The Law of Witnesses-Key to Civil & Religious Justice:
A Lesson From MattithYahu 18.15-17
Who is the only One who could have preceded the Creation and ordained Justice? Is it not the Creator Yahueh, Whose awesome Name in its earliest known form is %* (IA) Yah or &%* (IAU) Yahu and in its latter form is %&%* (IAUE) Yahueh: “Self-Existent, Almighty, Creator/Father.” Let any who would repugn His Name realize the fulness of It, and the utter majesty and power with which they would contend, a Name for which all the English tongue can offer is but poor substitutes, e.g. “eternal,” “god,” “lord.” Yes, as Eden shows, naming is an act of dominion. So, it is not given that the creature name his Creator. Rather, he is to reverence his Creator’s revealed and unique Name. And so, as the Creator has proscribed the use of any other, only that Name Yahueh, is used here. Likewise for His Anointed One, &%* Yahushua.
Also, Truth-seeking is by certain laws/lights, e.g.:
• the Apostles, et al., must agree with the Prophets
• one verse cannot overturn a general teaching
• discernment hinges often on context
• Scriptures must be studied, not merely read
• Truth-seeking requires a humbled spirit
So, by such lights, and a humbled spirit, let us study Yahushua’s words in MAT. 18.15-17. Few realize it, but here is the civilized process for administering justice. The Messiah’s words in this passage are an exciting and rewarding study, one that will reveal the very heart of Scriptural and American Justice and Liberty.
“if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault atween you and him alone ... But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established. And if he neglect to hear them, tell it to the assembly: but if he neglect to hear the assembly, let him be to you as an heathen man and a publican.”
Is “tell it to the assembly” to be taken narrowly, i.e. a few merely tell the assembly one is sinning, and that’s that. He is then a ‘heathen;’ with no formal enquiry or hearing; no opportunity to rebut the charges. Even pagan Rome had a better sense of Justice!
“It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.” ( ACT. 25.16).
Yes, the injustice inherent in mere ‘telling’ should be obvious to one and all. Such a narrow view of MAT. 18.17 violates a key law of Truth-seeking, i.e. “context,” for It ignores both the Messiah’s preceding and succeeding words: “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established ... but if he neglect to hear the assembly.”
The Law of Witnesses (Deu. 19.15-21)
That the Teacher is speaking here of a formal hearing by the assembly is simply undeniable. As the Bible Knowledge Commentary and others, attest:
“... This was in keeping with Old Testament precedents, as in Deuteronomy 19.15. ... the matter should be brought before the [assembly] ... This corporate action was entrusted to the entire apostolic group.”
So, by referring to The Law of Witnesses (DEU. 19.15-21), is not the Messiah ratifying how Justice is to be dispensed in the assembly? Let us study His words in context, that Truth and Justice-Yah’s ways, not the tongues of gossips-may prevail among men of Faith. Let’s see the “big picture.” For the failure to do so is often at the heart of confusion and false doctrine. Yes, context. In MAT. 18, “Just who is speaking with whom, on what topic, and in what frame of reference?”
From v. 1, the speaker is Yahushua; speaking with his Apostles (deputies) re the Kingdom of Heaven and the nature and dispensation of Justice there. By His reference to the Law of Witnesses, He addresses what we today call “trial” and “cross-examination”:
“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, ... at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong: then both the men, atween whom the controversy is, shall stand afore Yahueh, afore the priests and judges which shall be in those days: And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, lo, if the witness be a false witness, and has testified falsely against his brother; Then shall you do to him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shall you put the evil away from among you”. DEU. 19.15-21.
“To the law and the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” ISA. 8.20
Even as Yahushua himself taught in MAT. 5.17:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil”.
Yes, the context in which Messiah speaks in MAT. 18 is the Kingdom of Heaven and the Law of Witnesses. Here is the key; to the true nature of government, Justice and Liberty among His disciples: “innocent until proven guilty”. By MAT. 18.17 we know each man’s Creator-given Rights include a prompt trial afore his peers; to be informed of the charges against him; to confront his accusers; to call witnesses of his own; and to have aid of counsel.
