of the Law?
by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
"But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets..." Acts 24:14
"For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them'." Galatians 3:10
Recently, a reader wrote to ask, "I hope you will prepare a short dissertation on Paul's understanding of the status of the Law of Commandments in Statutes, the relevance and value of these to us today under the New Covenant and the meaning of the words 'The Cup is the New Covenant in My blood'. Please specifically address Paul's apparent contradiction in the NT scriptures of Acts 24:14 and Ephesians 2:14 that causes confusion among disciples today because of the seeming division between Paul and the teachings of Yeshua, the Prophets and Moses. Nowhere do the scriptures say that the Law would be abolished while Paul seems to say it has been."
It is only if we approach scripture from a strictly Greek/English viewpoint that we run into seeming contradictions. If we approach scripture from the Hebrew perspective they were written in with the intent of finding the continuity found throughout these words of Truth that uphold the of the Nature of Spirit, who is YHVH, that His Nature never changes; we will find the evidence that He is faithful to uphold His Promises and true to His Nature. But that approach requires a paradigm shift in our thinking from what we have traditionally been taught about the way we approach scripture. For instance, consider how Paul's words from Galatians above are perceived against what they actually say.
Most Christians are taught that Paul converted to Christianity. This is a lie - Paul could not have possibly converted because the religion Christianity can not be found historically until some 250 years after the time of Paul. They believe that he left the Law behind as outmoded because "Jesus fulfilled" the Law and introduced the era of grace. This passage from Galatians is typically one of the proof texts used to show that no man can keep the Law, that the Law is a curse and is therefore not part of the new life in "Christ". But read this again! Paul cites Deuteronomy 27:26 (click on highlighted words to view content) as a proof that the curse falls on those who do not keep the Law, not on those who do keep the Law. Something is really strange about Paul's argument here if looked at from the traditional Christian theology. First he says that anyone under the "works of the Law" is cursed and then he immediately says that the curse applies to anyone who doesn't keep the Law. Is Paul contradicting himself?
The way most Christians read this verse makes it appear as if it is a straightforward contradiction. Step 1: Everyone under the works of the Law is cursed. This implies that the Law itself is a very bad thing. But, Step 2: Everyone who doesn't do what the Law says is cursed. This implies that those who keep the Law are doing great and the Law is a very good thing. So which is it? The answer is found in the Paul's technical phrase "works of the Law." Did you notice that Paul doesn't say, "As many as are of the Law are cursed"? He uses the phrase "works of the Law." Since Paul cites Deuteronomy as his authority that keeping the Law is a good thing, his phrase "works of the Law" must mean something other than "keeping the Law." Otherwise Paul's words are contradictory.
What does "works of the Law" mean? Paul uses this phrase to describe the Legalists. These are men from Jerusalem who have come to Galatia to argue that in order to be a follower of the Jewish God YHVH one must first become Jewish. In other words, these men are advocating the process of being a proselyte - circumcision, Torah study and baptism - before a person is acceptable to God. The "works of the Law" is Paul's way of describing those who claim that a believer must do something before God will offer grace. Paul teaches that God freely offers grace to all - Jew and Gentile alike. These men claim that a Gentile must become a Jew in order to find acceptance before YHVH. Paul strenuously objects. Why does Paul say that those who advocate "works of the Law" are cursed? Because, in Paul's view, they have already broken one of the fundamental commandments of Scripture. He provides the reference for his assessment in the next verse. "The righteous man shall live by faith" (quoting Habakkuk 2:4) tells us that anyone who imposes additional requirements for acceptability, that is, anything except faith, has violated God's instructions, and as Deuteronomy 27:26 shows, is therefore cursed.
Paul clearly sees that none of my rule-keeping behavior has any affect on YHVH's grace freely offered to me, whether Jew or Gentile. Obedience is devotion to YHVH after salvation, not before. The apparent contradiction in Paul comes from reading "works of the Law" as if it were the equivalent of "those who live according to the Law." But Paul never says that. So where did we get that idea anyway? Let's go ask the perpetrators of this doctrine - Augustine and Luther. And Paul is not the only NT author to uphold Torah - "For this is the love of YHVH, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" found in 1John 5:3 is just one instance of such. Please read the scriptural research found in the article Torah vs the Law to understand the traditional discrepancy given to these words.
"Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, 'You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Yeshua. Worship God.'
For the testimony of the Life of Yeshua IS the spirit of prophecy. " Revelation 19:10
Revelation 19:10b says the testimony of the Life of Yeshua IS the spirit of prophecy (the spoken oracles of YHVH). The words of Paul do not override the words of Yeshua - and if you think they do, then you are reading them from a traditional religious viewpoint rather than what the words themselves actually say. Words mean things. By Yeshua's own admission in John 14:23-24 He said His words were not His but the Words of His Father. Everything Yeshua said can be referenced back to the Tanakh (OT) with the exception of one, and only one, new commandment in John 13:34 - and His statement there is simply a narrowing of Leviticus 19:18. The Words of YHVH are the perpetual illustrations of His Nature - and Yeshua chose to embody that Nature by His obedience to the Truth as the example for us to follow (Matthew 16:24).
It is important to recognize how the very structure of our language subtly alters how we understand the text of scripture. Hebrew does not work like English or any of the Indo-European languages of which we are familiar. First, it has no vowels. Secondly, the structure of the Hebrew letters communicates a second level of meaning impossible to translate and, third, the syntax of Hebrew is strikingly different than other languages. Even though the only documents we have of the Messianic Writings (NT) are in Greek, they were still written by Hebrews out of a Hebrew mindset influenced through Hebrew culture producing a uniquely Hebrew perspective that were addressed to, primarily, a Hebrew audience. To truly grasp what these Hebrews were trying to communicate, means we must first understand the perspective these words were written from.
With the text of Hebrews 8:13, the Hebraic background of the word "new" is derived from a direct quote of the passage in found in Jeremiah 31:31 and cannot be taken in the sense of essentially or completely new - as from scratch. To understand why the Greek word kainos, meaning "fresh", was chosen to represent the Hebrew word chadash (also translated as the English "new"), we must first come to an understanding that the original Hebrew root word it is derived from means to re-new, or re-pair. It is speaking of a new element that was previously out of sight is now coming into view - not something newly created. It is the revelation of what was always present but unperceived. It is only by divorcing kainen from the Hebraic influence of the word actually used in Jeremiah 31 that someone could conclude that this represents an entirely unprecedented creative act - and that is being disingenuous with the words.
Therefore, from the Hebraic perspective these words are presented in, what is "new" about the covenant is the manner of delivery of YHVH's Words. They are now written and renewed on the hearts of men who will receive them, instead of on tablets of stone - BUT THEY ARE STILL THE SAME WORDS (John 1:12, Jeremiah 31:33). These Words are not altered, not done away with, as Yeshua reinforces in Matthew 5:17-19 - just a better way of having them delivered that is by or through Spirit. The Greek word pleroo, translated as "fulfill" in this passage from Matthew, means "to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, to fill to the brim" - there is nothing in that definition that even remotely lends itself to something "done away with". When a cup is "filled to the brim" it means it is whole or complete so that nothing else can be added - it does not mean to throw the cup away, for then there would be no way to partake of what refreshment the cup holds. The Covenant was fulfilled when the "fiery law" of Deuteronomy 33:2 appeared as "tongues of fire" within those believers waiting on the Promise at the Hebrew feast of Yom Shavu'ot (day of Pentecost) - the same earthshaking day the Words of YHVH's Nature had first been given in fire to the family of Jacob (Israel) at Sinai on tablets of stone fifty days after their Exodus from bondage and the first Pesach (Passover) as it is still celebrated today.
In Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, and Luke 22:19-20, the word "new" in front of "testament" or "covenant" (depending on the translation) is not found in the original manuscripts - having been artificially inserted at a later date to reinforce a replacement theology embraced by the translators. The text should be read "this is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for the many…" - not a "new" covenant, but a promised restoration or fulfillment of what came before. Yeshua was showing His disciples the fulfillment of His Father's covenant - not initiating a "new covenant" (see One Covenant, part 1 for further explanation). Yeshua said the bread IS His Body (see the difference between His Body and the Church) and to divide the wine among them which IS His Blood (see the distinction given His Blood to His Body in the Inheritance). Yeshua was saying to His disciples present at that supper to keep the covenant with each other in the same manner as He had exampled in His Life toward them. Since words mean things, we must consider all the words of a passage before drawing our conclusions.
