The Truth in Torah – Taken Away or Fulfilled Forever?
For eBook Version click HERE!the-truth-in-torah
Rev. Dr. Shawn M. Greener, The Ninja Pastor!
Matthew 5:17-20 (CJB)
17 “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. 18 Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah—not until everything that must happen has happened. 19 So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”
First, What is a Mitzvot?
The Jewish New Testament Commentary reminds us;
“One often hears someone Jewish saying, “It’s a mitzvah!” usually referring to a charitable, beneficial act performed by another person. However, while its Yiddish parallel “mitzveh” does have this connotation, the Hebrew word mitzvah does not mean “a good deed” in that sense.
Mitzvah literally means “commandment.” In fact, Jewish tradition understands exactly 613 mitzvot (plural of mitzvah) to be derived from the Hebrew Bible. It is not simply a “good deed,” for example, to refrain from murdering or stealing. And similarly, the mitzvot which deal with feeding the poor, acting kindly to the stranger, or observing the Sabbath are much more significant in the Jewish tradition than mere divine suggestions on how to be good.
Mitzvot are commandments traditionally understood to come from God and to be intended for the Jewish people to observe. “
(Let me say this now, the always awesome Dr. Cheryl Durham of Master’s International University of Divinity www. in advising me on a surprisingly challenging doctoral project really sums this conundrum up in less than 200 words to this question, which as you read this eBook you know by now, is very difficult for me to do:
“How does an appreciation for the Hebraic background of Jesus and the Apostles affect your hermeneutics (your understanding and interpretation of the Scriptures)?”
My first run at this project: In the years before I met Dr. Arthur J. Moen I nearly daily wondered to myself and out loud to anyone who would listen,
“Why was Yeshua brought to earth as a Jew, in a Hebraic Land with Hebrew Worldview and Culture?”
I asked and asked but no one answered with any reasonableness. Now, literally everything I hear, read, teach, preach and think now is filtered through my growing understanding of Hebraic Worldview.
My 2nd 1st Draft – The Hebraic background of Yeshua and the Talmidim drives my every understanding of the Scriptures through the filter of the THEN Hebraic Worldview, Language and Culture. It has to be during the time of writing because the Hebrew worldview changes over time. I cannot understand or teach without first understanding Hebrew Culture and Language.
My 1st 2nd Draft – The chronological Hebraic background of Yeshua and the Talmidim drives my every understanding of the Scriptures through the filter of the THEN Hebraic Worldview, Language and Culture. It has to be during the time of writing because the Hebrew worldview changes over time. I cannot understand or teach without first understanding Hebrew Culture and Language.
Dr. Cheryl Durham’s far better contribution – Since the Hebraic worldview evolves you might want to say that understanding the original context of the text brings to light meaning that cannot be had any other way. Understanding Yeshua, in his time, and what the original audience understood should broaden the meaning to me. Since the separation of 2,000 years truncates culture and language, I have to know what it meant to be in the first audience. In that way, I can extract meaning that more accurately applies to my life as a believer. Hebrew culture and language are not the same throughout time.
Another Dr. Durham contribution because I am dense:
An appreciation for the Hebrew background of Jesus and the Apostles will affect my hermeneutic by not allowing me to anachronistically apply meaning to the text. This is especially true of the traditional Christian hermeneutic of supercessionism. For example: In knowing that the Greek word Ioudaios at the time of the writing of the Gospel of John meant Judean (a specific sect and ideology that prevailed at the time of Yeshua) I can no longer apply the later translation that claims that Ioudaiois means “the Jewish people”. Why? Because at that time, there was no such term as “the Jews” that meant the whole of the Jewish people, nor was there such a thing as the Church. I must therefore reconcile the fact that this Gospel was not written as a polemic between the Church the Jewish people but rather contains intramural debate between the groups that existed at that time. I must understand the contextual meaning of Ioudaioi and not anachronistically apply terms that were not relevant to the time, such as Church, and the Jews. John cannot be talking about either. He can only be referring to intramural arguments between the diverse Jewish sects that did exist.”)
