The nature and extent of Torah’s ongoing relationship with the people of God has been the subject of intense debate in the Christian community since the first century C.E. From the earliest apostolic statements to the most recent ecclesiastical pronouncements, Torah (the law) has been relegated to varying positions in the economy of salvation, all the way from being a device of the devil foisted by evil angels upon an unsuspecting Israel to being an ongoing requirement for personal righteousness and acceptance before God. On the one extreme is antinomianism which takes the position that the law was destroyed in Christ, that it has no further effect upon the lives of Christian believers, and that any involvement in Judaic practices is a deadly poison to faith. On the other extreme is legalism which declares that observance of some or all of the law is necessary for either establishing or maintaining personal righteousness before God.
The Historical Debate
For Jesus, there was no question of Torah’s continuing importance: “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). In apostolic times, there still was no question: “All scripture [Torah] is God-breathed and is useful for . . . training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16), and, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. . . . Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. . .” (James 2:10,12). During decades of conflict at the end of the first century, however, the church began to ignore Paul’s explicit warnings of the consequences of Gentile boasting against Israel and Torah (Romans 11:20; 3:1-3) and began to view itself as God’s replacement of Israel and Christian faith as the replacement for Torah. Some of the earliest extant promotions of these ideas are seen in the Epistle of Barnabas, which probably dates to the late first century.
In the middle of the second century, the Hebrew foundations of Christian faith were attacked by the first great heresy that challenged the church. Some of the ideas of this heresy so permeated the church’s corporate psyche that it has not yet fully recovered its spiritual and scriptural equilibrium. Marcion, son of a bishop of Sinope in Pontus, joined the Syrian Gnostic Cerdo in Rome in developing a dualistic view of sacred history which postulated the existence of two gods, the good and gracious God (Christ) and the Demiurge (Jehovah of the Jews). Marcion taught an irreconcilable dualism between gospel and law, between Christianity and Judaism. The Demiurge and his religion were seen as harsh, severe, and unmerciful, and they were cast into Hades by Christ, the good God. Marcion invented a new canon of Holy Scripture which included only an abridged Gospel of Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles, some of which he edited. He wrested the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17 to declare, “I am not come to fulfil the law and the prophets, but to destroy them.” In Marcion’s view, Christianity had no connection whatever with the past, whether of the Jewish or the heathen world, but had fallen abruptly and magically from heaven. Jesus, too, was not born, nor did he die. His body was a phantom to reveal the good God, and his death was an illusion. This Christ was not the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament; he was a totally new and unforeseen manifestation of the good God of Greek dualism. Because the rest of the apostles were Judaizing corrupters of pure Christainity, Christ called Paul as the apostle to preach the truth of Marcion’s extreme antinomianism and anti-Judaism.1
While the church officially denounced the heresy of Marcion (his own father excommunicated him) and affirmed monotheism, the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures, and the deity, humanity, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus, Marcion’s extreme antinomianism spread through the church, planting the seeds of an abundant harvest–first of Judaeophobia, then of anti-Judaism, and finally of anti-Semitism–a harvest that continues to this day. The parting of the ways between Christianity and Judaism during this time was not, as most have supposed, the result of the church’s Messianic claims in behalf of Jesus. Some of Israel’s greatest leaders mistakenly recognized Messianic pretenders and were not discredited, ostracized, or excommunicated from the Jewish community. (The great and still universally-revered Rabbi Akiva proclaimed Bar Kokaba as Messiah during the second century,2 and some Jews in the twentieth century still expected the return of Shabbetai Zevi, who, in the seventeenth century, was widely acclaimed as the Messiah and later converted to Islam.3) Israel’s progressive rejection of the church was directly related to the church’s increasing antinomianism and supersessionism, which Israel viewed as the church’s rejection of the word of God in favor of Greco-Roman philosophy and religion. When the church gradually came to see Torah as abolished and replaced by Christian faith, Jews, for whom Torah observance was a lifestyle, refused to compromise their faith. The result of this anti-biblical view of Torah and of Israel was the subsequent centuries of systematic church-directed violence against the Jewish people.
Beginning with Justin Martyr’s polite, but firm Dialogue with Trypho (c. C.E. 140), escalating progressively through the pronouncements of the ante-Nicene and Nicene fathers, and reaching the apex of unrestrained vitriol in John Chrysostom’s “sermons” of C.E. 387, the church came to see Israel as rejected and cursed of God and Torah as the great bane of faith. By the time of the Middle Ages the church had adopted the position that Israel had been utterly and irrevocably replaced in God’s economy by the church and that Torah had been abolished in favor of Christian faith. The church’s supersessionism presented a bifurcated view of holy scripture that claimed all the blessings for the church and assigned all the cursings to the Jews, making it possible to honor dead patriarchs while at the same time hating their grandchildren. It also produced an epochal view of God’s dealings with men–eras of law and grace–that makes God appear fickle, confused, and mutable at best and schizophrenic at worst.
With some variations, this position was maintained in the Reformation. Luther used the law/grace comparison as an analogy for the Roman Catholicism/Protestantism debate in which he was engaged. Judaism and Catholicism were examples of legalism; New Testament Christianity and Protestantism were examples of grace. At first Luther had a warm heart toward the Jewish people whom he expected very soon to be converted to Christianity because of his belief in the imminence of the eschaton. Later this hope deferred made Luther heart sick, a fact that manifested itself in violent verbal barrages against the Jews, Judaism, and the law. Calvin was less strident in his evaluations of the Jewish people and of the law; however, the covenant theology to which his teachings gave birth became a bastion of supersessionism and in many cases of extreme antinomianism. Eighteenth and nineteenth century dogmaticians, motivated more by devotion to confessional Christianity than by faithfulness to scriptural hermeneutics and exegesis, further refined the argument that law and grace are antithetical and irreconcilable. These attempts to give an unquestioned foundation for the central teaching of justification by grace through faith have continued unabated until today and have had the residual effect of reinforcing supersessionism in much of the Protestant church. Loraine Boettner summarized this position by saying, “It may seem harsh to say that, ‘God is through with the Jews.’ But the fact of the matter is that He is through with them as a unified national group . . . That mission has been taken from them and given to the Christian Church . . .”4 J. Marcellus Kik concurred with this evaluation, believing that “the Kingdom was to be given to believing Gentiles while the Jews were to be cast into outer darkness.”5 R. J. Rushdoony states an opinion held by many in history that the destruction of Jerusalem in C.E. 70 marked the “public rejection of physical Israel as the chosen people of God.” This catastrophe was the “deliverance of the true people of God, the church of Christ, the elect, out of the bondage to Israel and Jerusalem.”6
At the same time that confessional dogmaticians were making a contradistinction between Judaism and Christianity, between law and grace, in order to support their teachings, German theologians were at work attempting to “demythologize” the scriptures. One of the features of this work was the desire to detach Christian origins from Judaism and the Old Testament. Julius Wellhausen interpreted Paul’s writings as confirming the destruction of the Torah and of Judaism, concluding that Paul was “the great pathologist of Judaism.”7 The Tübingen school of critics refined Marcion’s crude distinction between Paul and the other apostles and further widened the theological chasm between law and grace. More than eighteen centuries of such boasting against Israel and the Torah sowed the seeds and created the atmosphere that bore fruit in the Holocaust. Franklin Littell has rightly said that “to teach that a people’s mission in God’s providence is finished, that they have been relegated to the limbo of history, has murderous implications which murderers will in time spell out.”8 With the attendant silence of the western world, including most of the Christian church, the Holocaust produced the systematic slaughter of six million Jewish people, taking man’s depravity to new lows. At the same time, however, the Holocaust pricked the church’s nearly seared corporate conscience and demanded a reevaluation of its historical position with regard to the Jews and Judaism. Though some segments of the church have persisted in their boasting against Israel, the church’s traditional triumphalism and supersessionism vis-à-vis the Jews and Judaism were finally recognized by much of the church, and it was simply unavoidable that men of conscience should reevaluate previously held theological positions.
