Subscribe to American Torah to be eligible for my next book giveaway and to follow along as I draw out the connections that are often missed in today's church teachings by clicking
→→HERE!←←

(*You must have a mailing address in the USA or Texas to be eligible for the book giveaway.)

COVID, Vaccines, and Torah

My personal, commonsense, Biblical approach to COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 Is Everywhere.

It’s on everyone’s mind, in our conversations, on the news, and attached to every other Facebook post. They even say that it’s in the air. For almost two years, governments and corporations around the world have mandated lockdowns, social distancing, masks, and now vaccines to combat what we have been told is one of the most virulent and dangerous plagues in history.

Some people say we should ignore the governments and go about our business. If you love your neighbor, you won’t tolerate such tyranny. Others say it’s just common sense to wear a mask and keep your distance to protect vulnerable people. If you love your neighbor, you’ll wear a mask. They can’t both be right, can they?

The idea of masks and distancing make intuitive sense. If the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread by tiny water droplets in our breath, then a mask to contain those droplets, and a little distance to keep them from getting on other people should help, right?

Well, there’s theory, and then there’s the real world.

I’m no expert–and I’m going to keep telling you that–but I’m also not stupid. I can read, listen, observe, and think for myself. I don’t need to be a doctor or a virologist to weigh the obvious implications of observable reality. I’ll share my conclusions with you, and then I’m going trust you to think through it for yourself and make your own health decisions.

Face Masks

From everything I’ve read, face masks have very limited utility in stopping or even slowing the spread of COVID. The designer cloth masks that so many people like to wear do almost nothing and bandanas and plastic shields really don’t do anything more than attenuate sneezes. I suppose that’s better than nothing.

Surgical masks vary widely in effectiveness based on how they are manufactured and how they are worn, but that effectiveness drops off sharply after…oh….a few minutes of use. They’re really designed for reducing transfer of bacteria from a surgeon’s mouth to a patient’s innards just a couple of feet away over a short period of time and following a very strict protocol. They are definitely not intended to be worn for hours on end, taken off and on with dirty hands, and pulled under chins.

If you wear a face mask for more than a few minutes, it begins to saturate with moisture from your breath, including all the viruses and bacteria that came with it. Much of your breath is then just blowing out the sides of the masks or–much worse–blowing that moisture through and off the outside of the mask in much smaller particles than had originally escaped your mouth, potentially helping any viruses to spread more efficiently than they would have if you hadn’t worn the mask at all.

Reality trumps theory every time.

Social Distancing

Even the deer are getting COVID. Seriously. How can anyone believe that “social distancing” is having any effect at all?

Study after study has shown that six feet of distance is no better than three and no worse than twelve. Don’t be rude and get right up in people’s faces, but skipping rows at church and standing on the Xs at the grocery store are wastes of space.

If you get sick, you should stay home. Otherwise, be social. It’s good for you. And everyone else too. We want to see you!

Like I said, I’m not an expert. I’m just some guy on the Internet who doesn’t like outsourcing my thinking to politicians and reporters who have proven themselves over and over and over to be liars.

So why should you believe me? You shouldn’t. I haven’t included any sources in this article, partly because I haven’t kept track of everything I’ve read and seen over the last 18 months, but also because you really need to do your own research. Don’t rely on me and, for God’s sake, don’t rely on the press!

What’s the Point?

If these extreme anti-COVID measures–businesses destroyed, lonely suicides, skyrocketing mental illness, pastors arrested for holding church–don’t actually do anything to help, why are we doing them?

Call me a paranoid conspiracy theorist if you want, but I am totally convinced that the real purpose of forcing masks, closures, and social distancing on the world has nothing to do with preventing illness and everything to do with promoting fear. Why do politicians and rumor mongers (“reporters” implies they’re reporting something instead of spreading lies) want us to be afraid?

Fearful people are easier to control. When they’re confused, they’re ready to be directed. When the masses are afraid, they beg for more government, to be wrapped up in a comforting, protective blanket of authoritarianism. The bigger and scarier the bogeyman, the more unreasonable the solutions can be.

Like a rushed, emergency vaccine using an experimental method that has never worked despite decades of research and trials.

COVID Vaccines

Various governments around the world have given emergency authorization to a large number of experimental vaccines for treating COVID. Some of them are fairly conventional, while others are just massive medical experiments using the general public as guinea pigs. That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me.

Here is a summary of what I’ve been able to deduce from my own reading as a regular guy not being paid by the Gates Foundation, Pfizer, the CDC, or the Department of Division and Slander…

  1. The mRNA and DNA vaccines spread throughout the body and infect healthy cells with mRNA or DNA that hijack the normal processes of the cell to manufacture a portion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as a “spike protein”. This process destroys the infected cells, releasing millions (billions?) of the spike proteins.
  2. The cells that have been hijacked to manufacture spike proteins could be targeted by the body’s normal immune processes, creating autoimmune conditions in which the immune system begins targeting healthy, non-hijacked cells of the same type.
  3. The SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins are designed to cause mechanical damage to cells so that the virus can inject its own DNA. The spike proteins created by the mRNA and DNA vaccines must be identical (or nearly identical) to the spike proteins on the virus or they would not work. It is inconceivable that releasing millions (or billions) of those same spikes would not cause damage to cells throughout the body.
  4. Widely available statistics appear to indicate that none of the available COVID vaccines provide any significant protection against the contraction or spread of SARS-CoV-2. Since the vaccines do not provide immunity to vaccinated individuals, they do nothing to achieve herd immunity, but do accelerate mutation and facilitate transmission. The claim that they reduce symptoms of COVID once infected by the virus appears to have some statistical support, but this actually compounds the problems of mutation and transmission.
  5. Many well-credentialed physicians and medical experts have stated that the COVID vaccines pose significant health risks, potentially far exceeding the health risks of COVID itself.
  6. SARS-CoV-2 is already mutating into new strains, which will soon make current vaccines obsolete, and unable to do anything except cause further harm.
  7. Many well-credentialed physicians and medical experts have stated that there are proven and effective treatments for COVID that significantly shorten the duration of illness and lessen its symptoms without the use of vaccines.
  8. Despite official ingredients lists to the contrary, all COVID vaccines that I know of use tissue cultured from aborted babies at some point in the development or manufacturing process. These babies were not voluntary tissue donors, but the victims of elective abortions, also known as murder for convenience. Vaccine makers that use fetal tissue in the manufacturing process attempt to remove that original human tissue to varying degrees through the use of chemical and mechanical means, but it is impossible to remove all traces. Every one of those COVID vaccine doses contains some bits of cells cultured from those murder victims. Vaccine makers that use fetal tissue in the development of their vaccines are still participating in and benefiting from murder for profit.
  9. Vaccine makers are generally exempted from being held accountable for fraud, malpractice, and assault related to vaccines. This alone is sufficient justification for any reasonable person to reject their products.
  10. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, and other pharmaceutical companies involved in the development, manufacturing, and marketing of COVID vaccines have decades long histories of fabrication of test results and statistical data, massive fraud, and human rights violations that demonstrate a clear tendency to prioritize profits and technical advancements, while holding the health and rights of real, individual people to be next to worthless. This alone is sufficient justification for any reasonable person to reject the vaccines of these companies in particular.

The Biblical Case for Vaccination

Deuteronomy 22:8 says that, when you build a house, you should build a parapet (something like a railing or low wall) around the roof so that nobody falls off and gets hurt. In the Ancient Near East, where most of the Bible was written, the flat roofs of houses often doubled as an extra room of the home. People would sleep on the roof during hot weather or visit there with guests. The principle of this command is that we should take reasonable precautions within our own spheres of responsibility to prevent other people from being injured. If you have a dangerous animal, keep it penned up. If you have leprosy, stay in quarantine. You don’t have to go looking for problems in other people’s homes and businesses, but you should definitely see to your own.

It only makes sense to take precautions with COVID as well. No good person wants others to be sick and miserable, so why not? If masks work at preventing or “slowing the spread” (they don’t), we should wear them. If social distancing works (it doesn’t), we should keep our distance. If vaccination against COVID works (it doesn’t), we should get vaccinated, assuming there aren’t other good reasons that God might not like it (there are).

If you love your neighbor, you won’t unnecessarily put your neighbor at risk by breathing pathogens at him.

The problem with all of these justifications is that they depend on the first IF statements being true before the THEN statements become true.

The Biblical Case Against Vaccination

As you can see from my list of ten facts about the COVID vaccines , the IF statements above don’t pass the test. Masks don’t work. Social distancing doesn’t work. The COVID vaccines don’t work!

Sure, they probably reduce the symptoms a little, but this actually makes the problem worse, because it tricks people into thinking they’re well, when they’re actually sick. Infected, contagious people are walking around as if nothing is wrong because they’ve been vaccinated, but they’ve become breeding grounds for new strains that they freely pass on to others.

The parapet you build on your roof doesn’t actually fulfill the commandment unless it works to keep people from falling off. If it looks solid, but it’s actually made of cardboard, then it’s much worse than if you hadn’t built it at all. Your neighbor will lean on it, thinking he’s safe; it will collapse throwing him from the rooftop, and that will be your fault.