Those of us who live in the Western world are often uncomfortable with the idea of being “commanded” to do anything because it seems to deprive us of the right to choose how we behave.
We LIVE in the Western World and we LIVE and THINK in a Western World way, EVEN when we read and attempt to apply the Word of God to man, the Scriptures.
Hebrew culture, thinking and language is totally different than Western thinking, language, culture and living…
Now, add to this powerful realization the fact that Hebrew culture and worldview THEN in the Biblical times we speak of in Scripture was, in many respects, VASTLY different than Hebrew thinking today. The unchanging fact is that no one likes to be “Commanded” to do anything. Myself included.
As soon as someone “Commands” us to do something, anything, the skinny jeans wearers start freaking out about micro and macro aggressions and the mad search for their ‘unbigoted’ safe spaces will be underway! The church isn’t immune because in this post-modern evangelical age we are equally uncomfortable with absolutes…
Why? Because totally speaking for myself here, an absolute dictates that I can be right in my behavior or actions, or I can be absolutely wrong.
So the obvious question is this; Is Torah dead because Yeshua came? Did He Abolish Torah?
I know, I know, you might say, “But I am a ‘Christian’ and I now live in the age of grace, not the age of the law! Jeeeeeesus said!”
But ask yourself, ‘Why do I think and believe this way?’
The teaching each of us receives over the years colors our beliefs and how our beliefs develop. Maybe the teacher that taught us wasn’t trying to mislead us, they were only teaching us what they were taught and lived and worshipped thinking was true.
Here is the thing, the really big thing; and Dr. Skip Moen, one of my professors at Master’s, and author of www.SkipMoen.com puts it this way in one of his many benchmark-setting writings on the topic:
“…The problem is intensely personal. If sin really is not following Torah, as John suggests, then there are a lot of “believers” who are living lives of lawlessness even if they are meeting the ethical expectations of their culture. The only way we can support the current Christian view of ethical behavior is to dismiss the Hebraic context of John’s letter, to pretend that John “converted” to Christianity and broke with the Jewish way of life tied to Torah. We have to rewrite the history of the first century in order to conclude that John did not mean what is found throughout the LXX, the disciples and Paul. But if John thinks like a Jew, writes like a Jew, believes like a Jew and follows a Jewish Messiah, how can we justify treating this text as if John thought like Christians after Marcion? Who has the correct definition of the term anomos, John or us?…”
There is no use pretending that what we call acceptable is good enough for God. It doesn’t matter what the preacher says or the theologian or the Church. What matters, and the only thing that matters, is the text. What does God say? “What does God demand of me?” That’s the only question, and you better not get the wrong answer.”
However, we cannot fail to acknowledge the anti-Semitism that exists today as it did during the translation from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to German to English or some facsimile thereof.
Antinomianism is anti-Torah, which is also anti-Jew. I guess you could say here, not CAN we fail in this way, we HAVE failed.
Is there Antinomianism in the New Testament? Maybe the better question is, Is there antinomianism today?!
www.Theopedia.com notes that Sha’ul or as most Christians know him, Paul, in his letters, mentions several times that we are saved by the unearned grace of God, not by our own good works, “lest anyone should boast.” He used the term freedom in Christ, for example Galatians 2:4, and it is clear that some understood this to mean lawlessness, for example Acts 21:21 records James explaining his situation to Paul:
“…they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.”
The early history of Christianity records conflict between “Pauline Christianity” and the Jerusalem Church led by James the Just, Simon Peter, and John, the so-called “Jewish Christians.”
In Galatians 2:14, part of the “Incident at Antioch,” Sha’ul or Paul publicly accused Peter or Kefa of Judaizing, perhaps legalism. He goes on to say that sins remain sins, and condemns by several examples the kind of behavior that the church should not tolerate.