In many circles, a new revisionist theology was adopted instead of traditional supersessionism. In the spirit of the secularized Western world’s new attitude of tolerance, many theologians began to teach Judaism and Christianity as equally viable religious systems, separate, but equal paths to God. Torah and Judaism are for the Jews, Christianity is for the Gentiles, and neither should seek to convert the other. Some scholars who advocate the revisionist position have gone so far as to say that in the light of the Holocaust the traditional view of God as a beneficent and providential being must be abandoned.9 Roy Eckardt says that “the excruciating question is whether, if God lives and is not helpless, he ought to go on living, he who has permitted the death of the six million.”10 Others have denied the Messiahship of Jesus, with some abandoning Christology altogether. Many have challenged what they consider anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism in the texts of the gospels and the apostolic writings. The views of many revisionists are encapsulated in Rosemary Radford Ruether’s dictum that anti-Semitism is “the left hand of Christology”11 and in her rhetorical question, “Is it possible to say ‘Jesus is Messiah’ without, implicitly or explicitly, saying at the same time ‘and the Jews be damned?’”12 In spite of the Christian revisionist rush toward a two covenant theory and even to the negation of concepts that are thoroughly scriptural, much of Judaism has remained unimpressed. Rabbi Jacob Neusner labels the entire revisionist dual covenant idea as a “massive evasion”13
As the world prepares to enter another millennium, the wide-ranging debate within the Christian church continues as to the function of Torah and of Israel in God’s economy. Where is the answer to the dilemma, a balanced position that is Biblical in all respects? Is it possible to call Christianity to account for its sinful triumphalism vis-à-vis the Jews and Judaism without denying the Christology and soteriology that are central to its continued existence? Is it possible to find a position of balance between extreme antinomianism on the one hand and dangerous legalism on the other, both of which keep the church from a mature approach to its mission? As is generally the case with most polarized issues, the truth will probably be found somewhere between the two extremes.
A Foundation for Understanding Torah What is and has been the basis for the election of Israel as God’s chosen people? Foundationally, it is the Abrahamic covenant established on the free-will exercise of Abraham’s faith to believe and obey God. A seventy-five-year-old Babylonian by birth and Assyrian by nationality heard the voice of God and left his own country in search of a city with foundations built by God, himself. As a result, he was promised, “I will make you a great nation . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2,3). Twenty-five years later, that promise was further detailed, “. . . Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him” (Genesis 17:19). This was an unconditional covenant guaranteed in perpetuity. Abraham had God’s word on it!
What theologians have termed “the law” did not exist at that time, or did it? Listen to Yahweh’s evaluation of Abraham’s conduct: “. . . through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws” (Genesis 26:4,5). Abraham was chosen to bless all nations because he obeyed God’s commands (mitzvot) and laws (toroth). What were the mitzvot and toroth which Abraham obeyed? They were, of course, the same mitzvot and toroth which were later to be given to his descendants in the more fully delineated form of a national constitution. The Abrahamic covenant was a unilateral contract confirming God’s election and blessing of Abraham; however, that covenant was the result of Abraham’s faith to manifest precise obedience to God’s commandments.
Afterward, Abraham’s progeny came to dwell in the land of Egypt where in four centuries they developed from a family of seventy to a nation of perhaps two million people. It was necessary, then, for God to extend and establish the covenant which had individually elected the children of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob into a constitution of corporate election for this new nation. Through Moses, God delivered them from Egypt’s oppression and brought them to Sinai where they all listened as the thundering voice of Yahweh, himself, announced to them his commandments, the condition of his covenant with them. If Abraham had kept all of God’s statutes and had commanded his children and his grandchildren to do likewise (Genesis 18:19), then the core of the law was already practiced by Israel. They agreed to submit themselves to God’s law expanded and codified as their constitution, thereby insuring the rights of citizenship in his chosen nation for themselves and their children. This was God’s promise to Israel: “Now then, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples . . .” (Exodus 19:5). The covenant was contingent upon Israel’s obedience to the commandments categorized in the Decalogue, which was merely a summation of the entire Torah. The stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God were a material memorial that stood for the entirety of Torah, God’s definitive revelation of his word and will for man.
The Sinai covenant in no way abrogated the Abrahamic covenant as Galatians 3:17 clearly tells us: “. . . the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant [the Abrahamic covenant] previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise . . .” It was merely a more complete delineation of the details of obedience which the faith of Abraham would produce in the hearts of his descendants. Any act of obedience to God’s commandments undertaken willingly was an act of faith in God and in his provision for his people. While many Israelites in subsequent generations observed the law by constraint and/or out of an attempt to prove their accepted status before God and man, there were many more for whom obedience to the law as merely an act of obedience to the God whom they loved and in whom they had implicit trust. Those who were justified under the economy of the law were justified in the same way in which Abraham was justified–by faith, a faith that led, as Abraham’s had done, to obedience to God’s commandments.
