WHAT IS THE TORAH? In order for us to move on in our study of Paul and his writings, we need to understand the concept of the Torah, and how it is seen and understood in the Old Testament, and how that view began to change during Ezra’s time, so that by the time of the New Testament, the view of the Torah, particularly by the Pharisees, had greatly expanded. The problem we have in the church is that we are still following the Old Testamental model, when looking at the writings of Paul, instead of realizing Paul’s view as a Pharisee on the Torah was deeper and much more expansive than traditional Christianity’s.
GOD TOLD ME AN EVANGELIST WAS WRONG!
When I was fifteen, there was a well-known Christian TV evangelist that I enjoyed watching; however, on one of his broadcasts, he started talking about what a blessing it was to be freed from the bondage and legalism of the law, and as soon as he said this, there was a check in my spirit by the Holy Spirit that what I had just heard was wrong. I did not understand at the time why it was wrong, but I knew in my spirit that it was. Now after doing years and years of research and study, and visiting numerous synagogues, and prayerfully pouring over the Scriptures, I now understand why the Holy Spirit was telling me that what I had heard was wrong.
TORAH – THE BASIC CONCEPT
First of all, the Torah (usually translated as “law”) is used in the Old Testament to refer to the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
TORAH – THE BASIC FOUNDATION OF SCRIPTURE
And it is the basic foundation and framework of Scripture.There isn’t anything in the Bible that doesn’t ultimately finds its root or beginning seed within its pages, including the church. For example, did you know that the book of Psalms is broken down into 5 books, corresponding to each of the 5 books of Moses? Book 1 of the psalms (Psalm 1 – 41) corresponds in theme to the book of Genesis; Book 2 of the psalms (Psalm 42 – 72) corresponds in theme to the book of Exodus, etc. Also, did you know that the message and teachings of the Torah are the central foundation and framework of what is taught by the Old Testament Prophets. Consequently, if we remove the Torah from the Old Testament, we end up removing much of its heart, mind and organs, leaving very little teaching of any real value. This is so much the case that in Isaiah 8 where the word “disciples” first appears in the Bible, we are instructed to “Bind up the testimony, seal the law [Heb. Torah] among My disciples” (Isaiah 8:16). And then just four verses later, God says,
To the law [Heb. Torah] and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)
TORAH – THE FOUNDATION OF JESUS’ MINISTRY AND TEACHING
According to Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] in the Gospel of John, the Torah is the basis and foundation of His ministry and teaching.
For had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if you believe not His writings, how shall you believe My words? (John 5:46-47)
TORAH – THE BACKGROUND AND FOUNDATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
What most Christians don’t realize is that the Torah is the background and foundation of not only the ministry and teachings of Jesus [Yeshua], but also of His early disciples and the Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) Himself. Consequently, to really gain a thorough idea of what is being discussed in the Bible, one needs to have at least a working knowledge of the Torah handed down by God to Moses.
TORAH – GOD’S INSTRUCTION MANUAL FOR EVERYONE
What we in the church don’t realize is that the Torah is meant for everyone, not just for the Jewish people. When we hear or read about the Exodus, we view that as only the Jewish people coming out of their slavery in Egypt, but that is not true. According to the Bible, there was also a “mixed multitude” (non-Jews) who came out of Egypt with the Jewish people:
And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, and six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a MIXED MULTITUDE went up also them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. (Exodus 12:37-38)
And it was this combination of people (Jews and Non-Jews) that God led from Egypt and brought to Mt. Sinai. And this mixture of people, God called “Israel.” Nor did God give the Torah to only those people who were there at Mt. Sinai:
Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God AND WITH THOSE WHO ARE NOT WITH US HERE TODAY. (Deuteronomy 30:14-15)
The Torah then was given to His people, Jews and non-Jews, not only those who were there standing there at Mt. Sinai, but also all Jews and non-Jews since then at well. This, in fact, lines up with a teaching from the Jewish Midrash that I like:
The Torah was given in public for all to see, in the open. For if it had been given in the Land of Israel, Israel would have said to the nations of the world, you have no share in it;
Therefore, the Torah was given in the wilderness, in public, for all to see, in the open, and everyone who wishes to receive it, let them come and receive it.
God does not impose His Torah and commandments on us, but each one of us must spiritually go to Mt. Sinai in our own lives to experience the revelation of God and to receive the Torah for ourselves.
IS THE PERSON FROM GOD – GOD’S TWO TESTS?
