Who are we?
Talmidaism is a loose grouping of sects (such as the Ebionites), who follow the Torah, practice biblical Israelite customs and traditions, accept Jesus as a Jewish prophet, but reject the authority of Paul of Tarsus and the New Testament, the Christian Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. We see ourselves as the spiritual descendants of the early (so-called) ‘Jewish Christians’ of the first and second centuries.
The ethos of our faith
The most profound emphasis of Talmidaism (or ‘The Way’) is the immediate and joyful presence of God; the second most important emphasis in Talmidaism is the Kingdom of God. Talmidaism teaches that we should exercise kindness, humility and compassion in our daily practice of religion. Without care, consideration and concern for others, anything else we might do is pointless. The Way emphasises that all deserve to be included in the kingdom of God – the poor, the outcast and the rejected, and not just those whom religious teachers have judged to be righteous.
Why is our religion called ‘The Way’?
In ancient times, the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus of Nazareth referred to themselves as ‘Followers of the Way’. The term ‘Followers of the Way’ is used twice in the Book of Acts (Acts 22:4 & Acts 24:14). In the New Testament, our philosophy is called “The Way” six times (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, 24:22). It is called ‘the Way of God’ three times (Matt 22:16, Mk 12:14, Lk 20:21), and ‘the Way of the Lord’ just once (Acts 18:25). ‘The Way of the LORD’, or more properly, ‘the Way of YHVH’, is the original name of the Israelite religion. Just as ‘the land of Israel’ is shortened to ‘the Land’, and just as ‘the Festival of Booths’ is shortened to ‘the Festival’, so also ‘the Way of YHVH’ was abbreviated to simply ‘The Way’. This is a telling insight into the intent of Yeshua`’s teaching. Far from seeking to break away from the faith of his ancestors and create a new religion, what he was actually trying to do was bring people back to the true ideals of the original Israelite religion – justice, compassion and mercy.
How we view Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua` of Natsaret)
We view Yeshua` as a fully human, Jewish prophet, who was called by God to deliver a message to His people. Just as Amos and Jeremiah were prophets of the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles respectively, so we believe that Yeshua` was meant to have been a prophet of the Roman exile. By calling Israel back to the true heart of Torah – compassion and justice – God showed Yeshua` how the people of Israel would survive this exile. However, Yeshua` is not the centre of our faith, our faith is in YHVH alone; it is not the person of Yeshua` who is important to us, but rather his message.
How we differ from Christianity
There are some major ways in which we differ from mainstream Christianity:
- We reject the trinity; instead, we believe in One, indivisible God – YHVH, the God of Israel – who has no physical form.
- We reject Yeshua`’s divinity; instead we believe that he was a mortal man, called by the God of his ancestors to be a Jewish prophet.
- We reject the virgin birth; instead, we believe that he was born of normal human parentage.
- We reject the notion that he died to atone for sin, or that his death had anything to do with salvation; instead we believe that his was a cruel, unjust death at the hands of the Roman authorities.
- We reject the authority of the teachings of Paul of Tarsus (‘St. Paul’); instead we believe that he was an apostate from Judaism, and that the main beliefs of the Christian religion come from his writings, not the words of Yeshua`. We would even go so far as to say that Paul, not Yeshua`, was the true founder of the belief-system known today as Christianity.
How we differ from mainstream Judaism
Modern Judaism for the most part is based on the teachings of the Rabbis, not on the Torah & the Prophets (or the Miqra – our two terms for the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible). We believe that the pronouncements of Yeshua`, where he seemingly speaks against Torah, are in fact criticisms of the Oral Law of the Pharisees (and of their inheritors, the Rabbis). For this reason, we reject the authority of the Talmud. Therefore, we have a number of practices that are different from those of mainstream Judaism. Our tradition is closer to the practices of Karaite Jews, who also reject rabbinical authority. For example, our New Year is in the First Month of the Jewish year, not in the seventh; Shavu‘ot (the Festival of Weeks) is always on a Sunday; we proudly wear techelet (blue cords) on the corner fringes of our tallitot (prayer shawls); and we don’t wear t’fillin (phylacteries or prayer boxes) on our foreheads; this practise is a literal reading of the passages following the Shema`. Also, because our traditions stem from those of Galilee and Judea, and because those of mainstream Judaism stem from the traditions of Babylonian Jewry, some of our customs are different. We have elders and scribes, not rabbis; our bibles follow the Galilean canon, and so don’t contain the Book of Esther; we don’t observe Purim (it was a local Babylonian Jewish festival); and we read Torah in three years, not one.
It should be stated clearly from the outset, that we do not missionise fellow Jews; we feel that Jews do not need converting, since they already worship YHVH. Our mission is to make outreach available to those non-Jews who already feel deeply for the God of Israel, and who already love Israel and the Jewish people. Our purpose is to spread the peace of the
kingdomof God in this world; to be peacemakers, and help the diversity of humanity to get along with each other. We also need to make people aware that the historical faith of the first Jewish followers of Yeshua` is still alive. We know that there are many people who are dissatisfied with the beliefs of mainstream Christianity, but are unaware that there is a viable, historical alternative.