Though the primary theme of the Testimony of Yeshua (the name John gives to the New Testament in the Book of Revelation—e.g. Rev 1:2; 6:9; 12:17; 20:4) is the testimony of Yeshua the Messiah, the Torah is, nevertheless, the elephant in the room.
Though not mentioned outrightly as often as one would think in the Testimony of Yeshua, the Torah is implied, assumed, or referred to in on countless occasions using coded Hebraisms. Why, one might ask, is this the case with the apostolic writers? The answer is simple: They were writing to Jews as well as to non-Jewish people who either already operated within a Torah-centric religious paradigm or were being brought into it. The obvious didn’t have to be mentioned over and over again, for Torah was not a strange or foreign thing to the first century believers as it is to most in the church today. The Torah was their way of life and frame of reference for all that they thought and did!
The word law as used in the Testimony of Yeshua is the first aspect of this “elephant” we need to examine. It is the Greek word nomos which in the Septuagint (the third century B.C. Greek translation of the Tanakh [Old Testament Scriptures]) is used in place of the Hebrew word Torah. Therefore, we know that the Jewish scholars who translated the Tanakh into the Greek language considered the words Nomos and Torah to be equivalent. Also, contextually, in the Testimony of Yeshua, we can see that the word law means Torah. To the Messianic Jews who wrote the entire Testimony of Yeshua, when the Greek word nomos is used this is not a reference to Roman, Greek or Babylonian law, but to the biblical Hebrew law or the Torah, or Torah-law of Moses.
Let us not forget that the Bible was written, for the most part, if not totally, in the Hebrew (or Aramaic) language by Hebrew people who spoke Hebrew, lived in a Hebrew culture, practiced the Hebrew religion and worshipped and served YHVH Elohim, the God of the Hebrews. What defined the Israelites’ spiritual relationship to their God – YHVH Elohim? It was the Torah, which by definition and to the Hebrew mindset of the first-century referred specifically to the instructions in righteousness of Elohim as delivered through his servant and prophet Moses to his people, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), known as Israelites. As noted above, the Torah is recorded in what is commonly called the Books of the Law, the Books of Moses, the Pentateuch or the Chumash, or what we would call the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These books contain YHVH’s instructions in righteousness, which were delivered letter-for-letter and word-for-word from the very mouth of Elohim to Moses and the Hebrew children of Israel and forms the foundation for the entire Bible: both sections which Christians commonly call the Tanakh and the Testimony of Yeshua.
For the people of Israel in Yeshua’s day, including the apostles who, under the inspiration of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Spirit of Elohim), the Torah of Elohim, given through Elohim’s servant Moses, formed the central teaching document that regulated and governed every aspect of life, culture, family relationship, marriage, society, religion and relationship with surrounding nations. Therefore, law for them was Torah. Nothing more nor less.
Keep in mind that the concept of Torah, to the Hebrew mind, did not have the pejorative connotation that the term law has to the traditional Christian mindset which tends to read a legalistic bias into the word law when reading the Testimony of Yeshua.
Examples of References to the Torah in the Testimony of Yeshua
Although Yeshua, the Living Torah, and not the Law of Moses or the Written Torah, is the main theme of the Testimony of Yeshua, it can’t be denied that the Written Torah is woven throughout the fabric of the Testimony of Yeshua. In fact, it would be negligent of me to pass over the pro-Torah themes and statements found throughout the apostolic writings. Here are some examples:
- Yeshua defends the validity of the Torah in saying that he didn’t come to abolish it, that it will remain valid as long as the earth exists, and that our obedience to the Torah will determine our rewards-level in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:17–19).
- Here Yeshua teaches us that the golden rule sums up the whole Torah (Matt 7:12).
- Those who follow the words of Yeshua (the Torah) is like a wise man who builds his house on a rock, while those who don’t are like a fool who builds his house on the sand (Matt 7:24).
- Yeshua prophesies that many of his followers will claim to be his in that they move in the gifts of the Spirit, because they don’t follow the Torah, he will have nothing to do with them (Matt 7:21–23; Luke 13:27).
- In Matthew 13:41 iniquity can be equated with Torahlesness (also in Matt 24:12).
- Yeshua rebukes the Pharisees for invalidating many aspects of the Torah through their man-made traditions. This warning is applicable to the Christian church, which has done the same thing. (Matt 15:3–7; Mark 7:8–9).
