Monday, July 27, 2015

Interpreting Paul and his Letter to the Galatians

Galatians is confusing because it sounds like Paul is saying "Torah is poof, gone." Many verses sound like he is saying "Torah is a Curse", "Torah is works", etc.  And thus, most people (indeed, most Christian denominations) teach "We are not under the Law; we are under grace" as if ".  But this interpretation is wrong.  

"Under the Law" carries with it a connotation that does not exist.  First, if you call "Torah" "the Law" you are imposing on Torah a "legal" obligation that it does not deserve or demand.  "Torah" means "teaching and instruction"; not "law"!  Torah was given to us for people to live holy, righteous lives in the presence of YHWH.  We obey His Torah for Him and we want to be His obedient children, not because there is any "legal" obligation to do so that somehow makes Torah "bad"!

How is it possible then, that living a holy, righteous life became "no longer required"?  When you say "We are not under the Law," you are actually saying that you don't need to live a holy and righteous life! So if you insist you are "not under the Law" you have not only negated the Old Testament, but the New Testament as well!  Without Torah, you you have no measure of how to live your life righteously for Him and I assure you, nowhere in the entire Bible did YHWH ever say "Go, live your life the way you want to, without rules, sinning, and I will simply forgive you."

So what to we do about how Paul is to be understood in Galatians?

We must abandon what we think Paul has said and work to understand what Paul was trying to teach the Galatians!

Remember:  Paul was a man and he had no power to change the Word of YHWH.  (The Messiah, Y'shua, did have the power to change the Word, but we don't see Him changing the Word anywhere! In fact the Messiah Himself said: "My teaching is not mine, rather it is of He who has sent me." (John 7:16, AENT) and: "Do not think that I have come to loosen Torah or the prophets, I have not come to loosen but to fulfill. For truly I say to you that until heaven and earth pass away not one Yodh or one stroke will pass from Torah until everything happens." (Matthew 5:17-18, AENT)  So if Y'shua says nothing in Torah will go away till the earth itself passes away, it is not possible for Paul to come along and say Torah was done away with!)

Since Paul can't change the Word, the proper way to read Paul is to say this: "When it sounds like Paul is negating Torah, I need to find out what I am missing in my understanding of what Paul is saying."

Galatians 3:9-12 as a beginning example
9. Then the believers are blessed by Awraham the faithful one. 10. For those who are servants of Torah are still under a curse, for it is  written, “Cursed is everyone who does not act on all that is written in this book of Torah.”  11. But that no man is made righteous by Torah before Elohim is evident, for it is written, “the righteous will live by faith.”  12. Thus Torah is not made by faith, but whosoever will do the things that are written in it, will live in it.  (AENT)
Many read these verses and conclude "Torah is a curse" or "Your are cursed if you follow Torah" or "If you keep Torah, you have to keep all of it!"  But all these conclusions are wrong!  Let's look each one:

"Torah is a curse"

Paul says "For those who are servants of Torah are still under a curse".  Paul is referencing Deuteronomy, and in Deuteronomy 27 YHWH tells the people that they are to "... listen to what ADONAI your God says and obey his mitzvot and laws, which I am giving you today" (27:10, CJB).  Then YHWH goes on to list some example of how people are cursed if they don't obey! (See 27:15-25).  If you keep reading into Deuteronomy 28, YHWH transitions to the blessings one will receive if he obeys His Torah - see Deuteronomy 28:1-14!  And, if that was not strong enough, Deuteronomy 28 continues after verse 14 with more curses if people don't obey!  So you see, people are cursed, not Torah!   

"Your are cursed if you follow Torah"

This is a misunderstanding of Paul's words in verse 10, when he says: "Cursed is everyone who does not act on all that is written in this book of Torah."  The person saying "Your are cursed if you follow Torah" has not clearly comprehended what Paul said.  Paul is referring to Deuteronomy 27:26 which reads: "A curse on anyone who does not confirm the words of this Torah by putting them into practice".  YHWH's admonition is not that you are cursed if you follow Torah - rather - the admonition is that you are cursed if you do not follow Torah! 

"If you keep Torah, you have to keep all of it!"

This statement is partially correct, but when this statement is made, the person saying it usually means "...and it's not possible to keep all of it."  Part of the problem with this statement is that we are to keep Torah, period.  YHWH never said "I give you these rules and you must keep all of it."  No, He said: "A curse on anyone who does not confirm the words of this Torah by putting them into practice."  We are to put Torah into practice in our daily lives!  The kicker is, not all the Torah applies to you!  So of course you can't keep all of it - you never had to!  You've always only needed to obey the parts of Torah that apply to you!  The Torah commands were never numbered, but man went back and counted them and came up with 613.  Of those 613, some are only for Levite Priests, some for men only, some for women only, and some apply to everyone.  "Keep the Sabbath", for example, applies to everyone.

See where this is going?  Just by digging in and figuring out what Paul is actually saying and identifying which Old Testament scripture he is talking about we can whittle away at the long-held misconceptions that Paul was teaching against Torah!  Since there are only two more verses in our example from Galatians, let's examine those too.

