THE TORAH IS NOT LAW
Mark R. Ensign, JD, CPA
Teaching Elder of Adot Adonai
Attorney and Counselor at Law
(Part 1 of 2)
IntroductionThe objective of this study is to help the reader to better understand both the Lord our God, YHVH, our Creator and King of the Universe, who is also Abba, our Father, and the loving instructions he carefully revealed to his beloved children as recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
As you begin, I respectfully ask you to put aside, at least temporarily, the concepts and opinions you have formed or been taught throughout your life about the word of God, the Torah, that is commonly called "the Law." I ask you to start afresh and join me in building a new paradigm, a new way of thinking about the Torah. Of course, I want you to carefully consider what I offer to you in light of the totality of the Scriptures as you are led into the truth by the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. Please do not accept what I say merely because I say it, but because the Ruach HaKodesh confirms it in your spirit as truth from YHVH.
If the Ruach HaKodesh confirms this new paradigm to you as truth, I believe that you will experience a heightened level of liberation, expanded dimensions of freedom to be what Abba has created you to be, one of his beloved children. He said, "I am YHVH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. (Leviticus 26:13) Because God delivered his people from slavery, he gave them a Torah of deliverance, instructions about living in the new liberty.
Likewise, we have been enslaved to the kingdom of sin and death but YHVH has delivered us and liberated us into his kingdom of life. As Rav Sha'ul (Apostle Paul) wrote to the Romans "The Torah of the Spirit, which produces this life in union with Messiah Yeshua, has set me free from the Torah of sin and death." (8:2 JNT)
Similarly, we have been enslaved by the old paradigm that the Torah is the Law and in the Law we find sin and death. Now, in these last days, YHVH wants us to be delivered, to be liberated, to fully understand and embrace what has been hidden from us for centuries and generations so we may be truly free in him and in his Torah that brings us to life in him.
The title of this study is the central conclusion to which the Ruach HaKodesh has led me over the past several years. The Torah is not the Law! The subtitle might be an expanded conclusion: The Torah is the set of instructions graciously offered by our loving heavenly Father for our own good about how we are to walk humbly before him and with our fellow men.
As you are probably aware, the subject of "the Law" is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in all of Christendom. For most Christians, the term, "the Law" produces negative mental and spiritual images. Those negative images are both of YHVH, our Creator and King of the Universe, and also of his word, the truth he has revealed to his people. In the context of "the Law," YHVH is imagined as the stern lawgiver and harsh judge who sits behind a high bench in the courtroom. A gavel in hand, he is carefully watching every move that we make, every step that we take, ever word that we say. He eagerly awaits our failure to keep the least of these "Laws" so that he may slam his gavel down and condemn us to hell. "The Law" is seen as a bookshelf full of statutes, ordinances, regulations, rules, and judgments against others for their failures. We imagine these "laws" are just waiting to trip us up because we cannot possibly know or comprehend or implement them all in our lives. Such negative images do a grave injustice to YHVH's revelation of himself to his children. They also confine us and restrict our behavior rather than encouraging us to experience the freedom of being a child of the King of the Universe.
These negative images were first imagined centuries ago, about the time of Yeshua but not by him or his disciples. Through time the images were developed, refined, taught and perpetuated from generation to generation by well-meaning but misinformed teachers who failed to understand the true nature of YHVH in relationship to his children. Thus they have viewed and taught "the Law" as something harsh, bad, transient, and superseded by something better, namely, grace. They refer to passages such as Yochanan (John) 1:16- 17 to prove this for it says, "And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
The purpose of this study is to dispel these erroneous negative images from the minds and spirits of believers and replace them with the truth. YHVH, our God, Creator, and King of the Universe, is also Abba, our loving heavenly Father. As all fathers do, Abba desires only the best for his beloved children. In order to achieve that objective, Abba has lovingly given instructions which he asks his children to follow for their own good.
These instructions are a unity just as YHVH is a unity as we proclaim regularly in the Shema from Devarim (Deut.) 6:4. "Shema Yisrael. Adonai Eloheinu. Adonai Echad. Hear O Yisrael. The Lord is our God. The Lord is one." The unity of YHVH has many diverse aspects as revealed in his many, varied manifestations described by approximately 50 names for YHVH in his scriptures. Likewise the unity of his instructions, the Torah, is revealed in diverse aspects described by a number of Hebrew words.
