What is Talmidaism?
Put very simply, it is a modern term for the religion of the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus of Nazareth. It is synonymous with the ancient term, ‘the Way’, and for the Talmidi community it replaces the inaccurate and misleading academic term, ‘Jewish-Christianity’. Modern Talmidis see themselves as the inheritors of the historical faith of Yeshua`’s earliest Jewish followers, and of 1st and 2nd century ‘Jewish-Christianity’.
The word ‘Talmidaism’ has nothing to do with the Talmud. The only connection between the two words is that they both come from the root verb talmad, to teach. To further distinguish it from ‘Talmudism’, the word is taken from the Aramaic talmida, rather than the Hebrew talmid. Both Hebrew and Aramaic words mean ‘follower’ or ‘disciple’. Talmidaism is therefore ‘the religion of followers (of YHVH)’.
The modern Talmidi community consists of born-Jews and those of Jewish descent who would not be accepted by the mainstream Jewish community, as well as Jewish converts and ‘Godfearers’ – that is, Gentiles who follow Torah and Jewish customs and traditions, but have not converted.
Talmidaism is not messianic; it neither teaches that Yeshua` of Nazareth was the messiah, nor does it believe in a ‘personal messiah’ who will come to save us (since YHVH, and YHVH alone, is our Saviour). It does however accept that one day God will place a descendent of David on the throne of Israel.
Talmidaism emphasises the Jewish teachings of Yeshua` of Nazareth. It does not accept that he was in any way divine or the son of God; nor that he was born of a virgin, or died to save us from us sins. And we do not accept the authority of the teachings of Paul of Tarsus. In these respects we feel we are in keeping with the earliest Jewish followers of Yeshua`, who were lambasted by the early Church Fathers for their position on such subjects.
Talmidaism emphasises the humble and compassionate practice of religion. Talmidis teach the unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness of God, and that human beings should seek to emulate God in that respect.
Because we reject the Oral Law, some have said that we are just Karaites who believe that Yeshua` was a prophet. We would say there is more to it than that. Following the message of the Prophet Yeshua` means that our spiritual emphases are different to those of mainstream Judaism. Yeshua` said, ‘God is kind even to the ungrateful and the selfish; therefore be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful.’ We therefore anchor our faith in God’s unfailing and merciful love and boundless compassion.
Yeshua` said, ‘Blessed are the humble in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.’ We therefore emphasise spiritual humility, which means that we do not judge others, we give humane help even to our enemies (a humble spirit is not vengeful or proud), and we should try to do the most just and fairest thing, even though it might not be advantageous to us.
This is not to say that mainstream Judaism does not value humility or see God as compassionate; rather for us, these come first, and everything else in our faith proceeds from them.
Following the message of Yeshua` means that our view of holiness is different to that of mainstream Judaism. Rabbinical Judaism, being descended from Pharisaic Judaism, equates holiness as being separate in the sense of being apart. But Yeshua` said, ‘if you do good only to those who do good to you, what more are you doing than others? Don’t even Gentiles do the same?’ For us, holiness means being separate in the sense of being distinctive – not only in our culture, but also in our ethical and moral values, and the way in which we interact with others.
In Orthodox Judaism, external piety is emphasised, but for a follower of Yeshua`, it is the intent of the heart which is more important. We encourage others to follow Torah, but we emphasise that it is the intent of the heart that is more important than the level of perfection to which the commandment is fulfilled:
‘If you’re making a sin offering in the Temple, and there you remember that your brother has some disagreement with you, leave your offering there with the priest. First make peace with your brother, and only then can you return and make your sin offering.’
Talmidaism internalises Torah. A Follower of the Way is called to show by the life they live who their heavenly Father is, and more importantly what our God is like – to show the love, compassion, and merciful kindness of our God by the way we think and behave.
We hold, at the core of our faith, that YHVH is love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness, and our core mission is to play our part in helping God to bring His Kingdom to fulfilment.
The general aura and ethos that Talmidaism tries to project is one of friendliness, openness and humilty, of helpfulness, kindness and a refusal to judge others. It is centred on the absolute trust and faith in God to love and care for us – and ultimately, to defend and protect us, and fulfil His promises.