By “Whole Bible,” I mean that we believe that ALL of the Bible is for all people today, regardless of your race, nationality, sex, age, or background. We do not believe that any part of the Bible has been “done away with,” “annulled,” “set aside,” or that one part, the Tanakh (pron. “Tuh-knock“; aka, “Old Testament”), for example, is only for the Jews and another part, the “New Testament” is “for everyone else.” God gave His Word for all people for all time.
TANAKH – ITS THREE SECTIONS
The word Tanakh (pron. “Tuh-knock“) is an acronym for the three parts of what is called the “Old Testament”:
T = Torah (trans. “law”)
N = Nevi’im (“Prophets”)
K = Ketuvim (“Writings”)
Yeshua (Jesus) comes very close to using this acronym in His own identification of the three parts of the Scriptures when He is speaking to His disciples after His resurrection:
These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the LAW OF MOSES, and THE PROPHETS and THE PSALMS must be fulfilled. (Luke 24:44; Emphasis Mine)
Here we can clearly see that Yeshua (Jesus) broke the Tanakh down into its three respective parts: Law, Prophets, and Psalms. A question we could ask here is why did He say “Psalms” rather than “the Writings”? I believe it’s because this third part of the Scriptures was still being argued as far as what books should be officially recognized within the canon, so He chose to use the one chief writing within that particularly section to represent that section. If He was here on earth today ministering, I am fully convinced that He would use the term Tanakh. But in either case, He broke down the Tanakh into THREE sections, just as Jews do to this day; whereas, in the church, we have the “Old Testament” broke down into the following FOUR sections: Law, history, poetry/wisdom, and prophets.
TANAKH – THE FOUNDATION, FRAMEWORK & CONTEXT
Also, we believe that since God put together the Tanakh (or “Old Testament”) FIRST, then logically this means that He intended it to be the foundation, framework and context in which we would read and understand the New Testament, which comes SECOND. To remove the New Testament from the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) and then study it in isolation is to remove it from its intended context.
And ANY TIME you remove ANYTHING from its original context, it becomes a “pre-text,” and you open the door wide for misinterpretation, misunderstanding and error. And there are plenty of examples of misinterpretations, innuendoes, half-truths, and just plain errors going on in the dominant American church today. This is why it is so critical that we have a comprehensive understanding of the Whole Bible – not just parts!
In addition, the Tanakh presents all of the biblical covenants in it, including the new covenant and the coming Millennial covenant (yes, another covenant is coming!). Rather than the New Testament (or more accurately “the Renewed Covenant”) taking the place of the Tanakh, it actually further defines, develops, elaborates, and even adds on to a couple of the covenants in the Tanakh, but it does NOT replace either of them, nor does it do “away with them,” “annul” them, or “set them aside,” as many Christians and denominations teach.
TWO BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION
Now as a Whole Bible believer, I adhere to three basic biblical principles of interpretation studying the Scriptures:
PRINCIPLE #1: THE PRINCIPLE OF TORAH AGREEMENT. This basic principle states that your interpretation and understanding of the text needs to be in line with what is seen or taught in the Torah (the first five books). If your interpretation and understanding violates the Torah, then it is wrong. In Deuteronomy 13, God says,
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for 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. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. (Deuteronomy 13:1-4)
In this passage, “a prophet or a dreamer of dreams” would seem to speak of a religious person, or someone who tries to direct you based on their dreams or visions, “a dreamer of dreams,” but if this person tells you that a sign or “a wonder” (a miracle) is going to happen, and it does, but then the person tries to take you away from the teachings of God here in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), you are not to listen to them. The fact that they can work miracles is not what’s important, but whether or not their teachings line up with the teachings of the Torah. The statement, “Let us go after other gods…and let us serve them,” is given as an example. This does not just apply to idolatry, but any teaching that goes against what God teaches us here in the Torah.
And why would God allow someone to be able to work miracles to deceive you? God says that He allows it in order to “[test] you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” But then after saying this, Moses again reiterates that we are to only follow after and obey the LORD our God, and Him alone.
