WHEN WE OPEN THE PAGES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, DID THE ORTHODOX JEWS THEN HAVE THE SAME CONCEPT OF THE TORAH AS THEY DID IN THE OLD TESTAMENT?  No, they didn’t.  The concept of the Torah [usually trans. “law” in English Bibles] was much more complex and expansive than what we see in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament concept of the Torah centered only around the first five books of our Bible, but in the New Testament that was not the case.  Why?  Because it included institutions [i.e., Sanhedrin], groups [Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots], teachings [i.e., midrashim], oral traditions [the Oral Torah] and customs that simply did not exist in the Old Testament.


This is the problem in studying the New Testament before the Old Testament.  Christians read and study the New Testament with all these institutions, groups, teachings, oral traditions and customs and views of the Torah, and then when they study the Old Testament, they impose all of these things and views into its writings  The problem with this is that all these things and views did not exist then.


In fact, looking at the New Testament world, its lifestyles and concept of the Torah and believing that it was the same as the Old Testament’s is like looking at the United States today, its lifestyles and concepts of law, and saying that it is the same as the Puritan’s of Colonial America. Obviously, a massive amount of change has happened in the United States since the time of Colonial America in a little over 400 years, and a massive amount of change had happened in Israel in a little over 400 years as well (the time period between the Old and New Testaments).  And these changes also included Jewish concepts and views of the Torah.


In the Old Testament world, the concept of Torah was much simpler, less complex.  In the Hebrew language, the word Torah does not mean “law,” as it is translated in our English Bibles, but it meant “Instruction, Teaching, Guidance, or Directives.”  The word, Torah, in its usual sense of the word, was used to refer to the first five books of the Bible, which God began to give to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and then His revelations to Moses continued until they came to time when they were to enter into the Promised Land.

The Hebrew term Torah is derived from the Hebrew word yara, which means “to cast, to throw, to shoot something straight.”  For example, the word yara is used when someone is casting a spear on a straight course, so that it hits the target or the mark.  Is Torah the target or the mark?  No, it is the “instructions” or “teaching” we need so that we can hit the mark.  So if the Torah is not the mark, then what is “the mark”?  It is a long, healthy satisfying and fulfilling life; that is the mark at its most basic level of meaning. And it is only in having an intimate relationship with God and in living in obedience to God’s word that this type of life is really possible, and the Torah is God’s instruction manual on we can come into that type of life.


If the Hebrew word Torah means “Instruction, Teaching, Guidance and Directives,” the question must be asked, why then do our English Bibles translate the word Torah as “law”?   In the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there was a non-Jewish group known as the Gnostics.  Its basic theology was that each person was a god, but people were ignorant of this, so with the right teachers to teach them, they could come to this correct knowledge of truth, and thereby experience their own salvation. This belief was derived from Hinduism, but the Gnostics built on this Hindu idea by going around and gathering other “teachings” to add to their fundamental Hindu ideas.  This eclectic religion was seen as a threat to early 2nd Temple Judaism, and later to Christianity.

With the Greek conquest under Alexander the Great, many Jews left to find work outside the land of Israel, and over time, they began speaking Koine Greek, rather than Hebrew.  So as a result, a Greek translation for Greek-speaking Jews, was needed.  So according to tradition, about 250 years before the time of Christ, Ptolemy II, king of Ptolemaic Egypt (283-246 B.C.E.) who promoted the Museum and Library at Alexandria, requested Jewish scholars and interpreters from Jerusalem to be sent to Alexandria, Egypt, to translate the Torah into Koine Greek.  The resultant translation, known as “The Translation of the Seventy,” thereby its abbreviation LXX, became known as the Septuagint.

When translating the Torah into Greek, though, the scholars did not want the Gnostics to make use of the Torah in their teachings, so to protect the Torah, the scholars did not translate the word Torah by the Greek word didaskalia (Strong’s #1319; “teaching”), but they chose the word nomos (“law”) instead, since there were laws and commandments in the Torah.  Again, they did this, not to hide the meaning of the Torah, but to protect it from misuse and abuse by Gnostics and other such groups.  Of course, the use of the Greek word nomos or “law” in English is problematic since it has such a negative connotation in our language, as opposed to the Hebrew word Torah, referring to the  “instructions, teachings, or guidance” that God gave to Moses to give to God’s people, Israel.


