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    FAQ 370
    Was Paul a Tallit-Maker?

    Q. I have a question about tallits and tzitzits. You write that the tallit was not worn at the time of Yahushua, but I read long ago that the "hem" of His garment (see Greek) was a tassel, in Hebrew of course the tzitzit. This could only be attached to a tallit (as in the articles of the Levite priest). The woman who sought healing knew the Holiness of His garment; that He was more than a rabbi. He was a Priest (not yet revealed). He felt the Spirit move to heal her, and so, she received through the touching of His tallit. Adding to this I quote a well known fact: "The Hebrew kanaf is also found in Malachi 4:2 "...with healing in his kanaf (wings)..." Wings refer to the tallit; they are not actual "wings." See also Zechariah 8:23. Wings are the corners of a tallit. Also, Paul was a tallit-maker, incorrectly written in English as tent-maker. A tallit weaver was a most usable occupation and held in high regard. It is still so today because most people purchase nothing more than "tourist tallits." I found a brief explanation at this link: (I do not know the person who wrote it; it is only information for study) (DJ, Australia, 1 January 2015)

    A. These are interesting and important questions which we discussed in this ministry back in 2008 but as this information is now out of date I felt it appropriate to give you a fuller answer. So if I may, I will treat your points in reverse order so as to tackle the most up-to-date information last.

    First of, you may be correct in pointing out that Paul (Sha'ul) was not a tent-maker, but neither was he a tallit (prayer shawl)-maker - as far as I am aware, the RSTNE (Restoration Scriptures True Name Edition) is the only Bible version that makes this claim. In my view, Koniuchowsky takes great liberties in his translation and tends to favour the sensational or new over the plain sense. His canonisation of the Book of Mormon along with other dubious texts is to my mind evidence that his exegetical methods are unsound, not to mention his discernment. By his own admission (p.xii, Updated Second Edition) he has "an underlying agenda" and tends to use obscure renditions to support his own heavily biased doctrinal presuppositions. As a matter of interest, Koniouchowsky also claims that the blood-dipped robe worn by Messiah on His return was also a tallit (see The Blood-Dipped Robe: It Isn't a Jewish Tallit).

    All the scholars that I know either follow the Greek texts and call Paul either a "tent-maker" or a "leather-worker" [1], or the Aramaic where he is called a "saddle-maker". The older Aramaic Peshitta [2] clearly says that Paul and Aquila were "fellow craftsmen" and that they were "saddle makers" (Ac.18:2-3, HRV) - "for by their trade they were saddle-makers" (AENT). It is evident how the Greek translator(s) became confused since both trades involved the use of leather, whereas obviously tallit (even had they existed at that time) clearly do not. It takes some linguistic gymnastics to arrive at a tallit when the p'shat or plain sense in both Greek and Aramaic is that Paul's trade was in leather so the choice boils down to either tent- or saddle-making.

    The second question you raise concerns tzitzit (tassels) which, as you correctly point out, were in use in Yah'shua's (Jesus') day. However it does not logically follow that they had to be attached to a tallit or ritualistic prayer-shawl even though they were clearly attached to something. We know now that anciently in Israel tzitzit weren't even attached to an item of clothing that covered the shoulders but to a four cornered loin cloth attached to the waiste as shown in the illustration below:

    As you can see, not only didn't the ancient tzitzit (tassels) remotely resemble modern Jewish white varieties with their elaborate knots [3], the knowledge of which they falsely claim was passed down to the rabbis from the mythical 'oral law' and is only therefore available from them on the basis of their equally falsely claimed authority, but neither did the ancient garments to which the tzitzit were attached have any resemblance to modern Jewish tallit either.