Concert venues, airlines, and entire countries are refusing to allow people to enter without proof of vaccination, because they’ve been told that vaccination will keep people safe, except that it does exactly the opposite. The vaccines are making people even more vulnerable and spreading COVID even faster.

If you love your neighbor, you’ll accept a little risk on his behalf, and not make panicky decisions that put him in even greater danger than before.

This isn’t even considering what happens when you reward pharmaceutical companies with billions of dollars for buying and using body parts of murdered babies as factory components. Those particular babies were sacrificed on the alter of convenience decades ago, so does that still matter today? If the vaccines were actually saving a significant number of lives, that might be an argument worth considering. But they’re not, and do you think Planned Parenthood isn’t watching today and seeing what sins are being rewarded with fat bank accounts?

Is the COVID Vaccine the Mark of the Beast?

Since the book of Revelation contains so much allegorical imagery, almost anything can be made to fit the descriptions of the Mark of the Beast if you take just the right angle and make the right assumptions. Unfortunately–or fortunately–it’s not easy to make these vaccines fit. Indulge me in making another numbered list…

  1. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t contain the “number of a man” or the number 666 anywhere. 60606, 666.66, and 66600 aren’t 666. John didn’t say that the number of of the beast would contain three sixes. He said it was six hundred, sixty, and six. No more and no less.
  2. Some people are taking the vaccination in their right arm, which, in some languages, equates to the right “hand”. Others are taking in the left arm and nobody is taking it in their forehead.
  3. People are being denied some business opportunities because of their lack of vaccination, but nobody has been blanketly denied all ability to buy and sell. Not yet, anyway.
  4. If the vaccine is the mark, who or what is the Beast? Okay, I’ll give you that one. The government, rumor mills, and pharmaceutical giants are all pretty beastly.

Exodus 13 says that Passover is to be a sign on the right hand and forehead of God’s people. Exodus 31:13 says that the weekly Sabbath is a sign between God and his people. Deuteronomy 6 and 11 say that all of God’s commandments will be a sign on the hands and foreheads of his people. Considering those passages, I am inclined to believe that the mark on the hands and foreheads of the people in Revelation 13 is not a literal mark, but submission to the law of the Beast. God’s mark is submission to his commandments. The Beast’s mark is submission to his.

Revelation says that the Mark of the Beast is the same as the Number of the Beast, and that it is the number of his name. Maybe the preterists are right–I suspect they are partly right–and this refers to some arrangement of the name and title of Emperor Nero. In any case, in biblical language, a name is more than just the label we use to call someone. It is the sum of his character and reputation. In this sense, the name of God is the totality of who and what he is. “YHWH” is a convenient abbreviation of his character.

Just as God’s Law is an extension of his Name, so is the Beast’s Law an extension of his. I don’t expect a stamp, tattoo, or implanted chip to be the Mark that John wrote of. In this light, the COVID vaccines, and even the masks and other restrictions, could be described as the mark of A beast if not THE beast. Just like government-enforced “tolerance”, these laws are an attempt by men to force all people into destructive, unloving behavior under the color of love. This is Orwellian doublespeak. It means the opposite of what they say it is. Their love is not love, but hate. Their “reasonable precautions” are not precautions, but reckless disregard.

Pick a Side

So we are all left with a choice. Who is our master? To whom do we owe ultimate allegiance? Do we pretend to believe that 2+2 equals 5 and obey the nonsensical dictates of men despite good sense and Biblical admonitions? Or do we stand with Peter who said, “We must obey God rather than men.”

I will not comply with the Man’s law to accept the COVID vaccines, aka “the jab”, because I have chosen to obey God rather than man.

There is always the possibility that I am wrong. That everything I have read and chosen to believe is false, that Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates really are selfless humanitarians. I have not done any laboratory tests myself. I have no formal education in virology or medicine.

I know that not everyone who chooses to take one of these vaccines is doing it because they’ve chosen Man’s law over God’s. Many people are probably just scared. Can you blame them? The mainstream press publishes nonstop horror stories about how terrible COVID is and how we’re all going to die if we don’t comply, while the technomafia of social media and technology giants do everything they can to suppress alternative views. Many of these people have never even heard anything but the party line.

However, I suspect that a great many people are more afraid of losing social status than of COVID. I know some very smart and knowledgeable people who have cut off family and close friends for refusing to be vaccinated. They’re not cutting them off because their afraid of getting sick, but because they’re afraid of being ostracized from whatever they view as “polite society”. They’ve chosen status over relationships. I hope they still have consciences when it’s all over.

A few people are actually convinced by the available evidence that the masks, distancing, and vaccines are the best options.

If you have honestly examined the evidence for yourself, rather than believing everything Facebook and MSNBC tells you to believe, and you still believe that masking up and getting vaccinated is the wisest, most loving course, then you should do that. More power to you. God bless you and honor your desire to love and protect your neighbor.

Please do me the same courtesy.

Five Character Traits of Abraham

A mysterious story in Genesis 18:1-8 reveals 5 important character traits of Abraham.

In 2 Chronicles 20:7, King Jehoshaphat called Abraham God’s “friend”, and this characterization was confirmed by James:

You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
James 2:22-23

It’s very high praise to be called “friend of God”. Although no mere man will ever approach the power, authority, and majesty of the Creator, this term implies that Abraham was as near to that stature as any man could be. Neither Moses, who led the Hebrews out of Egypt, nor Elijah, who was taken directly to Heaven without seeing death, were ever given a title as intimate as “friend”.

We know that Abraham didn’t earn a place in God’s inner circle through obedience or great deeds, but through his trust in God’s promises and reliance on divine Providence for his life and sustenance.

…we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
Romans 4:9

Yet, Abraham’s faith was not–could not be–without actions. Romans 4:9 says that Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness, but v12 refers to “the footsteps of Abraham’s faith”. “Footsteps” implies action. As James wrote, “Faith without works is dead”.

Hebrews 11 describes this principle at work in Abraham’s life:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going….By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son.
Hebrews 11:8,17

Character Is the Difference Between an Acquaintance and a Friend

All of Scripture holds Abraham up as the paragon of faith and faithfulness to YHWH. Other than Yeshua himself, I don’t believe there could be a better role model for a believer in the God of Abraham, than Abraham himself.

We know that God loves both faith and obedience and many people throughout history have had an abundance of both. I already mentioned Moses and Elijah, but also consider Enoch, Noah, Joseph, David, Elisha, and Daniel. They were all men of great faith and obedience.

Everyone admires some people and calls other people friends, and these two sets of people are frequently not the same. The difference between them is not due only to proximity or convenience. You can admire a person’s accomplishments and appreciate his loyalty without actually liking him and calling him a friend. In those cases, the difference between an acquaintance and a friend most likely lies in the person’s character.

Something about Abraham’s character set him apart in God’s eyes from all other righteous men and women, but what was that something? Our only reliable source of information about his life is the Bible, and I think the story in Genesis 18 about him entertaining three travelers nicely illustrates several of his outstanding qualities.

Abraham and the Three Visitors

And YHWH appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
Genesis 18:1-8

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but Genesis does an outstanding job of painting complex pictures with few words. These eight verses contain volumes about Abraham’s character.

Abraham Is Hospitable

Abraham was an old man at this time, ninety-nine years old, and lived near the Dead Sea in the land we now call Jordan. Although parts of the text in chapters 18 and 19 hint that this event took place in the spring, it was evidently an unseasonably hot day, because Abraham was resting from the midday heat in the coolest place available, just outside the entrance of his tent. Out of the sun, but still in the breeze.

The three men who approached on the road had no servants, guards, or other retinue. They had no mounts or baggage. Although the text makes it plain that this was YHWH himself on his way to Sodom, it’s also clear that Abraham didn’t know this until they left his camp. There is nothing at all to indicate that they appeared to be anything other than ordinary men. I’m sure that Abraham had seen many itinerant laborers traveling much as these men did.

Yet, despite his discomfort, when he saw three men approaching in the distance<1>, he jumped to his feet, ran to meet them, and begged them to stop at his tent to eat and rest. He couldn’t have expected to make any trade deals or receive payment in exchange for anything he might offer them, because they had nothing to trade. He didn’t mind his own business, waiting for them to approach him. Abraham was just exceptionally eager to offer his resources for their refreshment. He considered it an honor to host and entertain strangers.

Abraham Is Generous

According to most sources I found, a seah is a dry measure equaling nearly two gallons, yet Abraham told Sarah to prepare bread for his visitors from three seahs of flour. That’s far more bread than any person could possibly eat! I believe that Abraham was either preparing a feast for his entire household with his visitors as guests of honor or else intended to send them on their way with sacks full of bread for their journey. In either case, he gave far more than they would have asked if he had waited for them to ask.

This wasn’t yesterday’s bread or leftovers from the morning meal, although such was undoubtedly available. Nor was this barley or course-ground; it was fine ground wheat flour, something that most people would probably reserve only for rare occasions, if they could afford it at all.