Israel’s individual election, then, was contingent upon the Abrahamic covenant. Israel’s corporate election was contingent upon the Sinai covenant and the law which delineated its constitutional requirements. The law was simply another progression in the linear development of God’s plan of individual and corporate salvation that had been devised and set in motion before the creation of the universe. It was not, as some theologians would have it, an alternate plan, or a deviation from the true will of God, or an inferior device foisted upon Israel by angels, perhaps even evil angels. (Albert Schweitzer believed that “the Law was given by Angels who desired thereby to make men subservient to themselves.”14 Hans Hübner says that since the purpose of the law was to “promote transgressions,” these angels must have been demons.15) The truth is that the law was God’s law. Though it came to Moses by the disposition of angels (Galatians 3:19), it was, nevertheless, of divine authorship (Romans 7:12, 22). And, all the theological posturing and exegetical gymnastics in the world cannot make the law of God illegal.
Etymology of Torah
What is this law that is the fabric of Israel’s election? We should first note that law is a poor translation for the Hebrew Torah. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek in the Septuagint Version, the translators used the Greek word nomos as an approximation for Torah since there was no Greek word which corresponded exactly with Torah. Nomos, however, implies merely a civil legislative system of both positive and negative precepts which reward acceptable behavior and punish unacceptable behavior. This, however, is not the extent of the word Torah’s meaning. Torah is more literally the teaching of God, the instruction of a wise father to his children. Torah is the oracles or sayings of God, the possession of which was the chief advantage of the Jewish people over the rest of the world (Romans 3:1-2). The Biblical definition of Torah goes from the narrow to the infinite, from the Decalogue, to the Pentateuch, to the entire Hebrew Scriptures. (Rabbinical tradition even extends the term Torah to encompass the writings of the Talmud and any subsequent halachic or haggadic interpretation of sacred writings that is exegetically sound from Biblical and rabbinic hermeneutics.) The most succinct Biblical definition for Torah would be the words of God to man for man’s instruction in the ways of God. In reality, Torah could well be the most accurate Hebrew word to express the Greek term Logos, the Word of God. If John had been writing his gospel to Hebrews rather than to Greeks, he might well have said, “In the beginning was Torah, and Torah was with God, and Torah was God. . . . and Torah was made flesh and tabernacled among us . . .”
The etymology of the word Torah is helpful in assigning proper meaning to the term. Torah is from the root yarah, an archery term meaning literally to throw or cast at a target and figuratively to point out (as if by aiming the finger) and therefore to inform, instruct, or teach. This same root is seen in the word moreh, which means literally an archer or shooter and figuratively a teacher (or in its plural form, the prophets–Isaiah 30:20). It is also seen in the word horeh, which means parent, a position which in the Hebrew understanding of roles and responsibilities intrinsically involved teaching of children (Deuteronomy 6:7). The clear intent of the word Torah is to convey the meaning of teaching or instruction. The law, then, is God’s teaching mechanism and not just his juridical system of rules and regulations for human-divine interrelationship and for interpersonal relationships.
How Torah Has Come to Mean Legalism
The term law has been used for centuries as a pejorative term towards Judaism and in effect as a negative term of denigration against the Hebrew Scriptures that have come to be called the Old Testament. This is especially true in some evangelical denominations today. Because of the strong emphasis on justification by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ, the law and its requirements are seen as inimical to the grace of the New Covenant. The law becomes a straw man in the face of overpowering grace. Law and grace are seen as antithetical to the extent that one cannot exist in the presence of the other; therefore, grace has utterly and irrevocably destroyed the law and superseded it. Gerard Sloyan rightly observes that for too long law and grace have been historicized as antithetical ages, “as if Paul were primarily interested in an epoch of Judaism succeeded by an epoch of Christianity,” when instead ” he is concerned with two diametrically opposed spirits, trust in God and trust in self, reliance on his deed or reliance on our deeds.”16
In the rush to validate the theologically non-negotiable doctrine of justification by faith, well-meaning theologians, pastors, and teachers have run rough-shod over the verities of holy scripture and over the sensibilities of the Jewish people. Judaism has been characterized as a mechanical, lifeless, ritualistic, burdensome, harsh, unforgiving, unmerciful religion. The law or Torah that undergirds Judaism is seen as restrictive, vengeful, and legalistic. What is more, its very nature produces self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and judgmentalism in the Jews and in any Gentiles who happen to fall prey to its siren song. (Instead of being a term of honor as Paul used it [Acts 23:6; 26:5], the term Pharisee or Pharisaic has come to mean hypocrite or legalist.) The church has determined to assign “the law” to Israel and “faith” to the church. Franklin Littell says, “For centuries Christians have presumed to define the old Israel, the Hebrews, the Jews, Judaism, and so forth in ways generally patronizing, contemptuous, or demeaning. The habit began at the theological level among the gentile church fathers, was reinforced at law during the millennium and a half of ‘Christendom,’ and in the modern period has led directly to genocide.”17
While there are absolute dangers in legalism and particularly in the Galatianism which Paul so adamantly condemned, neither the law nor the Jews who practice it are ipso facto legalists void of grace and mercy. Jews have always believed in a God of grace and mercy, and their relationship with him is based on his love and their dependency upon his forgiveness of sin through his mercy. Christians who are concerned with the legalism of the Jews would do well to consider their own legalisms bred from cultural baggage that has been added to the word of God in all generations and manifest in the elitism, exclusivity, and judgmentalism of many in various denominations. A good example is the condemnation some Christians direct toward the Jews for their observance of Sabbath while at the same time their own observance of Sunday is often characterized by legalism and judgmentalism.
The Teaching of Jesus on Torah
All Christian understanding of the Torah must begin with the unequivocal statement of Jesus in Matthew 5:17-19: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. Whosoever annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” It is ironic that the very thing that Jesus urged the multitude not to think, Christian theologians have been thinking ever since. While few would say that Jesus destroyed the prophets, many would assert that he abrogated the law. Jesus, in fact, ties his actions toward the law with his actions toward the prophets, and his warning says, “Do not even begin to think [aorist 1, subjunctive of νομιζω] that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.”
Jesus knew that the statements which he planned to make in the antitheses that are the centerpiece of the Sermon on the Mount would be misunderstood, perhaps even interpreted as his attempt to destroy the Torah. It is for that reason alone that he prefaced his discourse with the words, “Think not that I came to abolish. . .”, and then continued with, “. . .but to fulfill.” The Greek word for abolish is καταλυω, which means to destroy, demolish, or overthrow, figuratively to nullify or abrogate. The fact that Jesus twice repeated this statement, “I did not come to destroy,” makes it all the more emphatic. (Repetition is a classical Biblical and rabbinical technique for giving emphasis.) The ?not . . .but? construction in the Greek text means that everything that “destroy” is, “fulfill” is not. The Greek word for fulfill is πληροω, which means to fill with its fullest meaning, to make complete, or to manifest the truly full meaning.
