Moriel and Midrash
by Martin Horan – 21/12/2012
Having held a fascination for Jewish theology and philosophy, and read and studied much on these things for about forty-five or so years, I occasionally check out Jewish sites on-line. I especially enjoy the Messianic sites. It delights me to know that Jews are fulfilling Scripture [Rev 7:4-8] and becoming Christians. My home is surrounded by Jewish culture—art, music, literature, philosophy etc. Indeed, I am the editor/compilator of The Little Book of Jewish Wisdom which has been published in six languages.
I also like to contribute in the way of donations and prayers to Jewish-Christian evangelism. So I like to keep informed on what’s going on in in those circles. I am therefore fascinated, though deeply saddened, by Israel’s present isolation in the world and the explosion of worldwide anti-Semitism. I am fascinated and exited, nevertheless, because these things also verify Bible prophecy, as does Israel’s very existence.
One of the sites I enjoyed checking out was Moriel Ministries. I liked it because it would give news on worldwide events relating to prophecy, considering these things are ignored or deliberately concealed from the public by the international media. I appreciated Moriel’s awareness and some of their interpretations of those events. I also enjoyed listening to the few of Jacob Prasch’s lectures and sermons that I heard. I did notice too that he mentioned things about the Midrash.
I didn’t really pay much attention to those parts of Mr Prasch’s teaching. I felt that I knew all I needed to know about the Midrash.
My attitude may seem a bit arrogant. But the reason I say so,is that I mean it in the sense that I do not need to go into Midrash in any detail. That’s because I don’t have to. I have the Scriptures which teach me all I need to know regarding Salvation and all other things relating to a truly Christian life [2 Tim 3:16]. So I do not believe it is incumbent on anyone else to go into the Midrash in detail or even at all.
Having access to the Word of God, anything else, however instructive or interesting, is—in comparison—totally superfluous….
I have nothing against anyone reading Midrash, the Talmud, Apocrypha or any Jewish texts, especially when they are well-grounded in Scripture. In fact, as a past-time, I would encourage some Christians to read those Jewish writings, in the same way as I would encourage them to read Josephus and Edersheim and other kinds of Jewish writers; or learn Jewish languages like Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino.
Some Christians read a lot worse things which contribute nothing to a Christian life and often detract from it. Some have time to read and view pornographic and violent material that Muslims, pagans and cultists never would. And reading Jewish historians, theologians and philosophers can at least give us a better understanding of how the people in Bible times thought and lived.I believe those things can enrich our lives.
Please note, however, that I am not saying it’s essential to read those writers and scholars because it is NOT [2 Tim 3: 15-16]. If a person would prefer to do other reading conducive to Christian living then they should go ahead.
The thing that has caused my mind to recently return to thinking more about both Moriel and the Midrash writings is due to having read a Discerning the World article where I discovered Discerning the World – Defence from the Attacks of Jacob Prasch.
I was shocked at the appalling attack on Deborah and immediately replied to it. This attack is the reason for my present preoccupation with Moriel and Midrash.
I do not know who wrote the scurrilous diatribe against Deborah because they did not have the courage of their convictions—or courage per se—to put their name to it. And I checked it on its author’s site. Even on that site he/she does not give their name.
Personally, if I were in Mr Prasch’s position, and I was not the person who wrote the thing, I would be doing my best to find out who did and then name them. Anyone who knows the New Testament knows that Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul named names. So if Mr Prasch were to do so he’d be in excellent company.
Besides, the diatribe was not only cowardly, inasmuch as the author didn’t put his/her own name to this thing, it was also outrageously hypocritical: The finger-pointer accused Deborah of hiding her name! And—yes—I do dare to call such a person a hypocrite because the Bible clearly states what hypocrisy is.
A Hypocrite is someone who accuses people of doing bad things when he or she does the same things.
Even children recognize hypocrisy.
And Jesus castigated hypocrites so often that the Scriptures do not even need to be given here.