The Book of Susanna beautifully makes this point. It is among the Ibru Apocrypha (writings on hidden or secret things by authors at times unknown). The Apocrypha were in the Scriptures used by Yahushua and His Apostles; were in the original 1611 KJV until vainly removed by ‘puritans.’ In ‘Susanna,’ the fair heroine is accosted by lewd elders who confess their lust for her; insisting she give herself to them or “If you will not, we will bear witness against you”. Susanna trusts Yah and stays chaste, and the elders ‘tell the assembly’ their lie. The assembly judges her without examining her accusers and ignoring her plea of innocence. In fact, they are about to kill her when Daniyl upholds the Law of Witnesses. The people repent of their shameless democracy and hastily return to the assembly hall to properly hear the matter. There, by ‘diligent inquisition’ per the Word of Yahueh, Daniyl exposes the lewd elders, and the assembly rightly renders to them what they would wrongly have wreaked on the faithful Susanna.
‘AlleluYah! It is also by the Law of Witnesses we Americans charge our government to respect and protect our Yah-given Rights. Note Article VI of our Bill of Rights:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, ... and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence”.
So, by the larger context of MAT. 18.17, i.e. the Law of Witnesses, the doctrine of merely ‘telling’ the assembly is shown false. Truly, denial of Due Process, is both un-Scriptural and un-American.
THE MOSHEIC DISPENSATION
Of course, Justice long precedes America; it precedes the Greek and Roman empires, for Justice is of Yahu And, so, we have come to the biggest picture of all! The very reason the Sovereign of the Universe revealed His Name to those He made in His own image. Yes, this is much bigger than many realize!
Think, as His nature and power are made clear by His Name, is not also the perfection of His Justice clear by His Covenant purpose, to raise up sons in His own image, sons who will learn and do His ways, Righteousness and Justice, that all might praise Him and enjoy His Liberty and Peace? As it is written of such a son, even of the faithful Abraham:
“I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of [Yahueh] by doing righteousness and justice, so that [Yahueh] may bring to Abraham what He has promised him”. rsv
Here is revealed the basis of Yah-ordained Justice. As there is but one head of all Creation, so has the Creator ordained but one head of the household, the man/father, to govern and educate by His Maker’s Word, and the woman shall be the man’s helpmate, and one with him, even as he is one with Yahueh. Yes, a house divided cannot stand (MAT. 12.25; MAR. 3.25; LUK. 11.17). But how, exactly is this governing and educating in unity to be done beyond the individual family or house? Who is responsible for doing what and when, and how is there to be unity, among the clans, tribes and nations, even the assemblies?
The Council of Elders (Mosheic)
Government and education are Yah-ordained to the Patriarchs of each family, clan, tribe and nation, to rule by His Word. The Assembly of Israyl is clearly composed of obedient, self-governing sons of Yahu. This Yah-ordained Patriarchal system is prescribed in the Book of the Covenant, aka Deuteronomy.
“Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. ... So I took the heads [patriarchs] of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, ... And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes atween your brethren, and judge righteously atween every man [Ibru ‘ish’: or husband Strong’s 376] and his brother, and the stranger that is with him”. 1.15,16.
“You shall appoint judges, and officers in all your towns which Yahueh your Sovereign gives you according to the tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.”. 16.18.
And how are these Patriarchal judges to proceed?
“You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality; and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land which Yahueh your Sovereign gives you.” 16.19,20
“Then shall you enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, lo, if it be truth, and the thing certain” 13.14.
“And it be told you, and you have heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, lo, it be true, and the thing certain” 17.4.
So, the Patriarchal judges are to ‘enquire diligently,’ and not to judge on mere claims, but only on certainty of facts and truth. Thus, the Patriarchs are to prove the accusers, accused, and each accusation. Even the Apostle rightly enjoined “prove all things” (1 THE. 5.21) This is the key to Yah-ordained Justice, Liberty and government, and their proper administration by assemblies of men, civil or religious.
THE MESSIANIC DISPENSATION
Did Yahushua “do away” with Justice in MAT. 18, or elsewhere for that matter? Heaven forbid! He upheld it! Could He have done elsewise, being the exact expression of his Father’s substance? HEB. 1.3. Look carefully at MAT. 18.16: “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established”. This kjv translation is misleading at best, for ‘word’ here is the Greek ‘rhema’. Yes, ‘rhema’ can generally mean ‘word’, but Yahushua is being most careful and precise, given the gravity of the matter at hand. So we need to hear Him with equal care and precision.