Not only are we instructed by God to “seal [His] Torah [“law”] among [His] disciples,” but if someone is not teaching us in according “to this word,” then God says, “there is no light in them,” and we are to disregard their teaching. This actually corresponds to what is taught in the Torah itself. We are taught two tests for any prophet (or religious leader):
- If the prophet or dreamer of dreams gives you a sign or a wonder, and it comes true, but that prophet or dreamer attempts TO DRAW YOU AWAY FROM FOLLOWING THE TORAH, you are to ignore that person’s teachings. You are, instead, to follow the commandments of God. Why? Because we are told, “the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4; Emphasis Mine]
- If the prophet tells you that something is going to happen at a particular time, and it does not happen, then that prophet is a False Prophet, and we are to ignore that person’s teachings. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
The very first test that God gives us regarding a prophet or a “dreamer of dreams” is the question: “Are they teaching you to follow the Torah or drawing you away from it?” Those who take you away from it, God says, are not from Him. And, of course, this lines up with His admonition in Isaiah 8.
TORAH – IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
WHAT ABOUT PAUL?
So what about Sha’ul Paulus (Paul)? Most Christians would view him as violating Test #1; however, he isn’t. The problem is not his writings, but traditional Christian interpretation of his writings. Christianity has continued to misinterpret Paul because they have continued to ignore his own confession of faith: “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.” And because they have failed to acknowledge him as a continuing Pharisee, they have failed to look at his writings through the teachings of the Pharisees.
For example, in both Romans and, more specifically, Galatians, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is trying to explain some complex Pharisaic (now Rabbinic) concepts and ideas. For example, the Hebrew concept of Zachuth (Imputed righteousness and Imputed Sin) or the Yetzer Hara (lit. “the evil imagination” or “the evil impulse”). For example, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) refers to the “evil impulse” as “the old man,” “sin,” “sin nature,” or “the flesh.” There are times when it is evident that he is finding it difficult to get these ideas across due to the limitations of the Koine Greek language.
OTHER AREAS OF CONFUSION
Some other terms that are not interested by many Christians are the differences between Torah, its various forms and levels of interpretation (will discuss further on), and “the works of the law,” which really refer to certain Jews misusing and abusing the Torah for a purpose it was never intended by God to do — to maintain a wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles. So does “works of the law” refer to the commandments in the Old Testament? No, it doesn’t. What about the phrase “under the law”? Is he’s talking about adhering to the Old Testament commandments? No he’s not. And when he says, “we’re not under law, but under grace,” is he saying we’re not under the law of God, but under grace? No, he’s not. Over and over again, the church has traditionally misinterpreted and misunderstood Paul because they have continued to interpret him from a Christian, Greco-Roman point of view, which has consistently been their mistake.
WAS PAUL THE ONLY ONE WHO GOT IT RIGHT?
Did you know that the Bible was written over a time span of 1500 years, by 40 different writers who lived on 3 different continents? And did you know that all but one of these writers viewed the Torah (“law”) positively. Only one seemingly doesn’t – Paul. Even Jesus viewed the Law (Torah) as something positive, but only Paul seemingly does not. Think about this. Is it likely that all of the biblical writers and speakers, including Jesus Himself, got it wrong about the Torah, but Paul got it right, OR is it more likely that the church has just traditionally misunderstood Paul?
IF THE TORAH ENDED AT THE CROSS – WHY DID JESUS TEACH THIS?
For example, let me give you a verse to examine:
But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. (Matthew 24:20)
In this chapter, Jesus is teaching His disciples about His return and the signs of His coming. In verse fifteen of this chapter, He talks about them seeing the “Abomination of Desolation” being set up in the Temple, and when they see this, they are to run to the mountains. Now there are Christians who see this event as happening in 70 A.D., when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and then there are others Christians who believe this event will happen during the Tribulation period. But in either case, this event would be AFTER THE CROSS.
So tell me, if the Torah [“law”] ended at the cross, including the Sabbath and the biblical feasts, as Christianity teaches, and as a result, we are not to follow its teachings anymore, then why is Jesus Himself telling His own disciples to pray that their flight would not be on a Sabbath? If Christians are right and the Torah ended at the cross, then what difference does it make? The fact that Jesus is warning His disciples to pray that an event that will happen at least 40 years later, if not during our near future, does not happen ON A SABBATH, only demonstrates one of many reasons why there’s a major problem with how traditional Christianity understands and interprets the New Testament teachings regarding the Torah [“law”].
CONCLUSION FOR PART 1
There is so much more to the Torah, God’s Instructions and commandments, than just a list of do’s and don’ts. The fact is that the Torah did not end at the cross, nor was the reason for Jesus’ death to bring an end to the Torah or the Temple sacrificial system. Jesus died to deal with the sin issue in our lives, but as Christianity separated itself from its Jewish roots and time continued to progress, the misunderstanding of Paul’s writings regarding the Torah (“God’s law”) continued to build and build. Until today, they refer to the Holy Words of God given to Moses on Mt. Sinai as “legalism” and “bondage.”
Jesus is coming back real soon to a holy people “without spot or wrinkle.” We need to wake up to the erroneous views and beliefs of those of the past, and begin again to walk in the holiness God has called all His people to walk in, as a “Kingdom of Priests and as a Holy nation” (Exodus 19:6; I Peter 2:9).