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The secret of the scarlet thread
The secret of the scarlet thread
The secret of the scarlet thread
The secret of the scarlet thread
The secret of the scarlet thread
The secret of the scarlet thread
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The secret of the scarlet thread

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  • 1. B.R. Burton he Talmud, a gigantic library of ancient Rabbinic commentary, is composed of the Mishnah, a legal commentary on the Torah codified around 120 AD, and the Gemara, a commentary on the Mishnah, which was finalized around 400 - 500AD. A multitude, if not a majority, of the traditions recorded in these texts, however, existed in the time of Yeshua, and represent major influential currents in the theology of Judaism in the Second Temple period. As such, the Talmud is absolutely indispensable to the study of the New Testament. In recent years, a flurry of modern scholarship, both Jewish and Christian, has rapidly developed in this field, and numerous articles and books have been published on the subject. Contained within the Talmud, and even throughout the entire scope of Rabbinic literature, a large number of striking parallels to the New Testament emerge, illuminating the ancient understanding of the teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth, and opening a window into the text of the Gospels and writings of Shaul of Tarsus. In the midst of this connection between the Talmud and the New Testament, a scarlet thread has ignited a new facet of an ancient debate. The controversial scarlet thread figures prominently in the center of miraculous events that took place in the Second Temple. The Talmud records the Yom Kippur Temple ritual concerning the thread, and the miracles surrounding it: "R. Nahman b. Isaac said it was the tongue of scarlet‟, as it has been taught: „Originally they used to fasten the thread of scarlet on the door of the [Temple] court on the 28 29 outside. If it turned white the people used to rejoice, and if it did not turn white they were sad. They therefore made a rule that it should be fastened to the door of the court on the inside. People, however, still peeped in and saw, and if it turned white they rejoiced and if it did not turn white they were sad. They therefore made a rule that half of it should be fastened to the rock and half between the horns of the goat that was sent [to the wilderness]‟. . . . If you assume It was R. Johanan b. Zaccai [who made the rule], was there in the days of R. Johanan b. Zaccai a thread of scarlet [which turned white]? Has it not been taught: „R. Johanan b. Zaccai lived altogether a hundred and twenty years. For forty years he was in business, forty years he studied, and forty years he taught‟, and it has further been taught: „For forty years before the destruction of the Temple the thread of scarlet never turned white but it remained red‟. Further, the statement of the Mishnah is, „After the destruction of the Temple R. Johanan b. Zaccai made a rule‟. [What says] the other [to this]? — During those forty years that he studied his status was that of a disciple sitting before his teacher, and he would offer a suggestion and make good his reasons." Footnotes: (28) After the High Priest had performed the service on the Day of Atonement. V. Yoma, 67a. (29) This being a sign that their sins had been forgiven. Rosh HaShanah 31b, Babylonian Talmud, Soncino Press Edition Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in all of Judaism, and was central to the kapparah (covering) of the sins of Israel. The scarlet thread, as explained in the above passage, miraculously turned white if Adonai accepted the sacrifice, thus indicating that He forgave the sins of the people. If the thread did not turn white, then they were sad, as their sins were not forgiven. This section in the Talmud divides this time into three periods of 40 years, coinciding with the life of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. A similar division of years is applied to Moshe, Rabbi Leading up to the last set of forty years when the scarlet
  • 2. thread ceased altogether, the miracle sporadically occurred. What is extremely significant, or "coincidental", is that the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Yeshua of Nazareth, whom a first-century apocalyptic sect of Judaism believed was the Messiah, was crucified circa 30 AD. The "coincidence" is now obvious, the scarlet thread finally ceased turning white at the time Yeshua was crucified. The Talmud and the New Testament Rabbi Tovia Singer, of Outreach Judaism, an anti-missionary group has attempted to refute this understanding of the text. He attempts to make a point about hypocrisy of "Hebrew Christians" who disparage the Oral Torah, and then change positions when it fits their agenda. There are indeed a many people, including some Messianics, who condemn the Talmud - mostly because they know little about it. Messianic Judaism, however, contains a wide spectrum of differing opinions. It is our position that the Talmud is monumental in the study of the Bible, yet is NOT scripture and all authority comes from the Bible alone. The Oral