The antitheses of Matthew 5 (“You have heard . . . but I tell you. . .”), far from being abrogations of Torah, were exercises of the traditional rabbinic formula which does not mean to repeal or abolish but rather to give the accurate, most complete interpretation that the biblical text demands.18 It was the intention of Jesus to bring forth the purest intent of the law, the spiritual meaning of Torah that transcended temporal manifestations and physical observances of the law.
In reality, the words of Jesus here as well as elsewhere–not to speak of his lifetime of actions–in no way abrogated the law. They rather strengthened and established the law by drawing out and bringing to the fore the true meanings of the commandments rather than leaving them in a strictly juridical construct. His intent was to write the Torah on men’s hearts rather than on tables of stone so that they would maintain the unchanging principles upon which the law was established rather than trivializing the law by legalistic interpretations which often circumvented its true intent. It may even be that Jesus was offering a parody of the actions of the leaders of Israel by saying, “Do not begin to think that I have come to circumvent the law or the prophets [as the clear custom was for some rabbinic scholars (Mark 7:11)].” Instead of finding an ingenious way around the law, Jesus declared, “I have come . . . to perform fully or consummate them.” Jesus fully practiced Torah in every aspect of his life. It was for this reason that when he asked the crowd of legalists who challenged his teaching, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46), there was not one positive reply. If Jesus had transgressed the law in any point, he would have been challenged by those who were in opposition to his teaching. Pinchas Lapide said: “Jesus never and no where broke the law of Moses, nor did he in any way provoke its infringement. . . . I suspect that Jesus was more faithful to the law than I am–and I am an Orthodox Jew.”19
Unless we are prepared to challenge the actual words of Jesus, there can be no doubt that the law has never been destroyed. Jesus emphatically stated the eternal nature of the law and its requirements upon men. Then, he declared that status in the kingdom of God would be determined by the degree of an individual’s faithfulness to teach and practice the precepts of the law. There is not the slightest hint of abrogation or termination of the Torah.
Reformation and Perfection, Not Abrogation and Destruction
If Jesus did not destroy the law, what then did he do? The answer is found in Hebrews 9:10-12,15: “. . . since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come . . . through his own blood he entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. . . . And for this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant . . .”
The simple fact is that Jesus was a reformer, not an innovator. The faith that Jesus as the Logos theophany authored and gave to the Jewish people at Sinai, he perfected as the Logos incarnate through his sinless life and his passion at Golgotha. One perfect human life made possible by the condescension of the Son of God to become the Son of man fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the Torah. Since sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4), Jesus was diligent to observe all 613 mitzvot of the law, including the 248 positive commandments and the 365 negative commandments. “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” he told John the Baptist when he submitted himself to the immersion rite which John had borrowed from Judaism’s mikvah tradition (Matthew 3:15). Then, when he was crucified at Calvary, Jesus offered up a life to God in a death for which there was no just cause because he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
The coming of Jesus as Messiah and Savior of the world necessitated changes in the law; however, these changes represented completion or perfection, not abrogation or destruction. Because the law required priesthood to be vested in the sons of Aaron, the law of the priesthood was perfected by God’s adopting the order of Melchizedek so that Jesus of the tribe of Judah could be high priest and mediator between God and man (Hebrews 7:12-16). The laws of sacrifice for sin were perfected when God prepared a body of flesh for his only begotten Son (Hebrews 10:5), perfected that body through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10), and offered it without blemish as one eternally efficacious sacrifice for the sins of all mankind (Hebrews 9:26-28).
The law was not destroyed in Christ, either in whole or in part. The law either stands as a whole or falls as a whole, and the truth is that it stands as a whole. The entire law, moral, ethical, ceremonial, sacrificial, and societal was fulfilled in Christ. Jesus was the reality of all the law (Colossians 2:17). While he was the fulfillment of the law, however, Jesus did not abolish it or its observance. He merely instituted a new and better method of observance. His life, death, and resurrection gave new meaning to the system of praise, worship, and service which God had designed to prepare his people for their Messiah. What had been materially manifested was transformed into exercises of worship in spiritual truth (John 4:23).
That the Messiah should change and perfect the Torah was not altogether unexpected in pre-Christian Jewish tradition, even though such expectation was certainly in the minority. As John Fisher has pointed out, in the pseudepigraphic book of I Enoch 49:1-3, the Messiah expands the Torah.20 W. D. Davies demonstrates that later rabbinic literature mentions Messiah as bringing Torah hadashah (a new Torah).21 Jakob Jocz interprets Rab Joseph in Niddah 61b as saying that “the ceremonial laws will be abrogated in the world to come,” and he says that in a few cases the rabbis expected an abrogation or alteration of some Mosaic laws.22 Richard Longenecker summarizes those who entertained such expectation: “. . . while Judaism expected the law to continue in the days of the Messiah as the expression of the eternal will of God, it also realized that some abrogation and/or alteration would take place within the law as a result of Messiah’s presence.”23 It is not surprising, then, that in the context of their own Judaic tradition the apostles and evangelists should have believed that the time had come for changes in the law since the Messiah had come. Just as he was Lord of the Sabbath, so he was Lord of the Torah.
Establishing Torah Through Faith
The result of this marvelous act of the grace of God is the perfection of the Torah, for what the law could not do because of the weakness of the flesh, Jesus accomplished once and for all time and for all men (Hebrews 9:26). Because his death was not merited by sin, it provided a means of balancing the scales of divine justice that brought judgment upon the human race through the sin of its corporate head, Adam. Christ’s death, therefore, provided a vicarious atonement for the sins of the penitent believer that was both perfect and eternal. At the same time, the righteousness of Christ which was accomplished through his perfect obedience to the law is imputed to the believer instead of his faith (II Corinthians 5:20; Romans 4:22-25). The believer is also regenerated with new life (Titus 3:5), begotten by the Word of God (I Peter 1:3), born from above by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 8). The person of the Lawgiver at Sinai indwells the believer, renewing the covenants of promise to him (Ephesians 2:12) while writing the Torah upon his heart (Hebrews 10:16). Whereas God was with man under the first covenant, he now is in man by the Holy Spirit under the second. “He abides with you, and will be in you,” Jesus promised his disciples (John 14:17). The life that the believer now lives, he lives by the faith of the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). This is the new and living way, the new covenant (Hebrews 10:20; 9:15).