To enable you to grasp the wonderful truth that the Torah is not the Law, I will present evidence to support my conclusion. I will offer a reasonable explanation of how we arrived at our erroneous understanding of the Torah as "the Law." I will describe this Law Model from an attorney's perspective. We will also examine the understanding that Yeshua and Rav Sha'ul had of the Torah. Based on that understanding, I will propose the Education Model of Torah which better describes the Torah from the perspective of Abba. Finally, we will consider what our responses should be to this new paradigm, the Education Model of Torah.
This study is a work in progress. By no means is it intended to be the final word on this topic. Rather, I pray that it will be used by the Ruach HaKodesh to encourage the readers to carefully contemplate and prayerfully study the word of Abba for themselves being led into the truth by the Ruach HaKodesh. Constructive criticism, comments and suggestions based on such study will be gratefully received and considered. May the end result be a fuller understanding of YHVH our Abba and his wonderful word in which he reveals himself to those who love him and diligently seek him.Foundational Truths
To begin, we must agree on a foundation of truths about YHVH our Abba, our Father.
Abba is love. Abba is full of grace. Abba is full of mercy. Abba is unchanging. Abba is eternal. Abba has created mankind. Those men and women who submit themselves to him are his children. In various ways, places and times, Abba, through the leaders of his people such as Moshe and the prophets who spoke for him, like Yesha'yahu (Isaiah), Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah), Yechezk'el (Ezekiel), and Yeshua (Jesus) gave his children instructions, guidance, directions for living. With these statements I believe we all agree. The original Hebrew words of the Tanakh, the "Old Testament," portray Abba and his word in these ways. Thus Moshe and all Bnei Yisrael (the Children of Yisrael, the descendants of Ya'akov (Jacob)) understood Abba to have these characteristics and to have spoken to them his instructions for living uprightly before Abba and with mankind whom Abba created.
The system of instructions Abba gave to his children, described above, is called the Torah. Initially Torah encompassed the first five books, B'reshit (Genesis) through Devarim (Deuteronomy) the books written by Moshe. Today, Judaism has an expanded definition of Torah which includes these books plus the "Oral Torah" (commonly referred to as the Mishnah) plus the rabbinical commentary including the Talmud and other writings of the Sages. Messianic believers have expanded the definition of Torah to encompass the Tanakh (consisting of the Torah, the Nevi'im (Prophets) and the Ketuvim (Writings), what Christendom calls the "Old Testament") and all of the B'rit Chadashah (what Christendom calls the "New Testament") - the entire scriptures from B'reshit through the Revelation - for we believe that all instructions of Abba that have been transmitted to us in these writings are applicable and appropriately called Torah.How Did We Get Here?
Little mistakes made at the beginning of a project can lead to big problems at the end. This is a good case of that maxim being true. To translate Torah as "law" may be considered a small mistake but it has led to a massive perversion of the truth, to a distorted image of Abba and his words of life that has caused many to reject Abba and his loving instructions. We need to examine the history of the development of man's understanding of Torah as the Law.
The Torah was first identified as the books written by Moshe. These would have been completed approximately 1500 years before the birth of Yeshua. The remaining books of the Tanakh, the Prophets and the Writings, were generally written prior to the Babylonian captivity or shortly after the return of the Jewish people from that captivity and the reconstruction of the Temple and the restoration of Temple worship. All of these writings in Hebrew were on scrolls accessible to the people in their places of study and worship. Because of their wonderful gift of memory they would probably have memorized at least the Psalms and the books of Moshe, if not the whole Tanakh.
Approximately 300 years before Yeshua's birth, the influence of the Greeks had pervaded the land of Yisrael. First the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great and later the Greek- influenced Ptolemaic Empire ruled over the land of Yisrael as well as the southern Mediterranean including Egypt. During the reign of Ptolemy II, the books of Moshe were translated by Jewish scholars in Egypt into Greek and this translation was called the Septuagint.
Under the influence of the Greek Alexandrian and Ptolemaic Empires, these Jewish scholars became "hellinized" in their thinking, that is they fell under the influence of the western Greek way of thinking and shifted their thinking from the eastern Hebraic mode of thought. Thus, they began to see the Torah through Greek eyes having been assimilated into the Greek world around them. The Greeks had many laws governing their Empire. This system of laws affected the Jewish Sages until they perceived the Torah as a legal system like the Greek system which might be described as "If you don't do what the Law says, you will be exiled from the Empire." So these Jewish scholars developed halachah, a series of interpretations of the Torah intended to guide the walk of the observant Jews by placing a fence around the Torah to prevent inadvertent violations.
