Summary: One Rabbi, 2,000 years ago, led the campaign to corrupt our Old Testament (the Masoretic Text that all Protestant Bibles follow). And He succeeded – at least in a narrow sense. He is known as the father of Rabbinic Judaism. His name is Rabbi Akiba ben Josef (50 A.D. – 135 A.D.). Not only was he responsible for creating a Judaism that was no longer dependent upon a Temple and its sacrificial worship, he sought to obscure messianic passages in the Old Testament including the timing when Messiah was believed to arrive. In this article, I make the case that Akiba was indeed the principal figure responsible for establishing the Oral Law as superior to the Written Law (i.e., the Bible), but he also led the effort to block the conversion of Jews to Christianity by altering the messianic passages Christian evangelists used to preach the Gospel.
The following article is drawn from Rebooting the Bible: Part One. Exposing the Second Century Conspiracy to Corrupt the Scripture and Alter Biblical Chronology.
Was Akiba Really Important to Rabbinic Judaism?
The Talmud states that “When R(abbi) Akiba died, the glory of Torah ceased.” (Sotah 49a). Harry Freedman asserts, “Akiva is the best known and most highly regarded of all the rabbis. Legends and stories about him abound.” Louis Ginzberg (1873 – 1953), a conservative Talmudic scholar, wrote in TheJewish Encyclopedia,this summary of his importance:
The greatest tannaim [scholars and teachers] of the middle of the second century came from Akiba’s school, notably Meir, Judah ben Ilai, Simeon ben Yohai, Jose ben Halafta, Eleazar ben Shammai, and Nehemiah. Akiba’s true genius, however, is shown in his work in the domain of the Halakah; both in his systematization of its traditional materialand in its further development… Our Mishnah comes directly from Rabbi Meir, the Tosefta from R. Nehemiah, the Sifra from R. Judah, and the Sifre from R. Simon; but they all took Akiba for a model in their works and followed him.” (Sanh. 86a) We are told that,“All are taught according to the views of R. Akiba.”
According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, Aquila, one of Akiba’s most noteworthy pupils, created a new Greek translation that closely followed Akiba’s exegesis. This “Akiba-endorsed” Old Testament became the accepted Old Testament for the Greek-speakingJewish diaspora, eventually displacing the Alexandrian LXX. This is a strategic point to which we will return. Louis Finkelstein (1895 – 1991), another noted Talmud scholar wrote, “The later Talmudists rated these achievements so high that they declared Akiba had saved the Torah from oblivion. They ranked his work [equal to] the discovery of the Law in the days of Josiah and Ezra.”In the Talmud, praise is heaped upon Akiba in many places. One such acclamation pointed out Akiba’s persistence in assembling the early Talmud:
To what may Akiba be compared? To a peddler who goes about from farm to farm. Here he obtains wheat, theirbarley, and in a third place, spelt. When he comes home,he arranges them all in their respective bins. So Akiba went about from scholar to scholar, getting all the traditions he could; and then he proceeded to arrange them in an orderly granary.
Arthur Daniel Gruber pulls together the most vital points of Akiba’s importance, including the title “the father of Rabbinic Judaism.” Before Akiba, there were many “Judaisms,” but after he finished his work, there was only one.While he compiled and edited what went before, “his disciples completed the work with what came later. Their work, the whole Talmud, is a natural extension of the purpose, system, and procedure that he put together.”For Gruber, the Talmud is “a declaration of rabbinic authority.”
Furthermore, Gruber concludes that“The magnitude of the accomplishments of “the father of rabbinic Judaism” appears poignantly if we ask the simple question,“What is a rabbi? And then compare the answer found in the Tanakh to that found in the Talmud.”
Foreshadowing Akiba’s lasting influence: His legacy eventually caused the Alexandrian Septuagint to be forsaken by most Christians – both Catholics as well asProtestants. In other words, it would be Akiba’s foundational work for the Masoretic Text (MT) that would eventuate in the neglect of the Alexandrian Greek Old Testament for all Western churches. And with this loss, accurate biblical chronology would be remarkably distorted with its timespan significantly reduced. From an apologetic standpoint, this constitutes a great tragedy few Christians appreciate.