Through the new covenant, the believer is empowered to live the righteous principles of the law because he walks in the Holy Spirit, not in the flesh (Romans 8:4). After he is declared positionally righteous or justified by having the righteousness of Christ imputed to him instead of his faith, the believer is then freed from condemnation (Romans 8:1). The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed him from the law of sin and death so that the righteousness of the Torah can be completed in him (Romans 8:3, 4). Does the believer’s faith in Christ negate or obviate the law. “May it never be!” Paul exclaims. “On the contrary,” through faith in Christ, “we establish he law,” he concludes (Romans 3:31). Through the completed work of Calvary, the law becomes a perfect law of freedom in which the believer can continue, being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work (James 1:25). The Holy Spirit that is imparted to the believer reveals the truth to him in a profound dimension that makes him free (John 8:32). That same Holy Spirit imparts the love of God into the believer’s heart (Romans 5:5) so that he is able to love God and to love man, thereby fulfilling the two royal commandments on which the remaining 611 mitzvot, together with the words of the prophets, are contingent (Matthew 22:40). When the believer through faith shares in the life of Christ, he does not deny or destroy the law, he affirms and upholds it by allowing it to be fulfilled in him by the Holy Spirit. The first half of the Decalogue is fulfilled by an unlimited love for God. The second half is fulfilled by loving one’s fellow man as one’s self.
Brice Martin summarizes this understanding thus: “Paul gives a coherent total view of the law. . . . To those in Christ, the law remains God’s law; consequently, they look to the law for instruction (cf I Corinthians 9:8, 9; 14:21, 34), and empowered by the Spirit they obey it (Romans 8:4-9). They obey the law not to get saved, or to stay saved, but because they [have] been saved.”24
The knowledge of a new and living way of fulfilling the Torah in the life of the believer makes sense of Jesus’ reply to the rich young ruler’s question about what was required to inherit eternal life. When Jesus said, “. . . if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments,” he knew that he would soon provide a means by which man could accomplish that end (Matthew 19:16-19). It also makes sense of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus would soon complete and seal forever the perfect righteousness that does exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees and then make provision to impute that righteousness to believers instead of their faith. It also makes clear to us the meaning of Paul’s declaration in II Timothy 3:15-17, “. . . that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for . . . training in righteousness; that the man of God may be mature, completely equipped for every good work.” If the law were destroyed, how could Paul tell us that it is profitable for instruction in righteousness so that a man of God may be mature, completely equipped for all good works? The “all scripture” which Paul was describing did not include the gospels or the epistles of the Apostolic Writings, for they either had not yet been written or were in the process of being written, and none of them had been canonized as Holy Scripture. The entire Tenach, composed of Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim (law, prophets, and writings), then, is profitable for instruction in righteousness and for equipping believers for good works.
Could it be that if believers today were more informed concerning the 248 positive mitzvot of the Torah, they would be better equipped to understand the good works, the manifestation of which Jesus said would cause men to see God’s light and glorify him (Matthew 5:16). Could it be that the maturity that the body of Christ lacks could be achieved by instruction in righteousness from the God-breathed Torah? And, let us emphasize that Jesus said that our good works or orthopraxy (what we do) would enlighten men, and not our good words or orthodoxy (what we believe). Could it be that more Christians would not fall under the injunction of James 4:17, “. . . to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin,” if from a child they had been taught the Holy Scriptures, including the law, the prophets, and the writings of the Tenach, and thereby had been equipped unto good works?
The New Covenant for Torah
The new covenant is not new, then, in the sense of innovation. It is new in the sense of renewal or reformation. The old covenant is not old in the sense that it is flawed and of diminished worth. It is old in the sense of time. The old covenant is not bad and the new covenant good. The old covenant is good, and the new covenant is better. In Paul’s time, long after Golgotha, the Torah was still “holy,” and the mitzvah “holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). For Paul, the law was God’s good gift to man, but it paled in significance when compared with God’s greatest gift to man, Jesus, the Messiah. Still, the Torah is not something to be relegated to the rubbish heap of God’s failure to accomplish his designed ends. It was not as some have suggested a departure from God’s primary will for Israel. Israel did not as Lewis Sperry Chafer suggested fall from the grace of the Abrahamic covenant when it chose to accept God’s law.25 The law was a major step in the linear progression of salvation history which received the means of its completion in the Calvary experience but which is still being played out and will not be finally completed until death itself is destroyed and there are new heavens and a new earth in which dwells righteousness. In the words of W. D. Davies, “the acceptance of the Gospel was not [for Paul] . . . the rejection of the old Judaism and the discovery of a new religion . . . but the recognition of the advent of the true and final form of Judaism, in other words, the advent of the Messianic Age of Jewish expectation.”26
The advantage the new covenant is that the Torah is written, not in stone tablets or upon parchments, but in the hearts of the believers. The author of the Torah, God, himself, assumes residence in the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit. The internalized lawgiver is then able to direct the actions of the believer in a way that was not possible when the Holy Spirit was with the people of God but was not in them (John 14:17). The new covenant is better than the old in the sense that “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds” (Hebrews 10:16). It is the same laws, the Torah, that are written in the heart and mind of every believer when the Holy Spirit becomes resident in him through faith in Jesus.
The arguments about Torah in the Apostolic Writings are never arguments for abrogation or destruction of the law. Paul’s statements that the law is aligned with sin and death (Romans 7:7-25) and that the believer has died to the law (Romans 7:1-4) only mean that the believer has been freed from the enslaving and condemning effects of the law and from the curses which the law places upon those who do not perform it. Bryce Martin states it succinctly: “. . . the law as an expression of the will of God is not ended, nor is its obligation on the Christian ended, since love is the fulfilling of the law, and the Christian is commanded to love.”27 Paul’s contention is that those who have been made free from sin through faith in Christ and have taken his easy yoke upon them need not undertake to prove their worth by keeping the law and becoming entangled in its more restrictive yoke (Galatians 5:1). It is true that the believer is “dead to the law by the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4; Galatians 3:19) and is therefore not “under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14); however, the believer is under the authority of the law of Christ (I Corinthians 9:21) and serves “in the newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6). If we are to understand that God has set aside the first Torah, it is only in the light that his doing so made it possible for him to establish the second and by that action “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:9,10). God’s new Torah manifest in the person of Jesus Christ is so glorious that the old Torah becomes almost insignificant in comparison; however, the principles upon which the old Torah was established remain eternally in the economy of God’s salvation. The Torah was incomplete without Jesus, but in him it finds its perfect fulfillment. This is the essence of Paul’s analysis of the law and its continuing effect on the believer.