This fence around the Torah was patterned after the westernized, Greek system of law. It became a tradition of the elders which they added to the Oral Torah that was spoken by Abba to Moshe while he was on Har Sinai. This halachic fence included many "laws" like limitation on the Shabbat day's walk, and the tithing of herbs, which became burdensome to the people. You will recall that Yeshua condemned the Pharisees for their hypocritical imposition of these man-made traditions as burdens upon the people which they themselves ignored. Furthermore, they effectively added these laws to Abba's Torah by telling the people that if they broke these additional traditions they were dangerously close to breaking God's Torah and if they broke the Torah they would be exiled from their holy city.
The most significant result of these developments on the "Law" of the Torah was the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew word Torah into Greek as nomos meaning law and not didaskalia. Didaskalia means teaching, instruction, education, doctrine, what is taught. It means precisely what the Hebrew word Torah really means, as we will discuss below. This mistranslation of Torah into Greek as nomos set the stage for the church fathers' full-fledged proclamation of the Torah as "the Law."
At and after the time of Yeshua, the Sages of Judaism contributed to this process of making Torah into "law." After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., the rabbis formally compiled their oral traditions and halachic interpretations of Torah, wrote them as the Mishnah in about 200 C.E., adopted them as their "Law" and required obedience of all Jewish people to this combination of the Torah and Mishnah. Subsequently their Sages commented further on the Mishnah thus adding more "law" and compiled those comments or Gemara as the Talmud. The Jerusalem Talmud was issued first in Yerushalayim in about 400 C.E. followed about 100 years later by the Babylonian Talmud. It is estimated to contain about two and a half million words and is about three times as long as the Palestinian Talmud. The Talmud has been accepted as a code book for the regulation of Jewish life. Because it does not have the outward form of a code book, logically ordered books of law code of Talmudic and later decisions were composed subsequently through the centuries. Thus, in the Jewish mind, the Torah became the Law and the rabbis became excellent "lawyers." Today the rabbis say they are studying the Torah when they are really studying all of these works of men in addition to the words of God through Moshe which they spend precious little time studying...
After the formation of the "church" -- not at Shavuot (Pentecost) but years later -- it was organized under the churchmen (the church fathers, scholars, teachers, and leaders) who, over the first few centuries after the life of Yeshua, rejected the Hebraic heritage of their faith. Some became quite anti-semitic. The churchmen demanded orthodoxy from all who would follow in their footsteps as churchmen. Orthodoxy meant what these churchmen said was right and not necessarily what was the truth. Orthodoxy was thus perpetuated in the teaching cycle, from scholar/teachers to students who grew up to become scholar/teachers who taught the next generation their orthodoxy rather than the truth. (I do not use the term "churchmen" to mean the pastors, leaders, and believers in local churches today who are being as faithful to the word of God as they know how based upon the orthodoxy that has been transmitted to them.)
Soon after the death of Yeshua and the organization of the church, churchmen adopted the terminology of the rabbis and started calling the Torah "the Law." They adopted the Septuagint's translator's view of Torah as nomos, the Greek law which resulted in exile if broken. In the process, the churchmen changed the truths about the character of Abba and his word that we agreed upon above. They portrayed YHVH, as revealed in the "Old Testament," as the awesome, stern lawgiver who imposed the Law on mankind in the form of commands, statutes, ordinances, regulations, judgments and rules. He demanded all people follow these or he would punish them both on earth and in hell for eternity. They saw him as the judge of all the earth constantly monitoring all actions and issuing judgment to inflict punishment for failing to keep every Law in his Torah. Those images of YHVH were passed from generation to generation even until today.
Is that your idea of Abba, God of love, grace and mercy? It certainly is not mine! But churchmen's portrayal of God in this manner and their transforming of Torah into "the Law" enhanced their ability to enforce their orthodoxy on their church members. Over the centuries they used this model of Torah as law to create their own church law which they sometimes ruthlessly imposed on their church members, as during the Inquisition. This contributed to the Protestant movement and the splintering into denominations, each of which had its own version of church law imposed on its members. Is it any wonder that in the last few decades people have run away from the church or at least avoided the Old Testament if they stayed in church.
As languages developed besides Hebrew and Greek, in order for the Scriptures to be disseminated translations had to be made so that the people would be able to understand them. The translators were scholars who had been raised in the traditional portrayal of YHVH and his word as "the Law." Controlled by the churchmen who funded their translations, they incorporated into their translations the churchmen's bias against the Torah of God. They rewarded their paymasters by using words that perpetuated the traditional portrayal of YHVH, the God of the Old Testament.
