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Religious Essays

The Thirteen Principles of Moses Maimonides link to here link to tables of contents

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In the twelfth century, Moses Maimonides composed his Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith. He selected thirteen truths which he considered to be especially worth pondering. These Thirteen Principles quickly became famous, and were eventually added to the traditional liturgy.

These Thirteen Principles are not a summary of what it means to be Jewish, although they are sometimes misunderstood in that way. They do not mention Israel or God's covenant relationship with the people of Israel. They are simply truths worthy of prayerful thought.

This essay provides commentary and scriptural quotations to accompany the Thirteen Principles.

Fortuitously, because Maimonides chose to use the phrase "the Creator" (which can apply to Yeshua) rather than the name "Elohim" (which refers to God as Father) these thirteen statements are compatible with Messianic Judaism.

1. I believe, with complete faith, that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, creates and guides all creatures, and that He alone made, makes, and will make everything.

The Tenach is clear that God alone is divine and creator, and infinite in power and understanding.

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power. His understanding is infinite. -Psalm 147:5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. -Genesis 1:1

I am Adonai and there is none else. Besides me there is no god. -Isaiah 45:5

God is a guide for those who seek his ways (Second Samuel 22:25-33, Psalm 23:3).

The Tenach also teaches that God can manifest himself. The Apostolic Writings tell us that Adonai manifested himself as Yeshua not only to bring the Good News, but also when he created the world.

All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. -John 1:3

[Yeshua] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him were all things created, in the heavens and on the earth: things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. -Colossians 1:15-17

2. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, is unique, and there is no uniqueness like His in any way, and that He alone is our God, "Who was, Who is, and Who always will be".

No one and nothing else is like God.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me -Isaiah 46:9

Adonai is the one "who was, who is, and who will be" whether manifest as the Father (Revelation 4:8) or the Son (Revelation 1:8).

God cannot even be compared to anything (Isaiah 40:18, 25-26).

That God us unique and unchanging does not mean he always physically looks the same. God appeared in different forms to Avraham at Mamre (Genesis 18:1-2, 18:27-32, and 19:1) and Joshua near Yericho (Joshua 5:13-15).

Manifest as Yeshua, Adonai acts in unison, Son with the Father. They were not different in nature or behavior.

His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his nature, and upholding all things by the word of his power... -Hebrews 1:3

Yeshua therefore answered them, "Most assuredly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. -John 5:19

Thus Yeshua's followers can proclaim the Shema with all Jews:

Hear, O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is one. -Deuteronomy 6:4

3. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, is not physical and is not affected by physical phenomena, and that there is no comparison whatsoever to Him.

God is ultimately holy, which means he is distinct and set apart from all things.

One called to another, and said, "Holy, holy, holy, is Adonai Tz'vaot! The whole earth is full of his glory!" -Isaiah 6:3

God is spirit (John 4:24). His real nature is spirit, not physical, even if he does at times take on a physical form or visible appearance (Deuteronomy 4:15).

4. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, is the very first and the very last. God is a living, eternal, true King.

Adonai calls himself the first and the last (Isaiah 41:4) and the eternal king (Jeremiah 10:10). Yeshua, as whom Adonai created the world, also calls himself the first and last (Revelation 1:8).

God is called "the foremost" even in Torah:

There is none like God, Jeshurun, riding in the heavens for your help;
in his majesty in the skies, the abode of God the foremost. -Deuteronomy 33:25-26

Yeshua alone is "begotten" not created (John 1:14-18). Yeshua, and God's plans for him, existed before the world was created (Ephesians 1:4).

5. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name—to Him alone is it proper to pray and it is not proper to pray to any other.

God does not share his honor with another (Isaiah 42:8). We should only worship God (Deuteronomy 6:13, Matthew 4:10) and address our prayers to God as Father (Matthew 6:9-13).

Yeshua, being God manifest, allowed his disciples to worship him (Matthew 14:33, 28:9). He was also worshipped by angels (Hebrews 1:6) and all of heaven (Revelation 5:12-14). Since Yeshua always acted in the Father's name (John 10:25) we can ask things in his name (John 14:13) and call out to him in prayer (Acts 7:59,60).