The Gnostics were not only a threat to Judaism, as I said, but they were a threat to the early Christians as well.  The Apostle John spent many of his writings opposing the Gnostic influence on Christians.  For example, the Gospel of John, I John, and II John were written, at least in part, to help new believers understand the truth of the Gospel, as opposed to the “false gospel” being proclaimed by the “false teachers” of the Gnostics and others.   However, in spite of John’s efforts, the Gnostics did end up mixing their teachings with Christianity in the 4th centuries, A.D.  This is seen in such works as “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene,” “The Gospel of Judas,” and “The Gospel of Thomas,” as well as other Gnostic writings.  These “false gospels” were not written by these disciples, since they are dated back to the 4th century, A.D., but were written by Gnostics who ascribed their name to them.  These Gnostic writings were used in the writing of the novel The Da Vinci Code (2003), and then used in the movie that was released by the same title in 2006.


Now when we look at the Torah throughout the writings of the Old Testament, it is seen as something POSITIVE — NOT NEGATIVE.  For example, the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, was written to praise God for the Torah, its teachings and commandments.  For example,

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law [Torah] of the LORD.  Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with their whole heart.  They also do no iniquity. (Psalm 119:1-3)

The psalmist here says that we are “blessed” when we “walk in the [Torah] of the LORD.”  He then goes on to say later in the psalm,

Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.  Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law [Torah]; yes, I shall observe it with my whole heart.  Make me to go in the path of Your commandments; for therein do I delight. (Psalm 119:33-35)

So shall I keep Your law [Torah] continually forever and ever.  And I will WALK IN LIBERTY; for I seek Your precepts.  I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.  And I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I have loved. (Psalm 119:44-47; Emphasis Mine)

The psalmist here desires to study, understand, and keep the Torah of the LORD “forever and ever.”  In fact, in seeking to understand and keep it, the psalmist writes, that it results in us walking “IN LIBERTY” or “FREEDOM,” and not in “legalism” or “bondage” as Christians have been taught to falsely associate with the Torah.  He then says,

O how I love Your law [Torah]!  It is my meditation all the day.  You through Your commandments has made me wiser than My enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Your testimonies are my meditation.  I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts.  I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep Your way.  (Psalm 119:97-101)

“O how I love Your Torah!”  Due to centuries of erroneous interpretations and teachings, this mindset is hard for many Christians to understand.  In fact, I have heard several Christians argue that the term Torah here does not refer to the five books of Moses, but to all of Scripture.  However, if we look at the terms used here throughout the Psalm, it is obvious that the writer is referring to the Torah of Moses, not to Scripture in general.  The writer uses the words Torah, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, and judgments interchangeable throughout the psalm.  These terms are not used for all of Scripture, but for the teachings and commandments given by God to Moses.  And what does God also say about His Torah?

Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep Your righteous judgments. (Psalm 119:105-106)

Is the Torah of God “a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path?  Do we proclaim our love and commitment to study, meditate and follow the ways of Torah?  Do we proclaim that we “WALK IN LIBERTY” because we seek to keep God’s Torah?  This, in fact, as I said, the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what we hear being proclaimed by most churches today.  Instead of this, we hear churches proclaiming the Torah as “legalism,” “bondage,” and “death.”  Are we really talking about the same Torah or two different ones?

I will say, as we will see, based on New Testament usage, the word Torah can be applied to the whole Old Testament, but even though it acquires that wider usage, it still does not mean we can ignore the original meaning and usage of the word as it is used here in this psalm and in other places in the Old Testament.


