January 15, 2020
The Pharisees, the Kabbalah, and Ancient Egyptian Magic - Part 1
Sometimes, when I start trying to connect the dots in the Bible, my questions lead me to more information than I know what to do with. And while I know it is all important in order to understand what I'm reading in the Bible, it is going to be a process to discern it properly. Let me take you on this journey with me, and you will know what I'm talking about...
As I've expressed in recent blogs, I am studying the Book of Matthew again, and I cannot escape the numerous times that Jesus castigates the Pharisees.The entire Twenty-third Chapter of Matthew finds Jesus telling the people to follow the laws the Pharisees taught, but not to do what they did. And in Chapter 15, verse three, Jesus asks the Pharisees, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"
It would be easy to read right over that simple question, but something made me stop and consider it deeper. I find it interesting that Jesus used the word transgress to describe how the Pharisees were treating God's commandments, which consist of the Law. That word is used in relation to sin, but not just "to miss the mark"; instead to "willfully rebel" in missing the mark. It means that the Pharisees knew they were disobeying God's law in some capacity -- for the sake of their tradition. But what constituted their tradition? Was it just the teaching, instruction, and interpretation of the Law? And if so, wouldn't this be a good thing? Don't the commandments of God make up the Law? Or were they in rebellion to God by observing traditions that were sinful in the eyes of God?
You see, I love the history of the Bible, and I want to know the back story and the context in which the Bible was written. I believe with my whole heart that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but I believe it is important to know the history of the time in which the Bible was written and the social, religious, and political influences that shaped the people, places, and events in the Bible. We are naive if we think we can just interpret Scripture according to modern Western understandings and interpretations.
So, I wanted to take a deep dive into what contributed to the knowledge of the Pharisees, a religious and social movement that became a school of thought in the Holy Land during the time of Second Temple Judaism (which occurred from 536 BC to 70 AD, when the Romans destroyed the Temple). Their belief system became the foundation for Rabbinic Judaism and the basis for religious worship and rites and rituals. Why was Jesus in so much conflict with them? Is there a history there that would shed more light upon this conflict than just the fact that Jesus threatened their control of the masses?
What I want to share is a very condensed version of some of the "religious" influences upon the Israelites that might have guided the Pharisees "traditions", and how these influences are still alive and well in the 21st Century. This subject matter is convoluted and complex, but I will try to give you an abbreviated commentary that I hope you will find as fascinating as I did.
First it is important to understand some terminology that will help us to comprehend the history of Jewish religion and its practices. So, here are the foundational terms we need to know:
Torah - The first five books of the Bible; includes God's instructions for the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Feasts, and the Sabbath.
Mishna - Considered "the Oral Law"; various interpretations of selective legal traditions that had been preserved orally since at least the time of Ezra (c. 450 BC). It was finalized by a group of Jewish scholars in the 3rd Century. According to Jewish tradition, the Oral Torah was passed down orally in an unbroken chain from generation to generation until its contents were finally committed to writing following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, when Jewish civilization was faced with an existential threat, by virtue of the dispersion of the Jewish people
Gemara - The written commentaries on the Mishna. Various rabbinic scholars interpreted and gave their own views on the Mishna.
Talmud - Consists of the Mishna and Gemara; NOTE: The Torah is of divine origin. The Talmud is considered (by Rabbinic Judaism) to be divinely inspired, written by many scholars over many generations. The Torah was written in the 3rd millennia BC or earlier, and canonized in the 3rd century BC. The Talmud was written between the 2nd and the 5th Centuries AD.
Kabbalah - a branch of the Jewish mystical tradition (a secret knowledge) that concerns the use of magic. It was considered permissable as white magic by its practitioners. It was reserved for the elite, who could separate its spiritual source from the evil realms if performed under circumstances that were holy and pure. Its teachings include the use of Divine and angelic names for amulets and incantations. Its historical origins are obscure, and I read various dates ranging from 1500 BC to 1300 AD. According to Wikipedia, originally, Kabbalistic knowledge was believed to be an integral part of the Oral Torah, given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai around the 13th century BC according to its followers; although some believe that Kabbalah began with Adam in the Garden of Eden. As you can tell, there is no definitive date for the beginning of the Kaballah. However, it is still practiced today.
Sadducees - Religious sect who only believed in the Written Law of Moses (the first five books of the Bible).
Pharisees - Religious sect who believed in the Written Law, and placed an emphasis on the Oral Law (Talmud).
So, while fascinating, how could this information possibly affect us today? Well, here is something that I found extremely informative: Traditional Judaism believes that the Oral Law was given to Moses at the same time as the Written Law, because "without an Oral Law, blind adherence to the plain text of certain Torah commandments would lead to unethical acts, or would cause the practitioner to violate a commandment elsewhere in the Torah" [according to Wikipedia]. Furthermore, "Moses received the Torah and handed it down to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly... all the way to the rabbis who compiled the Babylonian Talmud in the 4th Century AD. NOTE: The Bible does not tell us anything about an Oral Law given to Moses. So, while none of this is substantiated by our Bible, these beliefs are profoundly held among religious Jews today and have survived for thousands of years. Is God the originator of these beliefs, or is there a more evil power at work here?
Here is where all this is leading me ... according to our Bible, Moses was given the Law by God to give to the Israelites after they left Egypt. It was important that they know He was Holy and would not tolerate the sins of Egypt that they had left behind. But what exactly were those Egyptian influences? I found a website that provided a fascinating history of ancient Egyptian magic, and a treasure trove of information. According to the website, "The main goal of Egyptian witchcraft was to empower men with means and methods of making or compelling both demonic and friendly powers to do or perform what they wanted. These magical powers belonged exclusively to religious men who were skilled in the art and science of magic. And their practices permeated the social, religious, and political lives of everyone in Egypt, including those held in bondage and slavery.
Men of magic in ancient Egypt used to utter or recite some important words in a systematic manner and deep intonation to heal sick people, by curing the incurable diseases, [cast a] spell off the ghost residing in the body and restore the dead soul back into the physical body. They could even converse with the dead souls to provide them power to get rid of their guilt and sins to become saner bodies!"
We know the profound influence that Egypt had over the Israelites through the Bible's accounts of Joseph and the 7-Year Famine, Moses and the 10 Plagues, and the story of the Exodus. How much of the magic arts did the people who would become the nation of Israel carry forward with them? Did you know that one of the Egyptian goddesses was called Hathor, who was worshipped in the form of a cow or as a cow with stars above her? Did you know that she was the mother of Ra, the Egyptian sun god? Could she have been the impetus for the golden calf that Aaron built and the people worshiped at the base of Mount Sinai while Moses was receiving the tablets?
There are some who posit the theory that while Moses was receiving God's Law, Aaron was establishing and giving the Kabbalah (the mystical Oral Law) to the Israelites, and that this Oral Law has continued through the centuries. There is so much of Israel and Judah's histories that we receive mere glimpses of in the Bible, but those partial views provide some clues as to why Jesus was in conflict with the Pharisees.
The truth of the Bible and our God has been under attack from Satan and his pagan religions since the beginning of time, and I'll expose the hidden mysticism that has infiltrated our most sacred institutions and faith. We will explore those concepts in the next post, and see how that ancient sorcery is still at work today.
Isaiah 44:25 I am the Lord ... I make fools out of those who tell the future using their secret ways. I turn back wise men, and make their learning foolish.