Besides, even if Deborah was guilty of those accusations—and those who read her comments on DTW know she is not—the attack still would not have been justified.
This anonymous attacker ought to consider I Thess 5:15: “That none render evil for evil.”
The wickedness of this attack was that Deborah was receiving evil for none that she had given.
So, if I were Mr Prasch, I would name this accuser lest I be thought a hypocrite or condoning hypocrisy. Quite rightly too! 1 Thess 22 tells us that we should not even put on a show of evil, let alone practise it. Some people can get the idea that’s exactly what Mr Prasch has done or is otherwise covering up for someone who has done so.
If the attacker has done so without Mr Prasch’s consent he ought to make that clear if only to let those who have read the attack that it was none of his own doing.
It is quite apparent that the attacker has reverence for Midrash as he/she claims the word Midrash is in the Bible, to contradict Deborah’s correct statement that it is not.
And the word Midrash isn’t there! It simply is not. I hasten to add that I am talking about in each given word, in English, relating to every word in the Bible.
You can find it in a descriptive sense in 2 Chron 13:22 & 2 Chron 24:27. But it is translated into English as “story.” And those are the only two places I can find it. Though the original word which is Midrash in Hebrew, God did not see fit to have it translated as such. If it was important to our salvation He would have done so. The Translators of the KJV would have known what it meant. They weren’t translating to back up a paradigm.
And the word Midrash isn’t there! It simply is not. So this attacker is either ignorant or is lying. If the person is not lying and is merely ignorant, then why is he/she arguing from ignorance? Not only is that unbiblical [I Thess 5:21; I John 4:1] it is stupid.
That is not a cheap jibe. It is an actual fact.
Why would a sensible, honourable or logical person argue from ignorance?
The fact is they would not. I do not want to get into a slanging match, or likewise become an accuser, but the only reason I can think why an articulate person would do so is because they are being deceitful.
If they are not being deliberately deceitful and they read this, I hasten to let them know that I come to that conclusion because I cannot see an alternative one. So if they show me where the word Midrash is in Scripture with a connotation that it is to be revered to the point that it is a requisite for reading Scripture, I will not only openly apologize but I will gladly thank them: I will be grateful for being furnished with information that is unavailable in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
But even if the deceit is not intended and they are merely deceived, being deceived is no better [2 Tim 3:13].
Also, I have read every word of three translations of the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:16 and never seen the word Midrash anywhere.
In case any reader is wondering what Midrash is, let me explain. I will keep it as succinct as possible.
The Hebrew term Midrash means “story.” It is from the Hebrew darash for “investigate” or “study”. It is a homiletic method of Bible exegesis and is also a way of interpreting biblical writings. It attempts to fill in gaps in events or personalities in the Bible. (Plainly, fill in the gaps which the Bible did not consider important enough to include!)
In parenthesis, this homiletic method of Scriptural exegesis is not limited to Judaism. Protestants, Catholics and other religious groups make us of similar techniques. As Judaism is older than Catholicism or any form of Christianity or pseudo-Christianity, Bible exegesis undoubtedly started with Midrash.
These Midrashim (plural), of which there are over one hundred books, as the Jewish author Leo Rosten writes, “…are efforts to ‘penetrate’ a text and illuminate its inner spirit.” They contain “…parables, allegories, illustrative, inspirational and edifying interpretations, that spoke directly to the common people.”
The first Midrash scholars go back to around 500 BC, the time of Ezra. They were called Soferim—i.e., scribes. They taught the Oral Law which they reckoned to be derived from the Torah (the Pentateuch or first five books of the Bible). The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day also upheld the Oral Law. That is why there was conflict between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The latter only accepted the written Law. So the Scribes and Pharisees would, presumably, be direct heirs to the Soferim.
To be fair to the rabbis who agreed on the rules of exegesis, they themselves ruled, “Nothing can supersede the plain meaning of the text.”
