Halacha is a Hebrew word meaning walking, or to walk, (The Jewish religion and specifically Jesus’ reinterpretation of it, being known as ‘The Way’) and symbolically it means how we are to live our lives. In practice, it means interpretation of the laws of Torah.

Traditionally, the Sanhedrin determined halacha, and modern Orthodox Judaism has its equivalent authorities.

Jesus said, “They sit in Moses’ seat… Do as they say, not as they do.”

Did Jesus mean that His followers should adhere to Orthodox Judaism, or did the Sanhedrin’s role end with the destruction of the Temple and the Dispersion?

Later, Jesus said to Peter, “I give you the keys to the kingdom… Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Did Jesus mean that authority to determine halacha was given to Peter and his successors alone, or to the elders of the community, or to individual believers?

There is some evidence that Peter, James and John, acting as the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, were a rival Sanhedrin, with James appointed as High Priest or Head of the Council.

Every group and denomination throughout Christianity and Messianic Judaism has a different take on this issue. There is even a modern Orthodox Messianic Sanhedrin in Israel which calls itself the Jerusalem Council!

How are we to determine who is right?

Who has legitimate authority?

In fact, there is another – perhaps more controversial but ultimately most Biblically consistent – interpretation: that when Jesus said “Do as they say”, the ‘they’ that Jesus was referring to was in fact the laws of Moses, the Torah itself, not the ‘they’ in the first and final clause which both refer to the Pharisees.

See also: Soul Liberty in our Celtic section, and the Distinctives page in our About section.

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