The 1982 Zondervan Lexicon, page 563, gives the precise meaning of ‘rhema’ in our verse: “A matter of dispute, case at law: Mt. xviii.16; 2Cor. xiii.1 ... Deu xix.15)”. Lo! Yahushua did not refer to just any claim, but to a formal charge, hence a formal hearing-with Justice administered by a Council of Elders. Yes, Yahushua told the Apostles to hear a “case at law”. He was a rabbi and reminded His disciples of their role as Elders, as Judges per the way of Yahueh. So, we see again, in context, his cite of DEU. 19.15-21, and to Yah-ordained self-government and Elder-Patriarch dispensed Justice. So too, we see how simply reading an English text, as with merely “tell” the assembly, seriously distorts the true message.
The Council of Elders (Messianic)
So, in this “big picture” of MAT. 18.17, we see clearly the Messiah’s cite of DEU.19.15-21 does refer to the whole assembly, but in the context of a formal hearing there by the Patriarchs as Judges. He speaks of this to His Apostles, of their prime duty to judge disputes afore Yahueh and the assembly. E. W. Bullinger notes this in The Companion Bible margin at this verse, for the true meaning of assembly:
”In this case the synagogue, or local courts, ...”
Yes, assembly (synagogue) can mean all the brethren. Yet, also, it means the “place of assembly for purposes of deliberation” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, et al.); where the Elders or Patriarchs are to hear “cases at law.” Indeed, Mosheic Synagogues definitely existed in the Babylonian exile (6th cent. bce) and can be traced much earlier (16th cent. bce). This long predates the Greek and Roman empires (4th & 1st cent. bce) which are wrongly held as the cradles of Justice. As to what were probably the first structures dedicated to Justice, some history of such is seen on p600 of Zondervan’s 1982 Lexicon:
“Synagogues seem to date their origin from the time of the Babylonian exile. In the time of [Yahushua] and the Apostles every town, not only in Palestine but also among the Gentiles if it contained a considerable number of [Israyli] inhabitants, had at least one synagogue, the larger towns several or even many. That the [Israyli] held trials and even inflicted punishments in them, is evident from such pass. as Mt. x.17; xxiii.34; Mk. xiii.9; Lk. xii.11; xxi.12; Acts ix.2; xxii.19; xxvi.11"
So, ‘a case at law’ is to be taken to, and heard by, the Elders-Judges afore the assembly. For Messianic synagogues function as Mosheic ones. Shaul affirms this in 1COR. 5.12-6.6., The failure to judge each other is what Shaul rebukes the Corinthians for. How unjust for sons of the Judge of the Universe to refuse to judge their own disputes and turn, instead, to the civil courts. Truly, can a Council, whose duty it is to do justice, refuse to judge! Brothers, awaken!! Shaul teaches as the Prophets and Anointed. We are to judge those within the Assembly, and it is sinful if we fail to do so. Sinful? Sinful! Or do you not grasp the big picture and gravity of the Commandment?
“You shall not take [up] the name of Yahueh your Father in vain ...” DEU. 5.11
Can any candid mind possibly find it not sinful for one to vigorously proclaim the Word of Justice, yet refuse to obey its Author’s command to do Justice. Or do we ignore also the Apostles who said: be “doers of the law” ROM. 2.13; JAM. 1.22-25. As Wycliffe comments on the passage in Romans: “what counts is performance, ... the doer of the law will be justified;”
Yes, as it was with Israyl of old, so it is to be among the lost sheep of Israyl to whom Yahushua, was sent, also those “grafted in” as full brethren within the Apostolic synagogues (assemblies). Indeed, as Bullinger and others note, both the Messianic faithful and buildings, especially under Yahushua’s Apostles, were Israyli. The buildings were generally built so the brethren sat facing Yahushalom. But for a fuller understanding of the Apostolic/Messianic synagogue, see The Library of Universal Knowledge, which shows in Volume XIV, page 145:
“Erected out of the common funds or free gifts of the community, it had also to be supported by taxes and donations. All profane doings were strictly prohibited in it. No eating, drinking, reckoning, and the like, were allowed; and even as to dress and other things of general decorum, the reverence due to the place was enforced as rigidly as possible. It represented in miniature the form of the temple, itself an enlarged type of the tabernacle. At the extreme eastern end was the Aron hakkodesh, the [dedicated] ark, containing several copies of the Pentateuch, from which the periodical readings were chanted. In front of this was the stand of the public reader of the prayers, not far from which was suspended the everlasting lamp (ner tamid). On a raised platform in the middle of the synagogue, was the place of the reader or preacher. The women sat separated from the men by a low partition five or six ft. high. The affairs of the synagogue were administered by a board of “ancients” or “elders”, at whose head stood a chief or principal (Rosh hakkeneseth--archisynagogos). This college managed the inner affairs of the synagogue, and had even the power of excommunication. The officiating minister, whose office it was to recite the prayers aloud, was called sheliach tzibbur--messenger of the community (angelos ecclesias, Rev.). His qualifications were, among others, to be active, to be father of a family, not to be rich or engaged in business, to possess a good voice, to be apt to teach, etc ... On the connection between the [Rabbinical] synagogue and the [Messianic] ... it is obvious to the most superficial observation that the principal practices of the latter belong, with certain modifications, to the former”.
