If you haven’t already, please read the Glossary Intro first. Thanks!
Messianic Judaism/Christianity - The term “Messianic” is generally known to describe Jews who have come to believe in Yeshua/Jesus as the Messiah. Jews who are believers in Jesus/Yeshua typically call themselves Jewish Christians or simply, Christians.
Many Christians meet folks who say they are ‘Messianic’ and assume that those folks are Jewish. Most aren’t Jewish at all, but Gentile Christians who have chosen to adopt Torah observance and have adopted the Messianic term, calling themselves Messianic Christians, adherents to Messianic Judaism, or simply, Messianics. It has been my observation that Christians who adopt the label of Messianic identify more with the tenets of Judaism then they do with the tenets of Christianity. Many reject the label of Christianity altogether and some even eventually convert to Judaism.
Messianic Judaism, when objectively defined, is an oxymoron. “Messianic” implies that one believes in Jesus Christ (Yeshua) as the Messiah, while “Judaism”, by definition, rejects Jesus Christ as Messiah at its core.
The contradictions start there and carry on throughout the belief system.
Midrash - Following is an actual quote from a Hebrew Roots/Messianic Judaism adherent who was justifying using Midrash with which to interpret Scripture:
Well, here’s the passage Paul was quoting …. kinda. He was doing a d’rash on it.
So let’s get this straight . . . you’re developing doctrine based on what you say Paul was “kinda quoting” and you claim that he was doing a “d’rash” on it?
The weakness of the “kinda quoting” bit is obvious, but for the benefit of the reader, let’s look at what is a “d’rash”, short for “Midrash” . . .
For the full post here at JGIG, see Hebrew Roots Movement – The Use of Midrash.
Midrash minimizes the authority of the wording of the text as communication, normal language. It places the focus on the reader and the personal struggle of the reader to reach an acceptable moral application of the text. While it is always governed by the wording of the text, it allows for the reader to project his or her inner struggle into the text. This allows for some very powerful and moving interpretations which, to the ordinary user of language, seem to have very little connection with the text. The great weakness of this method is that it always threatens to replace the text with an outpouring of personal reflection. At its best it requires the presence of mystical insight not given to all readers.
Midrash (Hebrew: מדרש; plural midrashim, lit. “to investigate” or “study”) is a Hebrew term referring to the not exact, but comparative (homiletic) method of exegesis (hermeneutic) of Biblical texts, which is one of four methods cumulatively called Pardes. The term midrash can also refer to a compilation of homiletic teachings (commentaries) on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), in the form of legal and ritual (Halakhah) and legendary, moralizing, folkloristic, and anecdotal (Aggadah) parts.
What is PaRDeS? Also from Wikipedia:
The term, sometimes also spelled PaRDeS, is an acronym formed from the name initials of these four approaches, which are:
- Peshat (פְּשָׁט) — “plain” (“simple”) or the direct meaning.
- Remez (רֶמֶז) — “hints” or the deep (allegoric) meaning beyond just the literal sense.
- Derash (דְּרַשׁ) — from Hebrew darash: “inquire” (“seek”) — the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
- Sod (סוֹד) (pronounced with a long O as in gold) — “secret” (“mystery”) or the mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.
Each type of Pardes interpretation examines the extended meaning of a text. As a general rule, the extended meaning never contradicts the base meaning. The Peshat means the plain or contextual meaning of the text. Remez is the allegorical meaning. Derash includes the metaphorical meaning, and Sod represents the hidden meaning. There is often considerable overlap, for example when legal understandings of a verse are influenced by mystical interpretations or when a “hint” is determined by comparing a word with other instances of the same word.
From My Jewish Learning:
Midrash: The Interpretive Tradition
Midrash is a tool of interpretation which assumes that every word, letter, and even stroke of the pen in the Torah has meaning. Midrash Aggadah focuses on biblical narratives, Midrash Halakhah interprets legal passages. In modern times, midrash can include any retellings, additions, or twists on Torah stories.
