They’re arguing about whether an oven’s clean or unclean. Ceremonial cleanness kosher laws. RabbI Eliezer said it’s clean but the sages declared it unclean and this was the oven of Aknai. Why is it called the oven of Aknai? Said Rab Judah in Samuel’s name. By the way, you’re going to see a lot of that in the Talmud, one person speaking for another so that gives me authority. By the way, it’s not all bad in the sense when we pray or we ask something in Jesus’ name, that’s what we’re essentially doing is we’re asking it by his authority. That’s very mid-eastern and still very Jewish thinking. It means that they had encompassed it with arguments like a snake and proven it unclean. So they came up with all these arguments and they just bombarded with them and they proved it unclean as has been taught. On that day RabbI Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument but they did not accept them. So they’re throwing these arguments out here and RabbI Eliezer brought every imaginable argument and they didn’t listen to him so they kind of argued around him and ignored his perfectly good argument. And he said to them and this RabbI Eliezer (said) “If the halakhah (the practice) agrees with me, let the carob tree prove it, whereupon the carob tree was torn a hundred cubits from its place and others affirmed 400 cubits. Okay, big deal, the carob tree moved. He said “Look, you know if I’m correct and you guys are coming up with silly arguments you know, let the carob tree prove it. Now I’m not saying this incident happened. I’m saying I want you to see the length that these guys will go to. So what’s their response to the carob tree? No proof could be brought from a carob tree even though it supposedly supernaturally moved 400 cubits. That’s not good enough because you can’t use a carob tree. I don’t know that you couldn’t use a carob. You saw something, he asked heaven to intervene and show and something happened and they said “Well, that’s not fair; it’s a carob tree.”
So he said to them “Let’s ignore the carob tree. If the halakhah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it, where in the stream of water flowed backwards. Now I’m not saying this happened but this is such a funny story because he says “I will pass on the carob tree miraculously moving. If what I’m saying is true and I’ve given you good arguments but you’ve argued around me, let the water prove it and then the water flows backwards and what’s the response to this? No proof could be brought by a stream of water. This sounds like with Jesus doing the miracles, that doesn’t count. They replied again, they were joined again, again he urged “If halakhah agrees with me, let the walls of the school house prove it, whereupon the walls inclined to fall.
So skip the carob tree in the story miraculously moving, skip the water going backwards because it doesn’t do that, skip the walls of the schoolhouse, that’s not good enough, whereupon RabbI Joshua rebuked them saying “Look, the scholars are engaged in wholeheartedly dispute. What have you to interfere? Hence they did not fall in honor of RabbI Joshua so he intervenes and says “Look, this is like getting silly already. The scholars are engaged, why are you interfering here? Nor did they resume the upright in honor of RabbI Eliezer. They’re just totally disrespecting the guy and they were still standing thus inclined and again he said to them if the halakhah agrees with me, let’s get really big now. Let heaven prove it and a heavenly voice cried out “Why did you dispute with RabbI Eliezer, seeing that in all matters of halakhah, all matters the halakhah agrees with him? So now the voice from heaven says it.
RabbI Joshua claimed “It is not in heaven.” What did he mean by this? That the Torah would already be given at Sinai, we need to pay no attention to a heavenly voice because long since written in Torah, after the majority, one must incline oneself. So what they say is “Look, it doesn’t matter if God himself said something was different. Whatever the majority says is okay. Now they’re gonna back this up by misquoting the verse. Now you need to understand how important this is because this saying is the basis of rabbinical authority over writing scripture. It doesn’t matter what the heavens say. If the majority of the rabbis agree to it, it’s law, it’s divinely-inspired law. Do you see the problem with this? I’m laughing at what they go through to say it doesn’t matter what the truth is as long as the majority agrees. After a verse that we just read that says don’t incline to follow the majority to subvert the truth. So now they have the verse, now they have the talmud, they’ve got to go ahead and deal with this, they’re going to pervert the verse. So let’s see how they pervert the verse.
I have different translations up there. Do not pervert justice by siding with a crowd (NIV). But you don’t have to like the NIV. Do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd. Well that’s New King James. Now I included two Jewish versions just to be totally fair. Do not be a follower of the majority for evil and do not respond to a grievance by yielding to the majority to pervert the law. Now that’s the Stone edition. Another Jewish version: you must not follow the majority to do evil nor shall you respond into dispute according to the majority opinions so as to pervert justice. Let’s check out the Jerusalem Bible. Do not follow the multitude to do evil nor shall thou speak in a cause to incline after the multitude to pervert justice. Now that’s the clear meaning of the verse. They’ve just said whatever the majority says is right, whatever the majority of rabbis say is right. It is very clear in the Hebrew all these versions the final word “lehattot” (literally to turn someone or something aside means to pervert justice). All the translations understand that so you got this verse that says don’t go with the majority then you got these guys saying it doesn’t matter what even heaven says, the majority rules.