Abraham then picked out a young calf from his herd and told one of his servants to slaughter and prepare it immediately. Ranchers typically wait until a calf is at least nine months or, more often, twelve to eighteen months old before sending it to the butcher. This age range represents the ideal concurrence of weight and consistency, maximizing each animals profitability. The meat of a younger calf may be more tender, but there’s less of it, making it much more expensive…but still far more than three men could eat.

In short, Abraham was extraordinarily generous to three men whom he probably believed he would never see again.

Abraham Is Impartial

When Joseph dined with his brothers in Egypt, he gave Benjamin more than the others. He was hinting to the rest that he knew more about them than they did about him, but he was also showing favoritism to his only full brother. If a wealthy man in the desert hosted a party of travelers, they would have expected him to give a larger proportion to their leader.

However, when Abraham met the three men on the road, he didn’t try to determine which was the superior. He didn’t ask who was the leader or show any deference to one above the other, he bowed to all three together. When he sent Sarah to prepare bread, he told her to use three measures of flour. One seah would have been enough for all three men, but Abraham wanted to make bread using one measure for each man, symbolically not showing favoritism to any of them. If he sent them off with the leftovers, he could send each man with an equal amount.

His behavior was in keeping with a consistent principle in God’s Law of treating all people with a basic level of respect no matter what their resource or station in life.

Now then, let the fear of YHWH be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with YHWH our God, or partiality or taking bribes.
2 Chronicles 19:7

Abraham Is Humble

The first thing that Abraham did when he saw the three men was jump to his feet and run to meet them–he didn’t wait for them to come to him–and when he reached them, he bowed to the ground as if they were royalty, and he called them “lord”. Perhaps at some level he knew that he was encountering God himself, hence his use of the singular “lord”, but it doesn’t appear that he had any conscious knowledge of it.

Abraham was an extremely wealthy and influential man. As the story of Lot’s kidnapping in Genesis 14 shows, he was a peer of the region’s kings. Anyone visiting his camp would have expected to bow to him and call him lord, but that’s not the way Abraham treated his visitors. He humbled himself from the moment he saw them. He bowed, praised, begged, and served them, and then he stood by, refilling their glasses and plates, as they ate and rested. When they left his camp, he accompanied them along the road.

Like Messiah Yeshua, although Abraham was next to kings in wealth and authority, he made himself to be a servant for the benefit of strangers.

Abraham Is a Leader in His House

Although Abraham served his guests, he would have been derelict in his responsibilities as a host if he had left them alone for more than a moment. Instead he directed Sarah to prepare bread and a servant to prepare meat. Neither of them asked why three men needed so much. I’m certain they were used their patriarch treating guests lavishly, but they didn’t complain. Like Noah’s family, they followed his instructions despite how outlandish they might have sounded.

This was far from the first time that Abraham demonstrated superior leadership qualities–remember again the incident when he rescued Lot–but it’s one thing to command servants and lead men in battle. It’s another thing to inspire your wife to complete devotion, even, as Peter wrote, calling him “lord” as he debased himself before strangers.

Lest you think that this quality is limited only to men, remember what Paul also wrote in 1 Timothy 5:14 about women in the congregations he planted around the Roman Empire: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.” Men are to lead their households as husbands and fathers, but so are women as wives and mothers, under the authority of their own husbands.

Abraham Is an Example for All Believers

Each of these characteristics–hospitality, generosity, impartiality, humility, and patriarchal leadership–is an example for all worshipers of the God of Abraham.

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling,” Peter wrote. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.” Paul wrote that “God loves a cheerful giver,” and James that, “if you show partiality, you are committing sin.” How many times did Yeshua tell us to follow his example in being a servant to all? “The last will be first and the first will be last.” Finally, Paul wrote to both Timothy and Titus that no man is qualified to be a leader of God’s people if he is unable to keep his own family in order. An elder in the congregation must first be a patriarch in his own house.<2>

These five qualities aren’t just something to be admired. They are deep in the heart of God. When Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”, this is part of what he meant. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” by following the examples of Paul and Abraham, even as they followed the example of Yeshua.

Be hospitable.

Be generous.

Be impartial.

Be humble.

Be a leader.

Of course, none of these things can earn you a place in God’s Kingdom, whether in this life or the next. For that, one needs faith, a complete reliance on the grace of God to forgive inevitable sins. Fortunately, I believe that Abraham’s obedience holds a secret to improving faith along with behavior. As with everything else a person can do, you can strengthen your faith by exercising it through obedience. Through faith, decide to keep one more of God’s commands than you did yesterday–or keeping one better–believing that all of his instructions are for our benefit. As your obedience proves the wisdom of God’s word over time, it will also strengthen your faith.

God doesn’t expect you to be perfect today, or even in this lifetime–he certainly knows that I am very far from that goal–but perfection in faith and righteousness, like Abraham, remains the aim of all our studies, prayers, and efforts at obedience.


<1> The ESV says he saw the men “standing in front of him”, but the Hebrew could as easily be translated “standing across from him”. Since he ran to meet them, they could hardly have been standing only a few feet away as the English sounds to modern ears.

<2> 1 Peter 4:9-10, 2 Corinthians 9:7, James 2:9, Mark 9:35, 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and Titus 1:6.

1 Timothy 4 and “Every Creature of God is Good”

(1) Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (2) Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; (3) Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (4) For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: (5) For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 KJV

I believe that there are two primary ways in which people tend to misread this passage which lead them to interpret it to mean that all of God’s rules about clean and unclean animals have been revoked.

Semantic Drift of English Words

I usually quote from the English Standard Version, but I chose the King James Version in this article to illustrate the first problem: the intrepid drift of English vocabulary over time. The KJV translates two Greek words in a way that seems to be clear on first reading, but actually obfuscates Paul’s original meaning. Specifically, broma (βρῶμα), translated as “meat” and ktisma (κτίσμα), translated as “creature”.

“Commanding to abstain from meats” must refer to Jewish laws about not eating pork, right? And “every creature of God is good” must mean that pigs are good to eat, right?

Not quite.

The Greek word Broma does not refer only to the flesh of animals, what we call meat, but to food in general. This isn’t a mistranslation in the KJV, because “meat” also once meant any kind of food in English. Throughout the New Testament broma is translated as “meat” in the KJV, but is used to refer to food in general, not to the flesh of animals. Bread, broccoli, and beef are all equally “meat” in King James English. Most modern translations read “food” in those verses instead of “meat”.

Likewise, the second Greek word, Ktisma, does not refer only to living things, as we understand the word “creature” in twenty-first century English, but to all things created. When the KJV was first published, the English word creature was applied to anything that could be created. The sun, stars, and sand dollars are all God’s creatures, not because they are alive, but because God created them.

Now consider how the ESV translates this same passage:

(1) Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, (2) through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, (3) who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (4) For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, (5) for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV

For modern English speakers, the ESV is much clearer. “Abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving” is unambiguous, even if the subsequent clause of “by those who believe and know the truth” could allow for some speculative theology. “Everything created by God” is also quite clear. It refers to everything that God created, which includes….everything.

Inedible Eisegesis

Paul told Timothy that liars were making people abstain from foods that God created to be eaten and that everything God created is good. Does that mean everything God created should be “received with thanksgiving” as food? Not at all. Surely Paul didn’t mean that we should add gravel, cyanide, and babies to the breakfast menu. He wrote “food that God created to be received with thanksgiving”, and clearly God did not create all things to be used as food, especially not with thanksgiving. Even some things that are technically edible were not created to be food.

And YHWH God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Genesis 2:16-17

David Stern used a memorable turn of phrase when commenting on 1 Timothy 4:3-5 in his Jewish New Testament Commentary: “Everything created by God is good, but not everything created by God is food.”

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was only one of many edible creatures that God did not create to be eaten, and Paul doesn’t state anywhere in this passage in First Timothy (nor in any other passage) that God has set aside his instructions on what animals he wants his people to eat and not to eat. Interpreting it so is a clear example of eisegesis, reading a theological opinion back into the text instead of letting the text speak for itself (aka exegesis).

A More Digestible Exegesis

The problem Paul was addressing had nothing to do with Biblical dietary laws. As in almost all of his letters, Paul denounced man-made traditions masquerading as divine command, not God’s own commandments. False teachers were telling people that they needed to abstain from marriage and food. Perpetual celibacy and frequent fasting were common themes among among false teachers of the time. Celibacy before marriage is good, but celibacy within marriage is bad. Fasting is good, but it is only commanded on one day of the year, and even that’s debatable. Petty arguments about whether we should fast from all food on Mondays or Wednesdays or from meat on Fridays were rampant in the first century. (See my article on the Didache.)

In this passage, Paul told Timothy not to let these liars add or remove from God’s actual instructions. God decides what is food or not. God instituted marriage, and no man can change God’s laws on these or any other matters. Even if he had wanted to change God’s Law, Paul simply did not have the authority. No man does. As Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of YHWH your God that I command you.”