From Jewish Virtual Library’s Glossary:
(pl. midrashim). From darash, “to inquire,” whence it comes to mean “exposition” (of scripture). Refers to the “commentary” literature developed in classical Judaism that attempts to interpret Jewish scriptures in a thorough manner. Literary Midrash may focus either on halaka, directing the Jew to specific patterns of religious practice, or on (h)aggada, dealing with theological ideas, ethical teachings, popular philosophy, imaginative exposition, legend, allegory, animal fables—that is, whatever is not halaka.
Hebrew term for “Interpretation” or “Exposition.” The word generally used for any written or oral commentary on a biblical text. The original purpose of midrash was to resolve problems in the Hebrew text of the Bible. As early as the 1st c. CE rabbinic principles of hermeneutics & philology were used to bring the interpretation of difficult passages in the literal text of scripture into line with the religious & ethical values of the teachers. This method of interpretation was eventually expanded to provide scriptural pretexts to justify oral tradition. Thus, midrash exposes the values & worldview of the rabbinic interpreter & audience rather than the original intention of the author of the biblical text.
There are more definitions and a myriad of websites out there with “midrashic” points of view, but one gets the general idea from the references above.
When one uses a “d’rash” as a lens to interpret Scripture through, it is clear that that person is seeking to mold Scripture to a predetermined opinion or belief system, not seeking to mold their opinion or belief system to what Scripture actually says.
New Covenant - This, from a post here at JGIG “Law Keepers – Part 4 – Thoughts on the New Covenant”: At the Last Supper Jesus held up the bread and the wine and said, “This is my Body and my blood, do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:14-20) Jesus says in Luke 22:20, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Jesus wants us to remember that His Flesh and Blood took the place of the old covenant (Law) to make us acceptable (free from sin – from spiritual death to spiritual life) before God. It seems to be a rather significant point made during the observance of a feast itself. He shifted the focus in a very clear way from remembering what the Passover was all about to remembering what the breaking of HIS Body and the shedding of HIS Blood was all about . . . replacing the blood on the doorposts (a TEMPORARY solution) with His own Blood (the PERMANENT solution).
To say that that is not enough, or to say that one does not realize the full meaning of all God has done UNLESS one observes the Torah, or that one is not pleasing to or loving God enough if one is not observing the Torah is to say that the shed Blood of Christ is really not enough. That is ground I would not care to tread upon. And make no mistake, that is where you are treading if you feel we all should be Torah observant.
It is not Jesus plus anything that pleases God. God in the flesh - Jesus – fully God and fully man, was crucified and shed His blood for our sins, rose from the dead three days later, and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He finished the complete work of salvation. God does not require that we follow Torah. He nailed the written code to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15) He released us from the Law when He released us from our sin through the Blood of Christ. (Romans 7:4-6)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a repentant believer, cleansed by the blood of THE Lamb, results in the changing of a person – from the inside out! The Law works itself from the outside in. And it’s never enough. Jesus talks a LOT about that in Matthew 23.
Can one truly be “Torah observant” when, in reality, one is selective in which parts of the Law one obeys? Are there not parts of the Law that require a High Priest and a Temple? What about animal sacrifice? Did God become flesh and spill His blood simply to spare us the inconvenience of sacrificing animals?
What about penalties for those who violate the parts of the law for which the punishment is death? Who will take on the “responsibility” of making sure that appropriate punishment is administered according to the Law? Do not Deuteronomy 27:26 and Galatians 3:10 say that “cursed is everyone who does not continue to do EVERYTHING written in the Book of the Law?” (Caps mine.)
How is it, in the view of Law keepers, that Grace exempts one from observing/performing the parts of the Law that one finds inconvenient or impractical, but does not exempt one from observing/performing the more palatable parts of the Law?