Is Jesus the End of Torah Teleologically or Temporally?
While they have not been able to place the categoric destruction of the law in the mouth of Jesus, some Christian theologians have taken Paul’s arguments about faith and the law to create a complete negation of Jesus’ proclamation in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law.” Though it is inconceivable that the devoted pupil should completely countermand the teaching of his Master, this is just what many Protestant theologians have ascribed to Paul. At the very least, they have tried to interpret Jesus in the light of what Paul said, when, in fact, all scriptural interpretation must find its fulcrum of interpretation in the words of the Word, himself.
This attempt to teach the abrogation of the law through the words of Paul is especially true in the antinomian interpretation of Romans 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes.” Countless teachers have used this passage to proclaim that Christ destroyed the law and replaced it once and for all with grace through faith. The phrase, Christ is the end of the law, is lifted out of its context and out of the scope of the entire book of Romans, and as a text without context, it is made a pretext that violates the most fundamental principles of biblical hermeneutics (scripture interprets scripture and context interprets text).
There are two keys to understanding this statement: the word end and the phrase for righteousness. Telos, the Greek word translated end, can be interpreted in three ways: (1) teleologically, (2) temporally, and (3) completively. The teleological and completive interpretations of telos have been by far the most commonly accepted interpretations in church history. Robert Badenas gives a thorough documentation of the history of interpretation of this passage.28 The following are some of the examples which he cites. Most of the early Greek fathers interpreted telos as the goal, object, or fulfillment. Even John Chrysostom, whose golden mouth was often filled with pyrite when it came to discourses about Jews and Judaism, emphatically rejected the idea that the law had been abrogated. Tertullian in his Adversus Marcionem, quoted Romans 10:4 to support the unity of the Bible and the continuity between Christ and the Old Testament. Clement saw Romans 10:4 to mean fulfillment or culmination. Origen interpreted it to mean perfection. Athanasius emphasized that it confirms the prophetic nature of the law as pointing to Christ. Jerome always interpreted it prophetically. Thomas Aquinas understood it to mean the ultimate end, the final cause, or the goal. Erasmus viewed it as perfective in the sense that Christ does not cut away what existed before so much as he fills up what was partial and brings it to perfection. Martin Luther interpreted Romans 10:4 teleologically, saying that “everything points to Christ.” John Calvin interpreted it as meaning Christ is the purpose of the law. John Wesley explained telos as scope and aim.
Following the Council of Trent’s reaffirmation of the traditional teleological and completive interpretations of Romans 10:4, Protestant dogmaticians of the seventeenth century looked for ways to set in clear contradistinction the “legalism” of Catholicism and the “grace” of Protestantism.29 The law and Judaism became foils and straw men for the attacks against Catholicism. Protestantism’s break with Catholicism was viewed as parallel with Christianity’s break with Judaism or more specifically with the New Testament’s abrogation of the law in favor of justification by faith. The Anabaptists tended to see the New Testament as superseding the Old Testament and to see Romans 10:4 in terms of abrogation.30 This is when the shift began from the historical interpretation of Romans 10:4 in a teleological or completive sense to a temporal/terminal sense. The interpretation of the reformers, themselves, gave way to theological positions of confessional Protestantism. Calvinist tradition developed covenant theology according to which the law of Moses, the covenant of works, was terminated to be replaced by the covenant of grace through faith in Christ.31 This and other traditions began strongly to emphasize supersessionism in relationship both to Israel and to the law. Christianity had utterly and irrevocably replaced Judaism as grace had replaced law. In many communions, this overly-simplistic contrast of law and grace that projects law as the antithesis of grace and the bane of faith has promoted what Deitrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” which is really no grace at all but the license to sin which Paul condemned in Romans 6:1,2.
The temporal/terminal interpretation of Romans 10:4 as a reinforcement for the doctrine of justification by faith continued in a progression until the liberal school and historicism of the nineteenth century refined it to new heights (or depths, depending upon one’s perspective).32 Adolf von Harnack said that Romans 10:4 meant that the coming of Christ revealed “the merely temporary validity of the Law and therewith the abrogation of the Old Testament religion.”33 This terminal interpretation of telos began to prevail by the middle of the nineteenth century and has continued into the present. It has led to an almost Marcionic denigration of the law, and indeed in some circles of the entire Old Testament, with some denominations hardly recognizing the authority of the Old Testament at all. Harnack championed this cause, saying, “The rejection of the Old Testament in the second century [by Marcion] was a mistake which the great church refused to commit; its retention in the sixteenth century was due to the power of a fateful heritage from which the Reformers were not yet able to withdraw; but its conservation as a canonical book in modern Protestantism is the result of paralysis of religion and of the church.”34 With this school of thought leading the way in theological development in the late nineteenth century, is it any wonder that much of the church today continues to be supersessionist? In view of the profound effect of these temporal/terminal interpretations of Romans 10:4, we must ask ourselves whether they are based sound exegesis or on polemic pyrotechnics.
A comparison of the phrase τελοσ νομου (telos nomou) with similar expressions in classical Greek will help clarify the meaning of Romans 10:4. Z. P. Ambrose cites several parallels, including τελοσ γαμου (telos gamou), the end of marriage, which never means divorce but always means the consummation of marriage, and ανδροσ τελοσ (andros telos), the end of man, which in Plato never means man’s death but the attainment of maturity. He also refers to Plutarch’s statement in Amatorius 750 E, “telos gar epithumías edoné” that is exactly parallel grammatically with Paul’s statement in Romans 10:4, “telos gar nomou Christos.” Since Plutarch’s statement clearly means “the object of desire is pleasure,” not, “the termination of desire is pleasure,” Romans 10:4 must mean that the object, aim, or goal of the law is Christ, not the termination of the law is Christ.35
The teleological meaning of Romans 10:4 is both historically and philologically preferred. There is simply no reason on the basis of Romans 10:4 to assert that Christ terminated the law. There is great reason, however, to claim that Christ is the goal, aim, or completion of the law–indeed, the fulfillment of the law, as he, himself, declared. The church’s acceptance of Jesus’ position regarding the Torah would, no doubt, bring greater maturity to the body of Christ, for “the law of God is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7,8).