But the Torah is more than God’s teachings and commandments, there are also deeper revelations, truths and realities contained within its writings as well.  To a certain extent we can see some of them in the English translation of the Bible, but I’ve discovered that there are more that are there within the Hebrew.  For example, in Psalm 119, the Psalmist also writes,

Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law (Heb. Torah).  (Psalm 119:18)

The Hebrew word translated “wonderful things” is pala, and it means, “extraordinary, astonishing, miraculous, and wonderful.”  I’ve discovered in my own research that there are things, pictures, and descriptions in the Hebrew that isn’t part of our English translations.  Indeed, there are “wonderful things” there, and so we need to pray and ask God to “open [our] eyes” and “to reveal” these “wonderful things” to each of us.  For a quick example, let’s look at Genesis 1:1 in our English Bibles:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Here is the same verse in the original Hebrew:

בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.

Hebrew, like many of the ancient world languages, is read from right to left, rather than left to right like English (and other more modern languages).  If we read this verse from right to left, we read “Bereshith bara ‘elohim ‘eth hashamayim v‘eth ha-eretz.”  What is important to note is the 4th and 6th words from the right.  The word ‘eth is comprised of two Hebrew letters: the Alef and the Tahv, or the FIRST LETTER and the LAST LETTER of the Hebrew alphabet.  In Greek, these same two letters would be the ALPHA and the OMEGA.  In the book of Revelation, Jesus reveals Himself to His disciple John, and He says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 1:8).  In Hebrew, then, Jesus is the eth, He’s the Alef and the Tahv, there in Genesis 1:1.  And of course, this interpretation lines up with the following passage:

In the beginning was THE WORD, and THE WORD was with God, and THE WORD was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.  (King James Version, John 1:1-3)

 In [the] beginning was THE WORD, and THE WORD was with God, and God was THE WORD.  He was in [the] beginning with God.  All things THROUGH HIM came into being, and without Him came into being not even one [thing] which has come into being.  (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, John 1:1-3; Emphasis Mine)

The second passage is a literal translation from the Greek text.  But notice in the King James, it is translated as “All things were made BY HIM,” and the Greek Interlinear, it says, “All thing THROUGH HIM came into being.”  The Greek word that’s used there means both “through” and “by,” but I believe that the word “through” is the better choice, because when we see Jesus [Yeshua] as the ‘eth, the Alef and the Tahv, then we literally have to read or move THROUGH [Him] in order for “the heavens” and then again for “the earth” to be created.  Indeed, as it is written, “without Him came into being not even one [thing] which has come into being.”

Consequently, Jesus as THE WORD, the Alef and the Tahv, the full expression of the Torah, He is there in the beginning with God, creating all things in the heavens and in the earth.  Consequently, what we see written in John’s Gospel was not completely new original material from God, but knowing and understanding the Hebrew text, John is explaining the revelation of Jesus [Yeshua], who He is and alluding to the fact that we can find Him right there in the very first line of the Torah, Genesis 1:1, as well as throughout the rest of the Torah and the entire Scriptures.


And yet on an even deeper level, each letter in the original Hebrew, called Paleo-Hebrew, was a picture-form language, much like the Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Chinese, or Japanese.   And each picture had its own associated meanings.  For example, the word picture for Alef is an ox’s head, and it means “strength” or “leader” (being the first letter).  The second letter, Beyt, was the picture of a tent, and means “house.”  So when we put the first two letters together, it forms the word ‘Av, or “father,” who is the “strength and leader of the house.”

So what do we get when we put the word pictures together for the word Torah?  We discover that the meaning of Torah is “the cross-nailed man revealed.” This, of course, lines up with what Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] teaches in John 5:46-47,

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?

Just as the Gospels in the New Testament teach us about the life and teachings of Jesus [Yeshua], the five books of Moses, the Torah, likewise has as its purpose to provide us with a written revelation of Jesus Christ [Heb. Yeshua HaMoshiach], “the cross-nailed man revealed.” But the problem in much of Christianity is that the majority of people’s eyes are blinded when they read the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, because when they read it, they don’t see Jesus [Yeshua].  Instead, they only see a list of do’s and don’ts, but not Jesus [Yeshua].  We need to pray and ask God to remove the veil from our eyes, so that we may see Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] in every part of His Word — not just in the New Testament.


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