Friday, January 14, 2011

18 New Testament Misconceptions No. 3

#3 Under the Law

Before previewing the usage of this word in the Renewed Covenant, let us look at how it is used in the Tanakh:

“They should collect all the food of the good years that are coming and store up the grain under (tachath) the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food” (Genesis 41:35)

“Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and shall say to her, “If no man had laid with you and if you have not gone astray into uncleanness, being under (tachath) the authority of your husband, be immune to this water of bitterness that carries a curse” (Numbers 5:19)

As we see here, to be “under” something means to derive authority from it, and this is true not just of the word highlighted in Hebrew here, but several other synonyms translated into English as “under” as well. Therefore, if we are “under the Torah,” that would mean that we derive authority from the Torah, a doctrine that is NEVER taught in Tanakh:

“YHWH appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for awhile, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations of the earth will be blessed because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My requirements, My commands, My decrees and My laws.” So Isaac stayed in Gerar” (Genesis 26:1-6)

“In any dispute, the priests are to serve as judges and decide it according to My ordinances. They are to keep My laws and My decrees for all My appointed feasts, and they are to keep My Sabbaths set apart… declares the Sovereign YHWH” (Ezekiel 44:24,27)

There are dozens of other examples of this same idea. All the requirements in Torah are not “Jewish” or even just “for Israel”. Rather, they are YHWH’s requirements, and it is from YHWH, and not the Torah, from which justification for doing the right things comes from. In other words, if you just happen to do a ritual commanded in Torah because it seems trendy, then by Torah standards you are absolutely not justified! This idea is true even with a foundational requirement, like that of circumcision:

“These days are coming, “Declares YHWH, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh. Egypt, Judah, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places. For all these nations are really circumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart” (Jeremiah 9:25-26)

Clearly circumcision never justified those people who are being referenced. Jeremiah’s insight is identical to that of Acts 15! But let’s hear more on this from other prophets:

“Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts My soul hates*. They have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them. When you spread your hands in prayer, I will hide My face from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong and learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:15-17)

“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the acknowledgment of Elohim rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6)

“With what shall I come before YHWH and bow down before the exalted Elohim?  Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will YHWH be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does YHWH require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your Elohim” (Micah 6:6-8)

This is also why Abraham comes up as an example in the Renewed Covenant over and over again. The message, in every case, is the same. Abraham performed a ritual because he believed the Word of Elohim, who instructed him to do it in the first place! Therefore, justification for Abraham, and for the rest of us, comes in two parts:

1)      Hearing and understanding the word of YHWH
2)      Taking what YHWH has said and manifesting that understanding by following the instructions

Neither faith nor works is sufficient. Works without faith shows a lack of understanding the Torah, and faith without works, as Ya’akov Ha Tzadik says, is dead. Put simply, “under the Torah," is not an idea that was coined during Mashiyach’s time, but is a false teaching that has been rampant from the beginning of time. For example, in Genesis 4, Cain and Abel give offerings to YHWH. It has been a common misconception that Cain’s offering was not accepted because it was from grain, whereas Abel gave a blood/meat sacrifice. The fact is, both grain and blood/meat offerings were deemed acceptable under the right circumstances, (Exodus 29:41, Leviticus 2:1, 5:13, 6:14-15, many others).

Instead, YHWH rebukes Cain this way:

“Then YHWH said to Cain, “Why are you downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:6-7)

In a sense, Cain thought he was “under the Torah,” that by simply doing the ritual motions he was justified. However, Since Elohim knew his heart; He did not accept the Cain’s offering. Similarly, the Pharisees had also fallen into this trap, which is why Yochanon the Immerser says:

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones Elohim can raise up children of Abraham” (Matthew 3:7-9)

Y’hoshua’s frequent rebukes on this same idea hardly need to be laid out exhaustively here. It is enough to simply say that Yehochanan did not want the Pharisees to boast in their rituals or lineage, but actually to turn their hearts towards YHWH and admit their sins. With these thoughts in mind, let’s look at some more familiar verses on this idea:

“For all who have sinned without the Torah will also perish without the Torah, and all who have sinned under (tachyt) the Torah, will be judged by the Torah” (Romans 2:12)

“To the Jews I became a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under (tachyt) the Torah, as under the Torah though not being myself under (tachyt) the Torah, so that I might win those who are under (tachyt) the Torah, to those who are without Torah, as without torah, though not being without the Torah of Elohim, But in the instruction of Mashiyach, so that I might win those who are without the Torah” (1 Corinthians 9:20-21)

Therefore, “under the Torah” really means “to derive justification from the authority of Torah and not from YHWH.” For the sake of completeness however, let us examine more places where “under the Torah” appears:

“But when the fullness of time was come, Elohim sent forth His Son who, born of a woman, became subject (tachyt) to the Torah” (Galatians 4:4)

Here is how George Lamsa translates this verse. Instead of merely rendering “tachyt” (under) again, Lamsa has correctly surmised that “tachyt” better reads as “being subject to the Torah,” which is an efficient way of bringing on the Tanakh understanding that refers to the power of various authorities. In this case the woman is subject to the Torah pronouncement that all of us are under sin. It is not the Torah itself that is sin (Romans 7:12) but, rather, that the Torah tells us what sin is (Romans 7:7-9). Let’s continue this thought further:

“To redeem those who were under (tachyt) the Torah, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:5)

In this context, the message Rav Shaul gives here is that the proper understanding of Torah by Gentiles grafts them into Israel. This is why he says elsewhere:

“Do not be arrogant, but be afraid, for if Elohim did not spare the natural branches (Jews who did not follow Torah), He will not spare you either” (Romans 11:21).

“Therefore, Remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that is done in the body by hands of men) – Remember that at that time you were separated from Mashiyach, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without Elohim in the world. But now in Mashiyach Y’hoshua, you who were far away have been brought near through the blood of Mashiyach” (Ephesians 2:11-13)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have this verse proving once again that the Torah itself is not the problem:

“Tell me, you who want to be under the Torah, do you listen to the Torah?” (Galatians 4:21)

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