- As part of the “Great Commission,” Yeshua instructed his disciples (and us) to teach new converts to teach “them to observe all things that I have command you” (Matt 28:20). This would certainly include what Yeshua commanded them in Matthew 5:17–19, and John 14:15 where he said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” We know that when he said “commandments,” he was referring to the Torah (Luke 18:20).
- Yeshua instructed his disciples to love him by keeping his commandments (John 14:15,21), which is a reference to Torah (Luke 18:20).
- Yeshua informs his disciples that we abide in him by keeping his Torah-commandments, which teach us how to love one another. In doing these things, we become the friend of Yeshua (John 15:9-14).
- There were many early believers who were zealous for the Torah, and Paul himself walked orderly by keeping the Torah (Acts 21:20,24).
- Paul confessed to the non-believing Jews his Torah-obedience (Acts 22:3,12).
- Paul testifies in a court of law that he believed all things that were written in the Torah and the prophets (Acts 24:14).
- Paul testifies in another court of law that he had never violated the Torah (Acts 25:8).
- Paul testifies before the Jewish leaders in Rome that he had never done anything against the customs of the Jewish father, which would include the Torah (Acts 28:17).
- Paul emphatically declares faith in Yeshua in no way invalidates the Torah, but on the contrary, establishes it (Rom 3:31)
- In Romans 6:19 Paul equates iniquity with Torahlesness.
- Paul teaches us that the Torah is good; it is spiritual (and therefore it is eternal); he delights in the Torah of Elohim in his inward (spirit); and with his mind, he obeys the Torah even though his flesh man fights against obedience (Rom 7:12,14,22,25).
- Here is another example of Paul validating the fact that the Torah is relevant in the life of the redeemed believer. By the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua, we are able to fulfill the righteous requirements of the Torah (Rom 8:2–4).
- Paul declares that love is the fulfilling of the Torah, which shows us how to love our fellow man (Rom 13:8–10)
- Paul advocates keeping the Torah-commandments of Elohim (1 Cor 7:19)
- Through Yeshua, Paul teaches us that we are to keep the Torah as he does, and that by this means, we are to win to Yeshua who are living in rebellion to the Torah (1 Cor 9:21). He goes on to say that the Torah brings sinners to Yeshua (Gal 3:24), for the Torah tells us what sin is (1 John 3:4) and points us to our need for a Savior to redeem us from the penalty of violating the laws of Elohim (or has put us “under the law”), which is death (Rom 6:23).
- Paul calls the law “good,” and he says that the law was not made for the righteous, but for the lawless—those who break YHVH’s Torah commands (1 Tim 1:8–9). Those who are righteous follow the Torah, which is the definition of righteousness (Ps 119:172), for they walk in love (1 Tim 1:5), which is the fulfilling of the Torah, which shows us how to love Elohim and our fellow man (Mark 12:29–31; Rom 13:8–10).
- In 1 Corinthians 13:6, iniquity can be equated with Torahlesness and is contrary to truth, which is Torah (Ps 119:142,151).
- In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, iniquity can be equated with Torahlesness.
- In 2 Timothy 2:19 iniquity can be equated with Torahlesness.
- In Hebrews 1:9 iniquity can be equated with Torahlesness
- The writer of Hebrews, quoting Jeremiah the prophet, declares that YHVH will write his Torah-laws in the hearts of his people (Heb 10:16 ). Obviously, he believed that the Torah was still valid as a standard of righteousness for the saints of Elohim.
- James validates the Torah as a standard of righteousness for the saints, and goes on to write that YHVH will use the Torah to judge the saints (Jas 2:8–13 cp. Matt 5:19).
- John declares that those who don’t keep the Torah neither know Elohim nor have the truth (1 John 2:3–7).
- According to John, the saints will have their prayers answered because they do those things that are pleasing in YHVH’s sight by keeping his Torah-commands. Furthermore, those who have the Spirit of YHVH in them are abiding in him and keeping his Torah-commandments (1 John 3:22–24).
- To love Elohim is to keep his Torah-commandments. Period! (1 John 5:3)
- The end times saints will be Torah-observant followers of Yeshua (Rev 12:17; 14:12).
- Those who do the Torah-commandments of Elohim are blessed to be able to eat from the tree of life, and will be granted entrance privileges into the New Jerusalem (Rev 22:14).