We also see this same idea taught by the prophet Isaiah. He writes,
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)
Again, this is in keeping with the general principle that “light” (truth and revelation) will line up with, and not contradict, the Torah. For example, the book of the Psalms does not violate or contradict the Torah; in fact, Psalms is broken up into five books just as the Torah is also comprised of five books (i.e., Book 1, Psalms 1 – 41; Book 2, Psalms 42 – 72; Book 3, Psalms 73 – 89; Book 4, Psalms 90 -106; and Book 5, Psalm 107 – 150). Also, none of the writings of the Prophets violate the teachings of the Torah; in fact, they are calling people back to the Torah, and to living life in covenant with YHWH, the God of Israel.
So why is it that we believe that all of sudden God changed His modus operandi, and began to do the direct opposite of what He had been throughout the Tanakh (“Old Testament”)?
PRINCIPLE #2: THE PRINCIPLE OF THE REPETITION OF TRUTH. This basic second principle states that if an idea is a truth that’s important to God and, therefore, should be important to us, He will repeat it over and over again.
This principle actually begins as a criteria for determining if someone should receive the death penalty. In Numbers, we read,
Whosoever kills any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. (Numbers 35:30)
Notice that the testimony of one eye witness cannot lead to any person receiving the death sentence. Obviously, then, there needs to be more than one witness, but how much more? In Deuteronomy, this criteria is developed a bit more:
At the mouth of TWO WITNESSES, or THREE WITNESSES, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. (Deuteronomy 17:6)
Here we can see that there needs to be at least two or three eye witnesses to the murder BEFORE any individual can be sentenced and given the death sentence. But then just two chapters later, this criteria for the death sentence is then applied to any sin or violation of God’s law:
One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sins: at the mouth of TWO WITNESSES, or at the mouth of THREE WITNESSES, shall the matter be established. (Deuteronomy 19:15; Emphasis Mine)
So here again, we can see that truth is established when it is repeated by TWO or THREE WITNESSES. By the time of the New Testament (first century, C.E.), this became a general principle for truth (e.g., Matthew 18:16, 19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:1; I Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28), and this general principle lies behind John’s statement in I John 5:8.
“DOES YESHUA (JESUS) CONTRADICT THE TEACHINGS OF THE TORAH?”
There are many Christians who have been erroneously taught that Yeshua (Jesus) violated or broke several of the commandments given to Moses. However, this is not correct at all. Did He violate some man-made interpretations of the Pharisees? Yes, but did He violate the teachings and commandments that God, His Father, had given to Moses and the children of Israel? Absolutely Not!
Instead, in speaking to the religious leaders of His time, Yeshua (Jesus) said,
Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses, in whom you trust. 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 5:45-47)
Yeshua (Jesus) makes it clear here that His teachings and those that were given to Moses by God are intricately connected. He says if you believe Moses, you will believe Me, but if you don’t believe Moses, you will not believe Me, and we could even say, if you reject the writings of Moses, then you will also reject Me as well. What is indicated here is that Yeshua (Jesus) and the Torah are ONE (Heb. ‘echad): Whatever part of the Torah you accept is a part of Him you accept, and whatever part of Torah you reject is a part of Him you reject. To accept Yeshua (Jesus) while rejecting the Torah is NOT a given option here.
Consequently, then, everything in the Bible – the “Old Testament” and “New Testament” – must line up and agree with the Torah in order for it to be accurately interpreted and understood. And as a Whole Bible believer, this is a general principle of interpretation that God has taught me from the Scriptures.
So again, there is one single revelation from cover to cover, and one system of law that is applied equally to both the Israelite and “the stranger (non-Jew) that sojourns” with Israel.
PRINCIPLE #3: CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT – THE MOST BASIC RULE
Finally, this third principle is not one explicitly taught in the Bible, but it can be inferred from the various texts. It is the most basic rule we follow when it comes to properly interpreting and understanding Scripture, which is the rule of CONTEXT.