What Makes a Rabbi a Rabbi?
Akiba’s goal was more than to provide a commentary on the Torah. In fact, the Torah would take a back seat to the Talmud. The Talmud was the book that captured all the wisdom of sages and from the Jewish perspective, all the knowledge of the ages. Rabbis now would be seen as scholars and sages. Before the Talmud, Jewish leaders were prophets, priests, and kings. There were the Sanhedrin, the Scribes, and the Sadducees. But the new Judaism no longer needed these positions nor those holding such titles. We see this in the Second Temple texts. Jewish leaders were not called rabbis. Indeed, Philo and Josephus did not use the title. Thus, a new meaning for the word rabbihad been invented by the academies in Jamnia.
After Akiba, the term rabbi would be applied to great leaders like Moses and Ezra even though the Torah called them priests (or Levites), and Ezra, a scribe. “Rab” was a designation of a chief, such as Daniel who was the “rab” prefect over all the wise men of Babylon – the Chaldeans. But rab was never associated with sages and scholarship. Gruber states we find the word rabbi 150 times in the Tanakh; however, there it can apply to Gentiles as well as Jews. It is attached to the wise men of Persia, Babylon, and Egypt.
It is also used for skilled artisans of different types, those considered wise in heartor learned in the law of God, whether king or counselor, son or servant. For that matter, Elihu the son of Barachel tells Job, “It is not the rabbim[רבים/’great’ or ‘many’] that are wise [yekhcamu/יחכמו], nor the aged that discern judgment.
Gruber asserts that there is no place or position for rabbis (as final authorities) in the Bible. They are never mentioned. He cites Stuart Cohen who summarized the situation with these words, “As a group, rabbis were unable to claim a historically sanctioned locus standing within any of the traditional frameworks of Jewishgovernment.” Rabbi no longer just meant teacher – it now meant authority. The rabbi would become the epicenter for governance. Gruber argues:
The preeminent role assigned to the Rabbis and to the system that surrounded and supported that role must be attributed to Akiba. Under Akiba’s leadership, the Rabbis became an elite revolutionary party which transformed itself from a group of unauthorized outsiders into the holders and/ or guardians of all authority in heaven and earth.
So, should Rabbis be treated with such high regard? According to the Talmud, the Rabbi is seen as the final authority. “Even God Himself cannot contradict (him).”Gruber collates many other significant aspects of the place of rabbis based upon his extensive research:
- He who marries his daughter to a sage, partners with a scholar, or suppliesfinancialbenefit from his estate, “is regarded by Scripture as if he had clung to the divine presence.”
- “They sustained life in this world, and their teachings provided the way of entry into the world to come.”
- R. Joshua b. Levi said, “Whoever makes derogatory remarks about scholars after their death is cast into Gehinnom.”
- “Every man who forgets a single word of his Mishnah what he has learned [from the Rabbis], Scripture accounts it unto him as if he had forfeited his soul.”
We learn that not only does the absolute authority and high regard of rabbis alter the nature of Judaism as established by Moses and the Prophets, the written codification and vast expansion of the Oral Law after Akiba became the knowledge rabbis held exclusively to themselves; it was not for the ordinary people because it was complicated and would cause controversy.Recall, ‘knowledge is power’ (said Francis Bacon). And Oral Law was thehinge upon which Judaism swung, opening the doorway for a new path forward.
The Oral Law, Privileged Knowledge, and
Gruber provides an extensive study into the rabbinic tradition of the Oral Law and why it does not have the support of the written Torah of the Bible. Gruber begins this matter with this revealing passage from the Talmud:
“When Moses ascended on high he found the Holy One, blessed be He, engaged in affixing coronets to the letters. Said Moses, ‘Lord of the Universe, ‘Who stays Thy hand?’ [I.e., ‘is there anything wanting in the Torah that these additions are necessary?’] He answered, ‘There will arise a man, at the end of many generations, Akiba b. Joseph by name, who will expound upon each tittle heaps and heaps of laws’. ‘Lord of the Universe’,said Moses; ‘permit me to see him’.He replied, ‘Turn thee round’.Moses went and sat down behind eight rows (and listened to the discourses upon the law). Not being able to follow their arguments he was ill at ease, but when they came to a certain subject and the disciples said to the master ‘Whence do you know it?’ andthe latter replied ‘It is a law given unto Moses at Sinai’ he was comforted. Thereupon he returned to the Holy One, blessed be He, and said, ‘Lord of the Universe, Thou hast such a man and Thou givest the Torah by me!’ He replied, ‘Be silent, for such is My decree.’”
