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Why Karaism: So Moses Said

Updated on October 7, 2009


The essential and fundamental concept within Karaism is that there was no Oral Law or Tradition that was given to Moses on Sinai at the same time he was receiving the Written Law.  This debate could go on for an eternity with my Rabbinic adversaries which it has done already for over two millennia without any end in sight.   In previous arguments I have taken the more traditional course of argument and used many of the standard quotations derived from the Torah, as one can read in my hub,  but this has been a debating tool that we Karaites have used for centuries without any progress in having the correctness of our stance acknowledged by Rabbanites.  And the few Rabbinical scholars that have admitted that we are possibly correct in stating, “that is what the Torah stipulated” have always qualified their acknowledgement with a ‘but’ insisting that the Torah can’t be accepted literally in every particular instance.  If that were true then their argument would suggest as an extension of logic that no part of the Old Testament should be taken literally; that in its entirety it is merely an incomplete guideline that has always required human intervention and interpretation.  Therein is the first fallacy Rabbanites have concocted since the actual Talmud was only compiled between the second and fourth centuries AD and even then it was always under constant debate and modification, indicating that it was still conjectural.  This completely ignores the fact that the Jewish people had already survived for fifteen hundred years without the Talmud.  Since most of that period had been under the jurisdiction and jurisprudence of the priesthood or Sadducees, then it was only the literal Torah with its written laws that governed the people thereby proving that the written laws that were already in existence were sufficient without the human application of ‘oral laws’ the rabbis insisted upon.

Heard it From Moses

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Torah or written law was insufficient and not intended to be taken literally or at face value.  That being the case, then the extension of that Rabbinical argument would be that the Ten Commandments weren’t actually written in stone, pardon the pun, but merely suggestions that required Rabbinic interpretation as well.  By casting doubt on one part of the Torah, in effect doubt is cast on all parts.  By their own willingness to include a fudge factor, being the Oral Law that constitutes the Talmud, the Rabbis in fact have opened a virtual Pandora’s Box which in turn led to the eventual schisms that birthed Christianity and Islam as I will explain.  

Whereas my predecessors within Karaism have always taken the more confrontational stance against Rabbinical Judaism, instead I will take this opportunity to approach the argument from the Rabbinical viewpoint and in doing so, hopefully demonstrate the folly of the Oral Law.  As highlighted in the previous paragraph, all dictums and laws in the Torah become susceptible to rabbinical debate and interpretation, even the aforementioned Ten Commandments.  Way back when the Talmud was first being documented, the rabbinical sage, Rabbi Joshua said that he had received the laws he was expounding as a tradition from Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai, who heard it from his teacher, who heard it from his teacher and so on, all the way back to the laws given to them by Moses at Sinai.  In fact you will find a lot of quotes to that effect in the Talmud.  The old, “Heard it from Moses at Sinai,” thereby elevating their opinion to a level beyond dispute because they claimed Moses said it. By creating an ‘authentication history’ these Rabbis were able to enforce their dictums on people that would not go against anything Moses said.  The problem with this argument was that there was no historical connection between the Rabbis and Moses.  In fact prior to the development of the Pharasaic sect in the second century BC, there weren’t any rabbis at all.  Any laws were passed down through the Beth Din (courts) which were institutes under the control of the priesthood.  So if Moses had actually passed down traditions orally, it certainly would not have been through a chain of Rabbis that never existed.   Once again this is just another fallacy being foisted upon the adherents of Rabbinical Judaism.

A Dangerous Precedent

As an extension of the Rabbinical argument that the Torah was merely a bulletin point document that required the Talmud to explain its actual intellectual intent, I’ll return to the subject of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20:3 God commands that the people will have no other gods before him. In fact he confirms this in 20:5 that He is a jealous god. If this commandment was open to interpretation as the Rabbis have suggested in their justification of the Talmud, then it could be argued that God was suggesting that there were other gods in existence just that none of them were to be worshipped ahead of Him otherwise He would become jealous. After all, as I pointed out, if you argue that the Torah is incomplete and required Oral Traditions in order to provide its exact meaning, then I could equally claim that there was a rabbinical scholar that had a teacher, who had a teacher and so on that heard from Moses directly at Sinai that God did say that there were lesser gods in existence that weren’t to be worshipped. You either have to apply the concept of Oral Law to everything, or nothing at all. You can’t have it both ways. As soon as the Rabbis opened this non-negotiable issue to debate they unleashed the inevitable, which manifested itself in the concept that there could be secondary gods within Judaism and this in turn resulted in ‘the Son of God’ sect which began as a Jewish subgroup.

Rab Ashi's Own Words


It is not as if the Rabbis themselves do not acknowledge that the claim of the Talmud being sacrosanct and passed down by Moses is a fabrication.  Their own legends basically admit to this.  In one of their many stories regarding the Talmudic scholars, they talk about King Manasseh who brought back idol worship into Israel.  As the Rabbis discussed why he had done so, they acknowledged that it was due to his intense study of the law in which he had arrived at fifty-two different interpretations of the book of Leviticus; that in so doing he had become confused and this weakened his moral strength thus turning to idolatry.   As if that is not admission enough that their own endeavors to interpret the written law of the Torah via multiple oral traditions and laws would lead to dysfunction and immorality within Judaism, they tell another story about Rab Ashi, their famous compiler of the Talmud that one day he announced to his students, “Tomorrow I shall speak about our colleague, Manasseh.”  To refer to King Manasseh as their colleague by the Rabbis is definitely Freudian when analyzed.  That night when Rab Ashi slept, King Manasseh came to him in a dream.  The Rabbi put a question to the king regarding the interpretation of a ritual that he himself could not find the answer for.  The king was able to answer without hesitation, amazing the rabbi with his fount of knowledge.  Stunned by the King’s intellectual abilities, he asked how one so intelligent could have worshipped idols.  To which Manasseh answered, “If you had been around at the time I lived, you would have caught hold of the hem of my garment and run after me!”  Simply put, the Rabbis with this story were admitting that their great sage, Rab Ashi, compiler of the Talmud, teacher and expounder of what became rabbinical Judaism was in fact no different from the man referred to in historical legend as ‘evil King Manasseh.’  By creating and compiling the Talmud he had set Judaism on the same course that Manasseh did with his idolatry.  By their own words they condemn themselves.  So why Karaism if I was to put it simply?  Because even the Rabbanites recognize the error of their ways. 


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