In the non-Jewish world concerning the Temple, we have all heard that Yeshua cursed the Temple (Matt 23), that the Temple services were “done away with” for those who believe in “Jesus.” They say he was the final sacrifice and that everything changed from that point on. In this study, we are going to challenge that assertion and give evidences that will show that the Temple and its services were not “done away with” because of the death of Yeshua and that true believers really “picked it up” when it came to the Temple and continued worshiping there, specifically offering the korbanot (sacrifices). If they did, then we are going to have to reevaluate what Christianity has taught and continues to teach.
Now, how can we prove this? We are going to use Acts 21 to do it. Yeshua was slain in 30 AD, so we can date Acts 21. Paul is journeying back to Jerusalem to keep the festival of Shavuot (Acts 20.16). He came out of a Nazarite vow in Acts 18.18 by cutting his hair. Samuel, Samson and Yochanon ha Matvil (John the Baptist) were lifetime Nazarites. In most cases, you can take a Nazarite vow for a period of time that you designate. Most took them for 6 weeks or so. The Nazir is definitely connected to the Temple because you cannot complete it without a Temple. Acts 21.15, 23.26 and 24.27 tell us that the year Paul is coming to the Temple to keep Shavuot is 58 AD. Paul is arrested due to false charges in Acts 21. He is taken to the Fortress Antonia, where he asks to speak to the people (v 34, 39). He speaks in Hebrew to them (v 40) and continues in Chapter 23. There is a plot to kill him (23.12) so the Romans transfer him to Caesarea (23.23). At Caesarea he is going to speak to Felix, the Roman governor. Caesarea was the Roman headquarters in the region.
The high priest, some elders and a certain lawyer came and brought charges to Felix (24.1). Paul answers these charges in 24.10-21. Felix had an understanding of the Way (another name for the Nazarenes) and put them off (24.22). Two years later, Felix is replaced by Festus as governor and history says this was around 60 AD, so all these events in Acts 21 happen in 58 AD (24.27). Paul was a prisoner for these two years because the Romans were hoping that money would be given to the Roman authorities to have Paul released (24.26). So we know it has been 28 years since Yeshua died and was resurrected. Paul has taken a Nazarite vow and cut his hair (Acts 18.18), thus ending the vow. He is on his way to Jerusalem to keep the festival of Shavuot and to offer korbanot in keeping with ending his vow (Num 6. 13-21; Acts 24.17). He meets with James (Jacob) and the elders, which included the apostles of Yeshua who wrote most of the New Testament.
In Acts 21.15-18 we read about James, whose Hebrew name was Jacob. He is Yeshua’s half brother, and it also says that “the elders were present.” This would include some of the “shaliachim” or “apostles” of Yeshua. Josephus says James (or Jacob, the Lord’s brother) was a Nazarite and a Pharisee from the School of Shammai. Paul was a Pharisee from the School of Hillel. James was later killed at the insistence of a high priest. He had favor among the Pharisees in Jerusalem and was the Nasi (“Rosh Knesset” or president) of the congregation of believers in Yeshua in Jerusalem. So history tells us that the believers in Yeshua had a positive relationship with the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, so they were Torah observant. Now, if Yeshua came to do away with the Torah (Law) and told his disciples that, why weren’t they obeying him? Why were they still keeping the Torah? Its because he never told them that. The “church” has made up that story and everyone believes it, but it just isn’t true. So, the “elders were present” means that some of the writers of the “New Testament” were present.
In Acts 21.19-20 it says that Paul began to relate to them the things that the Lord had done through his ministry among the Gentiles. And when they heard it, they began to glorify God and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Torah (Law).” Where it says “many thousands” it is the Greek word “myriads.” A “myriad” is 10,000, so there are “tens of thousands” who believe in Yeshua and were Torah observant. This shows that thousands upon thousands of believers kept the Torah zealously 28 years after Yeshua. Somehow, with all the writers of the New Testament there, they were never told that the Torah had been “done away with.”
According to Christian doctrine, James and the elders should have been telling Paul to rebuke these believers because all that was “over in Christ.” But what we read is “and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews (who believe) who are among the Gentiles (in the Dispersion) to forsake Moses (stop following the Torah), telling them not to circumcise their children (according to the Abrahamic covenant) nor walk according to the customs.” To “forsake Moses” means “to forsake the Torah” by telling them not to circumcise their children, nor to “walk according to the customs” which means that they were being told that Paul was telling them not to walk in the “ethos” or “ethics” of the Jewish people, the way to do things. We have the written Torah, but there was an “oral” Torah, which was called “halachah” or the “way to walk” in the commandments.
Now, there are five levels of Jewish law. We have the written Torah, then a law that is implied in the Torah, then a law found elsewhere in the Scriptures, then rabbinic decree’s and then customs, or ethics. All the 613 commandments have halachah, or explanations, on how to do things. Christianity has “laws and halachah” or oral laws, too, on how Christians are to walk. Paul taught the Jewish “traditions” according to 1 Cor 11.1-2 where it says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am (an imitator) of Messiah (who kept the Torah all his life). Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” 2 Thes 2.15 says, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or by letter from us.” Later, he says in 2 Thes 3.6 that “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Yeshua ha Mashiach, that you keep aloof (withdraw) from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the traditions which you received from us.”
Paul didn’t teach all the of the Jewish halachah, but there were some of them that he taught. The word “traditions” is the Greek word “paradosis” and it is Strongs # 3862. In the Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, on p. 481-482, it says “so Paul’s teaching (2 Thes 3.6) in plural of the particular injunctions of Paul’s instruction (1 Cor 11.2; 2 Thes 2.15) used in the singular of a written narrative; again, of the body of precepts especially ritual, which in the opinion of the later Jews were orally delivered by Moses and orally transmitted in unbroken succession to subsequent generations, which precepts, both illustrating and expanding the written law, as they did, were to be obeyed with equal reverence.”
The people have been told that he was teaching against these customs and the Torah. In this passage, we have two of the five levels of Jewish law being talked about. No doubt, Paul has taught against man-made traditions, like the 18 Edicts of the School of Shammai that said a non-Jew must be circumcised to be saved. Paul taught against this particular point of Jewish halachah because it was not from God, but so did James, Peter and the elders. This particular issue was settled back in Acts 15. This may have been seen by some as forsaking “all of the other customs” which was not true. Yeshua even disagreed with some of these traditions, but that didn’t mean he disagreed with all of it! Traditions are fine as long as they do not conflict with the written Scriptures. In Acts 21.21, James is saying that some have said that Paul was not teaching the highest level of Jewish law, the written Torah or “Moses”, or even the lowest level of Jewish law, the customs or ethics. James does not believe that these rumors were true about Paul, as we shall see later. What is interesting is, these rumors were saying exactly what Christianity teaches about Paul today, that he taught against the Torah and the customs of the Jewish people. But, as we will see, these rumors are not true, and Paul is going to prove it. That means that Paul taught the Torah and the customs and did not believe that they were “done away with” as many believe today.
In Part 2, we will pick up here in our examination of whether believers in Yeshua offered korbanot (sacrifices) after Yeshua.