This confusion is most likely the cause of the statement in 2 Peter 3.16 that some of Sha’ul or Paul’s Letters are hard to understand, “which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures”
2 Peter 3:16 (CJB) 16 Indeed, he speaks about these things in all his letters. They contain some things that are hard to understand, things which the uninstructed and unstable distort, to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
The Epistle of James, in contrast, states that our good works justify before men our faith after salvation and we are to obey the Law of God, that faith without works is death (2:14-26).
James 2:14-26 (CJB) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but has no actions to prove it? Is such “faith” able to save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, 16 and someone says to him, “Shalom! Keep warm and eat hearty!” without giving him what he needs, what good does it do? 17 Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead.
18 But someone will say that you have faith and I have actions. Show me this faith of yours without the actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions! 19 You believe that “God is one”? Good for you! The demons believe it too—the thought makes them shudder with fear!
20 But, foolish fellow, do you want to be shown that such “faith” apart from actions is barren? 21 Wasn’t Avraham avinu declared righteous because of actions when he offered up his son Yitz’chak on the altar? 22 You see that his faith worked with his actions; by the actions the faith was made complete; 23 and the passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled which says, “Avraham had faith in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness. “He was even called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is declared righteous because of actions and not because of faith alone.
25 Likewise, wasn’t Rachav the prostitute also declared righteous because of actions when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another route? 26 Indeed, just as the body without a spirit is dead, so too faith without actions is dead.
According to the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua or ‘Jesus’ as you may know Him as taught:
“Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” Matthew 7:20-23
According to the Sermon on the Plain, Yeshua taught:
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Luke 6:45-46
My friends here in this room and those hearing this message LIVE around this planet via The Collision of Faith and Politics Radio Show, www.theninjapastor.com or reading this eBook, I have to ask you as I had to ask myself;
What is what He told them to do and live?
The very same Torah that Yeshua Himself lived perfectly, every day, for all of His life.
Many taught and still do teach that Yeshua’s coming and ‘fulfilling’ of the Law abolished Torah.
I understand why they make this mistake because unless and until we understand the Hebrew language, culture, and worldview, AT the time of writing, then we are simply playing the game of telephone with only two Solo cups and an old tattered string woefully failing to connect the centuries.
It is also terribly important to completely accurately translate even the most seemingly insignificant words, idioms and phrases. If not translated 100% correctly and accurately, the dominoes won’t fall as they are intended to fall and the string between the cracked red solo cups is just an old useless frayed string between two plastic cups with holes in them.
I can certainly understand why this type of talk would freak you out. To accept this thought would seem to undo an awful lot of what you grew up believing. It would seem that this type of thinking is “Dangerous!” What you have to remember is that by accepting this manner of thinking in cultural context doesn’t seek to demean your Biblical knowledge and practice, or to undermine any of your previous pastors or Bible teachers.
Relax, take a deep breath and realize you cannot eat an elephant in one bite and you cannot turn the Titanic around in a teacup! It will take some time and some effort on your part to come to the understanding that more closely represents what God intended for His people.
To be Anti-Torah is to be Anti-Messiah and Anti-Jew.
Torah is by no means a relic of a long irrelevant time. In fact, as many falsely believe, the “Age of Grace superseded the age of the law.” This errant belief is based upon mistranslation at times totally by mistake or intentionally because of anti-Semitism of the translators.
Don’t think that could happen? It absolutely has happened throughout the ages, and some of the anti-Semitism came from the most unlikely of places!
I teach all over the United States this one powerful premise:
“Little things don’t mean a lot. No, little things mean EVERYTHING!”
Little things like one simple word mistranslated or mis-defined, or in some way anachronistically applied can completely change the meaning of a passage of Scripture. You know, over the course of generations of misunderstanding a passage of Scripture then the ‘common knowledge’ of the Scripture and it’s meaning is totally lost.
One such instance is in this passage. The word used is the Greek word, telos. In this case telos is translated as fulfill or end in the sense of termination. The logical thought based on this mistranslation is that by Yeshua coming, the Law is terminated, over, no longer relevant, applicable for its time only.