    It is therefore my contention, supported by historians like Michael Marlowe and various Jewish writers themselves, that tallit did not exist during the time of the B'rit Chadashah (New Testament) writings (1st century AD) but evolved much later (3rd to 4th centuries AD). Trying to 'read' into Scripture associations with the much later tallit is an exercise, therefore, of pure fantasy and wishful thinking, however sophisticated and 'Hebraic' the claimed midrash's may be. Rather, the tzitzit (tassels) were, until the Jews later created these ritual garments, regular mantles, blankets or simply loin clothes that served no ritualistic purpose in and of themselves. This is confirmed by the Judaism's own esteemed scholars in, for example, the Encyclopedia Judaica [5]:

      "TALLIT (Heb. TyZt, pl. tallitot; Yid. tales, pl. talesim), prayer shawl. Originally the word meant "gown" or "cloak." This was a rectangular mantle that looked like a blanket and was worn by men in ancient times. At the four corners of the tallit tassels were attached in fulfillment of the biblical commandment of zizit (Num.15:3841). The tallit was usually made either of wool or of linen (Men. 39b) and probably resembled the abbayah ("blanket") still worn by Bedouin for protection against the weather. The tallit made of finer quality was similar to the Roman pallium and was worn mostly by the wealthy and by distinguished rabbis and scholars (BB 98a). The length of the mantle was to be a handbreadth shorter than that of the garment under it (BB 57b). After the exile of the Jews from Erez Israel and their dispersion, they came to adopt the fashions of their gentile neighbors more readily. The tallit was discarded as a daily habit and it became a religious garment for prayer; hence its later meaning of prayer shawl. The tallit is usually white and made either of wool, cotton, or silk, although Maimonides and Alfasi objected to the use of the latter. Strictly observant Jews prefer tallitot made of coarse half-bleached lamb's wool. In remembrance of the blue thread of the zizit (see tekhelet), most tallitot have several blue stripes woven into the white material (see Zohar, Num. 227a). Until recently, however, they only had black stripes. The minimum size of a tallit is that which would suffice to clothe a small child able to walk (Sh.Ar., OH 16:1)."

    We know, moreover, that no Israelite ever covered his head whilst praying [4] and that the practice of head-covering for men was introduced by the Rabbis in post-apostolic times to be different from Messianics/Christians who followed the old Torah tradition which Paul upheld:

      "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head....For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of Elohim (God)" (1 Cor 11:4,7, NKJV)

    I cover the whole question of priestly turbans, kippahs and tallits in depth in my book, More Kippah Tales: Royal Priestly Headcoverings?.

    Thus whatever the tallit evolved out of, it was neither a prayer shawl nor was it used as a headcovering for ritualistic purposes. True, tzitzit (tassels) were attached to them in the same way as we, in our fellowship, attach tzizit (tassels) to belts, shirts, sweaters, ponchos or scarves. However, the items to which the tzitzit (tassels) are attached have no religious significance in and of themselves.

    Finally, let us briefly look at the reference to kanaf in the interesting passages of Malachi 4:2 and Zechariah 8:23:

      "But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings (kanaf)" (Mal.4:2, NKJV).

    It is usually assumed that these wings have a 'covering and protecting' function [6] and indeed wings are used in that metaphorical sense in several place in Scripture (e.g. Mt.23:37; Lk.13:34). The verse that preceeds this indicates that this is how the "wings" operate here too, to protect the righteius against the fierce wrath of Yahweh directed at the ungodly:

      "'For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,' says Yahweh of hosts, 'that will leave them neither root nor branch'" (Mal.4:1, NKJV).

    The comparison is then made by Bible commentators with a passage in Zechariah:

      "Thus says Yahweh of hosts: 'In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve (kanaf - translated "garment" or "robe" in other versions) of a Yehudi (Judahite) man, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that Elohim (God) is with you" (Zech.8:23, NKJV).

    We can immediately see the problem for the translator who is faced with a Hebrew word kanaf (OT:3671) which literally means an 'edge' or 'extremity' and can have multiple meanings depending on its contextual usage. Thus it can mean the 'wing (extremity) of a bird' or the 'wing (edge/flank) of an army'; it can also refer to the 'hem' or 'sleave' of a garment' or the 'edge of bed-clothing'; it can refer to a 'flap of a tent', to one of the 'quarters of the earth' of even the 'pinnacle of a building'. In the KJV is translated in multiple ways as 'bird', 'border', 'corner', 'end', feather [-ed]', 'X flying', '+ (one an-) other', 'overspreading', 'X quarters', 'skirt', 'X sort', 'uttermost part', 'wing ([-ed])'.

