees in the city of Jerusalem. When the festivals did arrive that year, the word had gone out over the land. The expected event occurred when the first day of the festival started. The temple was empty. There were no male pilgrims as they were not required on that day to bring their burnt offerings. (Betsah 2:4) This fact was noted by Bava ben Buta, a disciple of Shammai who happened to side with the disciples of Hillel on this vote. As proclaimed by Bava on this day;
Bava ben Buta of the Beit Shammai – “May their homes become desolate, for they have made desolate the House of our God.” (Bava Batra 4A)
On that first day in the empty temple courtyard, Hillel the Great was alone when he presented his burnt offerings. While in prayer, the students of Shammai “ganged up” on the Nasi of the Sanhedrin and threatened his life. (Betsah 20A cited by Falk, page 58) Such was the atmosphere of degradation when the Shammaites assumed the power of the Pharisees. From this day forward, the temple culture in Jerusalem began to sink to the 49th level of degradation that existed in Egypt when the Israelites were saved by the “mighty hand of the Lord.”
Rabbi Harvey Falk argues that Jesus the Nazarene made a serious charge against the Pharisees about the year 30 CE when He was in the temple during His last Passover that was in direct reference to the conflict between the rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai and resulted in the death of many of the disciples of Hillel the Elder. (ibid 124-125)
Matthew 23:29-30 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”
As Luke testifies:
Luke 11:48 - In fact you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.”
The question we have to ask, is this testimony of the serious charge against the Pharisees of the House of Shammai by Jesus the Nazarene only found in the Gospels written by the hand of His disciples? This quotation is found not only in the Gospel testimony but is also found in the Talmud:
Sukkah 28A, Bava Batra 134A and Sanhedrin 11A – “We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.”
In this confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees in the temple, Jesus was referring back to the debate over the “eighteen measures” where many of the disciples of Hillel were killed in the house of Hananiah ben Hezekiah. The defense of the Pharisees could not hide the fact that it was Rabbi Zadok, a leader of the School of Shammai, who joined forces with Judah the Galilean, the Zealot chief in 6 CE. This was also the year of Jesus’ bar Mitzvoth and his Passover interview with the sages of Beit Hillel in the temple. Let us not forget the impressions on Jesus the youth as He watched how history was moving before His eyes.
Here in the presence of this young Jewish youth were the new generations of the Pharisees, the children of the disciples of Beit Shammai, who killed the prophets of Beit Hillel. The Pharisees, now in Jesus’ adult presence, that were now attacking Him had the same heart, soul and mind of those who killed some of the prophets, scholars and disciples of Hillel forty to fifty years prior.
Jesus continued in the testimony of Luke:
Luke 11:49-50 – “Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute.’ That the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar of the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.”
When we compare this with the testimony of Matthew we find:
Matthew 23:33-36 – “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”
The first thing we note is the “Wisdom of God” in Proverbs 9. Yahshua identifies Himself with this “Wisdom” and reveals again His preexistence before his birth to the “virgin” called Mary. The thesis of Rabbi Emden and Falk, both give insight and credence to the fact that the Pharisees in the day of Jesus had truly descended to the forty-ninth degree of degradation. With such degradation, could they understand what was holy? Only by the Grace and intervention of God, the Father of Yahshua would bring the salvation of the Jewish people to survive the holocaust that was ahead.
The House of Shammai as the Pharisees and the House of Ananus as the High Priestly family that dominated in the leadership in Herod’s Temple would control the temple culture in Jerusalem until the day of the destruction of the temple. Thus began the pivotal era in Judaism when the “Son of man” who came as a representative of His Father, the Almighty God of Israel, was born and grew up in the progressive atmosphere of animosity of the Jews towards the Gentiles and between Jew to Jew.
Here in the temple on the day when the babe Yahshua (Jesus) was presented in the temple on the days of Miriam’s purification, a Tzadik of Israel, Simeon the Just was praying for the privilege to see the “Consolation of Israel.” When he saw the young babe Yahshua, he went into rapture by the Holy Spirit with this proclamation.
Luke 2:29-32 – “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring salvation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
As Simeon the Just blessed Mary, the mother of Jesus, he said in closing:
Luke 2:34-35 – “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be reveled.”