That’s really the basics on the Midrash. It can get complicated if I go into further explanation. Of itself that should be enough to make a Christian suspicious of placing any biblical emphasis on it. Scripture reminds us of the simplicity that is in Christ [2 Cor 11:3].
Perhaps the present-day Christian Midrash proponents reckon that those moved of the Holy Spirit to write the Bible have either overlooked or neglected these things. Whatever: I have to call to mind, yet again, [2 Tim 3:15-16]. I am bold enough to say that so should any real Christian call those verses to mind when presented with extra-biblical notions.
As to Midrash not being mentioned anywhere in the Bible—as it isn’t—I can’t find it anywhere in Josephus either. Evidently he didn’t seem to set great store by it as he hasn’t mentioned it. It is in none of the references to my own Josephus, translated by Whiston, which has copious footnotes and includes Antiquities, Wars of the Jews, Against Apion, and several of Whiston’s dissertations.
Josephus is definitely worth reading—if you have the time. But if you don’t, don’t worry about it. You are better reading the Bible than reading Josephus just as you are better reading the Bible than anything else—though it is good to read other things, especially writings which enhance our knowledge of God and Scripture.
As Jesus never alluded to Midrash and the Apostle Paul, a former Pharisee, didn’t either it is surely unimportant and really a side-track at the best. Yes, it is an interesting study in itself. But to take it to the lengths of where it becomes necessary to the study of Scripture then it is best avoided, and totally. The same goes for any extra-Biblical literature.
When such writings are put on a par with or are deemed necessary to understand or compliment Scripture, then they actually become dangerous. You may as well put Gulliver’s Travels or Don Quixote on the same level. In fact, if you consider yourself to be a Christian and have a proclivity to put ANY kind of religious writings on a par with Scripture, then you would be best to read more of Gulliver’s Travels or Don Quixote because there would be much less chance of revering them to such levels. (I would encourage any Christian who hasn’t done so to read Don Quixote. It satirizes a man who puts his religious experiences above those of the Bible.)
I personally do not see any use for any Bible hermeneutics. A person can be a born-again saved Christian without knowing what hermeneutics are, Midrash or any other kind. As Paul reminds us of the simplicity that is in Christ, he obviously didn’t set any store by Midrash either. As the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth [John 16:13], why bother with hermeneutics?
Leo Rosten makes the following apt comment: “What is the difference between a midrash and any other analysis of, say, a verse? The midrash purports to penetrate the ‘spirit’ of the verse and derive and interpretation which is not obvious. (It is often also not persuasive.) In the midrash there is total amnesty for non sequiturs, and poetic license—greatly inflated—becomes philosophy or, at least, theology.”
True, philosophizing does impress some people but it does not impress God. It never impressed Jesus Christ.
The Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees loved to debate and I daresay many, possibly most, would have known of Midrash exposition. So if they did, it did not help them any—considering so few of them were saved. In fact, their kinds of reasoning put them at odds with their Messiah. So much so that they didn’t even recognize that’s exactly who and what He was! Often they provoked Jesus to anger.
I would rather be pig ignorant of all and any kind of hermeneutic argumentation if it couldn’t help me recognize my Saviour and even deny Him.
Why would Midrash then be considered an important appendage to the study of the Bible?
I am not saying that it is not an interesting subject in itself. It is. But so is philosophy. So is art. So is French literature. So is science and bird-watching, chess, ice-skating and taking swimming lessons. But these make no contribution of themselves to our spiritual growth. And neither does Midrash study.
If it does why didn’t it affect the lives of those who met Jesus Christ? The Old Testament was full of prophecies regarding Him but where’s the evidence of Midrash helping any of His contemporaries to recognize His claims?
When the resurrected Jesus met the men on the Emmaus Road, He expounded to them from Moses and the prophets concerning Himself [Luke 24 27]. There is not even a hint of the Midrash mentioned by the Lord. Surely there would have been if it was that important.