Torah, codified in the Mishnah and Gemara, is critical to understanding the Written Torah. The former explains how to apply the latter. As recognized by a vastly growing array of both Jewish and Christian scholars, Rabbinic literature is critical to the study of the New Testament, and, as the Jewish scholar Alan F. Segal notes, that the New Testament is critical to the study of first century Judaism, "Study of the New Testament, undeniably a first-century source, has proven to be quite useful for validating mishnaic recollections of first-century Jewish life . . ." Alan F. Segal, Paul the Convert, Yale University Press, pg. xiv The Talmud records and reflects the thought of the Rabbis in post-Temple Judaism, who did not believe in Yeshua, and engage in polemics against Him, responding to their Christian contemporaries. However, some of the traditions of the Talmud in regard to Yeshua are of extreme historical importance. This is not to say these traditions are accurate in their denial of His Messiahship, but that they echo the historical events recorded in the New Testament. The Talmud, in Sanhedrin 38a, notes that He was "hanged on the eve of Passover," and, although it is written from the perspective of those who opposed Him, it does not deny His miracles, as it notes, "he practiced sorcery." It mentions the disciples of Yeshua, numbering about five, as "Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah." 'Mattai' is reminsicient the name of Mattityahu, 'Nakai' perhaps is Nakdimon (Nicodemus), a Pharisee, and Todah may refer to Taddai (Thaddeus). In a world were atheists deny that Yeshua of Nazareth even existed, the Talmud provides powerful historical weight to the historicity of the Gospel accounts. If this were not the case, the Talmud would have either denied His existence or not mentioned Him at all. This, however, is a subject to be discussed elsewhere. The Quote in Context In regard to the importance, or "coincidence" regarding the scarlet thread, Rabbi Singer, argues against the connection to Yeshua's crucifixion noting how Christians have "misused" this Talmud quote, and taken it out of context. Recounting a story of a pastor who "excitedly" expounded this section of the Talmud to his congregation, who were so "spellbound" their faces turned pale, he asserts, "Had any one of the parishioners in the audience gone to the local library and examined this entire section of the Talmud, they would have quickly realized that this quote had been misapplied and misused." Tovia Singer, Outreach Judaism, "Why Did the Red Ribbon on the Head of the Scapegoat turn White in 30 C.E.?" Years ago, when I first became aware of this text, I was aware of this possibility, so I actually looked Rosh HaShanah 31b up in a local Jewish temple. I then purchased Tractate Sanhedrin, and then eventually the entire Talmud. Rabbi Singer's statement is totally inaccurate. There is NOTHING in the surrounding areas of this texts that indicate it has in any way been misused. As we did to Rosh HaShanah 31b above, we will quote the entire section relevant to the scarlet thread, and then let the reader decide: "Our Rabbis taught: Throughout the forty years that Simeon the Righteous ministered,
  • 3. the lot [„For the Lord‟] would always come up in the right hand; from that time on, it would come up now in the right hand, now in the left. And [during the same time] the crimson- 12 coloured strap would become white. From that time on it would at times become white, at 13 others not. Also: Throughout those forty years the westernmost light was shining, from that time on, it was now shining, now failing; also the fire of the pile of wood kept burning 14 strong, so that the priests did not have to bring to the pile any other wood besides the two 15 logs, in order to fulfill the command about providing the wood unintermittently; from that time on, it would occasionally keep burning strongly, at other times not, so that the priests could not do without bringing throughout the day wood for the pile [on the altar]. . . . Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [„For the Lord‟] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself?5 I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee:6 Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.7 12) Which was tied between the horns of the bullock. If that became white, it signified that the Holy One, blessed be He, had forgiven Israel's sin. Cf. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Isa. I, 18, Rashi). Yoma 39b, Babylonian Talmud, Soncino Press Edition Contrary to Singer's assertion, there is nothing in the above selection that would lead any of the "parishioners" to think differently about the way their pastor "excitedly expounded" it. It is important to note that the miracle of the thread turning white was a sporadic occurrence, yet something still happened to cause the miracle to cease completely 40 years before the destruction of the Temple. Future Sacrifices Tovia Singer then moves on to a traditional Christian misunderstanding on the Temple sacrifices. Here, he actually raises a legitimate issue, If in fact, as the “Hebrew-Christian” insisted, the reason that the scarlet wool strip did not turn white