Moses and the Prophets
This article is not intended to be a biography on Moses and the Prophets, rather an outline of the part that these people play in our faith as Israelites and Followers of the Way.
Talmidaism considers Moses to have been the greatest prophet of the Israelite religion ever; we do not consider Yeshua` of Nazareth to have been greater than him. He was the only prophet who met and spoke with God who ever knew God ‘face to face’ (Deut. 34:10) and mouth to mouth (Num. 12:8), which is another way of saying that God spoke to Moses directly, in plain language, not through visions and dreams.
Belief in how much of the Torah was revealed to Moses depends on which sect of Talmidaism you belong to. Most Followers will agree that the oldest section of Torah – the chapters most likely to have been written by Moses – are chapters 20 to 23 of the book of Exodus, known in ancient writings as the ‘Book of the Covenant’ (Ex 24:7). It is possibly this book that is referred to in 2Kgs 23:2, 21.
Talmidis do not believe that Moses was given the Oral Law on Sinai; this is something that the Pharisees and the Rabbis made up to validate a code of law which are only human opinions.
In Talmidi theology, after what is written in the ‘Ascents of James’, when Moses saw the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf, Moses realised that if animal sacrifice were done away with altogether, the Israelites would have simply gone to pagan gods to worship them; given the choice of having a God that did not require animal sacrifice, and ones that did, the Israelites would have chosen the one that allowed sacrifice. So it was permitted to sacrifice, but only to YHVH; the Israelites still hadn’t had Egypt taken out of them.
As important as Moses was to the Israelites, it is important to realise that Moses himself was not the deliverer or redeemer of Israel. It was YHVH who redeemed and delivered Israel, not Moses. Moses was merely God’s prophet, His spokesman. In order to prevent people from idolatrously worshipping Moses, his grave was left unmarked (Deut. 34:6).
Talmidis believe that shortly before God chooses His anointed to sit on the throne of David, He will send a prophet like Moses, who will speak to God face to face, directly and without visions.
It is also important to note how, in the legends of other religions, their heroes and founders have extraordinary powers, and are near-perfect beings. In contrast, the founder of the Israelite religion is portrayed with all his faults, and is fully human.
Before Aaron, the priests of the Hebrews were the firstborn of the community; even after Aaron’s time, the firstborn were still important to God. Because of the Golden Calf episode, God decided that the priesthood would be an inherited role, and so it was restricted to Aaron and his sons.
Within recent years, genetic tests have been done on people with the surname Cohen (supposedly descendents of Aaron and the ancient Israelite priests). It was found that the majority were indeed descended from a single man who lived about 3,400 years ago – exactly the time when the book of Kings says the Exodus took place.
Talmidis place great importance on maintaining the inherited priesthood. During the process of conversion, when a convert chooses a tribe, they may choose any tribe except that of Levi; the adopted son of a priest is not a priest.
It is important for outsiders to be aware of what prophets and prophesy mean to the Israelite religion. Prophesy is not about predicting the future, even though foretelling is part of prophesy. A man or woman who can foretell the future is not automatically a prophet; pretending that prophesy is about telling the future belittles the office of prophet. Prophesy is first and foremost about being seized by God to speak on God’s behalf.
A Prophet reminds Israelites when they have gone astray. He or she reminds Israelites when they have broken the terms of the Covenant. They warn of the consequences of not doing something (which is where telling the future comes in).
A prophet does not have to be a holy, learned or religious man or woman; a prophet doesn’t even have to agree with the message they are being given – Jonah is a good case in point. What is distinctive about a prophet, is that he or she is so overwhelmed by the power of God’s message, that they have no option but to deliver that message.
The life of a prophet is not a happy one. The message being delivered is not a pleasant one; it is more often one that people would rather not hear. People do not like being told that they are going astray, that they are doing things wrong, or that they need to amend their ways.
The test of a true prophet was that what they said came to pass within the lifetimes of their audience. We need to be aware therefore that much of what the Prophets wrote has actually already come to pass. Talmidaism places great emphasis on the responsible and rational interpretation of prophecy. Only where it is obvious that something has not come to pass (eg when it says what the Anointed One will do, or things that will happen after the exiles of the House of Israel return) do we say with any degree of certainty that these are future predictions.
Rabbinical Judaism decreed that the last prophet was Malachi. This allowed them to give themselves sanction to claim God’s authority and make decrees themselves. However, Talmidaism does not accord with this. It accepts that there were prophets after Malachi (such as Yochanan the Immerser and Yeshua` of Nazareth), and that there will be prophets in the future. When a prophet is needed to deliver a message to Israel, God will appoint one.