The mission of Yahshua ben Yosef had just begun. So also the days of revelation in which the whole social culture of the Jews in Judea were to become transparent. That which was upright and honest was to be revealed and that which was evil and destructive revealed also. These days would also set the stage for the curse that would later be placed upon the entire Pharisee School of Shammai when the Heavenly Voice (bat kol) was heard at Yavneh. At the time when the Sanhedrin was reestablished, the School of Hillel would again become the official Jewish voice on the Torah. According to the later Sages of the Talmud:
Berakhot 11A and the Jerusalem Talmud , Berekhot 1:4 – “He who observes the teachings of Beit Shammai themselves deserves death.”
According to Rabbi Harvey Falk, the Rabbi Zadok who aligned himself with Judas of Galilee and the Zealots in 6 CE, later in the year of Jesus’ death at Passover 30 CE, began a forty year fast to atone for the sins of the Jews so that the temple would not be destroyed. (Yevamot 15B) Falk suggests that at that time Rabbi Zadok began practicing the halakha of the Jews according to Beit Hillel.
The influence of the disciples of Shammai weaved themselves throughout the entire social culture of Judea. When it came to the oppression of the Romans against the Jews, they were considered the “hard-liners” with close sympathies with the Zealots. It was the Shammaites who believed in the earthly Messiah who would free Israel from the oppression of Rome. It was important for them as the righteous of Israel to give the God of Israel a helping hand even if it meant revolutionary violence.
Many scholars have suggested that the Apostle Paul, even though he was mentored by the grandson of Hillel, Gamaliel the Elder, lived his early life and actions as a believer and a disciple of the Pharisees of Shammai. He sought to kill James the Just and imprison or eradicate the Nazarene disciples of Jesus. It was the testimony of Paul himself that proclaimed:
Galatians 1:13-14 – “For you heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”
Yet it was the same Apostle Paul, who definitely was not a Pharisee who identified with the ministry of Jesus the Nazarene, who gave his account of his conversion to Jesus the Nazarene, whom he stated God revealed “His son” to him, also wrote:
Galatians 1:15-17 – “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”
This is an interesting text whose enigmatic meaning might also reveal its obscured truth. Recounting history, first we see the death of the prophets of Hillel about 20 BCE with the first debate on the “Eighteen Measures.” These were hosted in the home of Hananiah ben Hezekiah ben Gurion who was also closely affiliated with the School of Shammai and the Jewish Zealots. Here in the intensity of the debate, many of the disciples of Hillel were killed by either disciples of Shammai or the Zealots.
Suddenly we see Hillel’s Vice-President (Av Beit Din) of the Great Sanhedrin of Seventy-One, Menahem the Essene leaving his esteemed position in Jewish society and departing to Damascus. With him went eighty of his disciples and soon after eighty of the disciples of Hillel the Elder.
In the former office of Menahem the Essene, we see Rabbi Shammai the Elder usurping the office of the Vice-President (Av Beit Din) in the Great Sanhedrin. Hillel the Elder remains as the President but only a figurehead of the Sanhedrin because of the great reverence he held among the Jewish people. Throughout the next ninety years (20 BCE to 70 CE), we observe the hypocrisy and domineering controlling hand of Beit Shammai as it governed the affairs of the Pharisees.
Is it any wonder that the next “figurehead” as the Nasi of the Sanhedrin, Shimeon, the son of Hillel the Elder, nothing is said about him except that he occupied its position. The School of Hillel had now become hostage to the School of Shammai.
The ascendant control of the forces of Shammai, the Jewish fundamentalists, became more willing to use violence in their “holy war” as zealots of the God of Israel against their Roman “pagan” oppressors. Within this cultural milieu, we see the beginnings of the Repentance and Kingdom movement that came as the “voice crying in the wilderness” of the Essene like prophet, John the Baptizer. It was he who “prepared the Way” for his Davidian cousin, Jesus the Nazarene who came as the emissary straight from God, whom Yahshua proclaimed was “His Father in heaven.”
Index for Jesus the Pharisee from the School of Hillel
Go to Part Three - “The Essenes, the Hasidim and the Righteous Gentile of the Nations”
Go to Part Four - “Jesus the Nazarene and the Pharisees of Beit Shammai”
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