In defining the word “CONTEXT,” Kay Arthur, in her book, How To Study Your Bible: The Lasting Rewards of the Inductive Method [Eugene: Harvest House, 1994. Print], defines it as “that which surrounds or goes with the text” (21). CONTEXT does not just exist on one level – but various levels. For example, in its strictest, most narrowest sense, CONTEXT involves the words, phrases and sentences that immediately surround, or come right before or after, a particular word, phrase, or sentence. And this is how Arthur explains it in that portion of the book.
However, if we pull back the perspective, then CONTEXT would first include the chapter in which the text is located, but then we could continue to pull “the camera” back even more, and it could include a selection of chapters, and then the book, and then finally, the whole Bible.
However, CONTEXT can also include elements beyond the Scriptures; for example, it can include its historical, social, cultural, philosophical, religious, and even linguistic CONTEXTS. And therefore, as you can see, understanding the various levels of CONTEXT involves more than one or two readings of the Scriptures. This is why Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) advises Timothy,
Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
If we are going to come to proper and correct understanding of the Bible, then we need to study it, not just passively read portions here and there. Let me give you an example of these principles at work.
AN EXAMPLE OF HOW TO INVESTIGATE A TEACHING:
THE LAW – GIVEN ONLY TO JEWS?
CHRISTIAN TEACHING: I do not know how many times I have heard a Christian say that “the Law was only given to the Jews, it’s not for us Christians.” Okay, let’s put this teaching to the test. Remember, if this teaching is true, it should satisfy our three principles:
- It does not violate the teachings of the Torah, but it is in line with its teachings;
- It will be repeated over and over again in different ways; and
- It is an interpretation and understanding that does not violate the context of Scripture.
So let’s begin. Question #1, “Does it agree with the teachings of the Torah?” However, when we study the first five books of the Bible, we discover that it does not, in fact, agree with God’s teachings. For example, in Exodus 12:38, a “mixed multitude” of Gentiles (non-Jews) came out of Egypt, along with the children of Israel, under the leadership of Moses. This same “mixed multitude” is still there with them in the wilderness in Numbers 11:4. This means that they would have been right there with the children of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai when God gave His commandments to everyone that was there, Israelite and Gentile (non-Jew) alike.
So according to the Torah, God’s law was given to both Israelites and Gentiles (non-Jews). This now takes us to Principle #2.
Question #2: “Is this truth repeated over and over again in different ways?” And when we study the Scriptures, this is exactly what we find. For example, near the end of the book of Deuteronomy, prior to his death, Moses is again rehearsing the covenant that God had entered into with them, and during this, he specifies who is there in the group that he is addressing:
YE stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and thy STRANGER THAT IS IN THY CAMP, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: that THOU shouldst enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God makes with THEE this day. (Deuteronomy 29:10-12; Emphasis Mine)
There are two very important points I need to highlight here:
The word “STRANGER” here in the text does not refer to Israelites, but to Gentiles (or non-Jews). Notice that they are still there with the rest of the Israelites at the end of the wilderness wanderings as they are about to enter the land. These Gentiles (non-Jews) are going into the land, along with the children of Israel.
Moses begins this passage by addressing all of them, “YE.” This pronoun, “Ye,” is used when referring to a group, which Moses is doing here, but then there is a clear shift. He moves from this plural pronoun to using singular pronouns, “THY,”“THOU,” and “THEE.” These are used when addressing an individual or speaking about an individual. So he begins by addressing the group as a whole, but then he shifts into addressing each of them individually.
This pronoun shift cannot be seen in our modern translations, because the words “Ye,” “Thy,” “Thou,” and “Thee” all have been replaced by the word “you,” since in modern English, the word “you” can be used to refer to a group or to an individual. And the ONLY way to determine how it is being used is by context; however, as you can see, this isn’t as obvious as it is in the King James Version (KJV).
For example, he refers to “THY stranger that is in THY camp,” meaning that these non-Jews who are there were probably earning their living with the group by serving individual Jews and their families. But even more importantly, though, he says that THOU, meaning each of them individually, Israelite AND Gentile (non-Jew) alike, “should enter into covenant with the LORD THY God [He is not only the God of Israel, but He is also the God of each of these Gentiles (non-Jews)], and into his oath, which the LORD THY God makes with THEE this day” (Emphasis Mine). This means that God entered into covenant with not only EACH member of Israel that day, but also with EACH of the individual Gentiles (non-Jews) that comprised the “mixed multitude” that were there that day as well.