    There is pretty much universal agreement that kanaf in Malachi 4:2 refers to "wings" and in Zechariah 8:32 to "sleeve", "robe" or "garment" - there is certainly nothing esoteric or religious in the latter, no mystical reference to tzitzit and certainly not to tallit - this is just a foreigner holding on to a believer by metaphorically grabbing him and asking to be led and guided into emet (truth). Here a Yehudi (Judahite) is representative of the true believer, since they were the only surviving believers at that time, but could have been represented by one of the other tribes had they still been around and living faithfully (remember the other nothern tribes had apostacised and gone into captivity), or in the end-times future (which is what this passage is pointing to) to any true believer of any ethnic origin. And though English translations render Yehudi as 'Jew', this is not a reference to a modern 'Jew' [8].

    What of the Malachi reference? Determined to follow a Jewish agenda, there are messianic translators like Koniuchowsky who take massive liberties with the text:

      "But for you that fear My Name shall the Sun of Tzesdakah arise with healing in His four-cornered tzitzit..." (Mal.4:2, RSTNE, 2nd Edn.)

    He does the same with Zechariah (I have incorporated his footnotes into the text):

      "This says YHWH tzevaoth; In those days (latter days) it shall come to pass, that ten men (ten tribes of Yisrael) shall take hold (seek out) out of all languages pf the nations (the ten tribes will come out of all nations speaking all languages - not Hebrew), even shall take hold of tzitzit of him that is a Yahudi, saying, We will go with you (in unity as one); for we have heard that Elohim is with you (Efrayim goes with a remnant of Judah, who has come to know YHWH as promised in Jeremiah 31:31. The idea that Efrayim is supposed to take hold of unredeemed Judah is not Scripturally based. This verse, taken in context with Jeremiah 31:31, states that Efrayim must join a Spirit-filled Jew of the Renewed Covenant, in his, or her, return" (Zech.8:23, RSTNE).

    There are so many false assumptions here it is hard to know where to start. For a detailed study of the Ephraim and Judah question that answers these false assumptions, please see the important five-part series, Jacob's Trouble which explains the source of the confusion in the messianic movement and why so many messianic Bible translations contain these exegetical biases and errors.

    Squeezing "four-cornered tzitzit" into kanaf is not, of course, translation, but interpretation or eisegesis which means the translator is introducing his own presuppositions, agendas or biases into and onto the text which is why we must always be very careful of such translations especially if they are not accompanied by explanatory footnotes containing the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek word or phrase with its literal meaning. This Koniuchowsky does not do in a version otherwise accompanied by many footnotes. Why not? Because a Jewish agenda is being pursued, the author himself being of Lithuanian Jewish origins.

    Another version, which also makes assumptions in interpretation, is at least honest in the presentation:

      "But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun (servant) of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings (corners)..." (Mal.4:2, MATS [7])

    Here the author's interpretations are kept separate from the main body of the text by putting them in (brackets). But does kanaf necessarily have to refer to a garment here? It could do but more likely refers to "wings" where it is the default rendition 71 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament). And even if in the unlikelihood that it does refer to a garment it could not possibly refer to a modern tallit or prayer-shawl which did not come into existence until centuries later. Unless there is good reason to suppose from the text itself that it could refer to something else, it almost certainly has to refer to the metaphorical image of a bird's wings and therefore to some kind of protective covering. But what kind of covering? What is it that is going to protect the believer against the judgments in the last days?

    Here we must let the Bible interpret itself and ask what wings usually signify. In this we have literally dozens of scriptures to choose from but since the wings in Malachi are associated with Yahweh, and therefore the Divine, we shall limit ourself to that. Indeed, we have the full interpretation of Malachi already given to us that we need not invent silly theories to tickle itching ears in search of something 'new' or 'exciting' that challenges established emet (truth) (2 Tim.4:3):

      "Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings (kanaf)" (Ezek 1:4-6, NKJV).

      "And under the firmament their wings (kanaf) spread out straight, one toward another. Each one had two which covered one side, and each one had two which covered the other side of the body. When they went, I heard the noise of their wings (kanaf), like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army; and when they stood still, they let down their wings (kanaf)" (Ezek.1:23-24, NKJV).