Verse 11: "But that no man is made righteous by Torah before Elohim is evident, for it is written, 'the righteous will live by faith.' "

Where is this from?  Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4 which says: "Look at the proud: he is inwardly not upright; but the righteous will attain life through trusting faithfulness." (CJB). You see, Paul understood that Torah is good and just, but he knew the Jewish leaders of his day (the Pharisees) were "requiring" obedience to Torah by their interpretation of Torah.  So Paul is simply pointing out that one is not made righteous by their practice of Torah; rather, he says it clearly that "the righteous will live by faith".  That, is, you have faith in the gift that you will live if you obey YHWH. No one "earns" their righteousness by "doing" Torah.  Look at Deuteronomy 4:1, 5:33, 6:2, 8:1 for examples which all say "...take care to obey Torah so you will live".  Obeying Torah is NOT therefore for "credit"; obeying Torah is the way YHWH asks His people to live! So you obey because you want to, and you want to live, and you desire things go well with you.   

And verse 12: "Thus Torah is not made by faith, but whosoever will do the things that are written in it, will live in it."

Here Paul is quoting Leviticus 18:5 which says: "You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am ADONAI." (CJB).  Something that YHWH said can't be "bad" for us, so obeying His laws and rulings is decidedly a good thing. In the verses following Galatians 3:12, Paul explains that Torah came about after the promise to Avraham because YHWH's people kept failing away from Him to go off and live unholy and unrighteous lives of the pagan nations.  In this way Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, compared Torah to the "false tutors" of his day - the Pharisees - who were demanding that the Gentile converts obey the oral traditions over Torah.  Paul tried to explain that with the Messiah, all have life through faith, not just the Jews, and that only the righteous rulings of YHWH (Torah - the "true tutor") apply to all who choose the God of Avraham as their God, and not the "false teachings of the Pharisees". (See Galatians 1:7-10).  For more on the remainder of Galatians 3, see Galatians 3:19 does NOT suggest that Torah is unnecessary!.

Conclusion

The AENT explains "law" thusly:

Torah is defined as “instruction in righteousness.” Shaul and all other Shlichim/Apostles of Y’shua give instruction according to the Torah of YHWH.  The Way of Netzari and Elohim Fearers who follow Y’shua is Torah.  By incorrectly defining Torah as “the Law” Christianity has failed to recognize that Torah is a Faith component (terms and conditions) within the Covenant of Love between YHWH and His people. Our “Heavenly Father” YHWH gives and maintains instruction in righteousness for all His children.

Recognize that even in Paul's time, his writings were already known to to be hard to understand! Peter said: "...as also in all his [Paul's] letters speaking in them of these things in which there is something difficult to be understood; (and) which they who are ignorant and unstable pervert, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16, AENT)  Keep that in mind as you read Paul in Galatians and in his other letters!  Don't just assume the scripture before you means what you immediately think it means!  Dig.  Study.  Learn.  Grow.

4 comments:

  1. Shalom frontline soldiers. May YHWH continue to endow you with his ruach to interpret and describe Masters instructions how to maneuver the mucky road ahead.

    I have read these recent blogs and a common response has been spewed from the "ig"party; the "ig"norant well informed, free spirited, do because it feel good generation, who have left there first love and chase after the iz'vel are easily deceived. Its remarkable the posture of oppositional defiance mere mortals articulate there arguments, reason, rationale and logic; all to sway our belief in Y'shua-YHWH. How sad it is that even the very elect are dooped by lies and rumors; I mean well educated scholars, intellectuals who have knowledge, wisdom and understanding However, Hosea receives this word from YHWH: My people are destroyed for want of knowledge, Because you rejected knowledge, I will also reject you as cohen for me. Because you forgot the Torah of your God, I will also forget your children. (Hosea 4:6 CBJ)

    Are you HIS people? If you have an ear to hear, harden not your heart (don't be stubborn and think you got "it" cornered) Whomever you are in cyber world searching for the truth; many roads of religion say come this way yet they don't lead you to YHWH; he is on the ancient pathway that rugged narrow road few find.
    STOP!! LOOK!! and LISTEN!!! Yerimayhu (carried the word of YHWH some 23 years; calling the people to turn to YHWH; decreeing captivity and yet his beloved brothers- countrymen believed the lies of the smoothed tongue fortune telling prophet(liers)


    Listen:"you having the previous knowledge that no prophecy is an exposition of its own text." (2Peter 1:20/AENT)
    Stop going through the religious buffet line and seek YHWH; that in it self seems religious but quite simple: cryout to him and abandon all others; if you seek him (YHWH) with ALL your heart He will be found; and wait for him like a bride at seaport waiting for, longing for her sailor to return from war into her arms.

    I know many will continue to contend, pontificate and quote from there mantheology and raise argument against The Riner's Fire; I encourage you instead of wasting your energies for sake of being a public defender; settle in yourself to seek YHWH and who He really is; learn from ha Mashiyach's instructions and stop kicking against the rock.(Remenber why Moshe wasn't allowed to cross into the promise land/)

    "Yes a people without understanding will come to ruin" (Hosea 4:14c)

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    Replies
    1. Kof, your responses and comments are simply amazing and insightful. Thank you so much for taking the time to read our articles. May YHWH richly bless you always!

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    2. "Just iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend" Prov 27:17

      I wanna' see the whole man sharpened for battle. Shalom in your home.

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  2. Very well explained. I have never understood these verses quiet well when i was still attending the Christian Church. All i have known is Ephesians 2:8 and that's it. Now i know that there are more to it.

    Shalom!

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