Teaching of the Sages
Teaching of the Sages

by
Lois Tverberg & Bruce Okkema

"Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them... Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life." Proverbs 4: 5, 10-13

In this series, we will be listening to words of wisdom for life gleaned from the teaching of the sages - the rabbis of Jesus' time and afterward. To the Hebrew culture of Jesus’ day, study was the highest form of worship. This is what they did much of the time in their homes, in their spare time, and in their attending synagogue. We think it will be a wonderful study to share with you some of the teachings that have been discovered in documents from Jesus’ time and before, as well as some current insights by respected teachers and scholars commenting on the Scriptures.

Let it be said, that we at the En-Gedi Resource Center hold the highest view of scripture. Any theological points or life practices should only be derived from God’s Word itself and when there is a conflict, Holy Scripture is the authority. But this is not to say that we can’t learn much from other sources as well; our experience has been just the opposite. Much of the teaching of the Jewish sages is so focused on our relationships with God, family, and others that its practice is life-changing. The emphasis on turning our faith into action is woven throughout. We shouldn't see this as "salvation by works", but rather a walk of faithfulness that results from obedience to God.

Jesus was a rabbi, and he interacted with other rabbis of his time. Many of the parables that Jesus used were related to those in the culture before his time. It heightens our respect for him to know that not only was he highly educated, he used already familiar words to make new, astounding points – calling for the highest level of compliance as in this statement from Matthew 5:27-28,

“You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Just like our Western thinking tendencies have caused us to reduce our faith into just a system of beliefs, so have we tended to put a lower importance on acts of kindness and charity. Of course doctrines are necessary and helpful for critical examination in all sorts of circumstances, but if our faith stops there, we have missed the point of why God created us in the first place.

We encourage you to try and read these articles with an open mind, and with a self-examining posture. See if you can learn to be a better example to the world and a better follower of Jesus by taking to heart these teachings from the sages.

   © 2003 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All rights
  reserved. This article is copyrighted and may not be redistributed
  without the express written consent of the author. To request
  permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.