We also know that Yeshua never violated Torah and never taught anyone else to do so. In Matthew 5:19, he said, “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

A close reading of Paul’s letters, being careful not to add anything to the text that he didn’t actually write, shows that he did not teach against Torah or Yeshua. (Considering Yeshua’s words, it seems to me that to teach against one is to teach against the other.) People often misconstrue his polemics against over-zealous converts, both Jewish and gentile, as being against obedience, but one can only interpret his letters in such an antinomian manner through eisegesis and begging the question.

The most expansive interpretation of this passage that good exegesis allows is that Paul believed nobody should forbid marriage, as long as it’s done according to God’s guidelines, and nobody should forbid eating what God has authorized to be eaten, because everything that God created is good if used according to its design.

Are All Things Truly Lawful?

Did Paul write that all things are lawful for Christians?

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.

But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33

As with every line written in every personal letter, context is key to understanding the author’s intent. Paul’s main point in this passage didn’t begin in verse 23, but in chapter 8, verse 1: “Now concerning food offered to idols…” The full conversation didn’t begin even there, but in a previous letter written to Paul by the believers at Corinth, a letter that has been entirely lost to history. 

From 1 Corinthians 8:1, we know that Paul was responding to a question about eating the meat of animals that had been sacrificed to idols on pagan altars. He told them that offering a sacrifice to a pagan deity does nothing at all to change the nature of the meat itself, so long as you aren’t actually participating in the sacrificial rite. Even eating the meat in the pagan temple, doesn’t itself make the eating sinful if you are only eating meat with no regard to the location, the false god, or the ritual.

Eating meat that has been sacrificed to an idol becomes a problem in three circumstances:

  1. Are you participating in the pagan celebration or rituals for which the animal was sacrificed? Eating the sacrifice is an intrinsic part of worship, so if you are participating in a pagan ritual, you are engaging in idolatry, which God most definitely does not appreciate.
  2. Could an observer mistake your eating for idolatry? If so, you shouldn’t eat it because you don’t want to mislead them to think that idolatry is allowed or that you are a hypocrite in what you profess to believe.
  3. Does eating the meat bother your conscience? If you feel guilty in the eating or if you are tempted to go just one step closer to idolatry, then you should stay away from it.

In chapter 10, Paul made the argument that eating the meat might be perfectly lawful, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. When you’re in gray areas like this, in which specific circumstances can make all the difference, you should tread lightly.

What he does not say is that any of God’s commandments have been canceled or that we are free to ignore them when we feel like it.

Most modern translators seem to believe that “All things are lawful” in verse 23 is a hypothetical quote of his audience. Paul posited that someone at Corinth might say “All things are lawful” and the text that immediately follows is Paul’s response. In other words, Paul probably didn’t even intend for anyone to think that he was stating that “all things are lawful”.

However, even if we take those phrases as Paul’s own words, we need to interpret them in the context in which he was writing. He certainly didn’t mean for us to think that all sexual immorality and idolatry are lawful, because he wrote “we must not indulge in sexual immorality” and “flee from idolatry” just a few verses earlier in the same chapter.

We can’t extend “all things” to eating pork and people unless we also extend it to eating blood and engaging in sexual immorality. Yet, even if Paul hadn’t addressed those things already, in Acts 15:20 James clearly says that eating meat sacrificed to idols (participating in the idolatry), eating blood, and sexual immorality are the most basic of all moral standards. These are the very first rules that a new convert from a pagan religion to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) needs to adopt in order to fellowship with other believers, but they are not the entirety of godly living.

The context is idolatry, not clean and unclean animals. Even his statement about sexual immorality is about pagan temple prostitution and sexual acts as worship. If we allow the text to define itself, then we can’t reasonably conclude that Paul said anything except that eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols is not strictly a sin as long as we aren’t participating in the idolatry.

Neither James nor Paul taught that “eating all things of all kinds is lawful”. Rather, they taught that as followers of the Messiah, we need to make wise and biblically informed distinctions between clean and unclean and between prudent and imprudent.


Did God’s Food Laws Change After the Flood?

Did God change the laws about clean and unclean animals after the flood?

Being a Torah observant follower of Yeshua (aka Jesus) means living according to God’s instructions as given to Moses (aka Torah) and as illustrated and explained by Yeshua, including those rules that pertain to diet. Food is a very personal thing and other Christians are frequently dumbfounded that I don’t agree with them that God’s rules for eating were canceled by Jesus. Just read Mark! Read Romans! Haven’t you read Galatians!? Etc. Pick a New Testament book and there’s probably a verse in it that someone will interpret to mean that God no longer cares what anyone eats. I am convinced beyond any doubt that the vast majority of people–even well-educated and sincere believers in Jesus–have never even considered that those verses might be interpreted in some other way, let alone done any serious study on the matter.

American Torah (and other websites that have published my articles) holds other articles on this topic, but the same “counter” verses come up often enough that I think it’s worthwhile to the most common, including what they say and what they are claimed to say. I don’t have the time or inclination to address every possible relevant Bible passage, of course, but I hope that I will be able to add something useful to the collective dialog and encourage you to reconsider what you have been taught or what you might assume about others.

I will add the tag “kosher” to this and other articles on this topic so that you can easily find them here at American Torah and over at Soil from Stone.

And I will begin with The Beginning, Genesis…

Genesis 1:29 & 9:3

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

When God first created man in the Garden, he gave Adam permission to eat plants (“every seed-bearing herb”), but then after he destroyed the world in the Flood, he gave Noah permission to eat animals (“every living thing”).

This raises two questions: 

  1. Did God’s Law change after the Flood?
  2. If God changed the rules once, could he change them again?

God told Noah he could eat every living thing. Doesn’t that mean we can eat pigs and lobsters?

“Every seed-bearing plant” and “every living thing” are descriptions of categories. In other words, God gave Adam permission to eat from the category of seed-bearing plants and Noah permission to eat from the category of living things, but he did not mean for either of them to understand that they could eat absolutely any and every member of those categories.

If you get your drivers license and I tell you, “Congratulations! You can drive all kinds of cars now,” do I really mean that you are free to drive any and every motor vehicle you can find? No, because not every vehicle is yours, some vehicles require special licenses and training, and other vehicles are illegal to drive on regular roads. I think these two Genesis phrases would have been better translated as “the seed-bearing plants” and “the living things” to convey the intended meaning.

Leviticus 11:3 says, “Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat.” Does that mean that every cow is available for food to anyone? Clearly not. God did not give anyone permission to kill and eat his neighbor’s cow.

Let me give you a scenario as an illustration.

Your town has an ordinance against driving 18 wheelers on any streets within town limits. You don’t own an 18 wheeler, but your neighbor does. Are you allowed to drive his 18 wheeler on a country road without his permission? No, you aren’t. Not because of the town law–that doesn’t apply on country roads–but because it’s not your truck.

Now, if you take it into your head to become a long haul truck driver, you can get your CDL and purchase your neighbor’s rig. Then you will be free to drive it on that country road, but still not in town, not because it is illegal for you to drive an 18 wheeler, but because it remains illegal to drive it in town. If your neighbor had only loaned you his truck, instead of selling it, with the condition that you can only drive it downtown, you would be no more legally authorized to drive it than before, because his consent in the matter has no effect at all on the town’s ordinance against 18 wheelers within town limits.

Before the Flood, before God allowed Noah to eat animals, he told Noah to take seven pairs of every kind of clean animal into the Ark with him (Genesis 7:3), so God’s laws concerning what makes an animal clean or unclean existed and were in force at that time. God’s laws concerning what makes an animal edible to humans are identical to those that distinguish clean from unclean, and so it seems to me that those laws were also in force prior to the Flood, prior to God granting Noah permission to eat animals.

On the sixth day of Creation, he gave the Garden into Adam’s custody, but not for every purpose that Adam might desire. Adam’s responsibilities as a gardener allowed him to prune and harvest the trees, but not to burn the whole place down. Everything belongs to God, every rock, tree, animal, and person. Before the Flood, cows and sheep were perfectly edible to humans, but they belong to God, and God was (and is) free to disallow mankind to kill his cattle for food, not because it is immoral to eat a cow, but because it is immoral to eat someone else’s cow.

God’s instructions to Noah were not a change in his eternal Law that says “You may eat this kind of animal, but not that kind.” Rather, they were a change in how much authority over his own possessions God had delegated to mankind, much like a farmer allowing his hired hands to take a few chickens home with them in addition to their daily allotment from the harvest.

If God changed the rules about what we can eat once, could he change them again?

Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 are the primary passages of Torah that tell us which animals are clean and therefore suitable for food. (See this article for a brief explanation of what clean and unclean means.) God’s Laws concerning clean and unclean animals predate Noah, Abraham, and Moses and haven’t changed.

But if God can change the wages of mankind from plants alone to plants and animals, can he also reduce those wages again to plants only? Or to animals only?

I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t. They and we are all his creations to do with as he chooses.

