WHO WERE THE HADEREKHIM?

Who are the HaDerekhim?  This name is probably unfamiliar to you, but the Hebrew word HaDerekh is translated as “The Way,” and this is the name that the Jewish disciples called themselves SIX times in the book of Acts (Acts 9:2; 19:9. 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22), Since there were more than one member who were part of HaDerekh, they would be called in Hebrew, HaDerekhim, and based on the evidence of the Tanakh, which Christians erroneously call the “Old Testament,”  I have inferred that the name HaDerekh is a shortened form of HaDerekh YHWH (“The Way of YHWH“), YHWH being the holy sacred name of the God of Isra’el, prior to the Babylonian Exile in 586 B.C.E., such as Bereshith (Genesis) 18:19, and then HaDerekh Adonai (“The Way of the Lord”), during and after the Babylonian Exile, such as in Ezekiel 18:25, 29; 33:17, 20).  Thus, we have biblical proof for the use of ADONAI (“the LORD”) being used for the holy, sacred name of the Almighty.  Our English translations continue this practice by using the word “LORD” in all capitals for the holy name of the Almighty, and “Lord” where only the first letter is capitalized for the word Adonai.

WEREN’T THE EARLY JEWISH DISCIPLES “CHRISTIANS”?

The short answer to the question would be “No, they weren’t.”  The longer answer to this question would be the following:  These Jewish disciples did not call themselves “Christians,” for a number of reasons:

  1.  The word “Christian” did not exist during the life and ministry of Y’hoshua/Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus);
  2.  The word “Christian” did not exist for the first 40% of the book of Acts.  It did not come into existence until Acts 11:26, and even then, it was used by Gentiles (non-Jews), specifically Syrians, as a derogatory slur – an insult – by non-believing Syrians for those Syrians who had come to faith in this “new Jewish Messiah.”  This derogatory insult then spread across the Roman empire.  It was used in much the same way as the phrase “Jesus Freak” was used as a derogatory insult for the Hippies and street people who were coming to faith in “Jesus” in the United States during the 1960s and 70s.
  3. The word “Christian” was, thus, a word considered to be a derogatory insult throughout the time that the HaDerekhim were writing.  Their writings is what has erroneously come to be called the “New Testament.”  In truth, their writings should be seen as a continuation of the third part of the Tanakh, called “the Writings;” thus, they should be called the Ketuvim HaDerekh (“the Writings of ‘The Way'”).
  4. None of the HaDerekhim did not see themselves or their Rebbe (“Master”) as beginning a new religion, called “Christianity,” but they were bringing a message of “Good News” to the people and nation of Isra’el: they were announcing the soon beginning of the process of Isra’el’s Restoration, trans. “the gospel of the kingdom.”

Thus, the idea that the “New Testament” was written by “Christians” is a complete and total rewriting of the true history of actually what happened.  It is just another way that Christianity has done to proclaim their “replacement” of the Jewish people.  Christianity as a distinct and separate religion did not, in fact, probably begin until near or during the beginning of the second century, C.E.

WHAT WERE THE HADEREKHIM LIKE?

The HaDerekhim were Isra’eli Jewish men and women who lived a zealously Torah-observant Orthodox lifestyle.  In considering this, their lifestyle would have been just a zealous in their Torah-observance as the modern ultra-Orthodox movement, the Chassidim.  For example, in Acts 20, Ya’acov (Jacob; trans. “James”) and the elders in the Jerusalem congregation say of the believers there to the believing Sha’ul Paulus (Paul),

You see, brother, how many thousands (myriads) there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and THEY ARE ALL ZEALOUS FOR THE LAW (Heb. Torah).  (Acts 20:20).

Here we have their own verbal witness that they were all zealously Torah-observant.  Now there were those who were not that zealous in their Torah-observance when they began with the movement, but once they got to know the Rebbe Y’hoshua/Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) and His family, they grew to be zealously Torah-observant.  For example, Yochanan (John) writes in his general epistle,

Everyone who practices sin (violating the commandments in the Torah, the first five books) also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.  And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.  No one who abides in Him sins (violates the Torah); no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.  Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who (continues to; repeatedly) practices righteousness is righteous.  Just as He is righteous; the one who (continues to; repeatedly) practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning…No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (I John 3:3-8a, 9)

By the verbal confession of most Christians. who claim that “they cannot help but sin,” when compared to what Yochanan (John) writes in this epistle, then most Christians by their own confession are of the devil, and they have never known the Rebbe Y’hoshua/Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus).

THE FALSE RUMOR

Even Sha’ul Paulus (Paul), not only was a P’rushim (Pharisee), the son of a P’rushim (Pharisee), but he was also Torah-observant.  For example, in Acts 20, after the Jerusalem elders tell Sha’ul about how zealous they all were for the Torah, Ya’acov (Jacob/James) tells him about a false rumor that had been spread about him:

and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. (Acts 20:21).