was “because Jesus was the final atonement,” and there was thus no longer any need for animal sacrifices, why then are the same animal sacrifices coming back? Tovia Singer, Outreach Judaism, "Why Did the Red Ribbon on the Head of the Scapegoat turn White in 30 C.E.?" He is correct that the animal sacrifices are coming back, as this is foretold in the Tanakh. The issue arises due to the mainstream Christianity's lack of understanding of the book of Hebrews, and the nature of Yeshua's ultimate atonement for sin. Singer rightly says those who espouse the position that, "God had done away with animal sacrifices," should be hit with considerable pause. The New Testament does not contradict this opinion, nor the Torah. As Yeshua says in Mattityahu 5:17: ""Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete. For, Ameyn, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one yud or one tagin will pass from the Torah until all is complete. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Yeshua of Nazareth, Matthew 5:17-19 The commandments that Yeshua speaks of include the commandments regarding sacrifice. Moreoever, Paul, the most misunderstood writer in the Bible, proves that he is obedient to the Torah, in Acts 21: "And the day following Paul went in with us unto Ya'akov; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought
  • 4. among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said to him, "You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of Jews there are who believe; and they are all zealous of the Torah. And they have been told about you, that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moshe, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? The multitude will assemble: for they will hear that you have come. Now, therefore, do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them with you, and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses, that they may shave their heads. And then all will know that those things, which they were informed about you are false; but that your yourself also walk in line, and keep the Torah. . . Then Paul took the men the next day, and purified himself with them, and entered into the Temple, to signify the completion of the period of purification, and that an offering should be offered for every one of them. " Acts 21:20-26 It is obvious therefore, that the New Testament is not contrary to the Torah, but that mainstream Christianity has misunderstood the relevance of the Torah. This is foremost evident in Christianity's misinterpretations of Paul's epistles, as Alan F. Segal notes, "Without knowing about first-century Judaism, modern readers - even those committed by faith to reading him - are bound to misconstrue Paul's writing." Alan F. Segal, Paul the Convert, Yale University Press, pg. xii Therefore, Singer's argument is only valid against those who do not understand Scripture, the Temple sacrifices and especially Yeshua's Redemptive Sacrifice. His argument does not conflict with the New Testament. I have had the personal blessing of meeting one of the premier scholars on the Temple, Joseph Good, of Hatikva Ministries. He is a believer in Yeshua, and even teaches about the future sacrifices. For an accurate understanding of how Yeshua's death fulfills these, and the nature of the future sacrifices, I recommend his teaching. In the end, anyone who believes animal sacrifices have been done away with does not have an accurate understanding of the New Testament. Let it be known, however, that Yeshua is indeed the atonement for the sins of the world. However, His sacrifice - foreshadowed and prophetically patterned by the sacrifices - does not "do away" with the future sacrifices of the Temple. Hatred Without Cause In another section of his article, Singer then says of the debate on the scarlet thread, " . . . if evangelicals wish to engage in this sophomoric approach, a far more congruous argument could be made here using their same line of reasoning. We can, utilizing the same course of logic, conclude that the reason the scarlet strip of wool did not turn white was due to the fact that masses of wayward Jews had followed the false messiah, Jesus of Nazareth." Tovia Singer, Outreach Judaism, "Why Did the Red Ribbon on the Head of the Scapegoat turn White in 30 C.E.?" There were indeed many in Israel who believed that Yeshua was the Messiah. However, Israel, corporately, did not accept Yeshua as the Messiah. However, in my opinion, this is actually Rabbi Singer's strongest argument against the "Scarlet Thread-Crucifixion Connection." Yet, he subsequently denies its validity! He says, "Bear in mind, I am not suggesting that this is the correct understanding of this text. It is not. We shall soon see that this section of the Talmud is unrelated to either of these explanations." Tovia Singer, Outreach Judaism, "Why Did the Red Ribbon on the Head of the Scapegoat turn White in 30 C.E.?" So, what was the cause of the miracles ceasing? Singer says, accurately illustrating the ugly picture the Talmud paints of spiritual situation in ancient Israel. In fact, the New Testament says the same thing, however, it is regarded as anti- Semitic. If the Talmud had, somehow, been as central to Christians throughout the centuries, as it has the Jewish people, perhaps this passage in the Talmud would be regarded as an anti-Semitic addition. In fact, Singer quotes Isaiah, who
