Teaching with authority

From where did Yeshua derive the authority behind his teaching?

The crowds found the prophet from Nazareth teaching His disciples on the mount, and they gathered around Him to listen. They heard his fiery words about entering the kingdom and the righteousness of the religious. They were amazed at His teaching because He taught “As one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29). He did not sound like the typical rabbi. He did not equivocate between opinions or wrangle over halachic minutiae. He did not transmit His teachings in the names of teachers before Him.

In the rabbinic mode of teaching, one’s credibility rests upon citing traditions and interpretations from earlier generations. The authority of the scribes and sages relied upon teaching “in the name” of a higher authority—that is, earlier links in the oral transmission. A typical rabbinic sermon might begin with the words, “Rabbi Eliezer said in the name of Yochanan ben Zakkai who taught in the name of Hillel the Elder what he had heard from his teacher Abtalion.” The Talmud says that the sages refused to receive even the teaching of the great rabbi Hillel until he presented it to them in the name of earlier teachers. Another passage, however, argues that a disciple closely associated with a certain sage need not always cite his teacher’s name, since everyone assumes that he learned his teaching directly from his master.

Did Joshua preface every word he taught with the words, “Thus did Moses tell me”? No. Joshua sat and taught without ever mentioning the names [of his teachers], but everyone knew that His teaching was the Torah of Moses. So too did [Rabbi Yochanan’s] disciple Rabbi Eleazar sit and teach without ever mentioning his teacher’s names, but everyone knew that the teaching was Rabbi Yochanan’s. (b.Yevamot 96b)

Yeshua spoke with His own authority, a disciple only to His Father in Heaven. He did not cite the opinions of earlier generations, nor did He speak in the name of earlier rabbis. He spoke only in His own name and the name of His Father. He made simple pronouncements and stated His own interpretations confidently and matter-of-factly. He spoke more like a prophet, speaking in the name of God, than a Torah sage speaking in the name of earlier sages. “For He was teaching them as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29).

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, and reposted with permission.

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