Galatians 3—”Works of the law” and “Judaizer” Defined

Too many people wear bias glasses when reading the Bible which ends up filtering out the light of truth.

Let the light of truth shine forth against the lies and misinformation that is so freely and regularly promulgated in the minds and mouths of so many disciples of the Messiah—many of whom are viewed as biblical experts. The problem is that too many people view Scripture through various lenses which filter out the light of divine Truth and skew the words of Elohim. As a result, they interpret much of Scripture through bias confirmation rather than letting the simple truth of Scripture speak for itself. Hopefully, the following discussions will clear up some of the confusion…

Galatians 2:11–16, Peter…works of the law. What were these “works of the law” to which Paul was referring that forbad Peter from eating with the Gentiles? Is this referring to the corpus of Jewish extrabiblical tradition or oral law, which forbad Jews from eating with Gentiles? Or is it referring to the idea that since the Gentiles were uncircumcised, and thus, ostensibly, non-Israelite, Jews couldn’t share a meal with them for fear of being defiled by incurring ritual impurity? Is Paul attacking the Jews’ oral traditions or the false concept that circumcision is a precondition for membership within the body of Yeshua and hence of fellowship among believers including the sharing of food? Perhaps Paul, in rebuking Peter, is attacking both issues. 

Support for the idea that Paul is addressing issues surrounding adherence to Jewish oral law is strengthened by a text found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QMMT or 4Q394–399); qv. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4QMMT), which address sectarian Jewish interpretation of biblical law or halachah including righteousness by works, and which seems to contain similar language to Paul’s statements in this chapter. 

However, to one scholar, the validity of the argument that Paul has 4QMMT in mind when writing Galatians is debatable as pointed out by Jeff Dryden (http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Tyndale/staff/Head/4QMMT.htm). 

On the other hand, Hebrew scholar, Martin Abegg, presents the idea that Paul in his epistles to the Romans and Galatians may have been informed by some of the ideas espoused in 4QMMT (http://www.sabbathreformation.com/article-paul-works-of-the-law-and-mmt-118800746.html). The term “works of the law” (miqsat ma’ase ha-Torah) is found in it its complete form once in 4QMMT (4Q398 14–17 ii conflated with 4Q399 from The Completee Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p. 229 as translated by Geza Vermes; Penguin Classics, 2004 and A New Translation—The Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 454, translated by Wise, Abegg and Cook; Harper San Fransisco, 1996) and in its incomplete form (4Q394 3–7 i conflated with 4Q395; Vermes. p. 223 and Wise et al, p. 462). 

Therefore, with various and opposing opinions from biblical linguistic experts on the subject of whether Paul is referring to extra biblical Jewish laws or to the Torah-law itself in this verse, one thing seems clear. The exact meaning Paul’s phrase “the works of the law” is not clear and remains open to discussion and to debate.

Galatians 2:14, To live as a Jew. The Greek word here is Ioudaidzo from which the term Judaizer derives. This is the only occurrence of this word in the Testimony of Yeshua. Biblically speaking, who and what is a Judaizer?

Who Is the Real Judaizer?

Mainstream Christians often label those believers in the gospel and who adhere to the Torah Judaizers. Is this a correct label and is the biblical historical origin of this term? 

The term Judaizing or Judaizer as the mainstream church understands it today isn’t found in the New Testament per se. However, church historians and Bible teachers have applied this term retrospectively to those in the primitive Christian church as well as to modern saints who advocated adherence to the Torah. This is ironic since Paul advocated Torah obedience to the believers in Rome (who were both Jewish and Gentile). So while Paul teaches Torah observance on the one hand, many believe that Paul was teaching liberty from the Torah (in book of Galatians, for example) on the other hand. This has led to much confusion about what Paul really believed. Was he conflicted in his beliefs being both for and against the Torah? Or maybe he gradually changed his opinion from pro-Torah to anti-Torah. This latter proposition seems unlikely since Bible scholars tell us that Romans and Galatians were written nearly at the same time. So the term Judaizer as used by modern Bible scholars seems to be a canard ­— a fabricated concept, or a concept built on a false premise. 

The term Judiazer is found only in two verses in the entire Bible. The first place is in Esther 8:17 where the Greek Old Testament (LXX) uses the Hebrew verb yachad meaning “to become a Jew,” or “to profess oneself to be Jewish.” It was used in reference to those Persians who suddenly “converted” to Judaism to escape Jewish persecution. The final reference is found in Galatians 2:14 were Paul was accusing Peter, not of being Torah-obedient, but rather of adhering to non-biblical Jewish traditions, which forbad Jews and Gentiles from eating together. In reality, adherence to these extrabiblical Jewish traditions was Judaizing — a fact that seems to be missed by the majority of Christian scholars from the second century to this day! This isn’t a new thing, for Yeshua accused the learned Jewish religious leaders of his day of the same thing: “making the word of Elohim of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down” (Mark 7:15). Earlier he said, “You reject the commandment of Elohim, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9).

In reality, what Paul was fighting against was not the Torah, which he advocates, defends and claims to follow himself in a number of places in his writings, but he rejects the idea that one can be saved by their works including circumcision. After all, this issue was the focus of the debate of the first Jerusalem council in Acts 15. In combatting the false notion that circumcision, for example, must be a prerequisite to salvation, Paul opposes this idea in a grand and logical step-by-step fashion in the book of Romans, and again in the book of Galatians in a knock-out-the-opponent-quickly manner. So if we’re to apply the term Judaizer to anyone, it must be applied to those advocating a works-based salvation formula, not to those who teach that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Yeshua with the spiritual fruits of conversion being love toward Elohim and one’s fellow man as defined by the Torah — something this author strongly advocates. Sadly, this fundamental truth of who a Judaizer really was seems to have been missed by the majority of early church fathers and modern mainstream church theologians who have continued to repeat the anti-Semitic theological viewpoints handed down to them starting with the second century church fathers onward, and who fear rejection from their peers and supporters if they go against millennia of church tradition.

 

3 thoughts on “Galatians 3—”Works of the law” and “Judaizer” Defined

  1. Making the Word of God of none effect through your traditions(Mark 7:13) which were the lies we inherited from our fathers(Jer:16:19)! And they forgot that Yeshua is a Jew/Hebrew!

  2. The definition of an EXPERT; an EX is a ‘has been’ and a sPERT is a ‘drip under pressure’
    John

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