There are Talmudists who know Midrash hermeneutics. But how many of them are Christians? Talmudic stories make fun of Jesus’ birth from a virgin, insinuate that He was illegitimate, fervently contest his claim to be the Messiah and Son of God, and maintain that He was rightly executed as a blasphemer and idolater. They reject the Christian idea of His resurrection and claim He got the punishment He deserved in hell and that His followers will end up there too.
So how is Midrash helping them? Well, it isn’t It never did. If anything, it entrenched them in their Talmudic paradigms and still does with Talmudists. And I say that as someone who is impressed with many of the Talmud’s maxims.
We know that God loves the Jewish people. The curse put on their enemies in Gen 12:1-2 is reiterated in Rom 11, showing it still stands. (Look at the present state of the Middle East if you disagree!) But we know that the Jewish people as a whole have suffered for their rejection of Christ as their Messiah and will do so till climax of that rejection in the Great Tribulation.
If Midrash hermeneutics are so important, how is it that the Jewish people still by and largely remain blind to their Messiah? Surely that would not be the case if the Midrash was divinely inspired as the Bible itself is. Countless millions of people who have not even heard the term Midrash have believed Jesus Christ to be the Messiah.
There are people who have never heard of Midrash who are going to be in heaven with the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel. Please remember, there will be far more of those ignorant of the Midrash than the 144,000 [Rev 7:9]. Possibly many of them will not have read any Midrash. And if any of the 144,000 have read it, they are not going to be there because they apply the Midrash to their Bible study. Rev 7:14 makes it plain how they get there. They are washed in Christ’s blood (and not their own blood, please note).
We know that because it tells us right there in Revelation, not because the Midrash mentions it. I have never applied Midrash to my study of the Bible yet I know those things from that Scripture as do countless others who have never even heard of Midrash or even of hermeneutics.
Yet many who have studied Midrash over the centuries have denied their only Saviour. So how can Midrash be of any importance? Scripture itself makes it plain that it is not important. So does logic and indeed so does common sense.
I wonder if Deborah noticed how little common sense her attacker used in spite of his/her Midrash scholarship!
Where was that person’s knowledge of simple every day Scriptures so well-known to non-Christians, such as “Love thy neighbour,” “Love your enemies,” the “Love” chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 and so on? For all of the person’s defence of the Midrash he/she c couldn’t see the blatantly obvious!
What has saddened me is that person is a defender of Moriel, so it is fair to presume that he/she is involved with Moriel in some way. So I am not likely to consider Moriel in the same light ever again—unless they make a public apology if this scurrilous attack on Deborah was by them.
If they do not condemn this attack and deny it having anything to do with them, or expose and name this attacker, if he/she from their ranks, then they are just as guilty of the offence as that attacker.
As to Alfred Edersheim:
He was from a Viennese Jewish family and he was a Christian, at a time when it would have been difficult for any Jew to have been a Christian—thanks to the anti-Semitism of “Christian” churches back in the days of his time (1825-89). His school was a Viennese gymnasium and he studied the Torah and the Talmud at a Hebrew school in that city. His main education was at Vienna University. Later, hecame to Scotland where he studied at Edinburgh and was a minister in Aberdeen and also was a missionary to the Jews of Romania.
This man truly was a great Jewish scholar as much as he was a great Christian one. I would recommend his books. If you actually wanted to find more about Midrash he goes into it into greater detail than I’ve done above.
He did not attempt to impose it onto Christian doctrine. He didn’t think it was needed. In a chapter dealing with Midrash (in his book Sketches of Jewish Social Life), regarding certain Midrash rules, he states, “Little objection can be taken to them; but unfortunately their practical application was generally almost as fanciful, and certainly as erroneous as in the case of the ‘Haggadah’.”
(The Haggadah is a part of Midrash; a different thing from a Passover Haggadah.)
