Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Mark - Chapter 6

The Mark

Tom Wise


6. Choosing Torah.

When we choose God, we automatically choose Torah. What is Torah?

For those who don't know, Torah is the Law of God, given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. According to Jewish scholarship, it consists of 613 separate observable commandments, the written law, as found in first five books of the Bible. Furthermore, Torah has an ancillary "oral law" (Talmud, Mishnah, etc) which has been compiled and administered since at least the time of Ezra. This oral law is considered to be essential for detailing, interpreting, and understanding much of the written law.

Just as there is only one God there is only one Law of God, which is Torah. However, why should anyone accept Torah as the one Law of God?

First, if you believe the Law came to Moses, there should be no argument.

Second, Torah is the basis for three great religions, the foundation for Christian and Islamic lawfulness (though with many obvious changes over the centuries). Should these competing faiths, many times hostile to each other, all share a common root if it were not necessary? It certainly denotes respect for Torah, if nothing else.

Third, Christianity is in fact founded upon Torah through Jesus Christ, though this fact is not accepted by many Christians. Christ Himself stated that neither a jot nor a tittle (Hebrew language marks) would pass from the Law until the end of the world (Matthew 5:17-18), and that end has not come. In fact, Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do” (Matthew 23:2-3). This is obviously not a call to disobedience against Torah. Christ essentially has said, “The Law is Torah; obey it.” There is no reason to believe otherwise. Christ did not change Torah, else he would be a liar.

Now, there is a caveat. Jews are obligated to all 613 commandments of Torah, but non-Jews are not, being responsible only for a certain portion of Torah, as declared by the keepers of the Law, the Jews. Why are the Jews to be the keepers? For the Christian, this should be easy, since Christ (Matthew 23:3) and Paul (Acts 21; Romans 3:1-2) have both recognized that authority, which itself derives from Torah (Deuteronomy 17:9-13). The Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:20) noted this difference, that non-Jews have a lesser yoke under Christ than do Jews; and modern rabbinical opinion is generally the same (they call non-Jewish participation in Torah "Noahide Law"). But certainly Christians are not free from the Law of God.

Fourth, Torah is, with some strength of argument, superior to every other law of righteousness. The Ten Commandments are so powerful that even atheists subscribe to five of them.

Finally, Torah has a deep bond with civil law. In fact, it has been proposed that Torah was the basis for the American Constitution. But was Torah antecedent to human law, or is it extended from it? Despite the “chicken and egg” dilemma, human beings must decide if society has been founded upon the true commandments of a real God, or if men invented laws which eventually come to the greater good. In other words, shall we thank God or man for the foundations of civilization? Who gave us our rights? Who gave us our freedom? Who binds us to righteousness? God or men? If we say men, can we claim to know the difference between good and evil? And, when it comes time, will we be able to reject the Mark of the Beast?

Despite all of this, we find in Christianity an antipathy to Torah. How did this happen? Who teaches Christians to be anti-Torah (in fact, to be against the Mark of God)? Sadly, it is the Church itself, which has, since 100 AD, disparaged or disposed of Torah for Christians, choosing instead a mish-mash of Biblical commandments, ecclesiastical edicts, and strange traditions to rule over the flock. This has been done for a few reasons:

(1) Antisemitism and anti-Judaism. The early church dispensed with all things Jewish, including laws, ordinances, and traditions. This is historical fact.

(2) Power. The Church removed Torah as the basis for judging righteousness, and replaced God’s Law with their doctrines. By this, many God-fearing Jews and Christians have died for perceived or supposed heresies and witchcraft.

(3) Security. Churches have become havens for the doctrine of eternal security, placating worried souls instead of teaching Truth.

(4) Looseness. Churches have become tents of immorality which bend to the desires of the congregation, in the name of "Christian freedom" or "tolerance."

(5) Apathy. Most preachers and churchgoers, though sincere in their faith, have little or no interest in understanding right doctrines and the Truth of Christ, satisfied to accept "stuff" for silence.

But Jesus Himself told us the Truth (Mark 12:28-30):

And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

A parallel passage (Matthew 22:36-40):

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Why is this important?

First, Jesus received His principles from Torah (Deuteronomy 6:3-5):

Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

(Leviticus 19:18):

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Jesus thus believed that the most important commandments are Torah commandments.

Second, Christ encapsulates Torah in two pithy lines. By this, He is encourages and teaches, even begs, us to learn more Torah. How else shall we know what it means to love God and to love our neighbors except to find it in Torah? Is it left to every man to decide what it means to love God and love his neighbor, or are we not expected to research the Truth in God's Word? How shall we take these two Torah commandments to heart yet not seek Torah guidance to explain and extrapolate them? Shall it be that to "love God" or to "love thy neighbor" is whatever makes you feel good inside? Or, shall we allow these commandments to be defined by church leaders? Who shall tell us what they mean? Billy Graham? St. Paul? In fact, there is only one fount, and that is Torah itself.

The argument that Christ somehow changed Torah, by disabling it, or intervening with His own philosophies or doctrines, is obviously entirely untrue. Christ changed no commandment of God, and warned against teaching such things. Those who oppose Torah by supposing that Christ opposed Torah or any bit of it, are at best incorrect or, in the worst case, have already taken the Mark of the Beast. If anything, Christ is the living Torah, and is an example of one who has the Mark of God.

It should furthermore be strongly asserted that following Torah is not "legalism" in a negative sense, as it has come to mean in the anti-Judaic way. Instead, Torah is legally specific, letting us know what we need to do, and remaining silent where God expects nothing. The extent of one's duty to God is found in Torah. No man can add to it nor subtract from it. Thus, Torah is also the ultimate way to limit the power of tyrants over us. Torah is the last word.

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Copyright © 2009 by Tom Wise and Dennis Putnam, Jr.

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"The Mark" is available from Lulu Books: here.

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