However, he would need to send a prophet to tell us of the change in such a way that nobody would have any excuse for not recognizing his authority and the truth of his message. The last two times God sent such a message, the prophet who delivered it was the supreme, unquestioned human authority on earth. I am unaware of a single human being in over 1900 years whom I could point to as a certain and true prophet, let alone one with such unimpeachable credentials. If a prophet carried a word from God that was so fundamental to human existence as the revocation of permission to eat animals, surely it would have to be delivered in a similar manner to the original granting of permission.

Perhaps when Messiah Yeshua returns to establish his earthly kingdom in the land of Israel, he will make such a decree. I doubt it, but who am I to say?

Even the Wicked Understand This

What does the Parable of the Unjust Steward mean?

[Yeshua, aka Jesus] also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.

“And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

“And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’

“So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

“The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”

Luke 16:1-17 ESV

This passage has always puzzled me. An incompetent manager found out he was about to be fired, so he conspired with his customers to steal from his employer in order to secure a new job–or at least some charity–with one or more of the customers. And Yeshua wants us to emulate this man? Does he want us to steal from our employers in order to create good will among those less wealthy? That doesn’t make any sense! Since the Pharisees’ immediate reaction was to ridicule him, they were probably thinking the same thing.

However, when reading it again recently, I noticed some details that must have escaped me before. The keys to understanding are in a phrase Yeshua used in his summary and in his response to the Pharisees, who overheard him speaking this parable to his disciples.

Unrighteous Wealth

God’s Law (Torah) requires a public trial for anyone accused of a crime and that justice be rigorously pursued. In other words, there needs to be an investigation, and the accused has a right to defend himself. The rich man in this story held what amounted to a secret trial without the accused even being aware of it until he was told to pack up and get out. He wasn’t a good man to work for.

Maybe the manager was only negligent and hadn’t done anything criminal, or it could be that the case wasn’t strong enough to stand in a legitimate court of law, and so the rich man decided to dismiss the manager from his employ without pressing criminal charges. He certainly had a right to do so, whether the manager was guilty or not. As another of Yeshua’s parables points out, a man is within his rights to hire and fire anyone he chooses and to use his wealth however he sees fit.

It could also be that the rich man didn’t want to give the town elders and judge an opportunity to examine his books too closely.

In verses 9 and 11, Yeshua referred to the rich man’s wealth using the Greek word mammona, which isn’t just material wealth, but ill-gotten gain, and he even added the adjective adiko, meaning wicked or unrighteous.

If then you have not been faithful in adiko mammona [unrighteous, ill-gotten gain], who will entrust to you true riches?
Luke 16:11

The manager had not squandered the possessions of an ordinary businessman, but of a criminal mastermind, and when he colluded with the master’s clients to forge new instruments of debt, he cheated a cheater.

So are we then to seek out employment with criminals so that we can play Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor? No, that’s not the lesson either.

Unrighteous Teachers

When the Pharisees overheard all of this (as Yeshua intended, no doubt), they scoffed, probably thinking that Yeshua was telling his disciples to use dishonest means to further their mission. But he turned to them and explained that they were like the incompetent manager, but they were wasting the opportunity to prepare for the coming shift in spiritual power.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes of Yeshua’s day had inherited an unjust system in which the High Priest was appointed by Rome and the ordinary people were denied the right to study and understand the Scriptures for themselves. They had access to wealth and power that had been unjustly concentrated in the hands of a ruling class.

The Law and the Prophets have been read and studied right up until the time of John. And the good news of the Kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone is trying to claim a piece of it.
Luke 16:16 (Paraphrased)

The Torah and the Prophets had warned for over a thousand years that a day of reckoning was coming for unjust rulers when the Kingdom of God would be established on earth. Everyone wants to be part of the Kingdom, and religious leaders jockey for position to control the gates.

When John and Yeshua went to the common people and began proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom, the ruling classes naturally objected. This was a golden opportunity for them to earn an honored place with the new King, but in their pride they clung to an obsolete office that seemed golden in the eyes of men but was spiritually rotten to the core.

Even the Wicked Know This…

The Temple was intended to unite the people in a closer relationship to God, yet the religious rulers used it to create division among the people and to separate them from God. Meanwhile, the Pharisees buried the people under onerous regulations, the “burden which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear” spoken of by Peter in Acts 15:10. They kept the gentiles as far away as possible, even forbidding a Jew to so much as enter their houses.

When they heard the good news, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”, they should have repented from their pride and hatred, embracing their fellow Israelites and inviting the nations into the Tent of Jacob, but they jealously guarded their hoards of hay and stubble.

The point of Yeshua’s parable wasn’t that we should use fraud and bribes to earn good will with men, but that we need to be preparing for what’s coming rather than clinging to what’s passing away. Even the “sons of this world” know to prepare for the next life before this one is over. How much more should the “children of light” know to “lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys.”

When the Judge weighs your life on his scales, what will he find?

This life will end. Every title, every bank balance, and every seat in every boardroom will end with it. You have an opportunity right now to repent from selfish ambitions and instead begin laying up treasures in heaven by keeping God’s commandments and doing good for the people in your community. Don’t waste it.

A Dialogue on the Continuity of the Law

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4:2. Should Christians keep the Torah?

The conversation below took place in an online forum more than ten years ago. I’m reproducing it here because that forum no longer exists, and I think the content is worth preserving.

[Original post] Jay Carper:

It seems to me that an honest reading of Scripture without antinomian prejudice can only lead to the conclusion that God’s Law has not been set aside, abrogated, annulled, or whatever synonym for canceled you might prefer.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

1 Peter 2:21-22 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.

Matthew 5:17-19 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (18) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (19) Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Translation:

1) The Law of Moses says that no one may change the Law.
2) John said that anyone who violates the Law has sinned.
3) Peter said that Jesus never sinned.
4) Jesus said that he didn’t come to remove even a single ink mark from the Law and that anyone who does will be called the least in heaven.
5) If Jesus came to change the Law in even the smallest way, then he is a liar and a sinner, and he cannot be the Messiah.

I have never heard anything resembling a convincing counter argument. If you’ve got one, I’d love to hear it.

Jair:

That’s not too hard, everything is predicated on point 2 which is the weak link anyway.
1 John 3:4 is a peculiarity, the root of the word law in both instances is anomee’ah instead of nom’os, its the only time anomee’ah (for lack of text inserts right now) is rendered that way, in every other case it is rendered iniquity. The term in no case refers to the Law of Moses, though nom’os frequently does.

Sin may well be lawlessness, iniquity, wickedness etc. You could argue from this passage that Sin is a transgression of any given law that you are bound, but you couldn’t argue that sin is specifically a transgression of Mosaic law.

Thank God for that, because without cities of refuge, the Levies, the Priesthood, years of Jubilee, and on it is impossible for us to follow the Law of Moses. That was law was for a specific deal which people broke, God totally burned the bridge of following the law of Moses. He made sure we couldn’t pretend the deal was still on by destroying key things required to follow it. I have respect for anyone who tries to emulate its precepts, but no one can obey that law without saying ‘I’ll just do my best here’ and ‘I can’t do that so it doesn’t mater’ there.

Ironically, in trying to apply that deal to themselves people have to change much more than jots or iotas, they have to ignore or comprise the things they can’t do, and that is an insult to the law.

Mark Call:

No offense, Jair, but I’m solidly with Jay, and Yeshua, on this one.

Had He violated His own Written Word, in such places as Deut. 4:2 and 12:32, then He would have been a liar (including not only such references as Matt. 5, but many others, like John 5:47) and could not have been HaMashiach.

(This is, in fact, a very good reason that so many Torah-knowledgeable Jews reject a “Jesus” who supposedly “did away with” it. Many are thus shocked when they hear what “Yeshua the netzir” — a word they already know — actually said!)

But I’ve always considered any argument that relies on a Greek understanding which contradicts not only the Hebrew word, but the Torah itself, to be EXTREMELY suspect. “Nomos” is no better a rendering of the word “torah” than the English word “law” is, and it is very likely that many of the texts in the Brit Hadasha or “new” testament are translations of things originally penned in Hebrew as well.

(Speaking for myself, I will add that such “contradictions” were what originally led me to an agnostic rejection of the Bible as “contradictory”; what else could Mal. 3:6 mean by saying “I change NOT”? It was Greek “gods” who were capricious and untrustworthy, not YHVH Elohim.)

There are some things that CANNOT be done, Jair – and I see no problem with that, since one of the key principles of Torah understanding is discernment. Since I am not a king, or a wife, some things simply don’t apply to me. Same thing goes for certain sacrifices. (BTW, most of the “law done away” with crowd tend to miss a very important fact about “sacrifices” in general, and the Perfect Lamb in particular:
there IS no sacrifice in Torah for “rebellion”! The ramifications are profound…since He knew that “from the Beginning”.)

But good job, Jay; that’s about as good of a one-page summary as I’ve seen.

Jair:

It doesn’t rely on Greek, that’s just a side note, the point is that 1 John 3:4 does not say Law of Moses, there is nothing that says sin is specifically a violation of Mosaic law, just that it is a transgression of law in general.