Honestly, my intent is not to be antagonistic here. I really wonder how those who are “Torah observant” can reconcile these obvious problems with consistency in obedience to the Law. If you do go ahead and decide to perform sacrifices, to be consistent, then of what use is the Cross? Have you not left the Cross, rejected the redemptive work of the Blood that was shed there for you by the Lamb of God?
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:13-17)
I wonder . . . . . how does God view Law-keeping through the lenses of His Grace and His Blood?
Beyond the realities of what the New Covenant means to the individual believer, how the believer carries out the commands of Christ - the “Law of Christ” impacts those around that believer in a complete systemic all-inclusive way. Christ’s commands? Love God, love others.
How do the realities of the New Covenant enable us to do that?
Under the New Covenant, the Law of Christ, the believer is now free to love their neighbor without restriction. We are able to bend down into the dirt of life and minister to those in need and love them with the love that comes from the very Holy Spirit of God. We don’t need to worry if something or someone will make us “unclean” as we love and minister to those around us.
Why? Because we are cleansed with the Blood of Christ, not merely covered by the blood of animals. Our state of redemption and “clean-ness” is permanent and irrevocable – incorruptible – enabling us to obey both parts of the commandments (instructions) of Jesus – Love God, Love others, whatever the circumstance.
That is the beauty, the reality, of the New Covenant!
[A common assertion in the Hebrew Roots Movement is that the New Covenant is not 'New', but the 'Re-newed' covenant. For and in depth language study of the Scriptures commonly used by the HRM to support their view, see this post: Hebrew Roots Movement - New Covenant or "Renewed" Covenant?]
(The) Prodigal Son - I couldn’t resist putting this one down. Click HERE for a Hebrew Roots interpretation of the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Please use caution when reading any Hebrew Roots materials.) Some of the metaphorical perversions: The prodigal son is not sinful man, he is Christianity. Repentance is not turning away from sin and toward God, it is turning toward Torah. (See also Repent below.) I’ve seen this parable used by several different HRM organizations to lure unwary Christians into a Torah lifestyle. Quoted from the above link:
“The younger son (the Northern Kingdom, Ephraim/Christianity) spent his inheritance on riotous living (by departing from the Torah of the G-d of Israel) and went to a far country (the nations of the world) and was feeding on swine (a reference to not obeying the Torah)”.
These are some specific liberties taken with the story (there are more, but frankly, I couldn’t stomach putting more here): The labels given the younger son are not supported by the text, and a far country means anywhere but Israel. The robe and ring that the father gives to the prodigal son in the HRM version is not a sign of authority and inheritance given to the son by the father, it is instead referred to as “wedding terminology”?! Yuk. And notice that the writer says that the prodigal was feeding on swine, when in fact the bible says that he was feeding the swine. Gotta notch up that Torah rebellion to make this interpretation fit. That particular author tends to make those subtle changes in text to change seemingly unimportant details in a text with which to frame his particular brand of HRM doctrine.
What strikes me about the above is how Nationalism and Torah are central to the story of the Prodigal, not the realities of how we, as undeserving sinners, are embraced by a loving and forgiving Father, no matter what we’ve done. Yes, the cultural implications of the text bring deeper and richer meaning to the parable, but redemption and forgiveness beyond our wildest expectations is the main thrust of the story, not the returning of the Body of Christ to a Torah lifestyle!
There are about a zillion sermons that have been preached on the parable of the Prodigal Son . . . but in light of the HRM, one thing that jumps out at me is this: The Prodigal comes back to the father broken and spent. When he returns, his father knows that he has his son’s heart. The firstborn, faithful to follow the rules and obey his father, finds it difficult to understand the grace extended to his brother. Let me share with you the last part of an article (also available on the Articles Page) that says it so much better than I can [from "Law and Grace Exemplified" by C.H. Mackintosh]:
But, oh! how could the prodigal think lightly of sin in the light of such extraordinary grace? Impossible. He was most effectually delivered from the power of sin by the grace which reigned in his reception, and in his position. It was truly such as to set sin before him in the most fearful colours. “Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Yes, God forbid. It cannot, it must not be, my reader. Grace has set us free — free not only from the penalty of sin, but free from its power — free from its present dominion. Blessed freedom! The law gave sin power over the sinner; grace gives him power over it. The law revealed to the sinner his weakness; grace makes him acquainted with the strength of Christ, the law put the sinner under the curse, no matter who or what he was; grace introduces him into all the ineffable blessedness of the Father’s house — the Father’s bosom. The law elicited only the cry, “O, wretched man that I am!” grace enables him to sing triumphantly, “Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory. “These are important differences, and such as may well lead us into deep thankfulness for the truth that “we are not under the law, but under grace.”
