We accepted so many things without asking “How do we know that’s true?” Once we were in that sphere, we stopped testing because we trusted the teachers themselves. Never a good idea – which is why I don’t expect you to just believe me either btw! You definitely should not take my word for anything- which I’m sure there’s no danger of anyone doing! =) My biggest revelations in life have come in asking God to teach me through the Holy Spirit and His Word alone. There are so many times I desperately claimed promises because I was so confused. If the Spirit is given to lead us into all truth, I definitely need it. Cannot overemphasize the vital role of reading the whole Word of God for yourself while praying for understanding. Proverbs says,
Pro 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Pro 3:6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Growing up in a cult system that used fear to keep people from leaving – just questioning alone was scary – and trusting no one, this was my only option when it came time to find the truth. At least in this way, whatever conclusions you come to, you can own it between you and God and it’s not following anyone else. I’m not saying it’s not helpful to seek out theologians and commentaries, but I do not to rely on them without searching the Word on my own.
But even so, my understanding gets expanded often and I have to adjust my perspectives. This is why I don’t place a great deal of importance on head knowledge that goes beyond the very simple truth. I see in the book you loaned me, knowledge is the foundation of Judaism (and it rejects “faith”), but I don’t see this as the ultimate goal and purpose of being a disciple of Yehoshua. There is no way to have assurance in knowledge. People don’t agree on much. We are often wrong. But in every other system – Judaism, Catholicism, and all the major cults, there is a huge emphasis on knowledge and there are reems and reems of it to read and learn. So much so that people aren’t really even able to focus on the Word of God. They are too busy chasing after the wisdom of whatever group they have identified with. It’s almost like the Bible itself is the sun and people can’t bear to look at it. They are compelled to turn away to other less illuminating works of knowledge.
So.. that being said, there are different frameworks people use when approaching the scriptures that dictate how they will interpret it. For example, take the difference between a Creationist and an Atheist as they look at the natural world. They are looking at the same data and evidence, but their foundational beliefs affect how they interpret what they see. Both create a very different story from the same evidence. Now, I think evolutionists are not willing to look at all of the evidence that contradicts their theory because their desire to reject God is stronger than a desire for the truth. People do the same thing with the Bible. They begin with premise that must be proven because they want to go a certain direction – and refuse to see anything that is contrary to that direction. They either act like the evidence does not exist, or they try to make it say something it doesn’t say. I know this because it’s exactly what we did. We truly believed our own twisted interpretations of things, but occasionally I would get a twinge of … “Man this over here just doesn’t mesh with everything!” But I would fall back on to what I thought I knew to be absolute truth (That Torah is eternal and unchanging) and conclude that this other thing must mean something other than what it sounded like it said.
I guess a good analogy would be a wheel and axle. You can only have one foundational focus around which everything else emanates and turns. One point of reference in the center that does not turn or move. Judaism and its various derivatives have seen this as Torah. Christianity sees Yehoshua as the axle. This is the basic difference in the method of interpretation of the entire Bible. Once I replaced my axle with the Son of God – all the spokes led to different conclusions than when Torah was at the center. As I established before, I do not see Yehoshua and the written Torah as being equal in nature at all. One is much superior to the other. If there is one unchanging element in the world, it has to be God Himself, not a contract that He made with a group of people. This requires that I explain my understanding of what Torah is. Here is something I have written earlier. It’s from a pdf document, so the formatting gets lost when I copied and pasted. Hope it’s readable.
What is Torah anyway?
From H3384; a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch: – law.
A primitive root; properly to flow as water (that is, to rain); transitively to lay or throw (especially an
arrow, that is, to shoot); figuratively to point out (as if by aiming the finger), to teach: – (+) archer,
cast, direct, inform, instruct, lay, shew, shoot, teach (-er, -ing), through.
After looking at definitions, we looked up as
many possible verses we could find where it is used. When we did this, (the Hebrew word
torah is used 219 times in the Tanakh) we started to see a pattern. This word is almost always
used to refer to a body of laws concerning a certain subject, or to the whole law itself. There
are other words that are used to refer to specific commandments, such as mitzvah, etc…
It is first used (chronologically speaking) in Job 22:22
Receive I pray thee, the law from his mouth and lay up his words in thine heart.
