Mark Schindler: As the play Fiddler on the Roof opens, the audience sees a solitary figure, barely visible in the shadows of dawn, sitting and playing his violin on a steep roof overlooking a pre-1917 Russian village. ...
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the estimated 50,000 "Christian" organizations currently extant, suggests that a tiny fraction of the world's people are following "the Way." Doctrinal purity, according to Jesus Christ, does not consist of man-made traditions, which often conflict with God's Commandments. False doctrines cut people off from a wholesome relationship with God. Doctrinal purity is measured according to how one emulates Christ, a requirement for those desiring to qualify to be among the 144,000 following the Lamb. Differences in doctrinal interpretation wreaked havoc on our former fellowship. Jesus Christ engineered its break up and the ensuing scattering of His people for their protection, rendering the splinter groups more obscure in the face of the coming wave of persecution. Scattered brethren, torn away from ineffectual social clubs, are now forced to rely on Jesus Christ as their only bulwark, with the training wheels of groupthink discarded. Christ did not establish any corporate entity, including the Church of the Great God, as His own special group. As the constituent members of the Israel of God realize they cannot cope with the barrage of trials with their own resources, they come to rely on Jesus Christ alone. Only by developing the mind of Christ can one gain ascendancy over the hopelessly evil carnal nature which threatens to destroy all of mankind. God works with the humble and contrite but never with the proud. From the beginning of Creation, the carnal mind has sought its own way. The only way to defeat deadly carnal nature is to stay close to Christ, acquiring His mind, the fountainhead of righteousness and spiritual maturity.
Richard Ritenbaugh, examining the Jewish observance of the ten Days of Awe, occurring between Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashana/Day of Trumpets) and Tishri 10, (Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement), points out that, even though there are no biblical instructions to observe the Days of Awe, we may look at their role in considering another view of the Day of Atonement. In the context of Jewish tradition, God allegedly writes three books annually - the Book of Life (in which a rather small number of righteous individual are entered), the Book of Intermediaries (into which most individuals fall), and the Book of Death (for the hopelessly incorrigible). During these ten Days of Awe, if an individual rigidly focuses on his spiritual obligations, repenting of his sins and reconciling with those he has wronged, God will move his name into the Book of Life, allegedly allowing him to return to being a carnal disagreeable person for the rest of the year. Consequently, according to this understanding, ten days of good conduct can wipe out 355 days of bad behavior. As God's called-out ones, we ought to count every day as a day of awe. We also must realize that all sins are sins against God, and that sins against other people do not have less importance.
While the church of God has long taught that the azazel goat of Leviticus 16 represents Satan bearing part of the blame for man's sins, the present series has shown that this view has little - if any - biblical support. David Grabbe concludes his series with several common questions posed by those who have desired additional clarification of some of the issues involved in the subject.
Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing on the Pharisees, analyzes the reasons for their continuous condemnation. Having their origin in the days of Ezra, the Scribes and Pharisees were extremely zealous for the law, separating themselves for this exclusive purpose. Over time, this originally noble purpose devolved into a rigid, exclusivist sect, separating themselves from foreigners, heretics, or base people, manufacturing strict, repressive rules for the Sabbath; supporting and detailing the Temple service; and promoting strict observance of the tithing laws. As the teachers of the people, they held a great deal of power, which soon became corrupt, turning them into arrogant, desiccated legalists, ignoring the redemptive aspects of God's law. Pharisees sought after signs, interminably multiplied regulations concerning ceremonially clean and unclean, and developed elaborate regulations for washings, actually leading to the breaking of God's law.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the word "Passover" was edited into Deuteronomy 16:1 following the Babylonian Captivity, when both feasts were by tradition called the Passover. Hezekiah and Josiah instituted Temple Passovers as emergency procedures to prevent people from drifting into Baal-centered paganism. At the time of Christ, as corroborated by Josephus, both the biblical commandments and human traditions co-existed. The Temple did not have the capacity to slaughter lambs for the entire population at the prescribed time. Jesus teaches that keeping man's tradition in a relationship with God transgresses His commandments (Matthew 15:3, 8). Thus, Jesus and His disciples kept a ben ha arbayim (between the evenings), early 14th Passover.
John Ritenbaugh suggests that the proponents of late Passover (15th) have to make wild speculations about a mass meeting in Rameses, have to discount a series of scriptural details (such as purifying houses and keeping the Passover within the house until the next day). One cannot build doctrines on implication, distortion, and biased traditions. It is safer to let God's Word interpret itself.
John Ritenbaugh insists that nine steps had to be included with the Passover process, including the eating of the lamb, all within the house until the morning. The time frame designated for Passover was ben ha arbayim—a period of time between the going down of the sun and complete darkness (dusk), totally within the confines of the designated day, in this case the fourteenth, as God had commanded. To use scholarship that contradicts the Bible—relying upon tradition rather than God's Word—is not unlike carrying the Ark of the Covenant in the oxcart.
John Ritenbaugh insists that it is the Word of God that is to be trusted—not the records nor the traditions of a people who were supposed to be custodians of God's law, but who liberalized and blurred the distinctions between right and wrong. The Passover was to be kept on the twilight of the fourteenth, while the Days of Unleavened Bread began on the fifteenth. Reliance on the Word of God supercedes reliance on heritage.
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