Paul Teaches the Talmud5 min read

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

Ephesians 5:22-28 (KJV)

There’s no doubt that Paul was a great mind who resolved many of the issues relating to the Gentiles as they became newly grafted-in Israelites. His writings, when understood in proper context are filled with wisdom. But Paul was also a product of his culture. He was a Pharisee who knew the Talmud, including the Mishnah, and used the Oral Law in his own instructions.

Paul’s words above are read at just about every wedding that I can recall. They provide some insight into the proper relationship between a husband and wife. But the thing is, Paul didn’t make this up on his own. He had some help from the Mishnah.

From the ancient days of Israel and onward, the Jews have practiced something known as the Mishnah, or Oral Torah, as they call it. Jews believed that God handed down both written and oral laws at Mt. Sinai. The oral versions were never written down and only passed on orally from one generation to the next. It wasn’t until 200-220 CE when the oral law was finally written down for posterity. Today we can look up verses throughout the Mishnah and identify teachings that the Apostles also practiced and passed on through their letters in the Bible. The above verses from Paul are an example.

Let’s examine a few teachings from the Mishnah that existed well before Paul’s letters.

Thus the Sages commanded: A woman should honor her husband too much, and have awe of him, do all of her actions according to his word. He should seem to her like a minister or king, walking in the desires of his heart, and distancing herself from what he hates. This is how holy and pure Jews behave in their marriages. These paths should be their pleasant and praiseworthy lifestyle. (Mishneh Torah, Marriage 15:20)

Thus the Sages commanded: A man should honor his wife more than himself and love her as himself. If his money abounds, according to what he can afford. He should not inspire excess fear in her, and he should speak gently with her, and be neither depressed nor hot-tempered. (Mishneh Torah, Marriage 15:19)

Love thy wife as thyself, and honour her more than thyself. Be careful not to cause woman to weep, for God counts her tears. Israel was redeemed from Egypt on account of the virtue of its women. He who weds a good woman is as if he had fulfilled all the precepts of the Torah. (Talmud)

Let’s compare these with Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Epistle to Ephesians Mishnah
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. He should seem to her like a minister or king, walking in the desires of his heart, and distancing herself from what he hates.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. A woman should honor her husband too much, and have awe of him, do all of her actions according to his word.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. A man should honor his wife more than himself and love her as himself.
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Israel was redeemed from Egypt on account of the virtue of its women. He who weds a good woman is as if he had fulfilled all the precepts of the Torah.

Do you see the similarities? Women are to honor their husbands, but husbands are to love their wives. The correlation is uncanny… unless you understand that Paul knew, and observed the Oral Torah and practiced those words from the Mishnah.

Paul wasn’t teaching something new. It was common understanding among practicing Jews. He just took the wisdom found in the Talmud and passed it along to the Ephesians. And like all Rabbis of the time, Paul tweaked the teaching to prove a particular point. Paul did this by including the Messiah among the text.

Next time we attempt to condemn the Jews and their traditions, maybe we should remember that Paul wrote diligently to pass on those Jewish practices and traditions. The only reason we don’t recognize their Jewish origins is because so many no longer recognize Israel as God’s chosen people. It requires study and dedication to connect the dots, and to reconnect with the Jewishness of the Bible.

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