The second key to interpreting Romans 10:4 is the phrase for righteousness. Since the incarnational manifestation of Christ was for the express purpose of establishing perfect righteousness through complete obedience to the 613 mitzvot of the law, Jesus was the fulfillment of all the righteous requirements of the law. In him the Torah was fully realized, and perfect righteousness was established once and for all. The Jews looked at the Torah to see possibilities for man to achieve righteousness before God; however, they failed to recognize what God had already done that exceeded human expectations, namely the life and passion of Jesus.36 For the believer who is not ignorant of God’s righteousness in Christ, there is no need to go about seeking to establish his own righteousness, for he has partaken of the perfect righteousness of Christ through faith. Christ is the completion of the law as a means of righteousness to everyone who believes, for with the heart man believes unto righteousness (Romans 10:10). The imperfection of man made perfect obedience to the law impossible until God became man to accomplish the impossible. The righteousness of the law is this: “The man who does these things will live by them.” This Jesus did fully and without failure. The works of the law, then, are no longer a means by which the believer attempts to attain righteousness (Romans 10:5) but are a product of his having received the righteousness of Christ imputed to him for his faith. Faith and works are part of one continuum, with the latter serving as evidence of the existence of the former (James 2:17,18). This is what Richard Longenecker observed in Jewish tradition at the time of Paul and called “reacting nomism,” the “molding [of] one’s life in all its varying relations according to the Law in response to the love and grace of God.”37
Torah As Pedagogue
Romans 10:4’s statement that Christ is the goal or fulfillment of the law is confirmed in Galatians 3:23, 24: “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we may be justified by faith.” The word translated schoolmaster is παιδαγωγοσ (paidagogos), which in the Hellenic culture of the first century designated a slave who was a guardian or protector of the children of a household and was charged with the responsibility of teaching them good manners and escorting them to the teacher. The children remained under the supervision of the pedagogue until the time of puberty.38 This is exactly the correct translation of the Greek of Galatians 3:23, “But before faith came, under law we were guarded, being shut up to the faith being about to be revealed.” The Torah was a guardian, not a curse to Israel. The “curse of the law” was not the law itself but the curse which was pronounced upon those who disobeyed the law (Galatians 3:10-13). It was for this reason that David could say with millions of Jews before and after him, “I long for thy salvation, O Lord; and thy law is my delight” (Psalm 119:174). The law revealed sin in no uncertain terms to Israel and gave them the alternative of striving for acceptance before God by being obedient to his commandments.
Beyond the context of Israel, however, the law of God applies to all men. When Yahweh thundered his commandments from Sinai, the whole world heard his voice. Though only Israel agreed to accept his commandments and became covenantally related to him in that event, nevertheless, the categories of the commandments of God (the Decalogue) were impressed upon the conscience of all mankind. Paul declared that at least to some degree the law of God was written on the hearts of the Gentiles so that they were a law unto themselves, with their consciences and their thoughts either condemning or excusing them (Romans 2:14, 15). John Calvin noted that “all who are still unregenerate feel–some more obscurely, some more openly–that they are not drawn to obey the law voluntarily, but impelled by a violent fear do so against their will and despite their opposition to it. . . . even the children of God, before they are called and while they are destitute of the Spirit of sanctification . . . so long as they play the wanton in the folly of the flesh, it is profitable for them to undergo this tutelage,” and he declared that believers have a continuing need for the instruction of the law.39 It was no doubt in this sense that Paul was able to write to the Gentiles at Galatia that the law was a schoolmaster to bring “us,” both Jew and Gentile, to Christ. The laws of God are the fundamental protectors of all societies. They are the elements which cause men to rise above barbaric animalism and to mold themselves into beneficent societies. When men listen to the laws of God in their hearts, there is safety, security, and peace. When they do not, there is fear, depravity, and war. This societal influence of the law is, no doubt, a part of the universal blessing of Abraham to all nations in that he taught his children and his grandchildren the faith and commandments of God (Genesis 12:2,3; 18:19). The objective of the laws of God for all people, then, are to serve as a protector or guardian, a paidagogos, to bring them to Christ so that they may become “Christ’s” and “Abraham’s seed” and “heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
Those in Israel who believed and received Jesus entered into a new mature sonship relationship with God which freed them from the protectorate of the paidagogos and placed them under the care of the indwelling Paraclete. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Helper, that he may be with you for ever. . . . But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you” (John 14:15, 16, 26). Believers were no longer under the paidagogos but were children of God by faith in Christ Jesus who had come to maturity and were free to inherit the promise of God in Messiah.
Torah–Foundational to Christian Faith
Torah rightly understood as the revelation of the word and will of God is the foundation of Christian faith. Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount with the analogy of the wise and foolish men who built their houses on the rock and on the sand, respectively. He stated emphatically that the wise man was the one who “hears these words of mine and puts them into practice” (Matthew 7:24). The observance of Jesus’ reformed and restorational interpretation of Torah, which returned understanding and right practice of the law of God to the purity of its original intent, would be the foundation of wisdom in the kingdom of God that was at hand. The very Torah which the Jews searched diligently for the promise of eternal life was the witness that authenticated the claims of Jesus as Messiah and Savior of the world. As a matter of fact, the witness of the Torah was the only testimony which Jesus accepted (John 5:36-39). Decades later Paul explained his Christian faith in his trial before Felix: “. . .I admit that I worship the God of our fathers, as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets. . . .” (Acts 24:14). The foundation of Paul’s belief system was Torah and Neviim. For James, called “the Just” by the Jerusalem Jewish community because of his dedication to the righteous principles of the law, Torah was still foundational: “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).
Far from being a deadly poison of faith, Torah is the word of God, the hearing of which creates faith (Romans 10:17). It has been said that the understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures is the passport for comprehending the Apostolic Writings (New Testament). If not established in the foundation of the word of God, Christian faith can easily veer off track into any one of the countless heresies which have sapped the vitality of the church in all ages. If the New Testament writings are read through various cultural lenses, the result is misconception and confusion at best and heresy and destruction at worst. When read through the lens of Torah, however, the thinking and actions of Jesus and the apostles are clearly understood and are rightly applicable to Christian life in every generation.
