Jewish Articles of FaithGeneral Information
No Fixed DogmasIn the same sense as Christianity or Islam, Judaism can not be credited with the possession of Articles of Faith. Many attempts have indeed been made at systematizing and reducing to a fixed phraseology and sequence the contents of the Jewish religion. But these have always lacked the one essential element: authoritative sanction on the part of a supreme ecclesiastical body. And for this reason they have not been recognized as final or regarded as of universally binding force. Though to a certain extent incorporated in the liturgy and utilized for purposes of instruction, these formulations of the cardinal tenets of Judaism carried no greater weight than that imparted to them by the fame and scholarship of their respective authors.
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The admission of the neophyte hinges upon the profession and the acceptance of his part of the belief, and that there may be no uncertainty about what is essential and what non-essential, it is incumbent on the proper authorities to determine and promulgate the cardinal tenets in a form that will facilitate repetition and memorizing. And the same necessity arises when the Church or religious fellowship is torn by internal heresies. Under the necessity of combating heresies of various degrees of perilousness and of stubborn insistence, the Church and Islam were forced to define and officially limit their respective theological concepts.
Both of these provocations to creed-building were less intense in Judaism. The proselytizing zeal, though during certain periods more active than at others, was, on the whole, neutralized, partly by inherent disinclination and partly by force of circumstances. Righteousness, according to Jewish belief, was not conditioned of the acceptance of the Jewish religion. And the righteous among the nations that carried into practice the seven fundamental laws of the covenant with Noah and his descendants were declared to be participants in the felicity of the hereafter. This interpretation of the status of non-Jews precluded the development of a missionary attitude. Moreover, the regulations for the reception of proselytes, as developed in course of time, prove the eminently practical, that is, the non-creedal character of Judaism.
Compliance with certain rites - baptism, circumcision,
and sacrifice - is the test of the would-be convert's
faith. He is instructed in the details of the legal practice that
manifests the Jew's religiosity, while the profession of faith
demanded is limited to the acknowledgement of the unity of God
and the rejection of idolatry (Yorei De'ah, Germ, 268, 2). Judah
ha-Levi ("Cuzari," i. 115) puts the whole matter
very strikingly when he says:
"We are not putting on an equality with us a person entering our religion through confession alone [Arabic original, bikalamati=by word]. We require deeds, including in that term self-restraint, purity, study of the Law, circumcision, and the performance of other duties demanded by the Torah."For the preparation of the convert, therefore, no other method of instruction was employed than for the training of one born a Jew. The aim of teaching was to convey a knowledge of the Law, obedience to which manifested the acceptance of the underlying religious principles; namely, the existence of God and the holiness of Israel as the people of his covenant.
The controversy whether Judaism demands belief in dogma or inculcates obedience to practical laws alone, has occupied many competent scholars. Moses Mendelssohn, in his "Jerusalem," defended the non-dogmatic nature of Judaism, while Low, among others, (see his "Gesammelte Schriften," i. 31-52, 433 et seq. 1871) took the opposite side. Low made it clear that the Mendelssohnian theory had been carried beyond its legitimate bounds. The meaning of the word for faithful and belief in Hebrew [emunah] had undoubtedly been strained too far to substantiate the Mendelssohnian thesis. Underlying the practice of the Law was assuredly the recognition of certain fundamental and decisive religious principles culminating in the belief in God and revelation, and likewise in the doctrine of retributive divine justice.
Whatever controversies may have agitated Israel during the centuries of the Prophets and the earlier post-exilic period, they were not of a kind to induce the defining of Articles of Faith counteract the influences of heretical teaching. Dogmatic influences manifest themselves only after the Maccabean struggle for independence. But even these differences were not far-reaching enough to overcome the inherent aversion to dogmatic fixation of principles; for, with the Jews, acceptance of principles was not so much a matter of theoretical assent as of practical conduct. Though Josephus would have the divisions between the Pharisees and the Sadducees hinge on the formal acceptance or rejection of certain points of doctrine - such as Providence, resurrection of the body, which for the Pharisees, was identical with future retribution -- it is the consensus of opinion among modern scholars that the differences between these two parties were rooted in their respective political programs, and implied in their respectively national and anti-national attitudes, rather than in their philosophical or religious dogmas.
If the words of Sirach (iii. 20-23) are to be taken as a criterion, the intensely pious of his days did not incline to speculations of what was beyond their powers to comprehend. They were content to perform their, religious duties in simplicity of faith. The Mishnah (Hag. 11. 1) indorsed this view of Sirach, and in some degree, discountenanced theosophy and dogmatism. Among the recorded discussions in the schools of the Rabbis, dogmatic problems commanded only a very inferior degree of attention ('Er. 13b: controversy concerning the, value of human life; Hag. 12a: concerning the order of Creation).