I do not know of anywhere in the writings or teachings of Edersheim where he stated that Midrash was important for a Christian to study. In the things I have read by him on the matter, he writes of it in a matter-of-fact way as would any objective historian. If anyone can show me where he did urge people to study Midrash or claim that it was essential to salvation, I would greatly appreciate it. I am not infallible and am apt to overlook things as much as the next person. So I have to be ready to accept correction. Again it comes back to 1 Thess 5:1 and 1 John 4:1.
For Edersheim to have claimed Midrash was necessary to salvation it would put him the category of being a cultist. I don’t believe he would have contemplated such a thing, from what I’ve read of his work, and for the simple reason that work strikes me as showing him to having been a true Christian.
I checked Mr Prasch’s own comments on the Apostasy Now blog where he states “Hence, because I believe in the priority of the original languages, I have more faith in the Bible than I do in the translations of it.” And on a Moriel Ministries Newsletter, By James Jacob Prasch – June 4, 2010 he states, “God’s Word itself however, teaches plainly that the authority and priority is on the original languages of the original divinely inspired manuscripts (Nehemiah 8:8) and not on a translation of a translation produced between 17 and 23 centuries later after initially God breathed His Word and inspired its authorship. It is not that we have a problem with the KJV itself or with the legacy of godly men like Tyndale and Coverdale. As we have written multiple times, the KJV is a valid translation that God has used and is superior to most modern translations in its accuracy.”
First of all, Mr Prasch’s statement here is clear that in his view, then, no translations are actually the Bible! So he somehow has the right to dictate what Scripture is and what it is not. (Really? See 2 Pet 1:20). That would mean then that he does not mean most people have the opportunity to be saved. Unless he sees the Bible as irrelevant to salvation!
I find that comment a bit worrying. As it is God’s will that no man should perish but should all should come to repentance [2 Pet 3:9] and that God never changes [Mal 3:6] and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever [Heb 13:8], Mr Prasch’s comment is really saying that though God wants no one to perish He is giving precious few the chance to be saved.
And let’s bear in mind that there are millions who have known Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic but who never did experience salvation.
This is on a par with the God of John Calvin. Frankly, I’d rather have the false God of Islam anytime! At least he assures those a place in his heaven that kill themselves in Jihad, and take out as many infidels as possible in the process. (I am being sarcastic!) But Mr Prasch’s god—I use the lower case intentionally—is not quite so straightforward. He says one thing and then goes back on it.
I would also like to know how God can never leave us or forsake us [Heb 13 5] if it is so important that we must know the original Greek of that passage, bearing in mind that God knows that most people would never know biblical Greek. From Mr Prasch’s standpoint then, the rest of the folk who don’t understand biblical Greek can forget that Scripture! Actually, they might as well forget the rest of the Scriptures also.
As the Greek Septuagint is a translation it stands to reason, then, that was a waste of time anyone studying that version if we must know the original Hebrew and Aramaic. But if we do really need to know all the Greek New Testament Scriptures to be saved, why did Jesus tell the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in heaven? Jesus made the comment to a man who has never heard of a New Testament, let alone read one in Greek. So, according to that original Scripture’s paradigm, if we go by Mr Prasch’s version of Midrash, that man would best not place too much faith in what the dying Saviour suffering for humanity’s sins has just said.
I have to admit that good has come out of this attack on our sister, Deborah, as offensive as it was and as hurtful as it was to her personally.
It has made me realize that not all professors of Christianity are what they seem to be. I consider myself to be Sola Scripture but even those of us have to keep on our toes. Not all apostates are as blatant as Benny Hinn, Reinhart Bonke, and the like. Some are actually quite astute and know the Bible intimately—even to the point of being scholars in the original languages.
But being such great scholars proves nothing because we can see that some who have knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic are still willing to add and subtract to and from the Scriptures. The Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees did just that.
We cannot judge their hearts although—as we have seen in the attack on Deborah—some think they can see into others’ hearts. (If they really can then that power is not from God but is from the devil.)