  • 5. uses the exact terminology of the New Testament, which has been misused for anti-Semitism. Singer even says, "Its painfully difficult to read this chapter." Yet it happened, as Singer admits. "Even as I write this letter, in the shadow of Yitzhak Rabin‟s assassination, it is still difficult to imagine a time when baseless hatred could have become so widespread that murders had became commonplace among my people." Tovia Singer, Outreach Judaism, "Why Did the Red Ribbon on the Head of the Scapegoat turn White in 30 C.E.?" Yet, the New Testament is castigated for its proclamation of this truth, the same truth that Rabbi Singer here admits to. It is indeed this condition of first century Israel, noted by the Talmud and New Testament, and vicious anti-Semites have seized upon to justify their satanic hatred of the Jewish people. The New Testament clearly states in the Book of Revelation that hatred of Israel is satanic. Therefore, let it never be said, "The Jews killed Jesus," or let the abhorrent phrase, "Christ killer" ever come to mind. All of Yeshua's disciples were Jewish. Indeed, Israel corporately rejected the Messiah, and was in a state of such spiritual declination that "murders had became commonplace". So, in the midst of the spiritual decline of Israel, what does Tovia Singer say was the chief reason the Temple was destroyed? " . . . there was no iniquity that was as self-destructive as the interpersonal baseless hatred that was pervasive among the Jewish people during this difficult time. . . The Talmud bears record to this spiritual decay, and declares that this national tragedy reached its height exactly 40 years prior to the destruction of the second Temple. It was 9 during this turbulent time that murders became so widespread that the Sanhedrin ceased to judge capital crimes such as homicide " Tovia Singer, Outreach Judaism, "Why Did the Red Ribbon on the Head of the Scapegoat turn White in 30 C.E.?" I couldn't agree with Singer more on this point. The national tragedy of baseless hatred did indeed reach its pinnacle around 30 AD. Singer's basis for this belief is recorded in Yoma 9b, "Why was the first Sanctuary destroyed? Because of three [evil] things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality, bloodshed . . . But why was the second Sanctuary destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, [observance of] precepts, and the practice of charity? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that groundless hatred is considered as of even gravity with the three sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed together . And [during the time of] the first Sanctuary did no groundless hatred prevail? Surely it is written: They are thrust down to the sword with my people; smite therefore upon my thigh,13 and R. Eleazar said: This refers to people who eat and drink together and then thrust each other through with the daggers of their tongue! — That [passage] speaks of the princes in Israel, for it is written , Cry and wail, son of man; for it is upon my people,13 etc. [The text reads] „Cry and wail, son of man‟. One might have assumed [it is upon] all [Israel], therefore it goes on, Upon all the princes of Israel. Yoma 9b, Babylonian Talmud, Soncino Press Edition This is fascinating. Look at the words of Yeshua, "He that hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they would not have sinned: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this has come to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their Torah, 'They hated me without a cause. ' Yeshua of Nazareth, John 15:23-25 Notice the phraseology, and similarity: "But why was the second Sanctuary destroyed . . . ? Because therein prevailed hatred
  • 6. without cause." Yoma 9b, Babylonian Talmud, Soncino Press Edition Now compare Yeshua's words, " . . . this has come to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their Torah, 'They hated me without a cause.' Yeshua of Nazareth, John 15:23-25 Conclusion It is the apex of irony, then, that Rabbi Tovia Singer's argument against the connection of the scarlet thread to the death of Yeshua the Messiah, actually turns out to strengthen the position of Messianic believers, who see this as much more than a mere "coincidence". Singer's articles seize on common misunderstandings in Christianity, which misrepresent the actual positions of Messianic scholars, especially those who believe in the validity of the Torah, and importance of the Oral Torah. I hope that everyone who reads this article will pray for Yeshua to reveal Himself to Tovia Singer, as this modern day pre-Damascus Paul would be a powerful witness to the truth of Messiah Yeshua. Then, many will forsake their baseless hatred of Yeshua, who has been misrepresented to them on both sides, and then they will fulfill the word of Isaiah the Prophet, "Come now, and let us reason together, says the YHVH: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. ' Isaiah 1:18

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