But note that I never said Jesus changed or did away with Mosaic law either, insofar that that is Jays point point 4 stands on its own and the rest is immaterial.

Much more important than that is the idea that sin is a specifically a transgression of Mosaic law. God doesn’t change, but people do. The Law of Moses and its promises stood binding until all twelve tribes fell and their governments where wiped out due to constantly breaking their end of the deal.

You see that some things don’t apply because of gender, rank, heritage, or occupation. Why is it then a problem that things don’t apply because you are not a person with whom the deal was made? God made sure pretending to follow the Law of Moses as if it applied to you would be hollow by destroying things that where needed to follow it.

Part of discernment is knowing who you are and not applying everything the Bible says to yourself, that’s what the name it and claim it crowd do with anything they see as being good.

Jay Carper:

I haven’t had time to compose a response to your initial comment, Jair, so forgive me for skipping ahead…

For several years (5 or 6?) after realizing that the Torah still applied to the Jews, I said pretty much what your saying: The Law is still in effect, but what does that have to do with me?

Jeremiah 31:31-37 and the writings of Paul changed my mind. The New Covenant is the great hope of the gentiles. It is our way to adoption as sons of God. However, God told Jeremiah that he would make the New Covenant only with the houses of Judah and Israel: no gentiles allowed! Paul, relying on prophecies about “a people who are not a people” and “dry twigs” wrote that the gentile converts are grafted in to the tree of Israel. In the Messiah there is no Jew or Gentile–so far as salvation or entrance to the New Covenant is concerned–because they are all on an equal footing as citizens of Israel.

When a person becomes a citizen of a new nation, he adopts that nation’s laws. He cannot take his old nation’s laws with him and expect his conduct to be excused by the new government.

If the Torah still stands for Jews, then it still stands for all believers.

Mark Call:

I like Jay’s explanation, Jair, but would add another observation.

I’m not particularly fond of the limitation implied by the very terminology, “Law of Moses”, and think it is misleading. (In part, but not only, because of the occasional use of the term ‘torah’ to refer to the Pentateuch. Depending on context, “torah” can mean more.)

“Torah” literally is ‘teaching and instruction’. Yeshua used words translated into English as “torah and prophets” when He referred to what “is Written”. But note that Adam walked with God, and that Noah obviously knew which animals were “clean” and which were “unclean” long before that teaching and understanding were even Written down.

I contend that the “Law” (think “Law of Gravity”) was in place when the “Foundations were laid”. His “teaching and instruction” are a function of His design, and what He has Written about all of it is for our blessing, if we have “eyes to see”.

Jair:

Jay,
But that’s the thing, I can’t see how the legal system of Israel laid down in the time of Moses actually applies even Rabbinic Jews. They cannot honour it, they have to leave out chunks that they simply can’t do and in observing here and leaving out there they force that Law to change, and that is exactly what Jesus said not to do as per point 4 and Deuteronomy said not to do as of your first quotation.

I have no quibble with with the doctrine of adoption as you laid it out here.

Mark,
Yes, teaching and instructions goes beyond the Law of Moses. But the term Law of Moses was used in point 1. For clarity by the Law of Moses I mean specifically the legal system laid down for Ancient Israel by God and the promises tied directly too it. I should double check with Jay to see if that is close enough to what he means by the term. There are eternal ethics (or, eternal laws), but that does not mean that there are temporal or case by case ethics as well. The Law of Moses was a deal with a specific people under specific conditions. The histories and the Prophets detail those people violation those conditions, and the captivities show the deal ending. God promises to make another deal if they turn to him, but it is a different deal.

Your point about Noah knowing clean animals goes to show that cleanliness of animals goes beyond that time and government, I would say that is along the lines of an eternal law, though even then I would make exceptions in the case of starvation.

Mark Call:

I don’t necessarily disagree, Jair.

I just note, however that often the specific term, “Law of Moses”, is used to mean “that which does not apply to ME”.

Since I have come to regard ALL of His Torah, meaning “teaching and instruction”, as valuable for things like reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, and a lamp to my own feet, I can do so far less legalistically.  😉

Jay Carper:

There are definitely parts of the Law that cannot be obeyed today. Those who would try are in the same basic situation as the Jews of the Babylonian exile. The Temple had been destroyed, and they were not allowed to travel Jerusalem anyway. But that shouldn’t be a deterrent.

Perfect obedience was probably always impossible. We just try to play the best game we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. Our salvation is through faith in God’s forbearance and not in strict obedience to the codified Torah.

Jay Carper:

Finally getting around to responding to your initial comment, Jair. I’m enjoying the dialog!

That’s not too hard, everything is predicated on point 2 which is the weak link anyway. -Jair

No, point 4 is the most important. Even if John’s reference to sin and law is irrelevant, Yeshua would still be a liar if he actually did come to remove anything from the Torah.

1 John 3:4 is a peculiarity, the root of the word law in both instances is anomee’ah instead of nom’os, its the only time anomee’ah (for lack of text inserts right now) is rendered that way, in every other case it is rendered iniquity. The term in no case refers to the Law of Moses, though nom’os frequently does. -Jair

Anomia isn’t translated “law” here either, not even in the KJV. It’s translated “transgression of the law,” which is essentially the same thing as lawlessness or iniquity. Therefore, sin = lawlessness. To what law could John have been referring but the Law of God? In every case, both anomos and anomia refer to breaking God’s commands found in Torah, i.e. the Law of Moses. I would have checked every instance of nomos also, but there were 195 of them listed in the KJ Concordance! The first dozen or so bore out the same pattern.

Sin may well be lawlessness, iniquity, wickedness etc. You could argue from this passage that Sin is a transgression of any given law that you are bound, but you couldn’t argue that sin is specifically a transgression of Mosaic law. -Jair

No, you couldn’t argue that sin is the transgression of any law. (Well, you can argue it, but that doesn’t make it true.) That might be a literal interpretation of the word, but that is clearly not the way it is used throughout the NT writings. It is always used in reference to Torah.

Jay Carper:

Thank God for that, because without cities of refuge, the Levites, the Priesthood, years of Jubilee, and on it is impossible for us to follow the Law of Moses. That was law was for a specific deal which people broke, God totally burned the bridge of following the law of Moses. He made sure we couldn’t pretend the deal was still on by destroying key things required to follow it. I have respect for anyone who tries to emulate its precepts, but no one can obey that law without saying ‘I’ll just do my best here’ and ‘I can’t do that so it doesn’t mater’ there. -Jair

God said that he would never reject Israel nor his covenant with them. It doesn’t matter that they broke it. God still promised to keep it. He said that he would never forget them and never destroy them, but that if they would repent, he would be waiting to accept them back.

Leviticus 26:44-45 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. (45) But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.

Ironically, in trying to apply that deal to themselves people have to change much more than jots or iotas, they have to ignore or comprise the things they can’t do, and that is an insult to the law. -Jair

I don’t know if the law can be insulted or offended by one who is under the covering of Yeshua. We do not owe our allegiance to the commands, but to the commander. Obeying his commands, which he has never retracted and never can without breaking his word, as well as we are able can only honor him.

Jair:

Mark,
With that said we are saying pretty well the same thing, cool.

Jay,
I think the shortest way to reply would be to point out that Leviticus 26 isn’t talking about our forefathers but the forefathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Israel himself. All of whom lived before the Law of Moses was given. Gods Covenant with the children of Israel goes beyond that specific legal system, it existed before it and continues to exist after it. Just to be clear I never said God rejected Israel.

I’m very sure that the law can be offended by people covered by Christ, its no doubt plagues could have been minimized by valuing the precepts concerning sanitation. But one way or the other we are not talking about retracting commands, we are talking about trying to follow commands given to other people. Our standing orders are different than those of pre captivity Israel, and he made sure we knew it by making sure we couldn’t actually follow the wrong set of orders.

Jay Carper:

“Offending” was a poor choice of words on my part. “Insulting” was better. I didn’t mean to imply that the commands couldn’t be broken. I was thinking more along the lines of being accountable to the law as an entity in itself.

I agree that the Torah is not the covenant itself, and that it existed before Mt. Sinai.
I disagree that we are talking about commands given to other people. God was clear that the New Covenant is only with the houses of Israel and Judah (together being the nation of Israel) and no one else. If anyone becomes party to that covenant, then they become one with Israel also, sons of Abraham, just like the mixed multitude who came out of Egypt in the Exodus.

Mark Call:

Very good, Jay. I often ask folks, “well, would you like to be ‘grafted in’, or not?”

Jair:

If we aren’t talking about being accountable to the law as an entity in itself I’m not sure we are actually disagreeing anywhere.

To be clear I agree that all of Israel in all time including those ‘grafted in’ are under the Covenant with Abraham, which is neither new nor old, but just is. However only those who lived in the Nation of Israel from the time of Moses to the captivity are bound to say, observe Jubilee as a moral obligation to that covenant.

Jay Carper:

“As a moral obligation to the covenant…”

I would call it a moral obligation to the God with whom we have covenanted. I do not believe that God’s Law is unique to a particular covenant, but rather it is the standard to which he holds his people. When we come into covenant with God, his standards, as the rules of his house, automatically apply.