We learn here about halakha– an elaborate interpretation of Torah. Through it, rabbis may derive an infinite number of interpretations (“heaps and heaps of laws”). This was something Moses didn’t know but would learn from Akiba. Here also, we learn that Akiba is the originator of Oral Law, not Moses as rabbis today suggest. And Akiba and his disciples weren’t interested in Moses’ thoughts. In fact, Moses must sit “eight rows back” behind other listeners (i.e., “in the peanut gallery.”) Consequently, in Rabbinic Judaism Moses is inferior to Akiba.
Thus, not only is there no regard for Jesus. The respectfor Moses is lackingas well. For it is not Jesus who is seen as the second Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15), it is Akiba! “Such is the verdict of this Talmudic appreciation of Akiba. But a second Moses meant a new foundation of Judaism, for it had been Moses who had first established Israel as a nation.” [Emphasis added] Jacob Neusner (1932 – 2016), an ordained Jewish rabbi and professor at Dartmouth with degrees from Hebrew University (Masters) and Columbia (Ph.D.), in his book Early Rabbinic Judaism, points out how the halakhas don’t need to be grounded by Torah. There need be no relationship to Scripture whatsoever. Indeed, the rabbis can invent laws not justifiably tied to the Bible at all.
Perhaps the exegetes took for granted that the bed-rock convictions of the laws also were assumed by the Scriptures. But they still have not shown us where in Scripture they locate those laws or principles, and I think the probable explanation is that they could not (and did not care to). That is why they remind us that Ohalot [the second tractate of the Order of Tohorot in the Mishnah] has much law but little Scripture.
Gruber adds, “Implicit in the doctrine of a parallel “Oral Law” given at Sinai is the recognition that much of Halakhahcannot be tied to the written Torah in any way at all.”Gruber clarifies that it’s not so much that these early rabbis would claim their law is a separate revelation from Moses, but they have authority to forbid what the Torah permits and to permit what the Torah forbids.
There is very little here the Bible commends.
Freedman, Harry. Op. cit., p. 23.
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. I,p. 305-306, citing Jer. Shek. 5:1, 48c. Cited by Gruber, op. cit., p. 57-58.
Finkelstein, Louis. Akiba: Scholar, Saint and Martyr, Atheneum, NY, 1978, p. 156. Cited by Gruber, op. cit., p. 58.
B. Gittin 67a, Abot of R. Nathan 18, 34a. Cited by Gruber. op. cit., p. 57.
, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013.., p. 57.
Ibid., p. 57.
Gruber, op. cit. p. 63.
Cohen, S.A. p. 151. Cited by Gruber, op. cit., p. 63.
Gruber, op. cit., p. 66.
Ibid. p. 63.
Ket. 111b. Cited by Gruber, op. cit. p. 64.
Ibid., p. 64.
Ber. 47b. Cited by Gruber, op. cit., p. 65.
Ab. 3.9, cf. Men. 99b & Gerhardson, Memory and Manuscript, op. cit., p. 168. Cited by Gruber, p. 66.
Menahoth 29b, p. 190, p. 190n. Cited by Gruber, op cit., p. 87.
A comment by Ehrhardt on Sanh. 37a. Cited by Gruber, op. cit. p. 87.
Neusner, Jacob. Early Rabbinic Judaism,p. 27. Cited by Gruber, op. cit., p. 88.
Neusner, op. cit.,p. 27. Cited by Gruber, p. 88.
Gruber, op. cit., p. 89.
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