To counter this portrayal, the churchmen and their translators proclaimed that the God of the New Testament changed into a God of love, grace and mercy sometime immediately before, during or after the life of Yeshua. Furthermore, his Torah was nullified by Yeshua and replaced with two commandments: to love God and love your neighbor. That, of course, is the current position of most churchmen today -- God of the Old Testament changed into the loving G- d of the New Testament. In fact, some have gone so far with this theology that they effectively portray God as their bellboy who immediately responds to their every call and who must and will do everything that they desire including providing them with earthly riches if they will just ask in the right away. Some even see Yeshua as their big brother or pal rather than as their Redeemer, Lord, Creator and King of the Universe.
The Scriptures proclaim that God is eternal and he does not change. Thus he must have been the same all along, both before and after Yeshua. So the churchmen can't logically have a God revealed in the Old Testament (stern lawgiver and harsh judge) who is different in the New Testament (loving, merciful and gracious). But that is precisely what they try to tell us. They use their translations to impart this message to their people, most of whom are not trained in the original languages. Even if they have such language training, they have been taught that the English meanings of the original words are what the churchmen erroneously say they are. Even the Biblical dictionaries and lexicons have been compiled by the translators based upon their understanding rather than upon the original meaning of words.
Christianity's view of "the Law" has been influenced by the struggle to define its own identity apart from its Hebraic roots. That struggle was fought with powerful figures like Marcion (A.D. 130), who denied the validity of the Hebrew Bible for Christian faith and practice. He loved Rav Sha'ul, according to special interpretation of him, but Marcion hated the Bible. Even though the Church called Marcion a heretic, his view of "the Law" was largely accepted without consideration of the Jewish understanding of the Torah. In contrast to Marcion, both Yeshua and Rav Sha'ul highly valued the Torah as we shall see.
Martin Luther also had a negative impact on Christian theologies by misunderstanding Rav Sha'ul and developing the theology of justification by faith. According to Luther, faith negated Torah. Torah was bad, imperfect, and transient. Judaism, as a religious system, was bad and all Jews would burn in hell unless they accepted Yeshua as their personal savior. Luther was as rabid an anti-Semite as was Marcion and his anti-Semitism is clearly reflected in his theology.
Unfortunately, the influence of Marcion, Luther, and others of their ilk and kind remain with us until today. As a result many unwary believers have been, and continue to be, taught erroneously.
Based upon this history we can understand why we are taught today that the Torah is "the Law" of God. This is why churchmen taught that all the commandments of "the Law" must be fulfilled in every respect in order for one to have salvation. This is why churchmen taught that if one attempted to keep any of the "laws" one had to keep them all. This is why churchmen taught that YHVH had to come up with a better plan of salvation. This is why churchmen substituted the two commandments of Yeshua to love God and to love your neighbor for the whole of the Torah.
Somehow churchmen did not realize that these two commandments are actually contained within the Torah! (Devarim (Deut) 6:5, "You shall love YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Vayikra (Lev.) 19:18, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am YHVH.") So, according to churchmen's own theology, if they attempt to keep these two commandments of Yeshua, they must keep all the commandments in order to be saved.The Law Model and its Terminology
Historically churchmen and their translators have used words taken from the legal profession to translate the Hebrew words Abba chose to describe the various aspects of his Torah. Hebrew words such as Torah, chuqqah, choq, and mishpatim are translated with various legal terms including law, statute, ordinance, regulation, rule and judgment. Of course, all of these are attributed to YHVH thus painting the traditional portrayal of God as lawgiver and judge.
As an attorney familiar with legal terminology, I have become increasingly troubled with the use of these legal words to describe the system of loving instructions Abba gave his people in the Tanakh (Old Testament). The churchmen's chosen legal words do not seem to fit the God of the Bible and his Torah that I see revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Here are some legal terms that churchmen and their translators have used to translate the various Hebrew words that are listed. The definitions are abridged from the Black's Law Dictionary, the standard dictionary used by all attorneys in the United States.
LAW -- The Hebrew word Torah (pl. Torot) is usually translated as Law. Law is defined as that which is laid down, ordained, or established. Law, in its generic sense, is a body of rules of action or conduct prescribed by controlling authority, and having binding legal force. That which must be obeyed and followed by citizens subject to sanctions or legal consequences is a law. Law is a solemn expression of the will of the supreme power of the State.
STATUTE -- The Hebrew words Chukah and Chok are usually translated as statute. A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative body declaring, commanding, or prohibiting something.
ORDINANCE -- The Hebrew word Chukah is also translated as ordinance. An ordinance is a local law of a municipality prescribing general, uniform, and permanent rules of conduct and governing matters such as zoning, building, health, traffic and safety, etc.