Jair:

If we aren’t talking about being accountable to the law as an entity in itself I’m not sure we are actually disagreeing anywhere.

To be clear I agree that all of Israel in all time including those ‘grafted in’ are under the Covenant with Abraham, which is neither new nor old, but just is. However only those who lived in the Nation of Israel from the time of Moses to the captivity are bound to say, observe Jubilee as a moral obligation to that covenant.

Jay Carper:

You’ll get no argument from me there. Laws about saddles don’t apply to me because I don’t have any animals that wear saddles. Laws about sacrifices don’t apply directly to me either, because there is no Temple at which a sacrifice could be made. There are definitely valuable lessons to be drawn from those laws, but the laws themselves don’t apply. Many laws did not apply to Moses even after he had written them. He wasn’t a woman. He didn’t have a stone house. He wasn’t a king.

Jair:

In turn I will readily agree that Jesus did not do away with or change what most modern Christians supposed him too, and that your argument against said change is to my knowledge unbeaten.

Jay Carper:

LOL. Thanks!

What Does “Help Meet” Mean?

Eve was created to be a help meet for Adam, but what does that really mean?

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Genesis 2:18

Men and Women are Not the Same

According to Adam Clarke (Commentary on the Bible), the Hebrew for “help meet for him,” ezer kenegdo, “implies that the woman was to be a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority, but being in all things like and equal to himself.” He was right to an extent.

Mankind, both male and female, is unique among God’s breathing creations, those beings that Scripture calls nephesh, or souls. This is confusing to many English speakers because we often use the terms “soul” and “spirit” interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing in the Bible. A soul is a living being, while a spirit is the incorporeal part of a person that carries on the essence of the person after the body dies.1

Eve was like Adam in that she was of the same kind of being, mankind, somewhere between angel and beast. Like Adam, Eve was a living soul in possession of a body, spirit, and mind. She shared his divine mission of caring for the Garden and, by extension, the whole Earth. She shared in his authority and in his role as a connection between the eternal Creator and his temporal creation.

But Eve was never “a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority.”The physical differences between men and women are obvious. Sane people do not allow men to compete in women’s athletic events, even if those men are pretending to be women. Every society that has every existed has recognized the sexual dimorphism of humanity, sorting men and women into activities that are best suited to their capabilities. Among hunter-gatherers, men almost always do the hunting, fighting, and heavy lifting, while women almost always do the gardening and textile work, which might be even more challenging in their ways, but don’t require the same strength or speed.3

The mental differences are intuitively apparent to most people. Think of the joke about men being a machine with a single switch and women being another machine covered in switches, dials, gauges, and buttons without a hint of what they’re supposed to do. The joke is an exaggeration, of course, but still close enough to the truth to be funny. The mind is significantly more opaque than the body, so the differences between the sexes is harder to quantify, but the work of many reputable researchers, astute observers of human behavior, and less reputable (but possibly more effective) proponents of dating Game, have established their existence and general parameters beyond reasonable argument.

The spiritual differences between men and women are not so obvious. They are evident, however, in the spiritual and hierarchical roles into which men and women have almost universally organized their activities, in the Creation story of Genesis, and in the many scriptural examples of and references to the differently ordained roles of men and women.

Consider just a handful of many dozens of examples:

  • God repeatedly chose a younger son to inherit the covenants and promises of Abraham, never a daughter, although their wives and daughters certainly participated in those covenants. (Genesis)
  • When God chose someone to lead Israel out of Egypt, he chose Moses rather than Miriam. Only men were appointed by Moses as leaders over the people at God’s direction. Only the sons of Levi are permitted to serve at the Tabernacle and only the sons of Aaron to serve at the altar, although their wives and daughters enjoy some of the benefits of that service.  (Exodus, Numbers)
  • The land of Israel is passed from father to son and only to a daughter if the man had no sons. A woman joins the tribe of her husband–never the other way around–and so a daughter who inherits her fathers land must marry a man of her own tribe in order to keep the land intact. (Numbers)
  • God gave fathers the explicit right to annul the vows of their wives and daughters, but not of their sons, and Paul twice wrote of the obligation of wives to respect and obey their husbands. (Numbers 30, Ephesians, Colossians)

At about this point, some readers might be thinking to themselves, “My! What a misogynist!” But how so? If I say that elms make better shade than palms, does that mean I am somehow anti-palm trees? If I say that dump trucks haul more rocks than do refrigerated panel vans, am I saying anything against refrigerated panel vans? Of course not, to both questions. I am merely pointing out that some things are better at one thing than another.

I am also not saying that women have no legitimate role in ministry or leadership. Although men are more suited to many kinds of leadership and a preponderance of women in leadership is almost certainly a symptom of a society in trouble, God never said, “Thou shalt not suffer a woman to lead.” Scripture records a number of prophetesses and one God-ordained woman who served as the national Judge of Israel at a time when men were weak and cowardly.

Men and women are different physically, mentally, and spiritually, and it would be impossible for them to be equally suitable to performing the same tasks or filling the same roles. To insist otherwise is actually anti-man and anti-woman by disregarding their unique strengths and weaknesses.

A Help Meet for Him

If it’s not clear already, the term “help meet” (often mistakenly given as “help mate”) doesn’t mean that Eve was created to be Adam’s slave. In fact, Moses and David both used the same word to refer to God as their own helper. (Exodus 18:4, Psalm 33:20, 70:5) Surely they didn’t think of YHVH as a personal servant to be summoned and ordered about at will! God is the indisputable superior in those relationships, yet he is still called a helper.

In Ezekiel 12:14, God refers to the personal attendants–whether guards, aides, or mercenaries–of the King of Judah with this same word. So ezer ultimately implies neither inferiority nor superiority. Rather than a servant, ezer implies an ally, an indispensable supporter, and even a rescuer.

The Hebrew phrase ezer kenegdo literally translates to “a helper suitable to him”–“Meet” is an archaic English synonym of “suitable”–and by itself the word doesn’t necessarily imply any kind of hierarchal relationship at all.

So then what does it mean for Eve to be a help meet for Adam?

The fact that she was made specifically for Adam’s purposes, and not for her own, demonstrates that God’s intended purpose for her was to assist Adam in his divinely appointed mission, not to launch a separate mission of her own.

Genesis 2:15 says that God placed Adam in the Garden to keep it, but he immediately recognized that Adam could not effectively perform the task unaided, and so v18 says “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Before God created Eve, he brought all of the animals to Adam to examine and name them. The naming is explicit in the text, while the examination is implied by the context and the ancient Hebrew practice of naming a thing according to its character and behavior.

The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
Genesis 2:20

A Perfect Complement

One of the purposes of this naming exercise was to demonstrate to Adam that none of these lesser creatures could ever be an adequate help in Adam’s primary task of caring for the Garden. God created Eve immediately afterward and, from God’s reaction, we can know that Adam was acutely aware of the animals’ entire deficiency:

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Genesis 2:23

Eve was like Adam in a manner that no other creature could approach. She walked on two feet and manipulated the world with hands, fingers, and opposable thumbs, just like Adam. She spoke, laughed, reasoned, and loved like Adam, and, like Adam, she was, in her being, the image of God and carried within her the same breath that God exhaled into him.

God didn’t create Eve merely to be Adam’s friend, but she was his friend more profoundly than any of the animals could ever be. A horse can bear a man across country, a dog can show him affection, and an ox can help him plow a field, but none of these can carry on a conversation, help him solve a complex problem, bear his children, or offer him any wisdom. A wife can do all of these things and more.

Eve was Adam’s perfect complement.

It is abnormal for a woman to lead a nation or to be a spiritual teacher over men, but it is certainly no sin, and it is sometimes quite necessary. When a woman steps into a leadership role because the man who should be there is unavailable, unable, or unwilling, she is, in fact, fulfilling her purpose as a “helper suitable to Adam”. It’s a long way from God’s original ideal, but, in his wisdom, his plan included remedies for less than ideal conditions, and we should all thank God for women who are willing to step up to leadership roles when men fail!

God created Adam and appointed him to a task before he created Eve. From this we know that Eve’s purpose is to aid Adam. But God also purposefully created Adam incomplete and unable to perform the task to which he had been set, so that he would love Eve and fully appreciate his need for her.

I suspect that we would all live happier, more fulfilling lives if we didn’t fight so hard against God’s plan and instead used it as a blueprint for our marriages, families, and civil governments.

End Notes

1 Major tangent: Like God, man is a tripartite being, a living soul, made up of body, spirit, and mind. Our bodies are made up of numerous, complex organs and systems that are also made up of complex, interconnected systems. Our consciousnesses, the part of our thoughts and minds that can’t be dissected and objectively measured, also appear to contain separate systems and components. What about our spirits? We know almost nothing about them, and anyone who claims otherwise is most likely either a con-artist or under demonic influence. However, we do know that God’s Spirit is seven-fold in some manner (Isaiah 11:2; Revelation 1:4, 3:1, etc.) and probably more complex in ways that we couldn’t possibly understand. What might that say about our own spirits? Or about the anatomy (for lack of a better word) of the rest of God? Purely academic questions, of course. There’s no way to answer them and probably little value in spending a lot of time thinking about it.