Nevertheless, in the earliest Mishnah is found the citation of Abtalion against heresy and unbelief (Ab. i. 11 ); and many a Baraita betrays the prevalence of religious differences (Ber. 12b; 'Ab. Zarah 17a). These controversies have left their impress upon the prayer-book and the liturgy. This is shown by the prominence given to the Shema'; to the Messianic predictions in the Shemoneh-Esreh (the "Eighteen Benedictions"), which emphasized the belief in the Resurrection; and, finally, to the prominence given to the Decalogue -- though the latter was again omitted in order to counteract the belief that it alone had been revealed (Tamid v. 1; Yer. Ber. 6b; Bab. Ber. 12a). These expressions of belief are held to have originated in the desire to give definite utterance and impressiveness to the corresponding doctrines that were either rejected or attenuated by some of the heretical schools. But while the se portions of the daily liturgy are expressive of the doctrinal contents of the regnant party in the synagogue, they were not cast into the form of catalogued Articles of Faith.
The first to make the attempt to formulate them was Philo of Alexandria.
The influence of Greek thought induced among the Jews of Egypt
the reflective mood. Discussion was undoubtedly active on the
unsettled points of speculative belief; and such discussion led,
as it nearly always does, to a stricter definition of the doctrines.
In his work "De Mundi Opificio," lxi., Philo enumerates
five articles as embracing the chief tenets of Mosaism:
But among the Tannaim and Amoraim this example of Philo found no followers, though many of their number were drawn into controversies with both Jews and non-Jews, and had to fortify their faith against the attacks of contemporaneous philosophy as well as against rising Christianity. Only in a general way the Mishnah Sanh. xi. 1 excludes from the world to come the Epicureans and those who deny belief in resurrection or in the divine origin of the Torah. R. Akiba would also regard as heretical the readers o f Sefarim Hetsonim-certain extraneous writings (Apocrypha or Gospels)-and such persons that would heal through whispered formulas of magic.
Abba Saul designated as under suspicion of infidelity those that pronounce the ineffable name of the Deity. By implication, the contrary doctrine and attitude may thus be regarded as having been proclaimed as orthodox. On the other hand, Akiba himself declares that the command to love one's neighbor the fundamental the principle of the Law; while Ben Asa i assigns this distinction to the Biblical verse, "This is the book of the generations of man " (Gen. v. i.; Gen. R. xxiv). The definition of Hillel the Elder in his interview with a would-be convert (Shab. 31a), embodies in the golden rule the one fundamental article of faith.
A teacher of the third Christian century, R. Simlai, traces the development of Jewish religious principles from Moses with his 613 commands of prohibition and injunction, through David, who, according to this rabbi, enumerates eleven; through Isaiah, with six; Micah, with three; to Habakkuk who simply but impressively sums up all religious faith in the single phrase, "The pious lives in his faith" (Mak., toward end). As the Halakhah enjoins that one should prefer death to an act of idolatry, incest, unchastity, or murder, the inference is plain that the corresponding positive principles were held to be fundamental articles of Judaism.
The theory that the Decalogue was the foundation of Judaism, its article of faith, was advocated Isaac Abravanel (see his Commentary on Ex. xx. 1); and in recent years by Isaac M. Wise of Cincinnati in his "Catechism" and other writings.
The only confession of faith, however, which, though not so denominated, has found universal acceptance, forms a part of the daily liturgy, contained in all Jewish prayer-books. ln its original form it read somewhat as follows:
"True and established is this word for us forever. True it is that Thou art our God as Thou wast the God of our fathers; our King as [Thou wast] the King of our fathers; our Redeemer and the Redeemer of our fathers; our Creator and the Rock of our salvation; our Deliverer and Savior -- from eternity is Thy name, and there is no God besides Thee."
This statement dates probably from the days of the Hasmoneans (see Landshuth, in "Hegyon Leb").
Judah ha-Levi endeavored, in his "Cuzari," to determine the fundamentals of Judaism on another basis. He rejects all appeal to speculative reason, repudiating the method of the Motekallamin. The miracles and traditions are, in their natural character, both the source and the evidence of the true faith. With them Judaism stands and falls. The book of Bahya ibn Pakuda ("Hobot ha-Lebabot"), while remarkable, as it is, for endeavoring to give religion its true setting as a spiritual force, contributed nothing of note to the exposition of the fundamental articles. It goes without saying that the unity of God, His government of the world, the possibilities of leading a divine life-which were never forfeited by man-are expounded as essentials of Judaism.
Less well known is the scheme of an African rabbi, Hananel b.
Hushiel, about a century earlier, according to whom Judaism's
fundamental articles number four:
This creed Maimonides wrote while still a very young man; it forms
a part of his Mishnah Commentary, but he never referred to it
in his later works (See S. Adler, "Tenets of Faith and Their
Authority in the Talmud," in his "Kobez 'al Yad,"
p. 92, where Yad ha-Hazakah, Issure Biah, xiv, 2, is referred
to as proof that Maimonides in his advanced age regarded as fundamental
of the faith only the unity of God and the prohibition of idolatry).