So, the Apostolic synagogue is very Israyli. The main difference with the Rabbinical synagogue, of course, being Yahushua’s Anointing. But above doubt a core duty of both beth-hak-kenes-eth and ekklesia is judging. As The Library of Universal Knowledge also duly notes in Volume XIII, on page 109:
“The limits of [Assembly] jurisdiction are not known with certainty; but there is no doubt that the supreme decision over life and death, the ordeal of the suspected wife, and the like criminal matters, were exclusively in its hands. Besides this, however, the regulations of the [appointed] times and seasons, and many matters connected with the cultis in general ... were vested in it”. (emphases mine).
Yes, both in structure and administration, the Apostolic/Messianic synagogue is very Israyli-unlike the Greco-Roman “churches” or other assemblies claiming “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” but who, in practice, heed Greco-Roman orthodoxy. This difference is truly glaring in matters of Justice. It shows how deeply into many assemblies reach the tentacles of apostacy, false doctrine/religion/tradition, and humanism (which denies moral absolutes)- assemblies where Justice has been fully abandoned, ceded to secular judges, leaving those who would be faithful lost in a mass of effeminate imitations of the Anointing, of the Apostolic/Messianic body. So it should be no surprise these pretenders haven’t a clue to the real message of MAT. 18.17, i.e. a Council of competent Elders or Patriarchs are to adjudicate all charges of persistent or serious wrongdoing.
Now, it should be clear the blessings promised Abraham’s seed will not be restored to this land till these pretenders are replaced by men who: know and do their duty as sons of Yahu; don’t take the first excuse to dodge their duty, or cede it to women, the unlearned, or secular government; hearing of sin in the body, will not fail to do justice. ‘AlleluYah!
So, we have seen there is more to MAT. 18.17 than the simple English “tell” the assembly? Think of the commands for Judges to “diligently enquire” and “search”. Is it not unjust for an assembly to judge a member without proving him or his accusers? If one can’t see how mere ‘telling’ opens the door to evil, one truly has eyes that see not. What an invitation to malicious gossip this is or would be. If merely telling the Assembly is meant, then we must exalt, not impugn, gossips, talebearers, and conspirators.
The Council of Elders (Messianic) is as the Council of Elders (Mosheic)--all learned Patriarchs, mature in person and spirit. Yes, Scripture excludes women or immature/unlearned males from being Elders. On the one hand, matriarchy is paganism. The word means motherly rule, a condition typical of primitive pagans, from the absence or rejection of Yahueh and, according to some authorities, the practice of promiscuous sex to the point where one’s sire is unknown. On the other hand, re unlearned or immature males, did not the Apostle write: “Not a novice” 1 TIM. 3.6. The Library of Universal Know-ledge, vol. XIII, page 109, affirms this:
“Its members belonged to the different classes of society: there were priests (archiereis); elders, that is, heads of families, MEN of age and experience (presbyteroi [cf. Z-Lex. 1982 p535 presbyteros); scribes, or doctors of the law (grammateis); and others, exalted by eminent learning”.
So, taken in the judicial context of MAT. 18.17, “assembly” refers to all the brethren, overseen by a Pastor and Council of Elders, all proven, learned men, apt to teach. This is well attested in 1TIM. 3.2-13, and by Bullinger in The Companion Bible appendix 189:
“Elders” is frequently met with in the OT as indicating an official position, e.g. elders of the tribes, elders of the cities, elders of Midian, &c. In the Gospels and Acts this generally refers to the Sanhedrin. The name seems to have been taken over by the [Messianic assembly] to describe the members of the Council at [Yahushalom] other than the Apostles (Acts 11.30; 15.2-23), and then similar officers were appointed in local [synagogues] (Acts 14.23; 20.17; Tit. 1.5). That these were identical with the “overseer” of Acts 20.28 (Gr. Episkopoi, rendered “bishop” in Phil. 1.1; 1Tim. 3.2; Tit. 1.7; 1[Kep.] 2.25) is clear from comparison with Acts 20.17; 1Tim. 5.17; Tit. 1.5,7; 1 Pet. 5.1,2 (see notes). There were thus “business” elders and “preaching” elders. Peter [Kephas] and John [Yahukhanan] both call themselves elders” (1Pet. 5.1; 2 Jhn. 1; 3 Jhn 1).
