For those like myself who have a passion for discovering the Hebraic heritage of Christianity Alfred Edersheim is a great resource. He has written a number of books on the social, religious, and political life of first century Israel. Such as “The Temple: Its ministry and Services”, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, “Bible History”. But Edersheim does not come without his baggage. Case in point is the below quotation from his book “Sketches of Jewish Social Life”.
“The great text-book of Rabbinism, the Mishnah, is almost entirely un-Messianic, one might say un-dogmatical. Where not a record of facts or traditions, the Mishnah is purely a handbook of legal determinations in their utmost logical sequences, only enlivened by discussions or the tale of instances in point. The whole tendency of this system was anti-Messianic.” Alfred Edersheim-Sketches of Jewish Social Life” p.67
According to Alfred Edersheim the legal logic of the Mishnah is anti-Messianic in nature, arguing that it is purely a handbook of legal determination and un-dogmatic. Edersheim further argues that the Rabbi’s had little power left them and consequently the Mishnah is an attempt to secure their safety in light of the authority of the Levites and Priests.
While I believe he has some valid points in regards to content his anti-rabbinical theological positions has somewhat clouded his judgments. The Mishnah being a handbook of legal determination does not by default make it anti-Messianic. The famous Talmudic debate as to what to do with a chicken egg that has been labored on the Shabbat is a classic example. It is easy to get lost in the minutia of rabbinical debate and Halakha, but would that all believers had the heart of such that they would concern themselves with the egg in regards to honoring Hashem’s Shabbat. In other words concern about the intimacies of the Torah can be honoring unto our Messiah who is the author and fullness of the Law if done by the leading of the Spirit of GOD, and without the spirit of judgement. It is through one of the teachings of our Messiah that we can find service in the minutia.
Matthew 23:23 ”Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah — justice, mercy, trust. These are the things you should have attended to – without neglecting the others!”
How often we stop after having read “but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah”. If we continue with our Messiah’s teaching we discover a great concern over the less weighty matters of the Law. Why would the Master be concerned over these smaller matters? Are not these matters these small imparticulars what Messiah came to do away with? To quote from the Apostle Paul “GOD forbid”!
The weighty matters such as justice, mercy, and trust are of vital importance to the Kingdom of GOD that Yeshua came to usher in. If you lose these three than these smaller matters becoming meaningless. Without these then one might as well tithe a rock to the Levites and Priests of Israel. But when kept with the weighty matters close at heart the less weighty can be a great blessing.
Can not the same be said for the Mishnah’s legal determination? Can concern over the Kashrut of an egg labored on the Shabbat be a great Mitzvot if seen in the light of the weightier matters of Justice, Mercy and Trust?
I believe the answer is yes, but only as long as they do not become an obstacle for those returning to GOD.