Moreover, a person who does not honor Yeshua as much as the Father is not properly honoring the Father:

...that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. -John 5:23

6. I believe with complete faith that all the words of the prophets are true.

All scripture is true in the Hebraic sense of truth and reliability: it accurately describes the human condition and how to live. It does not always try to be "Hellenistic Truth" with chronological events and logical precision.

For example, after Yeshua was killed his followers (all Jewish at that time) made no effort to condense the four accounts of his life into one historical, chronological, Hellenistic book. Instead we have four very Jewish gospels, each written to emphasize different aspects of of an individual's relationship to community and God, perhaps none of them telling their events in chronological order.

As Hebraic truth, scripture is still inspired, infallible, authoritative, and complete—as much today as when it was written (Second Timothy 3:16).

7. I believe with complete faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was true, and that he was the father of the prophets—both those who preceded him and those who followed him.

The Torah is true and foundational to later revelation. All later prophecy, both in the Tenach and in the writing of the apostles, builds off the Torah and fulfills it by adding details and clarity.

This does not mean that Torah contains all of divine truth or revelation. For example, Jeremiah prophesied that Adonai would one day make a new covenant based on the forgiveness of iniquity and sin that would enable the Jewish people to observe Torah faithfully.

Behold, the days come, says Adonai, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them, says Adonai. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Adonai: I will put my teaching in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people; and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, "Know Adonai," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says Adonai; for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin will I remember no more. -Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34)

Yeshua agreed that he came to give Torah its full meaning.

"Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most assuredly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished." -Yeshua in Matthew 5:17-18

Note that this statement of faith does not preclude a Messiah that adds to Torah. In fact, both Nahmanides and Gersonides believed that the Messiah would have more knowledge of God than Moshe.

8. I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him.

This statement claims that the teaching is inspired and accurate, and was taught by Moshe, not necessarily that the text Moshe wrote in Deuteronomy 31:9 was identical to the current Masoretic one.

In fact, Moshe's text must have been different because of how Torah ends. Rabbinic tradition debates whether the last eight or twelve verses were written by Yehoshua.

It is also true that no two ancient copies of text agree completely where they overlap; there are minor disagreements in spelling and word choice. All these discrepancies are very minor and do not effect the meaning of the scripture's teaching. They may explain why the thirteenth century scholar Menahem ben Solomon ha-Meiri wrote about the "Masoretic works" instead of a singular "Masoretic text."

Some scholars believe the text Moshe wrote in Deuteronomy 31:9 was only the book of Deuteronomy, not the entire Torah. If this is true the eighth statement still stands with its use of the word "Torah" as "teaching" rather than "Pentateuch".

9. I believe with complete faith that this Torah will not be exchanged nor will there be another Torah from the Creator, Blessed is His Name.

We have discussed how the Torah is eternal and all subsequent teachings of God build on it.

Scripture respects Torah from beginning to end. At the end of the book of Revelation we read about what God's people will look like in the World to Come. A metaphor is used comparing these people to a city. In ancient times a city's gates represented its beauty and its walls represented its strength. God says his people's beauty will come from the context of Torah and ancient Israel, and their strength will come from the teaching of the Apostles.

...I will show you the wife, the Lamb's bride. He carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God... having a great and high wall and having twelve gates... and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel... the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. -from Revelation 21:9-14

Yeshua's new covenant only makes sense and honors God in the context of Torah. This does not mean the new covenant is an appendix to the Mosaic covenant: if it were, then the decision reached by the apostles in Acts 15 would have been that all of Yeshua's followers must observe Torah.

10. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, knows all the deeds of human beings and their thoughts, as it is said, "He fashions their hearts all together, He comprehends all their deeds" (Psalm 33:15).

Adonai looks from heaven.
He sees all the sons of men.
From the place of his habitation he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
He who fashions their hearts all together,
He comprehends all of their deeds.
-Psalm 33:13-15

Consider, you senseless among the people,
You fools, when will you be wise?
He who implanted the ear, won't he hear?
He who formed the eye, won't he see?
He who disciplines the nations, won't he punish?
He who teaches man knows.
Adonai knows the thoughts of man...
-Psalm 94:8-11

11. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, rewards with good those who observe His commandments, and punishes those who violate his commandments.

God is good to those devoted to him (Psalm 84:12(11)) but allows evil in the world (Isaiah 45:5-7).