Oh, yes, though we cannot see into others’ hearts and judge their motives, we can however know where the evil in people comes from and we can know its root. We know, for example, that the love of money is the root of all evil.
We also know that touchiness, anger, envy, false accusation, and the refusal to repent—which are all connected—have their root in pride. The Bible condemns pride often and God actually strikes back at it.
Satan is proud. He is also utterly unrepentant and is a wishful thinker [Rev 12:12], the result of his pride. He knows his time is short [ibid] yet he refuses to acknowledge it and will continue to try to overthrow God. And after the 1000 years when he is released, he will do the same thing again.
Such is the stupidity of pride. Let us remember that Satan is more intellectual than any human being. He is also far more devious and subtle.
People who refuse to repent are also devious and subtle. “My way or no way” is their attitude.
We find this among false teachers too. I was a member of the Armstrong cult a while back and saw that attitude in their leader. It can be seen in cult leaders, popes, Imams, the Scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
It is a human failing to which we are all susceptible.
However, there is an antidote to pride. It is the willingness to be corrected, no matter how we cherish our opinions. And itis easy to be corrected if one is a Christian. All we have to do is pray when we read the Scriptures and ask God to help us to be corrected by them, knowing that He hates pride and how susceptible we are to it.
Then we will face up to our responsibility to heed God’s Word and conform to it.
The very reason that peopledo not deal with the points they are asked, but retort with slander, false accusations, anger, ad hominem statements and circular argument, is because of pride. This too is the case when such people are professing Christians.
Proud people wouldn’t even accept that. That’s why it would not surprise me in the least when people who make gods of their extra and anti-biblical beliefs will retort to those who discern it with further evasive statements and accusations.
A nineteenth century Scottish Christian, Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, made a comment I often think on: “A man who makes a god of his religion won’t have God in his religion.”
It reminds me of the fact that a man who makes a god of anything won’t have God as their god. So, to my mind, it applies to those who put extra-biblical writings on a par with the Bible.
That is something true Christians have to face and deal with.
We must continue to bless those who curse us and turn the other cheek. And we should pray for them. But that should not stop us from contending for the faith once delivered when false brethren continue to lead others astray. We must challenge them [Jude 3]. Our Saviour did and He is our exemplar.
We must pray for those, like Deborah and other fighters for God’s truth, when they meet the opposition.
We cannot convince people who refuse to be convinced [Prov 26:11-12]. We are not to answer a fool according to his folly, lest we become like him. Then we are to answer a fool according to their folly, lest they become wise in their own conceit [vs 4-5].
We ought to bear in mind 1 Corinthians 20:21-22 if we want to know who God deems as wise and who He deems as foolish:
“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
“For after the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
We see the foolishness of this world’s wisdom daily when scientists believe evolution although it cannot be tested by the scientific method; and that scientists have to ignore the first three Laws of Thermodynamics and the Law of Biogenesis to hold to that belief.
We see the foolishness of the world’s wisdom in our universities where philosophy lecturers teach that there is no such thing as truth and that everything is really opinion. Then they expect their students to believe those statements are true and not simply their opinion!
We see the foolishness of the world in politics where politicians are more the problem than the answer. And we see the world’s foolishness in the media where their pundits not only contradict each other but even contradict themselves.
Such is the wisdom of the world. Such is the wisdom of learned and scholarly men who put their own writings or the writings of others on a par with the divinely inspired Word of God.
Anyone who knows the Word of God, then, ought to know the foolishness of putting any kind of writing on a par with it. And those verses of Proverbs 26: 11-12 tell us how to deal with them.
If one way doesn’t work then try the other. If neither works then we have at least done our own part and God will deal with them eventually [Psalm 37:1-11].
No hermeneutist—of the Midrash or any other theological discipline—wrote with the wisdom of those who wrote the Scriptures, including those of a humble working man like Peter.
Glory to God for that!