If anything were needed to prove that nothing but grace can form the basis of holy service, the spirit and bearing of the elder brother in our beautiful parable would most fully prove it. He thought he had ever been a very faithful servant, and his heart rebelled against the high position assigned to his younger brother. But, alas! he understood not the father’s heart. It was not the cold service of formalism or legalism that was needed, but the service of love — the service of one who felt he had been forgiven much — or rather those deep affections which flow from the sense of redeeming love. All practical Christianity is comprehended in that word of the apostle, viz., “We love Him because He first loved us.” God grant that we may all enter more into the sacred power of these simple, but most precious truths!
While there are benefits to understanding the culture and original language used in communicating the parable of the Prodigal Son, those benefits culminate in a deeper understanding of the grace of God toward sinful man, and do not in any way point to a ‘prodigal Church’ needing to return to Torah observance.
“Renewed” Covenant – One false definition of the New Covenant (re-termed the “Renewed Covenant”) typical in the Hebrew Roots Movement is found at 1bread.org: At His last Passover, Yahshua initiated a “New Covenant” (prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31). In Hebrew, it is really a renewal of the same covenant, with a few allowances added for while we make the transition back. [???] But the Covenant is “with the House of Israel and the House of Judah”. It cannot be fully in effect until Israel is back together, for it is not with individuals but with a unified nation. So our focus needs to shift from just being saved individuals to again being the people of Israel. Don’t pass up this highest of callings! We dare not fail again.
“We dare not fail again”??? Who’s running the show in the Hebrew Roots Movement? Man or God?
No Scriptures come to mind to support the above rendering of a “renewed Covenant”. In more mainstream Hebrew Roots circles the concept of a “renewed Covenant” vs. the “New Covenant” is rendered with the misuse of the original languages of Scripture. See Hebrew Roots Movement – New Covenant or “Renewed” Covenant for an in-depth word study and solid refutation of the “renewed” Covenant position. [Highly Recommended.]
Repent - Another one of the pillars in the Hebrew Roots Movement and related belief systems/sects, is their re-definition of the word ‘repent’ or ‘repentance’. They skew the meaning of repent in order to point the unwary believer back to the Law of Moses and away from the Law of Christ. If one forgets the transformative power and role of the Holy Spirit, along with the realities of the New Covenant, and fail to take an honest look at the language, one might be deceived and find themselves feeling ‘commanded’ into wearing tzit tzit and and attempting to keep the regulations and edicts of a covenant no longer in effect.
For a full article regarding the HRM/MJ perspective on repentance, see Hebrew Roots Movement – The Perversion of Repentance.
Sabbath – With Torah pursuance comes the keeping of a seventh-day Sabbath, typically from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday.
However, as I researched the issue of the Sabbath, I discovered that within the Sabbath-keeping community itself there is division. There are those that observe a simple seventh-day Sabbath (sundown Friday through sundown Saturday). There are those that view Sunday as the NT Sabbath. Then there are those that follow a lunar reckoning of the Sabbath. The first time I became aware of this method was when someone from the mom’s digest recommended this site. Check it out. Check out this section at that site, in particular, addressing a geocentric vs. heliocentric view of the solar system (universe?). No, seriously. This is one of the more interesting sites that not only mandates keeping the Sabbath, but also mandates a lunar reckoning of the Sabbath. If you visit HRM/MJ sites and blogs, you may notice that some of them have a lunar phase widget in their sidebars. This may be for New Moon sightings for shofar-blowing and New Moon feast-keeping and/or reckoning the Sabbath.