Time for Restoration of Torah’s Immutable Principles
Can there be any doubt that this is a prophetic time for rapprochement between the church and Israel, a time for the church to repent of its historical antinomianism, Judaeophobia, and anti-Semitism? Is it not time for the church to reclaim its Judaic heritage and seek normalization of relations with Israel and the Jewish people? Is it not time that the church at least try to position itself to fulfill its mandate of being the instrument in God’s hand for provocation of Israel? While the church’s two millennia of adversarial relationship toward Israel have accentuated differences and even produced caricatures of Jewish beliefs, sometimes to the point of defamation, is it not time to give consideration toward the beliefs that the Jews hold in all piety toward God? Have we not had enough attacks upon Judaism’s legalism in order to extol the virtues of Christian grace? Can we not be mature enough to step beyond the over-simplification of such complex issues that has caused us to distort Jewish faith traditions? Can we look for a middle ground between the callous triumphalism of supersessionism and the self-flagellation of revisionism? Can we once and for all affirm our Lord’s simple statement that he did not come to destroy the Torah and agree that as a part of the eternal word of God it has a continuing influence both in the life of the church and in the life of Israel? Is it not possible that the church’s reaffirmation of its own inherent Jewishness and its reexamination of the Torah as a part of God-breathed scripture will help bring the church to maturity and equip it for all good works, including mercy to Israel? Are mature Christians not ready to abandon reactive theology for what Isaac Rottenberg calls “comparative theology which, through dialogue, seeks to (re)discover common roots with Judaism . . . not for the sake of compromise, and certainly not for the sake of camaraderie, but rather in order to come to a deeper understanding of the gospel of the Kingdom of God as it has been revealed in the Jew Jesus”?40 Perhaps our conclusion could be the same as Rottenberg’s, “Our search should lead to new insights about the Johannine statement that salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22).”
But, the reeducation of the church cannot stop with mere theory. Marvin Wilson states it very succinctly in this manner: “The process of restoring the withered Jewish roots of the Christian faith involves far more than learning about Jewish values, history, and culture in the abstract. Rather, at its core, it involves the restoring of relationships. . . Knowledge must also be transmuted into concrete action through personal contact with the Jewish community.”41 Christians throughout the world must begin seriously to imitate the life of Christ by affirming their devotion to the entire word of God, not only in what they believe, but also in what they do. Gaining a fresh respect for Torah as the law of God and searching for New Testament faith ways of observing, commemorating, and celebrating the laws of God represent a good place for a new beginning.
Is Torah the bane or the basis of Christian faith? Answering this question biblically can have a major impact upon our quest to come to maturity in the full knowledge of the Son of God and will protect us from being victimized by cunningly-devised teachings based on the traditions of men (Ephesians 4:12-14). Rather than perpetuating the Marcionic heresy of supersessionism and antinomianism and allowing traditional Christian Judaeophobia to fill us with the fear and dread that robs us of our biblical heritage, we can embrace the Jewish roots and Hebrew foundations of our Christian faith. We can apply Torah, perfected by the New Testament, to our lives. When we do, we will find ourselves worshipping and serving God in the biblical manner in which Jesus and the apostles expressed their faith. We will then, indeed, become more “Christian” (Christ-like) because we will be more like our Jewish Lord, Yeshua HaMashiach.
1. Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 8 Volumes (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1967), Vol. II, pp. 482-487.
2. Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), pp. 400-401.
3. Encyclopaedia Judaica, (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Jerusalem Ltd.), vol. 14, pp.1219-1251.
4. Loraine Boettner, The Millennium. (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 1957), p. 319.
5. J. Marcellus Kik, An Eschatology of Victory (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 1975), pp. 76,77.
6. Rousas John Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1970), p. 82.
7. Julius Wellhausen, quoted in Loyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987), p. 16.
8. Franklin Littell, The Crucifixion of the Jews (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1986), p 2.
9. Marcus Braybrooke, Time to Meet: Towards a Deeper Relationship between Jews and Christians.(Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990), p. 113.
10. A. Roy Eckardt, “Toward an Authentic Jewish-Christian Relationship,” in Wood, Jewish-Christian Relations in Today’s World, ed. James E. Wood, Jr. (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 1971), pp. 94-95.
11. Rosemary Radford Ruether, Faith and Fratricide: the Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism. (New York: Seabury Press, 1974), p. 59.
12. Ruether, p. 246.
13. Jacob Neusner, Telling Tales. (Westminster: John Know Press, 1993). p.103.
14. Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (New York: Seabury Press, 1931), p. 69.
15. Hans Hübner, Law in Paul’s Thought (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1984), p. 132.
16. Gerard Sloyan, Is Christ the End of the Law? (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1978), p. 101.
17. Littell, The Crucifixion of the Jews, p. 1.
18. D. Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (London: University of London Press, 1956), pp. 55-57.
19. Pinchas Lapide, quoted in Hans Kung, Signposts for the Future (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1978), pp. 74-75.
20. John Fischer, “Paul in his Jewish Context,” The Evangelical Quarterly, Vol. LVII, No. 3, July, 1985, p. 218.
21. W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (London: SPCK, 1970), p. 72.
22. Jacob Jocz, The Jewish People and Jesus Christ (London: SPCK, 1962), pp. 155, 156.
23. Richard Longenecker, Paul, the Apostle of Liberty (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), p. 132.
24. Brice L. Martin, Christ and the Law in Paul (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1989), p. 156.
25. Louis Sperry Chafer, The Kingdom in History and Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Dunham Publishing Co., 1943), pp. 68,69.
26. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (London: SPCK, 1970), pp. 323,324.
27. Martin, Christ and the Law in Paul, p. 144.
28. Robert Badenas, Christ the End of the Law: Romans 10:4 in Pauline Perspective, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 10 (Sheffield: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 1985), pp. 6-38.
29. Badenas, Christ the End of the Law, p. 22.
31. Badenas, Christ the End of the Law, p. 23.
32. Badenas, Christ the End of the Law, pp. 24, 25.
33. Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, 7 vols., translated by N. Buchanan (London: Williams & Norgate, 1894), vol. I, p. 87.
34. Adolph von Harnack, quoted in W. Pauck, Harnack and Troeltsch. Two Historical Theologians (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 37,38.
35. Z. P. Ambrose, “The Homeric and Early Epic Telos” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University, 1963), pp. 95, 96, also quoted in Badenas, Christ the End of the Law, pp. 46, 47.
36. Badenas, Christ the End of the Law, p. 112.
37. Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of Liberty, p. 76.
38. H. D. Betz, Galatians (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), p. 177.
39. John Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press), Vol. I, pp. 356-360.
40. Isaac Rottenberg, ” ‘Comparative Theology,’ versus ‘Reactive Theology:’ Jewish and Christian Approaches to the Presence of God,” manuscript of an essay to be published in Pro Ecclesia, p. 15.
41. Marvin R. Wilson, Our Father Abraham–Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), p. 325.
(Reprinted from Tishrei Vol 3, No 2, Summer 1995, Torah This article has also been used extensively as a foundation for discussion in colloquia of the Restoration Foundation)