He titled this post “Basic Arithmetic”
24 You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4:2
Add / Take Away – Do you think that God is serious when He says we are not to add or subtract anything from His commandments?
The Hebrew verb for “add” is yasaf. It is used to describe increasing, repeating, continuing and enhancing actions. So, Israel’s sins are piled one on another and her guilt is increased. The Lord added sons to Jacob and Rachel. Solomon increased the tax burden on the people. It’s pretty easy to understand the meaning of yasaf. Since that’s the case, I wonder why we don’t seem to pay any attention to it.
Do we add to God’s commandments?
Well, we might start by asking if we increase or enhance the requirements.
For example, a society that expects and awards massive punitive damages certainly adds to God’s civil justice.
We do the same thing in the church, adding tradition to church governance and requirements. That pushes us in the direction of legalism. Just think about all the behavioral rules that govern your life. How many of them are really grounded in Scripture? How many of them are extensions or additions?
Does God command you to go to church every Sunday?
Does He obligate you to give the tithe to the local church?
Does He compel you to wear specific clothing, speak with particular phrases or use certain prayers?
Does He regulate your social contacts or your choice of career?
We really need to know; but my guess is that most of us have never looked closely to see what God says and what He doesn’t say.
On the other hand, God is just as concerned about taking away from His word. Here the Hebrew is gara, a verb that means “to diminish, to reduce, to remove and to cut short.” We’re much better at subtraction than addition.
That’s because reducing and diminishing God’s word doesn’t require so much investigation.
All we have to do is do what we want.
For example, God commands us to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. Hard to get around that, isn’t it? Pretty black and white. When did we decide as Christians that God really didn’t mean what He says?
Do you suppose that happened when it became inconvenient? After all, do we really think God actually cares what we do after church on Sunday? If we don’t understand what God means, subtraction is pretty easy.
Of course, the great Christian excuse is this: these laws were only for Jews.
We have so saturated our theology with grace and forgiveness that it has become the perfect excuse to do whatever seems morally correct. So, in spite of the fact that God says the Feast of Unleavened Bread is to be kept forever, I rather doubt that any contemporary Christian has ever participated nor even imagines he or she ever will.
There’s something wrong here. God is not interested in moral correctness. He is interested in obedience.
Living according to God’s Word is dangerous. It’s dangerous because it demands a razor-sharp understanding of God’s freedom in the midst of human structure.
God is neither legalistic or antinomian.
Rules do not make a relationship with Him. Neither does the denial of rules.
You and I have to walk on the edge of the blade if we are going to serve our Master according to His desires. If you’re not sure about adding or subtracting, maybe you need to get back to first grade and start over. It’s not what’s “right” that matters.
It’s what He requires. (Emphasis Mine)
Ok, time for a little quiz here… Of what faith and culture did Yeshua self-identify? (Insert Contemplative Jeopardy Jingle here.)
I’ll help you free of charge at no cost or obligation to you….
Yeshua was, is and always will be.… a Jew.
Yeshua though born of a Jewish virgin was born a Jew…
Yeshua lived as a Jew in Hebrew culture and He lived Torah.
Yeshua, as a Jew perfectly embodied and fulfilled Torah during His life.
Even in death, the fully Jewish Yeshua lived Torah and by living Torah as the Perfect Jew, fulfilled Torah.
SHORT LINK for the LIVE Recording of this message available to listen to LIVE at 5:30pm EDT on 9/18/16:
Matthew 5:17-21 (Contributions from the Jewish New Testament Commentary) 17 Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete, to make their meaning full.
The Hebrew word “Torah,” literally “teaching, doctrine,” is rendered in both the Septuagint and the New Testament by the Greek word “nomos,” which means “law.”
Greek has had a more direct and pervasive influence on English and other modern languages than Hebrew has, and this is why in most languages one speaks of the “Law” of Moses rather than the “Teaching” of Moses.
It is also part of the reason why the Torah has mistakenly come to be thought of by Christians as legalistic in character (see Ro 3:20b N, Ga 3:23b N).