The Sacred Name - Mandatory use of the “Sacred Names”. This is almost universal among Law Keepers. Though many Law Keepers would not consider themselves aligned with any movement, there is a Sacred Name Movement that’s been around since the dawn of the 20th century to which they are adhering in practice. The basic idea is that there is one true name for God, and He requires that we use it, or we are in violation of the commandment, “Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain.”
Gentler, kinder HRM/MJ types will come at it from the “We don’t want to insult YHWH/Yeshua by using His incorrect name now, do we?” angle.
Just a very few of the variations I’ve seen of the “Sacred Names” are YHWH, YHVH, YaHWeH, Yahweh, Jehovah, Yahuweh, Yahuah, Yah (understood to be sort of an affectionate shortening of the other Yah-whatevers) and G-d . . . those are for God. For Jesus, a few variations I’ve seen are Yeshua, Y’shua, Yahshua, Yahushua, Yahoshua . . . so if getting the names right is so important, which ones are they?!
In studying this issue, I’ve reached the conclusion that God is not concerned with the language in which the Gospel is communicated, but rather that the Gospel IS communicated! As for the ‘Sacred Name’ - for me, God is God. Jesus is Jesus. He knows Who I’m talking to/about. Those are words in our language that represent the essence of Who He is. And based on what God did in Acts 2, I’m pretty sure He’s ok with that.
This site, sacrednamemovement.com, is an excellent resource regarding the Sacred Name Movement. Another excellent resource is Let Us Reason Ministries, who has published this article regarding the sacred names at their site.
Sanctification - So what about keeping the Law as believers? Is it a question of sanctification for the Law keeping believer? The HRM/MJ belief systems are all over the consistency map on this one. Some say yes, Torah observance is how we are sanctified, others will say no, Torah observance is just how we show God that we love Him.
Most will say that Torah observance is not a salvation issue, but when pressed they will admit that if you, once you become accountable to the knowledge that you are to be Torah observant as a believer, choose not to obey, then you are in rebellion and will not enter the Kingdom of God according to Scriptures that they will take out of context. Others will say that Yeshua (Jesus) will only come back for a Torah-observant Bride, so if you’re not observing Torah, well, you do the math.
I won’t pretend to have this all ironed out and nailed down perfectly. And I honestly can see both sides of the issue when it comes to simple Law keeping (Feasts, sabbaths, and dietary laws) barring the heretical doctrines prevalent in the Hebrew Roots Movement today. The popular church has become permissive and in some cases downright atrocities occur and are not dealt with as the Church has been instructed to deal with them in the New Testament Scriptures. To take those occurences and go back to a covenental system no longer in effect because of the Blood of Christ, however, is not a fix.
I always have to come back to the Cross.
The priesthood, sacrifices . . . death . . . edicts, regulations, and ceremony – all were done away with at the Cross. Yes, Jesus kept all of the Law that applied. Before the Cross. The Cross was the great dividing line in history . . . there was a clear path from death to life, from the sinful state to righteousness, from condemnation to justification. And not once did Jesus or anyone else in the Bible ever say that salvation was attained or maintained by observance to any part of the Law. You can cry point/counterpoint all day long when it comes to Paul’s writings . . . but the end result will always consistently be: By faith, not by works we are saved. By the Holy Spirit working on us from the inside out, we are sanctified, not by how well we keep the Law.
The Holy Spirit works righteousness from the inside out, where the Law merely restrains sin from the outside. Where the Law instructs man regarding his sinful condition, the Gospel transforms man regarding his sinful condition! The believer walking in submission to the Holy Spirit will not be led into sin. The believer choosing to walk in rebellion to the Holy Spirit will be miserable.
