Recently, I received an email from a gentleman who had come across a website claiming that the Apostle Paul was an anti-Torah heretic, and that all of Paul’s books should be eviscerated from the Testimony of Yeshua (NT). The letter-writer wanted me to read this man’s arguments against Paul, and then respond to them.
Like this letter-writer, many folks who are coming to a Hebraic and pro-Torah
understanding of the NT are finding themselves questioning many once cherished belief systems that they learned in the church. What should be our approach as we separate the wheat from the chaff? Here is how I answered the letter:
You raised some important issues, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to take this bull by the horns. You’re a searching and truth-seeking man. This is good, but this also puts you in a vulnerable spot. While going through the process of separating truth from error, good from evil, many people get confused and toss out the wheat for the chaff. With the advent of the internet, now anybody can seem like an expert and put anything out there and sway people one way or another. It’s shark infested waters. It’s not always easy to differentiate between the good, the bad and the ugly.
Here are some guidelines that I follow that have helped me to navigate these difficult waters back to our Hebraic roots of the Christian faith.
To start with, I rarely read the writings of or visit the websites of those proclaiming strange doctrines (e.g. Paul was a heretic, so toss out his writings). In the interest of open mindedness and the search for truth, why wouldn’t I? First, whose got the time? There is no end to the new winds of doctrine that are blowing around (Eph 4:14), and as a very wise man once said, of the making of books there is no end (Eccl 12:12). Lastly, one can spend all one’s time spinning one’s wheels and go nowhere. Nowadays, any wanna-be teacher who has a computer terminal, and with the help of Google, can crank out whacky ideas and throw them out to the world resulting in the beguiling of unstable souls. The devil must be having a heyday, but that doesn’t mean I have to read it all!
It is my understanding that bank tellers who handle money are not taught to study the gazillion forms of counterfeit currency out there. That’d take forever, and new counterfeits are always arising, so who can keep up with it? On the other hand, they are taught to become familiar with the real stuff—its look, texture, feel, etc., etc., so that when a counterfeit bill comes along, they can spot it immediately because it’s not like the real stuff.
Okay, that having been said, I spend most of my time studying the Bible and not every wind of doctrine. As such, I have arrived at certain doctrinal and spiritual perimeters that for me are immutable. I have hills upon which I’ve planted my flag and will fight and die on. Anything that goes against these basic tenets of my faith I flat out reject!
These basic doctrinal tenets, which are all salvational in nature:
- The Bible is the Word of Elohim from Genesis to Revelation (including the writings of Paul). Anyone who rejects this, I reject and don’t even give them the time of day.
- I believe that Elohim (the “Godhead”) is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I don’t try to define the “Godhead” beyond that, for it’s beyond human understanding to do so. I believe what the Bible says with a simple childlike faith and leave it at that.
- Yeshua is the Son part of Elohim, and is the Son of the Father part of Elohim. Therefore, as the Messiah, he is Elohim incarnate, born of a virgin, lived, died and resurrected and is now interceding for us at the right hand of the Father, and his second coming is imminent.
- Yeshua as the Messiah lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for my sins. I am saved by Elohim’s grace through faith in Yeshua the fruits of which in my life must be the good works of Torah-obedience. If I love him, I will keep his Torah-commands (John 14:15).
- Torah is for everyone—all Jews and non-Jews. Period.
Again, anything that goes against these basic salvational truths, I flat out reject. On non-salvational issues, people should learn to agree to disagree without being disagreeable.Furthermore, with regard to the inviolable nature of the NT canon as we have it today, I invite you to read my paper on the NT canon. It proves that John before his death canonized the NT as we have it including the writings of Paul. Here’s the link: http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/nt_canon_full.pdf.The bottom line for me is that I know that the Bible works intact as is. It all fits together, and can’t be broken for many reasons. My article explains some of these reasons. The Bible comes as a package and contains the imprimatur of the Divine. What’s more, it has been my observation that those who are trying to break up the biblical canon don’t have the kind of godly fruits in their lives to lead me to believe that they’re godly, holy, righteous, Yeshua-like people. If they lack these fruits, then their theology will automatically be off, for by their fruits we must judge them in righteousness (Matt 7:15–20 cp. John 7:24). Their fruits reveal what’s on the inside of them. Bad fruits mean there’s something evil on the inside.
Yes, Paul is difficult to understand. Even Peter said that. The more I study Torah and Paul, the more he makes sense to me. He was brilliant beyond belief, which is why YHVH used him as he did. Presently, I now find no part of Paul difficult to understand, but I used to. Be assured, one’s inability to understand Paul shouldn’t necessitate tossing him out from the NT canon. It means simply that we don’t understand him and we need to keep studying and seeking the answers until we get them. Trust me! The answers will come.
What’s more, it doesn’t help that we have English Bibles that were translated by scholars who took a dim view of Torah, and believed that Paul came to “free” us from the Torah. Their biases come through in their translations. That’s why a knowledge of Greek and even Aramaic can be helpful in getting to the bottom of some of the linguistic confusion.I hope this helps you.In Yeshua’s Service,Natan Lawrence