The alleged ‘superior’ teachings of Jesus and the Rabbis
By Rabbi Eli Cohen
The fact is that Jesus taught the Jewish people nothing that they did not already know. The rabbis taught against anger, making sure to point to the Scriptural source for their teaching (b. Nedarim 22b, based on Ecclesiastes 7:9).
Brown points to Jesus’ teaching against lustful thoughts as another example of an “exclusive” moral insight of Jesus. The Rabbis also taught against lustful thoughts, making sure to attribute the moral insight to Scripture (b. Eruvin 18b, based on Proverbs 11:21, see also Job 31:1).
Jesus’ teaching “let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”, is also cited by Brown as an example of Jesus’ moral superiority over the teachers of Rabbinic Judaism. The problem with Brown’s assertion is that the Talmud records precisely the same teaching, again pointing to a Scriptural source for this concept (b. Bava Metzia 49a, based on Leviticus 19:36, see also Leviticus 19:11, Proverbs 12:22).
The famous teaching of “turning the other cheek”, which Brown interprets as “not seeking retaliation”, is explicitly stated in the Torah – Leviticus 19:18.
The philosophy of “loving your enemies”, is also echoed in Rabbinic literature (b. Bava Metzia 32b, based on Exodus 23:5, see also Leviticus 19:17).
Brown speaks of Jesus’ advice to perform acts of righteousness in secret as another example of Jesus’ “original” insights. Again, this is a well known Rabbinic teaching based on Scripture (b. Succah 49b, based on Micah 6:8).
The teaching “forgive others so that we may be forgiven” is also not a “Jesus original” as Brown seems to assume. The Talmud presents the same teaching (b. Rosh Hashana 17a, based on Micah 7:18).
Jesus’ warning not to store up treasures on earth is found in the Talmud as well (b. Bava Batra 11a, with various Scriptural quotations including Isaiah 3:10).
The warnings against greed and love of money are also found in the Rabbinic writings (Avot 4:21, Kohelet Raba 1), and these concepts are found in the books of Scripture especially in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (e.g. Proverbs 15:27, Ecclesiastes 2:11).
The concept of trusting on our Father’s goodness is a prevalent theme in both the Rabbinic writings and in the Jewish Scriptures (e.g. Jeremiah 17:7, Psalm 55:23).
Jesus’ teaching against being judgmental, and his encouragement for self-examination are also paralleled in the Rabbinic sources (b. Bava Kama 93a, Bava Batra 60b based on Zephaniah 2:1).