When Yeshua returns people's hearts will be judged (Psalm 62:13(12), Romans 2:6-8, Hebrews 4:12-13) with eternal consequences (Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29) by Adonai examining their deeds (Jeremiah 17:10). Satan will be neutralized (Revelation 20:10), nations will also be judged by their deeds (Matthew 25:31-46), and God alone will reign (Jeremiah 25:26-27) from Zion (Micah 4:7).

Those who accept Yeshua can experience judgment, mercy, and new life now, before that Day of Judgment (John 5:24).

12. I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come.

Having begun redemption with a covenant (Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34)) allowing individuals to be re-created to be without iniquity (Ezekiel 18:31-32) and indwelled by God's spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27), Yeshua will return to do universal re-creation (Isaiah 65:11-17).

Yeshua's second coming will not happen until after certain events (Romans 11:15,25-26), yet we should still live expectantly as if he might return at any moment (Matthew 24:42-44).

Although we lack iniquity temptations still assail us (James 4:7, Second Timothy 2:22) and when careless we can sin (Ephesians 4:22-24). The process of removing improper habits and perspectives is ongoing (Romans 12:2, First Peter 1:14-16).

13. I believe with complete faith that there will be a resuscitation of the dead whenever the wish emanates from the Creator, Blessed is His Name and exalted is His mention, forever and for all eternity.

Yeshua will return, and the righteous dead will rise (First Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Judgment will happen after a second resurrection (Revelation 20). The timing is up to God as Father (Matthew 24:36).

When the congregation P'nei Adonai was active it used this commentary on the Thirteen Principles as a congregational statement of faith. This served three purposes: to provide part of the curriculum for the congregational membership class, to help protect the congregation from visitors who sought to draw it away from its established identity, and to inform other charitable organizations about whether the congregation could easily cooperate on projects with a theological component.

The congregation also added a two extra principles about how the messiah's followers are filled with God's Spirit and participate in the establishment of God's Kingdom:

14. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, cleanses the followers of Messiah Yeshua from iniquity and fills them with the Spirit of God.

People are born with iniquity (Psalm 51:7(5)) that separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) until we enter Yeshua's new covenant in which iniquity is forgiven (Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34)).

The price of iniquity is death (Genesis 3:22-23) and to forgive iniquity there must be a death (Leviticus 17:11). The messiah, who lacked iniquity (Romans 5:18-19) suffered an undeserved death to pay for our iniquity (Isaiah 53:5-6), allowing us to be redeemed before we die (Isaiah 62:12).

The messiah came to immerse people in God's Spirit (Matthew 12:29), a task in which followers of Yeshua now help (Matthew 28:19).

Being "filled" with God's Spirit in an unprecedented way (John 7:39, 20:22) happens only to the messiah's followers who have repented in identification with him (Acts 2:38), to help them share the good news (Acts 1:8) when obedient (Acts 5:32).

15. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, calls the followers of Messiah Yeshua, in unity, to further establish the Kingdom of God.

As individuals, as communities, and as a global entity we are called to demonstrate to earth and heaven that God's ways are best even in a broken world (Ephesians 3:10, First Corinthians 4:9).

God created Israel to be especially owned and ruled by him (Isaiah 43:15). Israel once had the mission of being a light to the other nations (Isaiah 42:6-7) but because of its iniquity God decided to do this mission for her (Isaiah 40:2, 59:15-16) through Yeshua's followers (Revelation 21:24).

Followers of Yeshua are given new identity does not actually remove ethnic and gender distinctions but should override ethnic and gender divisions (Isaiah 55:4-5, Galatians 3:26-29). We should have unity (John 17:11,22).

We are "in Yeshua" in identity (Second Corinthians 5:17), unity (Romans 12:5), and security in death (First Thessalonians 4:16).

From us God desires devotion (Deuteronomy 6:5), humility (Isaiah 57:15), holiness (Deuteronomy 30:11-14), and fellowship (Psalm 42:2, First John 1:3-7). We should be merciful and just to people (Micah 6:8) and with forgiveness love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18).

The Tenach also teaches that God has created an evil adversary, Satan (Ezekiel 28:11-17). God sometimes allows Satan to do evil (Job 1:6-12, Zechariah 3:1-2) but Satan cannot threaten God's eternal plans (Psalm 103:19). Satan is bound (Matthew 12:29) but evil forces may trouble God's plans (Daniel 10:13).