This false rumor was painting of Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) as believing the same things as those Jews who had become Apostates to God under the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes, whose defeat and those of the Syrian-Greeks is celebrated every Hanukkah season.  They continue by saying,

What, then, to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.  Therefore do this that we tell you.  We have four men who are under a vow;  take them and purify yourself  along with them, and pay their expenses in order that they may shave their heads; and ALL WILL KNOW THAT THERE IS NOTHING TO THE THINGS WHICH THEY HAVE BEEN TOLD ABOUT YOU, BUT THAT YOU YOURSELF ALSO WALK ORDERLY, KEEPING THE LAW (Heb. “Torah”). (Acts 20:21-24; emphasis added)

Here we can see Ya’acov (Jacob/James) here boldly declaring that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was also a Torah-observant Jew who would NEVER teach the Jewish people to do what this rumor is falsely accusing him, since he says, “ALL will know that there is NOTHING to the things which they have been told about you.”  What these Jerusalem elders who personally met Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) and interacted with him declare that this rumor was completely FALSE, it is a bold-faced LIE, and yet Christianity has declared that this same FALSE RUMOR and BOLD-FACED LIE is, in fact, the truth.   The FALSE RUMOR and LIE is taught by Christianity – Not the Jerusalem elders!

PAUL GAVE A SIN OFFERING?

The whole point of Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) not only paying for the animal sacrifices for himself and the other four men were to prove to the Jerusalem masses that this rumor that they had heard about him was completely FALSE.  Also, there is only ONE vow given in the Written Torah that involves the shaving of the head – THE NAZARITE VOW – which is in Numbers 6:13-21. If Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) believed that the Torah had come to an end as Christianity falsely teaches than now would have been a good time to say so, but he does not.  He goes through with the ceremony.  This NAZARITE ceremony involved the following for each person:

  • One male lamb a year old without defect for a burnt offering;
  • One ewe-lamb a year old without defect for a sin offering;
  • One ram without defect for a peace offering;
  • a basket of unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil and unleavened wafer spread with oil;
  • a grain offering and their libations.

This list can be found in Number 6: 14-15.  Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) became one of the HaDerekhim in Acts 9, but here he is in Acts 20, and he is giving for himself and four other men five ewe lambs as sin offerings.  Thus, the Christian teaching that the Rebbe‘s death on the cross brought an end to the need of sacrifices is clearly wrong.

ZEALOUS TORAH-OBSERVANCE DOES NOT MEAN TOTAL AGREEMENT

But just because the HaDerekhim were zealous in their Torah-observance does not mean that they agreed on every point on how certain things should be interpreted and applied.  This also does not mean that the HaDerekhim were in complete disagreement with Second Temple Judaism of the day.  There were beliefs and practices that they shared with the other Second Temple Jews of the time, but there also ones – how many, we do not know – that they disagreed with other sects within the Judaism of the day.  According to the mainstream Jewish writer, Rabbi Harvey Falk writes in his book, Jesus the Pharisee: A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus (1985),

The first disputes regarding the Oral Law passed down for some seventeen hundred years from Moses at Sinai took place at this time between the sages Hillel and Shammai.  Their respective Schools – Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai – were to clash over three hundred and fifty (350) times on issues of the Oral Law during the next hundred years.  Nor were these minor disputes; the issues between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai went to the very core of what Judaism stood for – and especially import for our subject, Judaism’s attitude toward the salvation of the Gentiles. 

The Schools of Shammai and Hillel both accepted all of the commandments contained in the five books of the Torah.  But the written law of Moses is too brief to be applied to practical issues of everyday life, and it was accepted that an oral and more detailed tradition was handed down by Moses.  The debates of Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai centered on this oral tradition.  (7)

Is it possible that there may have been oral traditions that went back to Mosheh (Moses) himself?  There may have been some basic ideas, but does this mean every teaching in the Oral Law (Mishnah) goes back to Mosheh (Moses)?  No, this I do not believe.  Instead, I believe that the Oral Law has its beginnings with Ezra after the people came back with him from Babylon and during the time period during the time period between the Tanakh and the writings of the HaDerekhim.  The one hundred years after the debates of Hillel and Shammai is the same time period during which the HaDerekhim movement wrote what is now called the “New Testament.”  Thus, their writings should be considered as part of this debate.  A debate that “went to the very core of what Judaism stood for.”

Christianity – A Betrayal of the HaDerekhim?

The anti-Torah teachings, as well as its anti-Tanakh (aka, “Old Testament”) teachings of traditional Christianity, since the second century, C.E., particularly those of the current American Christianity, has and is a betrayal of the teachings and lives of the Rebbe (Master) Y’hoshua/Yeshua (Jesus), the HaDerekhim, and Sha’ul Paulus (Paul).  Christianity has not been a continuation of their values, lifestyles, or teachings, but they have only betrayed all that their lives represented and taught.

Instead, Christianity is a Gentile (non-Jewish) religion that began when some Gentile (non-Jewish) believers heard about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple by the Romans, under the leadership of Titus, in 70 C.E., and they saw it as their opportunity to break away from Isra’el and the Jewish people, including the HaDerekhim, and to formulate their own religion which would be more congruent with their own Greco-Roman culture.  They name this new religion, “Christianity.”

As a result, my wife, Karen, and I do not feel that the name “Christian” appropriately describes our values, beliefs, and religious identities anymore.  Instead, we prefer the name “Messianic Judaists” now, and we plan, as much as possible to be involved in helping to form a modern-day restoration of the of the original HaDerekhim movement that had directly begun with the Rebbe Y’hoshua/Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth and had flourished during the days of Second Temple Judaism.

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