And next in Genesis 26:5
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my
statutes, and my laws.(torah)
In both of these examples, the Torah comes directly from the mouth of the Father himself.
These men did not yet have a written code to refer to, yet Torah did exist. In the life of
Abraham, we see things that are in conflict to the Law of Moses, such as being married to his
half sister. He also built altars of sacrifice to worship the Father everywhere he went, not as
the Torah later commanded, in a specific place with detailed instructions.
Yeshua, in speaking about marriage in Matthew, says the instruction Moses gave them about
allowing divorce was given because of the hardness of their hearts, but was not meant to be
this way from the beginning.
He saith unto them, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put
away your wives but from the beginning it was not so.”
So from this we can learn that the Torah given to Moses was not exactly the same as what
was “from the beginning.” Also, in Yeshua’s sermon on the mount, the “you have heard it said
but I say…” explanations of Torah, we see a higher way being pointed to that is not against the
Law of Moses, but higher and deeper than given before, with a new added emphasis of loving your enemies.
After finding these principles in scripture, we found a great article by John J. Parsons, a
Jewish Roots/Hebrew language teacher, with additional explanations of how the details of
Torah can be seen to change throughout scripture. It explains this principle much better
than we can, in much greater detail. Some of the examples he brings out have to do with the
changes that took place even during the lifetime of Moses himself, the changes David brought
with the planning and later the building of the temple by Solomon, and a wealth of other
From this we have seen that Torah is much bigger thing than the Law of Moses itself, and can
be expressed more as the general instruction and the direction of the Father. The AIM of
Torah does not ever change, but the details of how it is applied obviously do not remain the
same. The aim and goal of the Father’s teaching is as stated in Matthew 22:40 (quoted from
the Torah) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You
shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and
the Prophets.” This is referred to as the “royal law” in James 2:8.
The view of Torah derived from Judaism is mostly based on tradition and mysticism. I’ve heard everything from the fact that the entire Hebrew document existed at Creation and various other kabala related concepts – to discovering the actual 613 number was also man made in order to satisfy a mystical meaning in gematria. I understand that Moses was given the history of the world up to that time, and he wrote it down. But I would not consider the historical sections as “commands” as Judaism does. The actual “law of Moses” contained in the legal contract with Israel does not begin till the Exodus and was not given prior to this.
Gal 3:17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.
So here I would make a distinction. There is Torah – which I see as God’s commands based on unchanging principles. The details of his commands can differ according to the time and level of relationship He has with people, but always with the same foundation. (Romans 1,2 is a good discussion of the comparison between the witness of conscience, given to all men, and Law, given to Israel – both of which bring all men under condemnation.) In this sense I would agree that Torah has always existed since God created man. We are never without Torah in that regard. But to me the Law of Moses is a specific contract – a legal agreement – between two parties with a definite beginning and end. There are many passages in the NT that speak of it in these temporary terms, but Romans, Galatians and Hebrews especially. I see a problematic logic when placing the attributes of God (that He is unchanging) onto an ancient, finite written contract. This seems to be the axle which the HRM and Judaism both rotate around, but one I could not find when looking at scripture myself. Not even with the Tanakh alone, if someone hated Paul – I still could not uphold this idea.
Division comes when people who all claim to believe in the work of Yehoshua on their behalf for redemption, do not agree on what Torah is for the believer, and/or some begin to teach that a certain level of obedience is required for eternal life (which I would classify as a “different gospel”). As long as each side sees clearly that salvation is not through our own works and can recognize the other believers as brothers and sisters in the faith – all seeking to be obedient as they understand obedience, then I don’t have a problem with differing views of our obligations to God. What I find unacceptable is when the teaching (on either side) says you cannot be a genuine disciple of Yehoshua unless you understand Torah the way I do and obey it. I am speaking here of the observance issues, not morality issues. I have never met a sincere follower of Yehoshua that condoned or desired to kill, steal, lie and fornicate. These are not areas of dispute, but the outward observances are what cause the division. This was also a problem in the early church as well. The question was thoroughly dealt with and answered at the time, but the same controversy seems to have returned.
So.. next time I’ll explain the difference in nature and purpose we found between the contract God made through Moses and the one given through Yehoshua.
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