Works are a natural result of redemption in the believer’s heart. It is not by the outward performance of Law keeping that we become sanctified, it is by the completed work of Christ in our hearts that changes us intrinsically – belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing (according to the Merriam-Webster definition of intrinsically).
What does that mean? It means that the Holy Spirit changes our nature - we belong to Him – we were purchased with a price – and that the Law keeping that takes place in the life of a believer is a natural fruit-bearing process as we grow in Christ, not of keeping this festival and that law. The fruits that we see in the Church were not designed to be the keeping of the Law . . . those fruits are designed to be seen as God remakes us from the inside out through the working of His Holy Spirit!
When I re-read this passage recently, the part I’ve bolded really stood out to me:
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
The one who belongs to Christ and lives by the Spirit bears fruit against which there is NO law.
Talmud – Excerpt from Wikipedia‘s article on Talmud:
The Talmud (Hebrew: תַּלְמוּד) is a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs, and history. It is a central text of Rabbinic Judaism, second only to the Hebrew Bible in importance.
The Talmud has two components: the Mishnah (c. 200 CE), the first written compendium of Judaism’s Oral Law; and the Gemara (c. 500 CE), a discussion of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Tanakh.
The terms Talmud and Gemara are often used interchangeably. The Gemara is the basis for all codes of rabbinic law and is much quoted in other rabbinic literature. The whole Talmud is also traditionally referred to as Shas (ש”ס), a Hebrew abbreviation of shisha sedarim, the “six orders” of the Mishnah.
Excerpts from Judaism 101:
Oral Torah: The Talmud
In addition to the written scriptures we have an “Oral Torah,” a tradition explaining what the above scriptures mean and how to interpret them and apply the Laws. Orthodox Jews believe G-d taught the Oral Torah to Moses, and he taught it to others, down to the present day. This tradition was maintained only in oral form until about the 2d century C.E., when the oral law was compiled and written down in a document called the Mishnah.
Over the next few centuries, additional commentaries elaborating on the Mishnah were written down in Jerusalem and Babylon. These additional commentaries are known as the Gemara. The Gemara and the Mishnah together are known as the Talmud. This was completed in the 5th century C.E.
There are actually two Talmuds: the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud is more comprehensive, and is the one most people mean if they just say “the Talmud” without specifying which one.
The Talmud is not easy to read. It reminds me of someone else’s class notes for a college lecture you never attended. There are often gaps in the reasoning where it is assumed that you already know what they are talking about, and concepts are often expressed in a sort of shorthand. Biblical verses that support a teaching are often referenced by only two or three words. The Talmud preserves a variety of views on every issue, and does not always clearly identify which view is the accepted one.
Something that I didn’t realize is just how much material makes up the Talmud. And all that is made up of discussions amongst those who rejected Jesus Christ as Messiah as well as by those who engaged in Jewish mysticism. I’m curious as to why anyone who claims Christ would go to the Talmud for direction in their faith.
I’ve observed that Hebrew Roots types tend to reject the Talmud, Oral Traditions, and Rabbinical sources, while Messianic Judaism types tend to embrace the ‘wisdom and insight’ that the rabbis and sages can allegedly give.
Torah – Excerpts from From Judaism 101‘s page on Torah:
• Torah in the narrowest sense refers to the first five books of the Bible
• In a broader sense, Torah includes all Jewish law and tradition
• Torah was given to Moses in written form with oral commentary
• The oral component is now written in the Talmud
• There are additional important writings
The word “Torah” is a tricky one, because it can mean different things in different contexts. In its most limited sense, “Torah” refers to the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But the word “torah” can also be used to refer to the entire Jewish bible (the body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and to Jews as the Tanakh or Written Torah), or in its broadest sense, to the whole body of Jewish law and teachings.
To Jews, there is no “Old Testament.” The books that Christians call the New Testament are not part of Jewish scripture. The so-called Old Testament is known to us as Written Torah or the Tanakh.
From Hebrew Roots site First Fruits of Zion:
The Torah is an ancient scroll containing the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—the first five books of the Bible.
