Oral Torah and Sola Scriptura

“The reason why Oral Torah exists, says Yeshudas Chandrashekhar is because the estimation on the meaning of written Torah is not to be left to every individual to decide for themselves what Torah means. That is Sola Scriptura.”

From Wikipedia:

[The Oral Torah] used to denote the legal and interpretative traditions which, according to tradition, were transmitted orally from Mount Sinai, and were not written in the Torah. According to Rabbinic Judaism, the oral Torah, oral Law, or oral tradition was given by God orally to Moses in conjunction with the written Torah, after which it was passed down orally through the ages. Later to be codified and written in the Talmud. The form of Judaism which does not recognize an Oral Torah as authoritative, but relies instead on the most natural meaning of the Written Torah is known as Karaite Judaism. Karaites is a movement from the Middle Ages that rejects, as did the Sadducees, the validity of the Oral Torah.

Karaites claim to preserve the original religion of the Hebrew Bible, rejecting later creative “accretions” of rabbinical Oral Law. Each individual must take responsibility for interpreting the Tanach. Karaites are a small minority today with branches in Israel and the US. If I, a Jew, were not (also) a Christian Sola Scripturist, I’d possibly be a Jewish heretic, a Karaite.

For Mishnahkites (written record of the Oral Law consisting of hidden meanings not contained in the written Torah), Oral is in; written is, if not out, way off centre. Oral Torah is a kind of biblical post-modernism; with this difference; it’s a post-modernism posted from eternity and revealed in one swoop at Sinai. Let me explain. Here is a typical post-modern definition of “interpretation” (hermeneutics) : The science or practice of interpretation. “Assumes that the text remains as written, painted, or recorded but that its interpretation changes between historical periods, across cultures, etc.
” The rabbis of the Oral Tradition (which is claimed to originate at Sinai) claim that the original multiple layers of interpretation were already housed in the written text, and its for the sages to tease them out.

As a Christian sola scripturist, my hermeneutical foot is firmly planted in the Karaite camp. I would add that the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Breath) also has a large role to play. As the much maligned Calvin said so clearly: “the Word AND the Holy Spirit.” Without the Word – what the grammar and the context says – the Holy Spirit (within you) has no secure moorings. And without the Holy Spirit, the Word becomes a dead letter.

Where Judaism has the rabbinical tradition based on the Oral law to tease out the purported multi-meanings lurking below the Written Law, the Catholic Church has the Vicar of Christ on earth (supported by his Magisterium) to do this job.

Enter Martin Luther.

One thought on “Oral Torah and Sola Scriptura

  1. Pingback: The Oral Law, Revelation and Reveilation « OneDaringJew

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