2 I’m sure Clarke never meant to imply that men and women are equal in a mathematical sense, but many people to day really do believe his statement to be literally true despite all evidence and reason.

3 Goldberg, Stephen. The Inevitability of Patriarchy. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1974. 228. “…the central fact is that men and women are different from each other from the gene to the thought to the act and that emotions that underpin masculinity and femininity, that make reality as experienced by the male eternally different from that experienced by the female, flow from the biological natures of man and woman…the women of every society have taken the paths they have not because they were forced by men but because they have followed their own imperatives.”

Related Content

Is Christ Useless to the Circumcised?

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. Galatians 5:2

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
Galatians 5:2

Those are pretty strong words. What should we tell the hundreds of millions of American men? Sorry. You missed the boat. You now have to obey every “jot and tittle” of the Law or you’ll go to Hell. Of course not. Nobody believes that the physical condition of being circumcised equates to a rejection of salvation by grace.

What most people actually believe is that if a man voluntarily becomes circumcised as a religious act of obedience to God’s command, only then has he rejected Yeshua’s work on the Cross. By legalistically adhering to an outmoded command, he acts as if Yeshua’s death and resurrection accomplished nothing.

That certainly sounds like a reasonable interpretation. It doesn’t condemn innocent children for things outside their control, and it emphasizes the liberty we have in Christ. It sounds good, but is it?

Keeping in mind Peter’s admonition that a correct understanding of Paul’s letters requires a solid grounding in the Torah and Tanakh (2 Peter 3:15-16), we shouldn’t assume that the first reasonable interpretation of Paul is actually correct. We need to see what the rest of Scripture says. The older Scriptures have plenty to say about circumcision and salvation by grace, but in this case, I think we need look no further than the book of Acts.

Paul Circumcised Timothy

In Acts 15, some Jewish men were teaching gentile converts that they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul brought this to the attention of James and the other elders at Jerusalem and they ruled that new converts from among the gentiles did not need to be circumcised or convert to Judaism. (See “Does Acts 15 Say We Can Ignore God’s Law” for more details.)

Paul then wanted to visit the believers in every city he had previously preached, in part to check on their progress, but also in part to share this news with them. One of his companions on this journey was to be Timothy, whose mother was Jewish, but whose father was Greek. By Biblical standards–if not by modern rabbinic tradition–this made him a gentile by birth, not a Jew, and he was uncircumcised.

According to the common Christian interpretation of Paul’s words in Galatians 5:2 and James’ words in Acts 15, Timothy’s salvation depended on him remaining uncircumcised. Yet, Paul circumcised Timothy who, being a grown man, voluntarily underwent the procedure!

Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Acts 16:3-5

So Paul, who said that circumcision equaled damnation, circumcised Timothy right after the Jerusalem Council said that no gentile should be circumcised?

Either Paul was a hypocrite, making Timothy to live like a Jew while teaching the Galatians to live like gentiles, exactly what he accused Peter of doing in Galatians 2:14, or else Galatians 5:2 does not mean that undergoing circumcision is tantamount to rejecting Yeshua.

Only the latter argument–that circumcision is not rejection of Yeshua–is consistent with the whole of Scripture. The former makes Paul a hypocrite, Timothy a condemned legalist, and James an antinomian libertine.

God’s Law vs Man’s Traditions

In several places in Acts, Luke writes that the great controversy that followed Paul was whether or not a person must be circumcised and keep the whole Law of Moses in order to be saved (E.g. Acts 15:1). The Torah, the Tanakh, the teachings of Yeshua…all of these things stand against such a teaching. The issue was never about whether or not circumcision is a good or bad thing. It was always about salvation and the minimum requirements for fellowship with other believers.

Obviously, Paul was not opposed to circumcision nor to keeping the Law of Moses. His actions and words refute that false teaching over and over. However, he was adamantly opposed to keeping traditions of men (that are still to this day called the Law of Moses or the Torah, though they are not) that put excessive burdens on people and to keeping the Law for salvation.

The Situation in Galatia

There were two parties fighting for control of the church in Galatia. On the one hand, there were the followers of James and Paul teaching them that salvation is only through faith in the grace of God, and that obedience to God’s laws can be learned over time. On the other hand, there were the Judaizers teaching that everyone must submit to the authority of the rabbis and the centuries of tradition built up on top of the Law before they could be truly considered “saved”.

When Paul wrote, “if you are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing,” he was writing only within the context of this argument. He was saying, “If you join the party of the circumcision and rely on that for your salvation, then the Messiah is wasted on you.” He was absolutely not saying that circumcision under the right circumstances (for example, on the eighth day after birth) or for the right reasons (for example, to eat the Passover lamb in Jerusalem) is a bad thing.

And if Paul’s actions with Timothy aren’t enough to prove my point, let’s go back to Galatians 5. Just two verses further down, he makes the controversy explicit:

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
Galatians 5:4

To whom is Paul addressing these comments? “You who would be justified by the law”, not people who want to live a holy life or keep God’s commandments just because God said so. There was a group of people in Galatia (and many other places around the Roman Empire) teaching new converts from among the gentiles that they could not be justified in God’s eyes until they were circumcised and fully converted to Pharisaical Judaism, with all of its burdensome traditions.

Obedience to God Does Not Put One “Under the Law”

Paul wasn’t even opposed to all man-made traditions. According to Torah (God’s Law), there was no reason for Paul to circumcise Timothy. He wasn’t an eight-day-old infant and he wasn’t about to eat the Passover. Yet he did it anyway just to avoid unnecessary controversies with Jewish believers in the scattered congregations. He did not circumcise Timothy to make Timothy Jewish or to ensure his salvation.

Undergoing circumcision does not put anyone under the Law unless he does so because he thinks he will earn special favor with God or eternal salvation by it. Being “under the Law” is to be subject to its curses and under its authority as a law breaker. No one who has put his trust in God for his eternal salvation is under the Law, because our law-breaking has been forgiven and our status has been elevated from slave to son.

That does not mean that the Law no longer applies to us. It means that we are not condemned by it. We don’t have to worry and stress about getting it perfectly. We can learn to walk in greater obedience to God’s instructions over time instead of being afraid that every misstep will earn God’s eternal wrath. Instead of being afraid, we can focus on serving God in our daily lives, on loving him and sharing his love with those around us while we use his Torah to help us learn what that really means.

Go Ahead and Chew that Fat

Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. Leviticus 7:23

Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat.
Leviticus 7:23

Occasionally, skeptics like to pick this verse to show how ridiculous the Torah is. How can anyone eat meat without eating fat? Are you supposed to trim every bit of fat from every cut of meat? What could possibly be immoral about eating a well-marbled steak?

However, these arguments only betray an ignorance of the Scriptures and the Commandments. Only two verses later, YHVH added this:

For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a burnt offering (Heb: ishshah) may be made to YHVH shall be cut off from his people.
Leviticus 7:25

So the fat that is forbidden is specifically “the fat of an animal of which a burnt offering may be made to YHVH”, which are “ox or sheep or goat”, so it doesn’t apply to all clean animals, but only to those animals which are eligible to be burned on the altar. Furthermore, it doesn’t apply to all of the fat even of an animal that could be offered.

Not all fat is equal

Earlier in this same chapter, in vs 3-4, God gave a short list of specific fats that must be burned on the altar in the case of a guilt offering and not eaten:

  • The fat tail
  • The fat that covers the entrails
  • The fat that is on the kidneys

I take from this that when it says not to eat the fat of any animal that may be sacrificed, that it is talking about these specific fats and not subcutaneous and intramuscular fats, but there are other passages that take the guessing out.

Leviticus 7:6 says that the meat of the guilt offering “shall be eaten” by the priests in a set apart place. No specific priest is required to eat it, but some priest must. This is a command.

Leviticus 11:3 permits eating land animals that chew their cud and have split hooves by any Israelite.

The people to whom God gave these instructions were herdsmen. Your average atheist skeptic today might not know very much about the anatomy of a goat, but I assure you that the average Israelite in the wilderness did. They observed and participated in the slaughtering and butchering of animals on a regular basis. They knew from intimate, personal experience that it is completely impossible to remove all the fat from every cut of meat of any animal.

Torah requires some common sense

If God meant for his instructions to be followed, and he expected the priests to eat the guilt offerings and the people of Israel to eat oxen, sheep, and goats, then it is logically absurd to interpret Leviticus 7:23 to be a total prohibition on the eating of fat.

The Torah isn’t complicated, but it wasn’t written for morons either. It doesn’t explicitly provide for every possible congtingency. It was written for people who live in a real dirt and blood world and who are capable of drawing necessary logical inferences from incomplete data.

I would avoid all organ fat below the heart, but the fat under the skin and around the muscles is fine to eat. It’s even good for you in moderation and if the animal was pastured and cared for naturally.