REGULATION -- The Hebrew words Torah, Mishpat, Chok and Chukah are sometimes translated as regulation. Regulations are issued by various governmental departments to carry out the intent of the law. Agencies issue regulations to guide the activity of those regulated by the agency and of their own employees and to ensure uniform application of the law.
RULE, STANDARD -- The Hebrew words Mishpat and Chukah are also translated as rule or standard. Rules are established standards, guides, or regulations for conduct or action. Principles or regulations set up by authority, prescribing or directing action or forbearance.
JUDGMENT -- The Hebrew word Mishpat is also translated as judgment. A judgment is the official and authentic decision of a court of justice upon the respective rights and claims of the parties and submitted to its determination.
Does reading these legal words in your Bible in connection with our loving Abba trouble you as they do me? Perhaps, because of teaching by your pastors and teachers, you believe the God of the Tanakh is a God of law. Perhaps you believe his word is the Law rather than Abba's loving instructions. Perhaps in this study you will find a better understanding of the words Abba chose to describe his loving instructions to his children.Yarah and Torah
In Hebrew words are derived from root words and nouns from verbs. The root word for the noun Torah is the verb yarah. Yarah means to "throw, cast, shoot, point out, show, direct, teach, instruct." It connotes shooting or throwing something at a target, like guiding an arrow to a bull's-eye or guiding sheep toward the sheepfold. The meaning of yarah is clear and does not in any way embrace or imply any of the aspects of the law terms we have defined above.
Thus Torah, derived from yarah, is a noun which means teaching or instruction that is true and straight, as if the words of Torah are shot in a direct path like an arrow, with power and force for the best in life. Torah is the divine theme for all people who love God. Torah means God's will including but going over and beyond the ink dried upon the scrolls of holy writ. So Torah cannot mean or connote "law" in any way, shape or form unless it is distorted by those with a bias in favor of the law model.
Until the time of Yeshua and in the century following his life, Torah had this meaning. In the light of this, Yeshua condemned the rabbinical leaders of his day and their predecessors who had imposed their human traditions as laws on the people rather than teaching them to obey the instructions of their loving heavenly Father. They had perverted the Torah instructions that were delivered to Moshe by HaShem into a strict moral code full of requirements created by man in order to maintain control over the people. Torah has become a broad, all-encompassing term including the traditions of men rather than the loving instructions of our Father originally given to us in the books of Moshe, B'reshit (Genesis) through Devarim (Deuteronomy). So the rabbis no longer were educators in the Instructions of the Father but "lawyers" who argued about the Law that they created.
Equally unfortunate, this has been the case in some Messianic circles. Some teachers have adopted the rabbinical concept of the Torah as the "Law of Moshe" and have proclaimed it as such. They then apply the legalism that must naturally accompany such "law." So they proclaim that believers have to keep the law to be saved or to receive the blessings of the Lord. Then they go a step further by observing and judging the performance of others in keeping their law in their way. If they determine the performance is not up to their specifications and standards, they reject these poor, underperforming or nonperforming believers or place greater burdens on them, just like some of the Pharisees in the time of Yeshua whom he chastised for their own hypocrisy and lack of performance even to their own standards. This is a problem about which informed believers need to be fully aware.
I am keenly aware of the need to use accurate, precise language in our communications. Lawsuits are sometimes won or lost on the basis of terms and definitions and the precision of the words used in presenting and advocating a position.
Imagine with me a courtroom setting as portrayed in reality on Court TV and not the People's Court. Imagine me standing before the judge as an attorney hired to vigorously represent my client in a lawsuit arising from a contract my client signed. The dispute is about the meaning of the terms and definitions found in that contract. At the time my client signed the contract and to this present day, my client has a clear and correct understanding of the meaning of the terms used in the contract. On the other side, the other party to the contract has perverted over time the meaning of the original terms in such a way to benefit itself at the expense of my client.
Think with me about my strategy as the attorney representing the clear and correct meaning of the terms. I have two choices about what words to use in my trial preparation. I can use the words with the clear and correct understanding of my client or I can use the erroneous terms and definitions as perverted by the other party. What will happen if I adopt, embrace and constantly use the erroneous terms and definitions throughout my trial presentation? What if I use the terms incorrectly whenever I examine a witness, whenever I confer with the judge, and whenever I present my case to the jury? Do I have a chance of winning this case? Of course not. In order to win the case I must consistently use, proclaim and advocate the correct meaning. I must not compromise by using my opponent's meanings at any time or I will concede my case. ( End of Part 1 )This study may be reproduced but only if it is reproduced in full without change or additions. This study may be distributed by e-mail if transmitted in full without change or additions.
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