Romans 3:20 (CJB) 20 For in his sight no one alive will be considered righteous on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, because what Torah really does is show people how sinful they are.
Galatians 3:23 (CJB) 23 Now before the time for this trusting faithfulness came, we were imprisoned in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism, kept under guard until this yet-to-come trusting faithfulness would be revealed.
In Judaism the word “Torah” may mean:
(1) Chumash (the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses); or
(2) That plus the Prophets and the Writings, i.e., the Tanakh (known by Christians as the Old Testament; see 4:4-10 N); or
(3) That plus the Oral Torah, which includes the Talmud and other legal materials; or
(4) That plus all religious instruction from the rabbis, including ethical and aggadic (homiletical) materials.
Here it means the first of these, since “the Prophets” are mentioned separately.
The Prophets. The word “Prophets,” capitalized (as here, 7:12, 22:40; Lk 16:16, 28, 31; 24:44; Yn 1:45, 6:45; Ac 13:15, 27, 40; 15:15; 24:14; 28:23; Ro 3:21), refers to the second of the three main parts of the Tanakh.
When the Tanakh prophets as persons are referred to, the word is not capitalized; “prophet” in the singular is never capitalized. By mentioning both the Torah and the Prophets Yeshua is saying that he has not come to modify or replace God’s Word, the Tanakh. Compare Lk 24:44-45.
To complete. The Greek word for “to complete” is “plêroôsai,” literally, “to fill”; the usual rendering here, however, is “to fulfill.” Replacement theology, which wrongly teaches that the Church has replaced the Jews as God’s people (v. 5 N), understands this verse wrongly in two ways.
First, Yeshua’s “fulfilling” the Torah is thought to mean that it is unnecessary for people to fulfill it now. But there is no logic to the proposition that Yeshua’s obeying the Torah does away with our need to obey it.
In fact, Sha’ul (Paul), whose object in his letter to the Romans is to foster “the obedience that comes from trusting” in Yeshua, teaches that such trusting does not abolish Torah but confirms it (Ro 1:5, 3:27-31).
Romans 1:5-6 (CJB) 5 Through him we received grace and were given the work of being an emissary on his behalf promoting trust-grounded obedience among all the Gentiles, 6 including you, who have been called by Yeshua the Messiah.
Romans 3:27-31 (CJB) 27 So what room is left for boasting? None at all! What kind of Torah excludes it? One that has to do with legalistic observance of rules? No, rather, a Torah that has to do with trusting. 28 Therefore, we hold the view that a person comes to be considered righteous by God on the ground of trusting, which has nothing to do with legalistic observance of Torah commands.
29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, he is indeed the God of the Gentiles; 30 because, as you will admit, God is one. Therefore, he will consider righteous the circumcised on the ground of trusting and the uncircumcised through that same trusting. 31 Does it follow that we abolish Torah by this trusting? Heaven forbid! On the contrary, we confirm Torah.
Second, with identical lack of logic, Yeshua’s “fulfilling” the Prophets is thought to imply that no prophecies from the Tanakh remain for the Jews.
But the Hebrew Bible’s promises to the Jews are not abolished in the name of being “fulfilled in Yeshua.”
Rather, fulfillment in Yeshua is an added assurance that everything God has promised the Jews will yet come to pass.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (CJB) 20 For however many promises God has made, they all find their “Yes” in connection with him; that is why it is through him that we say the “Amen” when we give glory to God.
In order to truly understand what we are promised and what it really means to be a Follower of the Way all the way to Glory, we must first and always strive to understand the Scriptures from a perspective of Torah and Tanakh, we must seek the Truth in full understanding of what is expected of us… That is a lot more difficult than simply reimagining the full contextual meaning of Scripture, not only as it applies to us, but as it applies to anything under the sun. We cannot, by commandment, abolish or redefine the things we do not understand or that we do not want to live by, including Torah. Is it easy?
No, not at all easy, which is why we all live in community seeking to help one another in the journey. Sometimes living in community, helping EACH other is also much more challenging than we realize.