|"Wherefore remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time you were without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without Elohim in the world: But now in Messiah Yeshua you who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Messiah. He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of partition (or hostility) between us by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to YHVH in One Body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (or enmity)." (Ephesians 2:11-16)|
So, just what is the "the dividing wall of hostility" Yeshua broke down between us? The English term translated "broke down" is the Greek word, luo, which can mean "to loose, untie, set free, break up, destroy, bring to an end, abolish, or do away with". It is used of the demolition of buildings, as in the saying of Yeshua regarding the Temple (John 2:19) or of the destruction of the ship on which Paul was traveling (Acts 27:4 - the compound form of this word, kataluo, is used by Yeshua in Matthew 5:17). Ephesians 2:16 further defines the use of luo by adding "having put to death the enmity (hostility created) by it." Contextually, the abolishing action is viewed as final - as a death. Thus, the barrier is done away with forever. But, how could that be if the temple was still standing after Yeshua's resurrection and at the time of this writing to the Ephesians?
|Greek tablet, attached to the Soreg, forbidding Gentiles to pass beyond that point. Discovered by Clermont-Ganneau in 1871. Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums.|
There is an acknowledged Rabbinical injunction regarding a fence around the Torah, as in Avot: "…They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence round the Law" (m.Avot 1.1 Cf. also b.Chullin 110a; b.Yebamot 20a). "R. Akiba said, Jesting and levity habituate [a man] to lewdness. [The] Tradition is a fence to the Law; tithes are a fence to riches; vows are fence to abstinence; a fence to wisdom is silence" (m.Avot 13.3). Yeshua spoke to the result of tradition in Mark 7:9-13. Additionally, the Greek term phragmos ("fence") was commonly used in the 1st Century to identify the oral Torah (the Talmud) as a "wall" or "fence" around the written Torah and the Pharisees as "builders of the wall". Finally, it was aspects of the oral Torah, not the written Torah, which laid the foundation for a strict separation between ethnic and non-ethnic Hebrews. The Ephesian text before us helps define the dividing wall with the phrase "the law of commandments in ordinances", ton nomon tOn entolOn en dogmasin (rather than all the prior usages in the Messianic Writings of ha nomos - "the law"), to denote those Rabbinic ordinances which had been, in fact, the obstacle of separation, the "fence" of dogma found at the end of this phrase.
A study of the Greek word, dogma, in both the LXX and Messianic Writings confirms that the term was used of man-made laws and not of the YHVH-given Torah of Sinai (in spite of Strong's inference). We may therefore conclude that Paul adds it to his description of (nomos, "law") in order to identify the abolished law as the legal fence of the Rabbis, particularly the parts of the oral Torah that separated ethnic and non-ethnic Hebrews and, thus, were at odds with the written Torah that prophesied the unity within the promise of blessing given to Abraham. This does not mean the entire oral Torah was abolished. In fact, there are many instances recorded in the life of Yeshua where He gives clear allegiance to oral Torah. What Yeshua abolished were those Rabbinic laws which, when practiced, set aside the Torah of YHVH by separating ethnic and non-ethnic Hebrews that YHVH always intended to make one in Messiah. This was the "dividing wall, the (Rabbinic) law contained in the ordinances (of the oral Torah)." Those parts of the oral Torah that affirm the written Torah or are in harmony with it remain viable for the Messianic believer as the traditions of the fathers.
Thus, when all the words are looked at together from the Hebraic perspective they were written in, we find no contradictions within the writings of Sha'ul (the apostle Paul); instead, scriptures show Yeshua, Paul and the rest of the disciples to be in complete alignment with Torah.
Part One - Torah or "the Law"
Part Two - the Curse of the Law?
Part Three - Under the Law?
Part Four - Legalism
Part Five - To Know Him
"And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is broken for you.
Each time you partake of it, remember how I was with you
And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup that is poured out for you is
the covenant fulfilled in my blood...'" Luke 22:19-20
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. While not claiming to have all the answers, it would be an honor to partake with you of what the Spirit is uncovering.