Yes, Apostolic synagogues are to be overseen by Pastors with Councils of Elders, all learned Patriarchs who hear disputes, not merely issue judgments based on the tale of a few accusers. They are to “enquire diligently”, cross-examine witnesses, and then and only then promptly do justice if a thing be “true,” “certain.“ This is the meaning in “if he neglect to hear the assembly’? The accused is not absent from, or denied, a hearing, but after he and his whole matter are heard, he refuses to heed the Council.
Lest we not heed, then, let us have Pastors with Councils of Elders to “enquire diligently” that we come to and be “certain” of the “Truth,” faithing as Abraham, Danyil and the Apostles. Truly, by this may we come to a fuller grasp and expression of our Covenantal duty to do Justice and Righteousness, even putting away from among us the wicked person.
Yet some who oppose the Patriarchy would point to GAL. 3.28: “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in The Anointed Yahushua.” Now consider this carefully, recalling the Laws of Scripture Study- specially the one of context. Again the Bible Knowledge Commentary clarifies:
“While affirming the coequality of man and woman in [the Anointed One], [Sh]aul did nonetheless make it clear that there is headship of the man over the woman (cf. 1 Cor. 11.3) and that there are distinctions in the area of spiritual service (cf. 1 Tim. 2.12).”
So, while equal in the Promise, even Yahushua, men and women still have their distinct, Creator-ordained roles and will be judged on how faithfully they conduct themselves in those respective roles.
Now, some who hold to the false doctrine of merely ‘tell’ the assembly do so out of fear. Fear of the power in a proper Council of Elders. This is both appreciable and sad. Appreciable, as we all are to fear Yahueh and the consequences of our own iniquity. But sad, in that it expresses distrust and rejection of His ways, which are Righteousness and Justice.
Others fear their Yah-ordained duties, fear being men in the full sense of the word, a male who is mature in person and spirit, in the fullness of the Anointed One, our King and Teacher. Yet others fear losing control or influence within an assembly. These might consider . “Brothers, do not become childish in thought; on the contrary, be child-like concerning wickedness, but in thought be manly.” (1CO. 14.20) and “Except Yahueh build the house, they labor in vain that build it:” (PSA. 127.1).
So, brethren, let not fear nor ambition govern us, but love of Yahueh. Let us heed and trust Him and His Son. Let us do Justice and Righteousness. And if we lack knowledge, let us heed the Prophets & Apostles:
“Hear, O Israyl: Yahueh is our Father, Yahueh alone: And you shall love Yahueh your Father with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets atween your eyes.” DEU. 6.4-9.
“Study to show yourself approved unto Yahueh, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (1 TIM. 2.15) and “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Yahueh our Savior and Yahushua the Anointed One.” (2 PET 3.18).
Yet some might say: “The Teacher said: ‘Judge not’”!. Whoa! Again translation fails us. For, as shown by Zondervan’s 1982 lexicon, p361, ‘judge’ in MAT. 7.1 does not convey the true sense of the Greek ‘krino’ which, there, means to judge or find fault unfairly. This is in sharp contrast to the sense of ‘krino’ as used by Shaul in 1 Co.5.12, meaning ‘to render disciplinary judgment or censure as the facts require.’
“For what have I to do to judge them also that are outside? do not you judge them that are within? But them that are outside Yahueh judges. So put away from among your-selves the wicked person.” 1 COR 5.12
So, we are to judge those within the body “as the facts require” but not those outside. That is up to Yahueh. We are to judge our own, even to ‘putting away’ the wicked. Of course, if one thinks about this in the context in which Messiah opened MAT. 18, i.e. the kingdom of Yahueh, it makes perfect sense and we see the Messiah and Apostle agree. ‘AlleluYah! Let us be men. Let us do Justice.
In and for His great Love and Name,
p Morningstar Witness
1102 S. Turner Rd.
DeWitt, Michigan 48820-8116
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