Brief Outline of Ancient Jewish Theological Literature
There is yet another branch of Jewish theology that in some respects is the most interesting to the Christian student.
There is no doubt that even as early as the time of Jesus, a series of doctrines and speculations prevailed that were kept secret from the multitude, and even from theology students. This may have been from fear of leading them into heresy.
This class of study bears the name “Kabbalah.” The word “kabal” means to receive or hand down. This represents the spiritual traditions handed down from earliest times, although they had been mixed up with many foreign elements down through the ages.
The “Kabbalah” grouped itself chiefly around the history of the creation, and the mystery of God’s Presence and Kingdom in the world, as symbolized in the vision of the chariot and of the wheels in Ezekiel 1. Despite the errors, much that is found in the writings is very close to the higher truths of Christianity.
We recognize the continuance and remains of the deeper facts of Divine revelation that must have formed the substance of prophetic teaching under the Old Testament, and have been at least hoped for by those who were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
If we ask ourselves the question of what might have been expected as to the relation between Jesus and the men and religion of His period, the answer would not be difficult.
Jesus could not have been a stranger to His period, or His teaching would have found no response at all. It would have been wholly unintelligible to his contemporaries. He never addressed them as strangers to the covenant as he did the heathen people he ministered to.
He was in every respect the continuation, the development, and the fulfillment of the Old Testament.
It was only Jesus that removed the heavy load of traditionalism; the externalism; the formalism; and the work-righteousness. All these things had almost totally infiltrated and obliterated the spiritual truths of the Old Testament. They had substituted in their place the worship of the letter of the law.
Jesus brought forth all the wonderful truths that had been so hidden alike for Israel and also the world. He became the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and came to show forth and fulfill all the prophecies about Him.
Jesus must have availed Himself of every element around, and adopted the sayings, parables, ideas and customs of that period. He would have had to do this in order to be a true man of the period. Yet, He was also so holy and not of that time that the Bible says that He was despised, rejected, and delivered up unto death.
If Jesus had not identified Himself with the views of the people he lived around, and availed Himself of all in it that was true or useful, He could have never really been a part of this world. He could never have been the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and also could not have been the Deliverer from sin and guilt.
The reason that the Scribes and Pharisees hated Jesus was because He claimed to be Christ, the Son of God. His teachings were contrary to their “letter of the law” way of life and what He taught cut them to the very core of their beings.
Jesus taught in a way that brought liberty to the people from the heavy yoke of bondage that they had been carrying. Naturally, many of them would have gravitated to Him because He was teaching them things that were so much better than what they knew at that time.
At this time, though, it is very doubtful if the Jewish people could have really grasped the real meaning of why Jesus had come to earth to live in human form: “The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Now many centuries have passed, and the gladsome Gospel message has been carried from nation to nation because of the three years that Jesus spent on earth carrying out the ministry that God had sent Him to do. He chose a few people who were definitely not the ‘cream-of-the-crop’, and turned them into spiritual warriors who would turn a world upside down for God.