The Torah is the foundation of faith in Yeshua. All of the concepts associated with the Gospel—such as God, holiness, righteousness, sin, sacrifice, repentance, faith, forgiveness, covenant, grace and the kingdom of heaven on earth—are introduced in the Torah. Basic sacraments and rituals like baptism, communion, prayer and blessing all come from the Torah. Faith in Jesus is meaningful because of the Torah. Without the Torah, the Gospel has no foundation on which to stand.
The Hebrew word torah is translated “law” in most of our English Bibles. The Torah is called the Law of Moses because Moses wrote it, but the Torah is more than just a legal code. The word “Torah” (תורה) is from the Hebrew root, yara (ירה) which means “to instruct,” or “to teach.” Although it does contain laws, Torah itself is not only a “law,” but it is God’s “teaching” and “instruction.”
The Torah is the story of God’s people and how they came to be the people of God in the first place. The Torah is something all believers have in common. Regardless of what kind of Christianity or Judaism you come from or hold to, we all have this common ground. The Torah is our shared origin. It is God’s book.
However a simple definition/description of Torah is not sufficient when it comes to the Hebrew Roots Movement/Messianic Judaism. After spending time examining the HRM/MJism belief system(s), it becomes clear that while claiming the saving grace of the Messiah, it appears that it is Torah that sits on the throne of their hearts. They say that they are obeying the command to ‘walk as Yeshua walked’, yet there are a couple of fatal flaws in that thinking:
1. Jesus’ work was not yet completed as He walked among us
2. This one is a biggie – Jesus is sinless. He is God. He was able to walk perfectly. We are not God. We cannot keep the Law. If we could, there would be no need for the Cross.
I can’t help but wonder, as I hear those in the HR/MJ movements claim that they keep the Law, if they are being snookered by the same Lie that Satan told Eve, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
Where faith in Christ, being clothed in Him, and the Law of Love are central themes in the practices of New Testament believers, those who align themselves with a Law-keeping mentality place Torah as central in their lives. They live, breath, and eat the Feasts, Days, edicts and regulations of Old Testament Law. Their speech is filled with what they do and how they relate to Torah, not filled with who Jesus is and what He did and their relationship with Him.
Folks in the Law-keeping community, when pressed or challenged about the proper use of Torah in a New Covenant reality, exhibit fruit that is opposite of the Fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians 5. Instead of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, you will find pride mostly, and the unpleasant characteristics that tend to accompany pride. When they think they can sway you to their way of thinking, all is good. Challenge them, however, and you will be accused of being an antinomian, promoting all kinds of awful sin because you believe yourself to be under Grace!
There are also those who teach that Yeshua is the living Torah. They give Torah Godly characteristics and seem to give it a place in the God-head. From the article, “Yeshua; Living Torah” and a Netzarim Statement of Faith (see how many perversions of Scripture you can pick up in just the next few sentences):
Before Sinai, the Torah was.
“In the beginning was the Torah and the Torah was with God and the Torah was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made… In him was life and that life was the light of men… And the Torah became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:1
Listen carefully. The Torah became flesh and dwelt among us. Yeshua is the living Torah. Attempting to understand Messiah and His teachings, without understanding Torah is IMPOSSIBLE.
From the NSOF: “We also believe that the Messiah Yeshua is the Torah incarnate. Just as the Torah is the way, the truth and the light, the Messiah is also the way, the truth and the light.”
Now for the real Scriptures:
58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
John 1:1-5, 14
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Do you see the differences there? Evaluate everything that a Law keeper will throw at you (and they tend to bury you in information and Scripture), concentrating specifically on core issues of Biblical Christianity. If those core issues fall short, the building the Law keeper is trying to get you to live in will not stand and eventually will crush you.
YHWH - God. See Sacred Names above.
Yeshua - Jesus. See Sacred Names above.
May God grant you wisdom and discernment as you consider all of these things.
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