By now we are way into this discussion. You really should take the time to read Parts 1-7 if you haven’t. This is a summary and discussion of a paper by Dr. Mark Kinzer delivered to the 2003 Hashivenu forum. Part 1 has a link to the original paper.
Having argued in Part 6 that Yeshua’s attitude toward Pharisaic tradition was basic acceptance with prophetic correction, we now turn to the next part of Dr. Kinzer’s paper. Dr. Kinzer asks, what did Yeshua say about ongoing halakhic authority (authority to make rulings for communal standards of Torah observance) for the Yeshua-community?
To answer this, Dr. Kinzer first looks at the Parable of the Tenants (Matt 21:33-46, Mk 12:1-12, Luke 20:9-19). Yeshua clearly condemns the “chief priests, scribes, and elders,” which means the Sanhedrin. He says the vineyard will be taken from them and given to another ethnos, meaning “people” or “group.” Typically this is taken in supersessionist form (replacement theology) that God is removing his election of Israel and giving it to a new nation or people — the church. Some, based on Mark and Luke’s version, would see this as Rome, in the sense that Rome will rule (destroy) the Temple. Yet, ethnos can also mean a group, a voluntary association.
Dr. Kinzer suggests that possibly it could mean the rabbis, or the rabbis as well as the leaders of the Yeshua community.
To get from point A to point B, it is necessary to factor in several other Matthew texts. Matthew 18:18 clearly grants halakhic authority to the leaders of the Yeshua-movement (at the very least, to the twelve). Matthew 23:1-3, then, grants that authority to the Pharisees.
Let me quote Matthew 23:1-3 in full, since these verses get very little attention in many Christian theologies:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.”
Compare Matthew 23 to Deuteronomy 17:10: “Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the Lord will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you.”
It would seem that Yeshua grants that the Pharisees, in some unexplained relationship with the rulings of the leaders in the Yeshua-movement, have halakhic authority. Dr. Kinzer argues that “seat of Moses” was a reference to the high court of Israel (Deut. 17:10) that carried Mosaic authority. [Note: Dr. Kinzer rightly observes that Matthew never explains how the leaders in the Yeshua-movement can have authority at the same time as the Pharisees. A simple theory: the Yeshua community corrects when rabbinic/Pharisaic authority goes against certain principles, such as Gentile inclusion and the priority of love.]
Dr. Kinzer goes on to make some good points. He argues that Luke-Acts is quite favorable to the Pharisees. [Note: I cannot agree that Luke 17:20-21 means the kingdom of God is in the Pharisees’ deovtion to Torah. I think Yeshua means he represents the kingdom in his own person.] He gives a convincing answer why Matthew speaks more harshly about the Pharisees than Luke: it is because Matthew is the most Pharisaic book, and proximity leads to prophetic correction.
Significantly, Dr. Kinzer discusses six characteristics of Matthew that align its approach with Pharisaism:
1. Matthew views the leadership of the Yeshua-community as scribal (Matt 13:52 and 23:34).
2. Its leadership is halakhic, binding and loosing, meaning issuing rulings on practice (Matt 18:18).
3. Matthew shows some similarities to later rabbinic traits, such as using kingdom of heaven in place of kingdom of God.
4. Matthew uses topical organization (like the Mishnah) rather than chronological, like Mark and Luke.
5. Matthew uses numerical patterns (five discourses, ten mighty deeds, etc.).
6. Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer resembles synagogue liturgy more than Lukes (”on earth as it is in heaven”).
7. Matthew makes a point of affirming Pharisaic authority (Matt 23:1-3).
As Dr. Kinzer says, these affinities make for an intriguing conclusion: Matthew envisions the Yeshua-community as parallel in many ways to the Pharisees.
Dr. Kinzer then suggests that Messianic Judaism can follow Matthew’s example. As he patterned a community on the lines of Pharisaic tradition (with correction) so we can pattern a community on rabbinic authority (with correction).
Well, if that isn’t provocative, what is? This thesis goes against so many assumptions. Dr. Kinzer is calling for the Jewish, Torah-observant wing of the Yeshua-community to be more rabbinic. He shows that the rabbis are a legitimate authority in Torah according to Deuteronomy and Matthew. Here are some questions:
1. If you disagree, how would you argue with Matthew 23:1-3, Deuteronomy 17:10, and the whole Pharisaic program of Matthew?
2. If you agree, what should we do about it?
3. What are some areas in which the Yeshua-community will need to add corrective to rabbinic authority?