It did not meet universal acceptance; but, as its phraseology
is succinct, it has passed into the prayer-book, and is therefore
familiar to almost all Jews of the Orthodox school. The successors
of Maimonides, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century-Nahmanides,
Abba Mari ben Moses, Simon ben Zemah, Duran, Albo, Isaac Arama,
and Joseph Jaabez-reduced his thirteen articles to three:
Others, like Crescas and David ben Samuel Estella, spoke of seven fundamental articles, laying stress on free-will. On the other hand, David ben Yom-Tob ibn Bilia, in his "Yesodot ha- Maskil" (Fundamentals of the Thinking Man), adds to the thirteen of Maimonides thirteen of his own - a number which a contemporary of Albo (see "'Ikkarim," iii.) also chose for his fundamentals; while Jedaiah Penini, in the last chapter of his "Behinat ha-Dat," enumerated no less than thirty-five cardinal principles (see Low, "Judische Dogmen," in his "Gesammelte Werke," i. 156 et seq.; and Schechter, "Dogmas of Judaism," in "Studies of Judaism," pp. 147-181).
In the fourteenth century Asher ben Jehiel of Toledo raised his voice against the Maimonidean Articles of Faith, declaring them to be only temporary, and suggested that another be added to recognize that the Exile is a punishment for the sins of Israel . Isaac Abravanel, his "Rosh Amanah," took the same attitude towards Maimonides' creed. While defending Maimonides against Hasdai and Albo, he refused to accept dogmatic articles for Judaism, holding, with all the cabalists, that the 613 commandments of the Law are all tantamount to Articles of Faith.
In liturgical poetry the Articles of Faith as evolved by philosophical speculation met with metrical presentation. The most noted of such metrical and rhymed elaborations are the "Adon 'Olam," by an anonymous writer - now used as an introduction to the morning services (by the Sephardim as the conclusion of the musaf or "additional" service), and of comparatively recent date; and the other known as the "Yigdal," according to Luzzatto, by R. Daniel b. Judah Dayyan.
The declaration of principles by the Pittsburgh Conference (1885) is to be classed, perhaps, with the many attempts to fix in a succinct enumeration the main principles of the modern Jewish religious consciousness.
The Karaites are not behind the Rabbinites in the elaboration
of Articles of Faith. The oldest instances of the existence of
such articles among them are found in the famous word by Judah
ben Elijah Hadassi, "Eshkol ha-Kofer." In the order
there given these are the articles of the Karaite:
The number ten here is not accidental. It is keeping with the scheme of the Decalogue. Judah Hadassi acknowledges that he had predecessors in this line, and mentions some of the works on which he bases his enumeration. The most succinct cataloguing of the Karaite faith in articles is that by Elijah Bashyatzi (died about 1490). His articles vary but little from those by Hadassi, but they are put with greater philosophical precision (see Jost, "Geschichte des Judenthums," ii. 331).
Schlesinger, German translation of 'Ikkarim (especially introduction and annotations), xvi-xliii. 620 et seq., 640 et seq.; Low, Gesammelte Werke, i. 31-52, 133-176; Jost, Gesh. des Judenthums und Seiner Sekten; Hamburger, Realencyclopadie, s.v. Dogmen; Rappoport, Biography of Hananel; Schechter, The Dogmas of Judaism, in Studies in Judaism, pp 147-181; J. Aub. Ueber die Glaubens-Symbole der Mosaischen Religion; Frankel's Zeitschrift fur die Religiosen Interessen des Judenthums, 1845, 409, 449; Creizenach, Grundlehren des Israelitischen Glaubens, in Geiger's Wissensch. Zeitschrift fur Jud. Theologie, i. 39 et seq., ii. 6 8, 255.
The Thirteen Articles of Messianic Jewish Faith are as follows:
It is the custom of many Congregations to recite the Thirteen Articles of Faith given by Moses Maimonides. However, as Messianic Believers we need to state clearly that "we have an understand of these his principles, but in a new way."
Maimonides was a great teacher just like Moses was a great teacher, but Yeshua was the greatest of all teachers, the one prophet greater then Moses himself. It was given to Yeshua to codify the Scriptures for us, we need not look to Rabbinical Judaism for that.
Rabbinical Judaism can teach us much, yes, I will not deny that, but it can also lead you astray from the teaching of Messiah Yeshua as well. We should all be like the noble Bereans, (Acts 17:11) who in the Synagogue heard the speakers, received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, to see whether what they heard was so. These brothers and sisters were called "noble" for a good reason, and that reason was - with readiness of mind they knew the Word of God is chief over all. Believers in Messiah Yeshua must never forget that fact! It is the hope that if your Messianic Fellowship does use the Thirteen Articles of Faith you might want to use these instead of those of Moses Maimonides.
The number thirteen is the last winding in the Tzitzit, it stands for God's Oneness and Love. When all the other windings have been tied on the Tzitzit, what you have is a picture of God as "One" (Echad), and God as "Love" and that is the best Article of Faith we can claim. To know your God as "One" and that He is "Love" brings one to want to Worship Him with all that is in you. By the way, there are three ways of tying the Tzitzit, but the Ashkenazi way is the oldest form we are told, and would be the best one to use.
Let me end with a Psalm of Praise from the Name of God. Verses one, and two are from the Septuagint, be sure to meditate on them. The Septuagint predates what we use today, and was used by the followers of Yeshua Messiah.
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