In fact, in Numbers 15, God comes right out and specifies that the commandments given in the Torah are for all people, Israelite and non-Israelite alike:
ONE ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the STRANGER (Gentile; non-Jew) that sojourns with you, an ordinance FOREVER in your generations: as you are, so shall the STRANGER be before the LORD. ONE Law and ONE manner shall be for you, and for the STRANGER that sojourns with you. (Numbers 15:15-16; Emphasis Mine)
Obviously, then, to have ONE law for Jews and an entirely different law for the Gentiles (non-Jewish) “Stranger that sojourns with [them]” is a clear violation of God’s commandment in this passage. And we can see this again when it comes to punishments for violating these same commandments. For example, if someone sins “through ignorance,” the punishment is the same, and if someone “sins presumptuously,” the punishment is the same:
You shall have ONE LAW for him that sins through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourns among them. But the soul that does ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproaches the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. (Numbers 15:29-30; Emphasis Mine)
So not only do we find that God repeatedly teaches that His law and His manner of life is to be equally followed by both the children of Israel AND the “stranger that sojourns with you,” but even the punishment for violating these commandments are to be equally applied, whether the person who violated it is an Israelite or “a stranger.”
Therefore, as we can see, when we placed the Christian teaching to the test, it failed the first principle. The Torah does not teach that the Torah (God’s Law) was only given to the Israelites, but that it was given to both the Israelites and the “stranger that sojourned with them.” And this principle of inclusiveness is repeated in different ways throughout the teachings of the Torah itself.
Therefore, there is a consistency of thought here in regard to the same laws and manner of life being consistently lived by both groups. To reiterate this again, Moses then states again that the Torah is not just for Israel, but it is for ALL of them – Israelite and Gentile (non-Jew) – that are standing there:
Neither with you (Israel) ONLY do I make this covenant and this oath; but with him (the non-Jews who are there) that stands here WITH US (the Israelites) this day before the LORD OUR GOD (He is the God of ALL of them),… (Deuteronomy 29:14-15a)
But then after reiterating the inclusive nature of this covenant, that it is for both Israelites AND non-Israelites (aka, non-Jews), that Moses goes on to make a very profound statement:
and also with him THAT IS NOT HERE WITH US THIS DAY. (Deuteronomy 29:15)
Notice that Moses says that the covenant that God entered with them beginning at Mount Sinai and ending here is a covenant for all of them, Israelite and the stranger (non-Jew) alike, and it is also a covenant for anyone who was not there with them, whether they are a Jew or a non-Jew. It is for ALL of us.
Consequently, then, the idea that the Law (Torah) is only for the Jews and not for Christians is NOT biblical. If it is for the strangers (non-Jews) in the Tanakh (“Old Testament”), then it is for the strangers (non-Jews) in the New Testament as well. It is for all people for all time.
The problem for many Christians is that the study the New Testament apart from its intended foundation, framework and context (i.e., the Tanakh/”Old Testament”), and they also remove it from the appropriate contexts that should be applied during the first century, C.E. And it is because they violate these various contexts, that their interpretations and understandings of the New Testament is in direct contradiction in many ways from the Teachings of the Tanakh, and more specifically, the teachings of the Torah.
Therefore, as a Whole Bible believer, what I have found by studying the Bible in the order in which it was written, by following these two basic principles, and by placing the biblical texts back into their appropriate contexts, the Bible is no longer two different, distinct revelations – but ONE continuous revelation, and every part of the Bible now has something to say in regard to our lives and how we live.
But as long as we continue to violate these four simple things, we will continue to see people abuse and misuse the Bible for their own purposes. Therefore, I’ve decided to get off the crazy denominational train by no longer identifying myself as “a New Testament believer,” but from this point on, I am, and will continue to identify myself as, a “Whole Bible believer.”