      "Then the Ruach (Spirit) lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice: 'Blessed is the glory of Yahweh from His place!' I also heard the noise of the wings (kanaf) of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noise" (Ezek 3:12-13, NKJV).

      "And the sound of the wings (kanaf) of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty Elohim (God) when He speaks" (Ezek.10:5, NKJV)

      "Each one had four faces and each one four wings (kanaf), and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings (kanaf)" (Ezek.10:21, NKJV).

    What do wings here very clearly signify? SPIRITUAL TRUTHS because in general birds signify intellectual things and thoughts that are of emunah (faith), as opposed to the 'intellect', so called, which is not. Wings also denote POWER which belongs to spiritual emet (truth) and tov (good). When wings are attributed to the Divine, as in the extracts above from Ezekiel and from one of the passages under study in Malachi, then they bespeak DIVINE TRUTH and DIVINE POWER. Without belabouring what is a self-evident emet (truth), the wings that cover Yahweh's people during the time of judgment simply refer to the DIVINE POWER COVERING TRUE TALMIDIM (DISCIPLES) WHO WALK IN EMET (TRUTH) BY EMUNAH (FAITH).

    These wings have nothing to do with tzitzit or tallit.

    Reading the article you refer to by T. Beukman I see numerous Talmudic Jewish assumptions throughout, and the works of such messianics as Rabbi Dr. Yosef ben Haggai of Esnoga Beth El who are steeped in Talmudism and Kabbalism - they seem overly fond of titles too [9], so I am not surprised by his 'take' of Scripture. The fact that a cloth has four corners does not automatically mean it is a tallit since historically (as shown elsewhere) the tallit or prayer-shawl did not exist in time frame of the Bible witness, and the standard four-cornered garment used for every day life never had the later symbolism of a tallit ascribed by the Rabbis long after the expulsion from Judea. Tzitzits do not, in any case, need to be attached to a tallit to be tzitzit.

    The messianic adherents and proponents of Talmudic Jewish tradition will not find any evidence that the Pharisaic tallit is authenticated or validated in any way by Scripture. They rather remain the religious baggage, that includes kippas, phylacteries, fancy tzitzit, mezzuzahs and other paraphernalia, of a rejected system of religion that has no part in the B'rit Chadashah (New Covenant) and which are positively harmful to it. Beyond simple men's tzitzits (in token of their submission to Torah) and women's simple headcoverings (in token of their submission to their husbands or fathers, and for the sake of the malakim/angels) there is no ritual clothing that we need concern ourselves with. Indeed, men are positively commanded not to wear headcovering while praying and prophesying, whether with Jewish tallit or anything else, which is the diametric opposite of Judaism. That goes for the cohenim (priests) or ministers too who, if they do choose to wear a turban (and there is no evidence they are called to in the New Covenant), must be open at the top. Tallit's belong to a dead, Moloch-worshipping religion steeped in kaballah and occultism, which I want no part of. My counsel is to be done with these things and focus on the living Messiah within.


    I hope the questioner will not think I was directing my final remarks at him. I was not. As a preacher I have a tendency to make everything I write for a general audience and often slip in and out of preaching mode even during theological analyses.


    [1] See, for example, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson: 2005, p.1472
    [2] "And because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked with them: for they were saddle-makers by trade" (Acts 18:3, George Lamsa Translation of the Peshitta)
    [3] See, Tzitzit: What are They and Who Should Wear Them?
    [4] See Skullduggery: The Truth About the Jewish Kippa
    [5] Also see Abraham Millgram, Jewish Worship (Jewish Publication Society: 1971, p.351) who wrote: "As the persecutions of the Church increased, the Jewish aversion to everything Christian deepened. The uncovering of the head became associated with Church etiquette and therefore became repugnant. To worship or even to go about with an uncovered head was regarded as imitation of the Christians and an act of irreverence"
    [6] E.g. Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible (United Society for Christian Literature, Lutterworth Press, London: 1973), p.1059
    [7] William H. Sanford, The Messianic Aleph Tav Scriptures, CCB Publishing, British Columbia, Canada: 2014, p.764 - this is a modified King James Version (KJV)
    [8] See What is a Jew?
    [9] The House of Joseph - Esnoga Beth El

    This page was created on 2 January 2015
    Last updated on 3 January 2015

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