The Very Appearance of Evil
an excerpt from Truth, Tradition, or Tare: Growing in the Word

If the reader of Scripture has always assumed that Paul was anti-rabbinic, then his statement in Acts 23:6 sounds strange at best, and disingenuous at worst:

But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, 'Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!'

While admittedly Paul was clever as well as learned, he was signaling something important to his accusers and those listening.  He identified with the teachings of the Pharisees, specifically, the Pharisaic School of Hillel.  A detailed explanation of why this is important may be found in the upcoming BEKY Book, Pharisees: Friends or Foes?  In this context, however, Paul distinguishes himself from the Sadducees who rejected Jewish traditions, particularly Jewish Oral Law as developed by the two Pharisaic schools of Hillel and Shammai.

The Sadducees were not void of tradition, but their beliefs and practices were focused on the written Torah, while the Pharisees devoted much effort to the Jewish Oral Law.  As Paul cites, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, not the most obvious of Torah concepts, but definitely in the Spirit of the Torah and the Jewish Oral Law.  The Sadducees took the most literal views of Scripture, denying the resurrection of the dead.

In I Thessalonians 5:22-23, Paul writes:

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Did Paul simply generate these ideas from personal study, or did he learn them in a school of the Pharisees?  In the Jewish Oral Law is a principle called Mar'it Ha'ayin, which is defined in The Concise Code of Jewish Law: "The prohibition of an act because of the appearance of wrongdoing." (Appel, 2016, p.99) The "fence" of the (rabbinic) prohibited act itself might not be prohibited in the Word, yet it could lead to a Torah-prohibited act or be misconstrued by others, allowing them to stumble into sin.  The extra fence ensured that the Name of God would not be profaned by misconduct.

This aspect of Jewish Oral Law is based on Numbers 32:22: "You shall be clean before the Lord and before Israel."

I Corinthians 8:9-12 also demonstrates Paul's rabbinic training:

But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?  For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.  And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Paul mentions some key elements from both the actual Torah prohibition and the Jewish Oral Law.  First, someone might see an act and misconstrue it as a violation of the Torah, specifically against idol worship and eating things sacrificed to idols.  Paul prohibits believers from eating within the precincts of a pagan temple so that the uninformed or "weak" onlooker does not construe this as actually participating in a pagan ritual eating act and believe that it is okay to eat pagan sacrifices.  Even though believers know that idols are mute and impotent, the weaker believer may not be as firm in his faith, relying on the example of others to learn and form his practices.

Secondly, Paul relates sinning against the weaker brother to sinning against Messiah.  By avoiding the very appearance of evil, or ma'arit ha'ayin, the stronger believer acts in faith toward his brother Israelites, which makes him clean before God and men.  This is a process of sanctification in one's faith, and this principle of Jewish Law gives definition to what it means to be clean before God and men in Numbers 32:22.

Now available on, the newest BEKY Book, Truth, Tradition, or Tare: Growing in the Word.

Readers of the Newer Testament can find its treatment of tradition confusing. Many of the customs in its pages are Jewish, and therefore foreign to non-Jewish believers. Yeshua (Jesus) sometimes corrected those observing religious customs, yet at other times he said they should have observed them. Paul does the same in his letters, and twice he instructs non-Jewish believers to keep the Jewish customs he passed on to them.

Among believers in Yeshua today, some enjoy incorporating tradition into their worship. Some dismiss all customs as "man-made," and therefore extraneous at best or the sin "adding to" the written Word at worst. There is a way to determine the relationship of the written Word to tradition, for the Word would not leave us without comfort on such an important question. Our Father wants His children to grow in wisdom, maturity, and favor before Him as well as their communities.

The methods used by the prophets of the Older Testament (TANAKH) as well as the writers of the Newer Testament (Brit HaChadasha) did leave readers guidelines to divide the Seed of truth from tradition, and then to separate a tradition grown from truth from a "taredition" grown from a different seed. Additionally, it is just as important to the disciple of Yeshua to test the goodness of the soil on which the practice of the Word grows. The most important consideration in the Older Testament's, Yeshua's, and the apostles' instructions is the sincere heart that holds justice, mercy, and faithfulness as the weightier matters of any religious custom.

By evaluating the traditions that one chooses to observe or not observe, the individual can avoid the lament:

"O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: 'Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.'"

By applying the instructions in the Word, every believer is encouraged in his or her growth. A careful examination of Yeshua's instructions lifts a nuance that is frequently lost in discussions of truth and tradition. The first step is to identify whether that tradition is a tare. By throwing all tradition into a mental trash bin labeled Man's Tradition, it is possible that one could throw good plants and fruit into the bin with the tares. This is a logical fallacy called oversimplification. Yeshua's parables encourage his disciples to learn critical thinking skills so that growth in the Word is abundant life.

When a disciple of Yeshua examines his or her walk in the Word, there may be times that he or she feels that there is not enough growth. The very fact that we question our growth is a sign of readiness to grow. The next step is to allow the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) to teach us how to bear good fruit. To do that, every disciple can identify beliefs and practices that either stimulate healthy growth in the Word, or they stunt it. Welcome to the living fields of the Father's Garden!


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Did you ever wonder about the Jewish traditions mentioned in the Gospels and the letters of the apostles? Why did Jesus and the disciples sing a Psalm after their Passover meal? Why did Paul tell the Corinthians and the Thessalonians to "hold firmly" to the traditions he taught them? Jewish interpretations and practical applications of the Scriptures have a rich history, and understanding the dilemmas faced by the Jewish sages over the centuries gives students of the Scriptures an appreciation for how Jewish tradition developed.


Don't be alone this December! Come fellowship with friends, believers, and family at HRN's 2016 "Lord You Are My Light" Hanukkah Conference.

Enjoy teachings by Bill Cloud, Hollisa Alewine, Tony Robinson, Daniel Botkin, & more! Experience heartfelt worship and join hands with hundreds of people who share your faith.

We weren't meant to be alone - we were created to be in community with one another. Space is limited so register for this exciting event today! You'll be glad you did.

CLICK HERE or the Hanukkah image above to make your hotel reservation at a special discounted group rate. Discount available on the nights of December 23-26 if booked by December 7.

DATES: December 23-25, 2016

LOCATION: Nashville, TN

HOTEL: Sheraton Music City

REGISTRATION: $30 per individual or $50 per couple or $75 per family.

A Davidic Dance Class will be offered Friday, Dec. 23 frin 4-6 PM. To sign up for this two hour class, REGISTER HERE. $15 per person.

ROAD TRIP! Texas/New Mexico

For those who live in the West Texas, New Mexico area, I will be teaching in Lubbock (Dec. 8), Lovington (Dec. 7), and Amarillo (Dec. 9 & 10). Contact information is as follows:

Lubbock/Lovington: Starla Akers at 
"Rethinking the Rapture"

Amarillo: John and Sandi Craig at 
"Channukah: Truth, Tradition, or Tare?"

If you plan to attend and would like a specific product from our Shop page at, message me by this Sunday, and we'll make sure we mark that book, menorah, or DVD set with your name to pick up. Specify your name, the product, and the teaching location (Lovington, Lubbock, or Amarillo) where you'll pick it up. This will save the shipping cost for a web order. Since the Amarillo meeting is on Shabbat, products will not be available until Saturday evening after the service.

LaMalah Children's Centre

We can't thank our donors enough for their monthly support of the Children's Center in Kenya.  We are saving for the purchase of a vehicle for the Centre, so if you can help, please click on the link below: