Galatians 3: The Tutor, the Seed, and what they tell us about the Law

The first verse sets up the crux of the apostle’s argument.  That Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified to the church at Galatia.  Paul begins this way because he is setting up the stage for the simple fact that no one can b e justified by “keeping the law!”  This is the point Paul makes in verse 11.  He writes, “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident.”  The Greek word for “justified” literally translated means “declared righteous.”  One can only be declared righteous by the blood of Christ.  Interestingly, Paul cites the evidence of this right standing with God by the miraculous.  He writes, “Therefore, He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you does He do it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith.”  Additionally, he cites the proof of our right standing before God at the infilling of the Spirit at the time of salvations stating, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith.  Are you so foolish?  Having begin in the Spirit are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (#:2-3)  What was happening in Galatia to make these Christians think that they could only be justified by the keeping of the law?  What was going on that would make them reject the salvation by grace through faith that the apostle preached and which was verified by God by the miraculous?  It was a heresy.

What was happening in Galatia is the same heresy that occurs in Acts 15.  The first few verses of this chapter states, “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren. ‘Unless you are circumcises according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’  Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, the determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this que3stion.” (Acts 15:1-2)  This sets the stage for the Jerusalem council where the entire question of “how does one get saved” gets answered.  The Galatians had been “bewitched” by keeping the Torah as a vehicle of salvation.  Paul clearly rejects this idea, as they did at the Jerusalem council,  by saying that faith is the only requirement for salvation.  In a strange twist of irony, he uses an example from the torah to demonstrate that being “declared righteous” by God is a matter of faith, Abraham being the case in point. (Gal 3:6-9).  Furthermore, he quotes the law to those who are seeking salvation by it by saying that they are under ” the curse” but Christ redeemed us form the curse by His grace setting us free from the “works.”  To put it another way, the curse that all of us deserve because we have all broken the law, was placed upon Him because it is written in the Torah, “Cursed is he who is hanged on a tree.”  Hence, we are declared righteous before God by faith when we believe what He has done and not by the works of the law.  Again, Paul uses an authoritative reference from the Torah to make his point.  That being, that the Abrahamic covenant was given to his “Seed” and this one is Christ.  When the torah was given 430 years later at the Siniatic covenant, it did not annul the first given by God.  So, if the torah is not a vehicle of salvation than Paul and Jesus should both clearly tell us that it is null and void.  But this is not what happens in both of their teachings.

Paul states in Romans 3, “Do we then make void the law through faith?” ( Rom 3:31)  This is what th modern church would have you believe but this is not the teaching of the apostle.  He writes, “Certainly not, on the contrary, we establish the law.” (Rom 3:31) We establish it as the holy and spiritual standard by which we should order our lives.  Paul alludes to this back in Galatians.  He states, “What purpose then does the law serve?  it was added because of transgression.” (3:24)  It was added so that the people of God could discern between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the unholy.  The law was not given to a lost and unsaved people.  It was given to those who had been saved by the Passover blood and baptized in the Red Sea (I Cor 10:1-2)  It was not given to them to “obey and be saved” it was given to them to demonstrate holiness.  It became the temporary vehicle for the expression of eternal love.  Messiah tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.  This is the ultimate expression of the realm of God whose very essence is love.  The law was the earthly manifestation of this “until, the Seed should come to whom the promise was made.” (Gal 3:19)  This Seed, which is Jesus, became the mediator of the “better” covenant.  Paul states, “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been given by the law.” (#:21)  Life only comes from the sacrifice of Christ and the infilling of the Holy Spirit by faith.  The law could not give the Spirit.  The writer of Hebrews alludes to this saying that the blood of bulls and goats could not change the heart of the believer.  The law could not do this.  Therefore, the law was a “tutor” showing us the standards of holiness and love until Messiah could come and manifest those to us and equip us with the ability to stand righteously before God by faith, not by the law.  The law cannot cause one to be born again.  The law simply points out where all of us “fall short.”  However, simply because we “fall short” does not mean that the standards of love and holiness given by God at Siniai simply cease to have a role in the life of a believer.  It continues to have a place but not for salvation.  Thus Paul writes, “Now that faith has come we are no longer under a tutor.” (3:25)  Obviously, this is not a reference to God changing His standards of holiness.  It means that the heart change that every believer experiences by the Spirit releases us from the need for a tutor.  The Spirit now guides us into all truth.  However, the holiness of the law still remains.  Jesus validates us when He says, “Heaven and earth will pass away but the law will remain.” (Matthew 5:18)  My old teacher used to say, “Well, we still have heaven and will still have earth, so we must still have law.”  Jesus also says, “do not think that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets, I have not come to destroy it but to fulfill it.” (Matt 5:17)  Well, the church will have us believe that to fulfill means that He has destroyed it, but this is not the essence of the Greek.  The word translated fulfill is the Greek word “plereo” which means to “Fill up.”  It is the same word that Paul uses in Eph 5:18 when he says, “Be filled with the Spirit.”  Jesus is saying that He came to give the law is rightful place, to fill it up, to establish it.  To demonstrate to the universe the principles of love that are embodied in the law.   He was the living example of the love that is described in the law.  Thus, He filled it up and so should we, being imitators of Him.  Our walk with God has precious little to do with adherence to external principles, it has to do with love.  How much am I loving God?  How much am I loving my wife, family, neighbors, and coworkers.  Am I being the external living revelation of the love that is described in the law.  If not, I should be having been justified by faith, filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, witnessed and participated in the miraculous, and tasted and seen that the Lord, He is good.

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Jesus, John, and Judgment: A Survey of krinos in the Gospels

     The primary word translated “judge” or “judgment” in the New Testament is the word krinos which is pronounced “krinos.”  Joseph Thayer describes the word as “a separating, a sundering, separation, selection; a judgment opinion or decision given concerning anything.” (1)  Most all leading lexicons of the Greek New Testament will concur with this definition.  This is the implied idea in the New Testament when we read the word “judgment.”  In the last article that I wrote regarding judgment in the Old Testament, we discussed the word “shaphat.”  What we discovered was that “shaphat” like “krinos” carried the similar meaning of separation. (Please see Ezekiel 20-22:  A Study of Old Testament Judgment)  This brings congruency between the Testaments.  This continuity of linguistic ideas is paramount in the understanding of scripture.  The English definition of judgment may not exactly represent what is intended by the Greek and the Hebrew.  Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language defines judgment as:  “The act of judging; the act or process of the mind in comparing its ideas, to find their agreement or disagreement, and to ascertain truth; or the process of examining facts and arguments, to ascertain propriety and justice.” (2)  There are some obvious pitfalls to this definition when it is imposed upon the biblical text.  The English definition has little to do with the establishment of God’s order like the Hebrew “mishphat.”  It has little to do with separating the holy from the unholy as “krinos” and “shaphat” implies.  The English seems to deal with judgment as an exercise of the mind that an individual makes based upon their own examination of facts.  Mishphat, krinos, and shaphat carry the similar idea of an individual using their experience to make a determination but the Greek and Hebrew have the idea of making that judgment based upon God’s order of the universe and not man’s order.  The English definition leaves things open to the individual subjective opinion of what is right and wrong.  Meanwhile, the biblical terms separate right and wrong under the umbrella of God’s established order.  There is a difference and Jesus will describe that difference to us.  The reader will notice in the title that this is a study in all of the gospels of the use of judgment.  However, the title also singles out the gospel of John.  The reason for this is that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, only deal with judgment in terms of the “day of judgment” which will be examined at the end of the article.  The bulk of material given to us comes from John who seems to make it his personal aim to explain Messiah’s idea of judgment.  This article is an examination of this theme.

    Any examination about Jesus and judgment should begin with how He, Himself, describes the way that He judges things.  He states, “By myself, I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me.” (John 5:30)  Jesus is giving us some key insights into New Testament judgments that being, “He hears!”  He only makes judgments from what the spiritual influence of God’s heavenly established Mishphat revealed to Him.  This was not Him making a determination out of His own best thinking.  His judgments came as a direct revelation from the eternal realms of Heaven where right and wrong are determined by God’s established mishphat. (That being, love.)  Because Jesus doesn’t judge out of selfishness He can be trusted to “judge.”  He states, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” (John 5:22-23) and again, “And He has given him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:27)  The method of judgment that Jesus was using was to place Himself under the influence of the heavenly realms and this put Him in a position to judge righteously and not selfishly.  Jesus gives us an example of this later on in the gospel.  He states, “Jesus said to them, ‘I did one miracle, and you are all astonished.  Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath.  Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?  Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.’” (John 7:21-24)  The English definition of judgment seems to be the “modus operands” of religious leaders of the Jews.   Messiah is calling them back to “krinos” according to God’s established “mishphat.”  A similar exchange takes place in John 8.  It states, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.  But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am no alone, I stand with the Father, who sent me.” (John 8:16)  Jesus reiterates that His judgment comes under the influence of God.  Additionally, He tells us that this same insight is available to others.  He states, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 8:39)  The irony of this statement is clearly evident.  Those who were supposed to have spiritual insight into God’s mishphat were completely ignorant of it while others who shouldn’t have such insight do indeed, have it.

The final statement from John comes from chapter 12.  It states, “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him.  For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.  There is a judge for the one who rejects me and doesn’t not accept my words, that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day,” (John 12:47-48)  Two interesting observation from this passage.  First, Jesus primary mission was not to “judge.”  He makes this clear in this passage and in previous passages that we have examined (John 8:16).  His primary purpose was to bring about salvation to all mankind.  However, when there arose occasions for Him to make judgments, He made the correct judgment by hearing from the eternal realm through the Spirit.  This allowed His judgment to be true and unbiased as it was not rooted in selfishness.  Secondly, once Jesus had revealed the heavenly purpose behind His mission that information was now available and folks were held accountable for it.  This is not Jesus fault.  His job was to present truth.  Then individuals will make “judgments” upon the truth that He presented.  He was not responsible for their reaction to His truth.  His job was only the distribution of it.  So likewise, it is with all of us who share His gospel.

The Day of Judgment

     The synoptic writers go out of their way to mention the Day of Judgment.  It is mentioned in Matthew 10:15; 11:22 &24; Luke 10:14, among other places.  If we break this word down, it would be the “Day of Separation according to God’s Mishphat”.  Jesus gives us an example of how this definition describes the day.  He states, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’” (Matthew 25: 31-34)  Again, we see here that judgment is the separation of what is clean from what is unclean.  The distinction between what is holy and what is not.  At the last day, it will be mankind which will be separated.

Judge Not?

     One cannot leave a discussion about Jesus and judgment without discussing the “judge not” passages that are found in Matthew and Luke.  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.   For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure yahoo use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)  “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you sue, it will be measure to you.” (Luke 6: 37-38)  Clearly the passages caution against passing judgment.  Equally, it stands to reason that there will be times when God will call upon us to judge certain things.  Following Jesus example, He did not come to judge and neither should we.  Our responsibility is the same as His.  We are called to present truth and not to judge someone’s response to that message.  We are not called to pronounce judgment upon individuals.  At the same time, there are clearly times when the heavenly realms will influence the people of God to exercise some judgment to discern what is clean versus what is unclean.  To separate what is unholy from what is holy.  In these instances, we are to act as Jesus acted and ‘listen.”  What we “hear” is how we judge.  Judgment for the Christian is not something that is produced inside the mind of the believer.  It is given to them as an instruction from the heavenly realm.  What we hear, is what we speak.  Anything else, is to speak about things that we may not have extensive knowledge about.  Hence, we should reserve judgment.  The way that we implement this is the way that it will be implemented towards us.  We are the ones who set the standards for ourselves by the way that we act in love towards others.

1. Joseph Thayer, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament

2. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language.

Ezekiel 20-22: A Study of Old Testament Judgment

         The Hebrew word for judgment is the word “tpvm” which is pronounced, “mishphat.”  Judgment doesn’t quite effectively convey the essence of this Hebrew word.  An example of what it means may readily explain what it means.  Solomon, when he prays for wisdom, asks God to give him wisdom so that he can “misphat” the children of Israel.  Mishphat means to establish an order.  The establishment of the correct understanding of order or government is mishphat.  The essence is the establishment of an order where justice is the normal function of the recognized system.  This word has also been translated as manner or custom.  This implies that Mishphat establishes a system that yields a social more or law that all are expected to follow and order their lives according too.  This is what Solomon asked God for and this is what was granted to him.  Mishphat became the spiritual environment from which he ruled Israel  It became what he “did.”

     The most common form of the word for “to judge” is a similar to “mishphat”.  It is the Hebrew word “tpv” pronounced “shaphat.”  One will immediately notice that this is the same word as mishphat but it is missing the “m” or the Hebrew letter “mem m”  The primary function of the word is to exercise a form of or process of government.  This involves deciding between what is right and what is wrong.  This comes in many forms in the Old Testament.  For example, the congregation (Numb 18:22-28), certain individuals (Ezekial 22:2), and God (Ps 96:13) all judge and this judging is the Hebrew word “shaphat.”  Additionally, it was a function of the priest to teach the people the difference between what was clean and unclean according to the law, which is also a type of “shaphat.”  The Greek word that is used in the Septuagint and the New Testament is “krinos” pronounced “krinos.”  Krinos carries a very similar meaning but also carries the idea of separation.  This implies that “shaphat” will separate the people of covenant from all other peoples.  Shaphat is just what we do.  In shaphat, there is no favoritism and all deserve to be treated equally.  There is no bias regardless of talents, looks, or personal attributes.  Holiness is the standard.  Law is not shaphat but the “doing” of the pentatutacheal ordinances by God’s people is considered mishphat and shaphat.  Mishphat and shaphat is how we relate to God, who holds the ultimate seat of government” and how we are to respond to Him, as His covenantal people.  God says “do” and in our “doing” we are guarding and keeping Mishphat. The application here of the commandments/torah of God is self-evident.

In Ezekiel 20:10-15 it states, “Therefore, I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the desert.  I gave them my decrees (Mishphat) and made known to them my laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them.  Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I, the Lord, made them holy.  Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They did not follow my decrees (Mishphat) but rejected my laws-although the man who obeys them will live by them-and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths.”  When we properly understand the meaning of mishphat we get a different sense of the verse than what appears in the English translation.  God was giving Israel something much deeper than just some written “decrees.” (as the NIV translates it)  God gave Israel His Order, His Government, and the “way that things ought to be.”  This is the mishphat that He established.  This mishphat would give them the ability to “shaphat” or to judge between what was sin and what was not, what was clean and what was unclean.  The order established by God at Sinai is what Israel rejected and what Ezekiel calls to mind in chapter 20.  This is the first understanding of “judgment” from the Old Testament.

In Ezekiel 22:2-3 we read, “Son of man, will you judge (Shaphat in Hebrew and Krinos in the Septuagint) her?  Will you judge this city of bloodshed?  Then confront her with all her detestable practices.”  God is calling the prophet to make a decision and to judge between what is right and what is wrong.  God is telling Ezekiel to us what He knows about the law, what he knows about the spiritual realm, and what he knows from his prophetic insight and make a judgment about what is clean and unclean and what is right and what is wrong.  The answer to God’s question is never answered in the text but it is implied that Ezekiel answered in the affirmative as God then tells Ezekiel “what to do” after he agrees to decide between what is right and what is wrong.  This is the function of krinos and shaphat in both Greek and Hebrew.  This is further evident later in the text of Ezekiel.

In Ezekiel 22:2 it states, “He priest do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.”  It is obvious that the function of the priest was very similar to the function of the prophet.  That both, through their experience with God, their knowledge of the scripture, and their relationships with the people of God were called by Him to render judgment on what is right and what is wrong.  What is acceptable and what is not acceptable in a holy community.  The current condition of the church may not be far from where Israel was in Ezekiel’s day.  Many will have us believe that there is not difference between the unclean and the clean and that the Sabbaths of God have been relegated to the past.  However, like the priests and the prophets, we are also called by God to use our knowledge of the spiritual realm, our relationship with Him, and our understanding of the scriptures to make a decision and judge what is clean and what is unclean, what is righteous and what is not, and what is holy and what is common.

When did Christianity become a Gentile Religion

     Recently, I read an article in Biblical archeological review entitled, “When Non-Jews Became Jesus’ Followers”.   The article is very good and describes the lifestyle of the earliest Judeo-Christians.  It states, “How did the original Judeo-Christians of Jerusalem compare their Jewish neighbors?  In some essential ways they did not differ from them at all.  The Judeo-Christians considered themselves Jews, and their outward behavior and dietary customs were Jewish.  In fact, they faithfully observed all the rules and regulations of the Mosaic Law.  In particular, the apostles and their followers continued to frequent the religious center of Judaism, the Temple of Jerusalem, for private and public worship; it was there that they performed charismatic healings.  (Acts 3:1-10; 5:12, 20, 25, 42).  According to Acts, the entire Jesus party assembled for prayer in the sanctuary ever day (Acts 2:46)  Even Paul, the chief opponent of the obligatory performance of Jewish customs in his churches, turned out to be a Temple-goer on his occasional visits to Jerusalem.  He once fell into a trance in the course of his prayer in the House of God (Acts 22:17) and on a later occasion he underwent the prescribed purification rituals before commissioning the priest to offer sacrifice on his behalf (Acts 21:24-26). (1)  With the exception of Paul being a chief opponent of the law (it has long been my position that Paul observed torah from an eternal perspective rather than a temporal one), this is an excellent summary of the first century church.  The author then delineates that worship began on the “first day of the week” and the “Lord’s Day” which he believes is Sunday.  If these two references refer to Sabbath, then, the first church was very observant of the Torah.  It is my position to demonstrate that these two references refer to Sabbath.  (The other issue of Paul’s Torah observance is too lengthy to tackle here and should be the topic of another article.  If the reader will grant me a certain freedom with this, then my supposition will stand).  If this day is the observance of the Sabbath, then we can reach the conclusion that the author reaches when he writes, “So prior to the admission of the gentile candidates, the affiliates of the Jesus party appeared to ordinary people in Jerusalem as representative of a Jewish movement or sect.  They were comparable to the Essenes in number and they exhibited similar customs such as the daily solemn meal and subsistence from a common kitty.  Indeed, the followers of Jesus were referred to in the late 50’s of the first century as the “sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5,140.)  In the patristic literature the Judeo-Christians were designated as the Ebionites or “the Poor”.  The church historians Eusebius (260-339CE) reports that up to the Bar-Kokhba war (the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome {132-135] all of the 13 bishops of Jerusalem, starting with James the brother of Jesus, came for the “circumcision”. (Ecclesiastical history 4.3.5.) (2) Hence, the establishment of the” first day of the week” and “Lord’s Day” as the Sabbath is essential to support this conclusion.

 

     The interpretation of Sunday instead of Saturday worship comes from two passages in scripture.  One being Acts 20:7, and the other being 1 Cr 16:2.  Yet, in light of the many scripture passages that speak so clearly to Sabbath keeping and gathering, I do not see how we can say that ‘The First Day of the Week” was changed to “Sunday” instead of “Saturday” based on two passages that are somewhat obscure in their reference to a supposed Sunday worship service, compared to seven passages that specifically state the Sabbath was being observed.  (Acts 13:14; 13:27; 13:42; 13:44; 15:21; 17:2; 18:4).  Nevertheless, it is beneficial to look at these references to a supposed Sunday worship service….

 

 

 

Acts 20:7:  [7] And upon the first [day] of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

 

 

 

Here we see that the disciples came together to “break bread” on the “first day of the week,” which would obviously mean Sunday.  But what is not obvious is when (I.e. what time) on Sunday they were gathered together.  According to the Jewish calendar (and this would be the calendar they were using) , days run from Sundown to Sundown.  Sabbath starts on Friday night and ends on Saturday night.  Sunday (the first day of the week) starts at Sundown on what we would typically call Saturday.  I would like to suggest that perhaps our interpretation of this event is somewhat skewed.  Acts is filled with references to meetings where they gathered together on Sabbath (Acts 13:14; 13:27; 13:42; 13:44; 15:21; 17:2; 18:4), which would be Saturday (during the day.)  I would like to suggest that in the above passage, they are not meeting on Sunday morning but on Saturday night – just after the Sabbath had ended.  Verse 8 goes on to say:  [8] And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. Lights would obviously infer candles during those times and what were candles doing all over the upper chamber on a Sunday morning?  Furthermore, verse 7 tells us “he continued his speech until midnight” and verse 9 tells us that Eutychus fell asleep during the meeting.  Verse 11 tells us they continued to talk until the “break of day” and then they departed.  All of these things point to the fact that the meeting was held during the night (Saturday night, in our time, the beginning of Sunday morning, and “the first day of the week,” for the Jews.)  So even if this passage could be said to bring about a Sunday worship service, it would mean that they gathered together Saturday night and not Sunday morning.  However, I believe that this was a special gathering together to bid Paul and his companions farewell.  There is nothing here to infer that this was a worship service – we can see from the above mentioned scriptures that those happened on Saturday – but was more likely a last gathering to spend a little while longer with Paul and his companions.  Dr. David Stern also writes, “But what is meant by the first day of the week? (Or to make the question’s relevance to Messianic Judaism clearer were the believers meeting on Saturday night or on Sunday night?  It is clear from the verse that the meeting was n the evening.  A Saturday night meeting would fit more naturally with the Hewish Shabbat observance; wherein the restful spirit of the Shabbat is often preserved into Saturday evening, after the official end of Shabbat itself, which occurs after sunset when it gets dark enough to see three starts.  It would be natural for Jewish believers who had rested on Shabbat with the rest of the Jewish community to assemble afterwards to celebrate their common faith In Yeshua the Messiah.  The Gentile believers who came along later would join in on the already established practice, especially since many of them would have been ”God-fearers” (10:2) already accustomed to following the lead of the Jews in whose company they had chosen to place themselves.  And since by Jewish reckoning days commence after sunset, the sense of the Greek text seems best rendered by “Motz’ ei Shabbat”, not Sunday.” (3)  Dr. Stern’s point is well taken. Why would the Jewish Christians observe all other aspects of Mosaic Law only to disregard Shabbat?  His explanation is much more plausible than a supposed Sunday worship.

1 Cor 16:2:  “Upon the first [day] of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as [God] hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”

This, in my opinion, is the weakest argument for Sunday Sabbath/worship.  Paul is telling them to “lay by in store” on the first day of the week.  This passage doesn’t even give a hint of this being during a worship service or a gathering, unless we read into the scriptures what is not there.  It seems much more likely that he was telling them to lay by what they made on the first day of the week – it is possible that this was the day they got paid. 

While we could certainly read into this verse to advocate Sunday worship, we cannot infer such from the text itself.  And in light of the fact that there is not a single scripture verse that will back up this inference in clearly stated language, I believe that to use this verse to advocate Sunday worship is an error.

The common reason given for changing Sabbath worship to Sunday is as follows, written by The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

“Christians chose the first day of the week for worship undoubtedly because Christ rose on that day and met with the gathered disciples at the time of the evening meal.  Hence, Lord’s Day worship is the Christian festival of the Resurrection.” (4)

But here we have a very grave problem.  “Christians chose the first day of the week for worship.”  But who makes up the rules?  Christians or Christ?  Do Christians have authority from Jesus to negate God’s rules and to make their own rules?  If they did, it would be written in the New Testament somewhere.  It’s not.  Are we under God’s Authority or do we usurp that Authority and declare it null and void and create our own?  When did Jesus Christ tell us that the Holy Sabbath should be changed to Sunday?  When did the Apostles say this?  If Sunday were the day of assembly, for whatever reason, wouldn’t it be at least mentioned once in the New Testament (that it was the day of assembly)?  But it is nowhere to be found. 

The Lord’s Day

     Since both the Didache and the New Testament use the phrase “Lord’s Day.” It is something that we need to address.  When is the Lord’s Day.  I would suggest that since we have already established that the Christian church in its beginning was observing the Shabbat, according to the New Testament, it is a foregone conclusion that any designation of the “Lord’s Day” would not refer to Sunday since Sunday worship itself would not be institutes until well after the end of the first apostolic period.  Since the Didache and the New Testament were both written well before the establishment of Sunday worship, any reference to a particular day belonging to the Lord would have to refer to Shabbat.

The Jerusalem Council

    The writer of the article comes to a conclusion that Gentile Christianity was established as being separate from Judeo-Christianity as the Jerusalem council.  His point is that the Gentiles were excused from the Mosaic Law while the Jews were to continue in it.  It is my opinion that this is one of the most common misperceptions in Christian history and I believe that it is an erroneous position.  Consider the following:

   Acts 15:1-21:  [1] And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 

Keep in mind as you read this what the dispute is over.  It is regarding how the Gentiles must be saved.)

[2] When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. [3] And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. [4] And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and [of] the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. [5] But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command [them] to keep the law of Moses.

(These are a group of Pharisees who believe in Christ.  Their position is that the Gentiles need to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved.  This is the essence of the council.  The question is how the Gentiles can be saved.  One camp says they must have faith and keep Torah and the other camp states it is simply a matter of faith.  Let’s keep reading.) 

[6] And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. [7] And when there had been much disputing,

Why was there so much disputing?  Does it make any sense that if the Law had been “done away with” as is so commonly taught, someone here would have said so, and the dispute would have been resolved quickly and easily?  If the believers in Christ were not obligated to follow the Law, why didn’t they just say “well, this is awfully silly.  None of us have to follow the law!  Don’t you know that it’s been done away with?”  But no one says this.  Instead they are trying to figure out the laws the Gentile believer must follow in order to be saved ([see verse 1])

[8] Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men [and] brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. [8] And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as [he did] unto us; [9] And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. [10] Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 

(The yoke on the neck mentioned here is not the yoke of the Law, for the Bible clearly tells us the Law is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:14, 7:12, 2 Tim 3:14-17)… and that it is freeing for those who follow it (Psalm 119, Romans 7:22) Instead it is talking about the yoke of the Law as a requirement for Salvation.  The Law was never given as a vehicle of salvation.  The jews ere saved out of Egypt by the blood of the Passover Lamb and then they were given Torah.  Torah was given to a people already saved to demonstrate and model holiness as a nation.  The next verse really sums up this position…)

[11] But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

(This sentence and the one above it are partners.  “Why would you put a yoke on the disciples that none of us are able to bear?  It through grace that we will be saved… [Not by the Law].”)

12] Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

(They give examples that testify to the fact that the Gentiles have already been saved, even though they have not yet learned all of the Law, making it clear that Salvation does not hinge on circumcision or any other adherence to Mosaic Law.)

[13] And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men [and] brethren, hearken unto me: [14] Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. [15] And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, [16] After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: [17] That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. [18] Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

[19] Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: [20] But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and [from] blood.

 

 

 

A wonderful book on the Jerusalem council can be found at http://www.seedofabraham.net/smpf.html.   In this book, Avram Yehoshua will define exactly the extent of these laws.   For now we will just say that we believe they all have to do with the worship of idols.   It is most important to remember that we are talking about the salvation of the Gentiles, and what they must do in order to be saved, or remain saved [verse 1].  It must be remembered that while those of us in modern day America have a hard time understanding why anyone would need laws against worshipping other gods, the world in those times was steeped in idolatry.  Everywhere there were temples devoted to sacrifice of pagan gods, and polytheism was the norm.  It was of little importance to the new Gentile converts, who already worshipped many gods, to keep the worship of Yahveh separate and distinct and exclusive of any worshipping of other gods.  They would have thought nothing of adding Yahveh to their list of gods and worshipping Him along side Zeus.  This is why they had to be taught – immediately – that they could no longer continue this practice.  Later, they would learn the other aspects of the Law needed for a Godly life inside of His will.  [Verse 21.]

 

Furthermore, common sense tells us that these can’t be the only four things of the Law that are required of Gentiles, because then Gentiles would be free to murder or to lie or to steal or to hate their neighbors, or to practice homosexuality, or witchcraft – all of which come directly from the Torah but are not mentioned here as the “necessary things” (vs. 28)  These four laws have something distinctive about them that sets them apart from other Laws which we believe to be the worship of idols.

 

 

 

[21] For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.

 

 

 

This is probably the most interesting sentence in this passage.  “For Moses of old time has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”  What does Moses being taught in the synagogues have to do with anything?  We believe that verse 21 is the logical extension of verse 20 and verse 11 (that the Gentile is saved in the same way as the Jew.)  The Gentile didn’t need to be circumcised in order to be saved.  But the Gentile did need to be told what would disqualify him from membership in the kingdom of God. (v. 20) then he was directed to the synagogue to learn all of the rules of the Kingdom that pertained to him (v. 21).  Not every law of God pertained or applied to the Gentile, just as every law of God didn’t apply to Jesus.  He didn’t need to keep the laws pertaining to offering up the daily sacrifice (Exodus. 29:38-42) because He wasn’t the High Priest in the Jerusalem Temple.  But Jesus kept all the laws that applied to Him.  The Gentile would learn Torah as they walked with Jesus.  No one, least of all James, expected the Gentile to learn Torah overnight.  The Gentile would assemble in the synagogue on the Sabbath (see Acts 13:42; 13:44; 18:4) to learn the Torah of Moses, gradually.  This verse tells us that James assumed or understood that the Gentile was to go to the synagogue to learn the Law of Moses.  In declaring to everyone at the council that the Gentiles were to go to the synagogues on the Sabbath Day to learn Christ’s commandments, we see that James was thinking about Torah specifically in relation to the Gentile.  They would learn it every Sabbath.  With that, he shows us today that Torah should be a part of every believer’s life.  James was establishing the place of the Law for those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:31).  He was presenting Torah as a lifestyle of sanctification for the Gentile just as it is for the Jew (e.g. Peter, Paul, etc).

 

 

 

     We believe that this is the correct interpretation of the Jerusalem council and that this interpretation brings unity among believers rather than the division that is projected by the author.

 

 

 

Concluding Remarks

   Back to the original question of when did the Christianity cease to be Jewish and become a Gentile religion, I don’t really know the answer but I can speculate. By the writing of the epistle of Barnabas, Christians were rapidly departing from the Judiac root.  It is my opinion that this can be summed up in a word:  persecution.

 

 

 

     With the Jewish uprisings against Rome, it became patriotic in the Empire to persecute Jews.  The average everyday roman would have looked at Christianity as only a mere extension of Judaism and they would have persecuted them along with the Jews.  Additionally, the Jews were also persecuting the Christians as heretics and expelling them from the synagogues and the social circles from which it sprang.  In short, Christianity found itself without a home and without a separate identity.  Thus, the early church father began to establish these.  This identity had to be separate from that of the Jews.  It was at this juncture that Christianity became a Gentile religion. 

 

 

 

Endnotes

 

  1. 1.       Vermes, Geza, From Jewish to Gentile, How the Jesus Movement became Christianity, Biblical Archaeology Review, vol38, no.6, www.biblicalarchaeology.com.
  2. 2.      Ibid
  3. 3.      Stern, David, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, Maryland, page 297-298.
  4. 4.      Bromiley, Geoffrey, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, W. Erdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979.

 

 

Covering the Glory: The Woman and the Headcovering

     Ironically, it is not the Torah (Law) or the Old Testament that commands the wearing of the head covering but it is the Apostle Paul.  He writes a lengthy discourse in I Corinthians 11:1-15.  I would like to briefly discuss the points that Paul draws out.  He begins with the issue of authority.  Who has authority over whom?  This is the essence of the covering.    He writes, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.  Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.  But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same is if her head were shaved.”(1)  The covering of the head is an understanding of role. (2)  The Greek word used in all of these passages for “covering” is the Greek word katakalupw (Strong’s #2619)  its basic meaning is “to veil, to cover wholly and to cover up.” The Septuagint, (The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses this word in replace of the Hebrew hsk which also means to cover or hide.  See Isaiah 58:7) Thus, the covering being addressed here is a literal covering that symbolizes a recognition of both role and authority.  It is a symbol that a woman places on her head as an outward manifestation that she, like Christ, submits to her role.  This manifests Christ-likeness.  It is a sign that she understands her own glory, the glory of God, the glory of her husband, her role in the spiritual realm, and her selflessness in covering her own glory so the glory of others can be manifested.   This is a manifestation of Messiah.

     Verses 7-12 continue on this same theme.  “For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn.  But if it is a shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.  For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.  For man is not from woman, but woman from man.  Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.  For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.  Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.  For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. “

 These verses demonstrate our dependence upon one another and the nature of our interconnectedness.  The covering also represents this.  Shortly, Paul will bring up the subject of glory.  The Greek word us here is the word doxa.  Its basic meaning is a “reflection of the majesty of the divine Ruler/Creator.”  Paul explains that God’s majesty is reflected in man; man’s majesty is reflected in woman; and, as we will soon see, the majesty of woman is reflected in her hair.

     In verses 13 and 14, Paul sets up his closing arguments for the wearing of the head covering by representing an analogy from nature.  The Greek word that is often translated “long hair” is the Greek word “koma” and doesn’t necessarily address hair length.  The basic meaning to “make the hair ornamental or beautified.”  Paul is saying that, naturally, men don’t really invest in their hair the way women do.  Again, he is setting up his point that hair is a reflection of the woman’s majesty.  The verse reads,”Judge among yourselves.  Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?  Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has “beautified” hair it is a dishonor to him?  But if a woman has “beautified” hair, it is a glory to her.”

     Verse 15 may be the most controversial of the entire section.  The first part of the verse finished the thought that Paul has been developing.  It states, “But if a woman has beautified hair, it is a glory to her.”  This is a nice conclusion as to Paul’s thought on why the woman’s head should be literally covered.  However, the second part of the verse introduces an apparent contradiction.  “For her hair is given her for a covering.”  For many who read this verse, it seems to be saying that a woman’s hair has replaced the necessity of a literal covering.  There are two main reasons to disagree.

     The Greek of the verse reads, “oti h komh anti peribolaiou dedotai auth.” Roughly translated, “Because the ornamented hair has been given to her for a mantle.” While the English translations use the word “covering,” please note, the Greek has a completely different word.  It is the word peribalaiou which has the basic meaning “to wrap around, a wrapper, to throw around, a mantle” If the hair were to be the covering Paul is deeming necessary during prayer and worship, Paul would have used the word “katakalupa” from his previous verses but he does not do that.  Why?  It stands to reason that his intention is not to replace the literal covering but to close his argument for why the woman should cover her head from an argument based on nature (what is normally done and seen as right.)  This fits the context of all the verses leading up to it.  He is saying that by nature, the adoring of a woman’s hair has become her mantle.  This mantle has become her glory and this glory is what ought to be covered.  To say that the adorned hair is the new mantle is to take the verse out of its context.  The context is Paul’s rhetorical question, “Judge among yourselves, is it proper for a woman to pray with her head uncovered?”  The obvious answer to his question is no.  Why?  Because even in nature it is apparent that a woman’s glory is her adorned hair and it should be covered during times of worship so the glory of God is prevalent.  The very fact that the woman’s hair is a mantle, a beautiful garment given her by God, demonstrates that it ought to be covered.

     Secondly, we must examine the preposition that sits before the word covering.  It is the word “anti” and carries the basic meaning of “for” or “instead of.”  There are two basic ways to translate this word.  They either denote the exchange of one thing for another or the equivalence of one thing with another.  If it is used for exchange it is translated “instead of’ but if it is used as equivalence, it is translated “for.”  Hence, it is possible to translate this verse, “because her ornamented hair is given to her instead of a covering.’  In fact, when I first translated it, this was the translation I used.  What I found, was that the idea of exchange is never brought out in the context of the passage but the idea of equivalence is certainly present.  I wondered if any translators had ever introduced the idea of exchange here.   We live in a western centered mindset that is far removed culturally and otherwise from the time of Paul and the Corinthians.  If a translator could justify the exchange of the head covering for the hair in our society, I figured someone would’ve done it.  So, I began to search all the modern translations.  What did I find?  Absolutely no one introduced the idea of exchange here.  This tells me that as biblical scholars they recognized the content as equivalence and not exchange.  My list of translations includes the following”  KJV; NKJV; ESV; Holman; NASB; NIV; Amplified; the Greek Orthodox; Duey-Rheims (Latin vulgate); and the Aramiac Peshita.  None of these translations saw the idea of exchange in their translations.  In fact, the NIV carried the idea of equivalence so far that it translates the verse.”For her hair is given to her as a covering.”  The fact that equivalence with the covering fits the context demonstrates that the ornamented hair should be literally covered as it is a glory that is present and should submit to the glory of God.  To conclude the matter, a literal head covering is a biblical New Testament doctrine.

     To return to the original question, should one compromise their biblical conviction for the sake of witness?  I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer here but I’m inclined to disagree.  The wearing of a head covering by Rina and the girls, my beard and tassels, our genuine love for each other and for others may be the only Bible that many will read.  All of these demonstrate biblical and spiritual principles that speak about who are in Christ and what are various roles are.  As we live out our faith in what we do, what we say, how we dress, this is a witness.  I have actually witnessed God using Rina’s head covering to draw others to us and we’ve actually gotten the opportunity to share Jesus with many people who I don’t think we would have otherwise been able to.   It may seem somewhat peculiar to our western post 9/11 mindset but peculiarity from the world is called holiness by God. (I Peter 2:9) When we live out our biblical convictions we present holiness to the world and this is our witness.  “Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me!  We are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts who dwells in Mount Zion.” (Isaiah 8:18)

 

 

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.        There were two reasons to shave the head.  First, when one was a prisoner because they had not the right to display their own glory.  Secondly, is in mourning, when one is so distressed or sad that they wish not to have glory.

  2. 2.       Not to be used to degrade woman or place them as second class citizens beneath men, the passage clearly identifies both as having gifts and talents which should be exercised to glorify God.  I think it in error to use this passage to demonstrate that woman needs to be “lofrded over” by men.  This is just an unbiblical concept.

The Church Under Marcion’s Shadow, An Investigation Into his Prologues

       Marcion was born in 100 AD  in Sinope in Asia Minor.  He was raised in the apostolic faith and his father was a leader in the church.  Marcion devoted himself to studying scripture and later came to the conclusion that only Paul saw the message of Jesus with purity.  “Marcion came to Rome about A.D. 140, and there founded a sect which persisted for many years.  His distinctive doctrine was that the Old Testament was inferior to the New and had been rendered obsolete by Christ.  Marcion stressed the contrast between the two testaments so far as to say that the god revealed in the one was quite a different being from the God revealed in the other.  The righteous God, the Creator, Israel’s Jehovah, revealed in the Old Testament was different and inferior deity to the good God revealed by Jesus under the name ‘Father’ this, Marcion thought, was rendered sufficiently obvious by the fact that it was the worshippers of the righteous God of the Old Testament who sent the Revealer of the good God to His death.  Marcion, therefore, repudiated the authority of the Old Testament, and defined the Christian canon as consisting of one Gospel and a collection of ten Pauline epistles.  Paul, to Marcion’s way of thinking, was the only real apostle of Christ, who had remained true to His mind and revelation.” (1)  His theology was a blend of Gnosticism and Christianity.

Marcion was convinced that all the early apostles, including Peter, got the message of Jesus all wrong and only Paul had retained the true gospel.  To Marcion, the false apostles of the New Testament were actually Peter, John, James, and Apollos.  The one true apostle, Paul, had to follow after them and correct their teaching.  (Marcion’s basis for this was primarily the book of Galatians)  Marcion set out to develop his own “canon” of scripture that supported his views.  He rejected all the gospels and apostolic writing except for Luke and the writing of Paul.   In regards to Luke, Marcion edited out all references that support the Old Testament.  In July of 144,the church out rightly rejected Marcion but he continued to have influence for a number of years.  That influence is still within the church today and it is the theology that the Old Testament “has been done away with.”  This is evident in the Marcionite prologues to the epistles that the church retained from ancient origin.

     A prologue is a short summary (a type of twitter if you will) statement that Marcion placed at the beginnings of each of his books.  It gives a short synopsis of what the book was about.  For example, Marcion’s prologue to the epistle to the Romans reads, “The Romans are in the regions of Italy. They had been reached by false apostles and under the name of our Lord Jesus Christ they were led away into the law and the prophets. The apostle calls them back to the true evangelical faith, writing to them from Corinth.”  The anti-old testament theology is, of course, evident in this prologue.  These prologues exist in a number of copies of the Latin Vulgate, including the codex Fuldenesis of 546 AD.  “The codex Fuldensis, now in the Landesbibliothek of Fulda was written between AD 541 and 546 at Capua by order of Victor, the bishop of that see, and was corrected by him personally.” (2)  Please take note that the bishops of the see himself, Victor, edited the copy of this Vulgate.  This means that Victor included the prologues as part of his theology.  This demonstrates that the anti-nominal viewpoint was already deeply entrenched in the church by this time frame.  However, there is further evidence that points to an original that is deeper.  Notice that in the prologue to the Romans, the writer has to tell his readers that “The Romans are in the regions of Italy” certainly, as Adolf von Harnack points out, no western theologian would’ve written this.  Hence, the original was probably in the Greek language.
The church just adopted them into their canon.  Bruce Metzger writes, “Later the Catholic Church took over these Prologues practically unaltered.” (3) They have an ancient root that has continued throughout the centuries.  Again Metzger, “For centuries they have been a regular part of the Latin New Testament, and were taken over in pre-Reformation vernacular versions of the Bible.” (4)  Hence, the Marcionite theology that the Old Testament has been “done away with” successfully infiltrated the Catholic church and the subsequent churches/denominations that have been established since the Reformation.  Now, it is just so old that no one recognizes it as a heresy.  It has become the norm.

     Ironically, it was a Benedictine scholar named Donatien De Bruyne that discovered the origin of these prologues.  His work won almost immediate acceptance by the scholars of his day.  The one question that remains unanswered is “why?”  Why would the Catholic Church adopt the prologues of a notorious heretic as Marcion?  As far as I know, nobody knows.  Any suggestions, at this point, would be merely conjecture and I will refrain from that.  Suffice it to say, that the theology that the Old Testament has been done away with has a definite root in the writings of an early church heretic.

   Here are the remainders of the Prologues:

Prologue to the epistle to the Romans:

The Romans are in the regions of Italy. They had been reached by false apostles and under the name of our Lord Jesus Christ they were led away into the law and the prophets. The apostle calls them back to the true evangelical faith, writing to them from Corinth.

Prologue to the epistle to the Galatians:

The Galatians are Greeks. They at first accepted the word of truth from the apostle, but after his departure they were tempted by false apostles to be converted to the law and circumcision. The apostle calls them back to the faith of truth, writing to them from Ephesus.

Prologue to the epistle to Titus:

He warns and instructs Titus concerning the constitution of the presbytery and concerning spiritual conversation and heretics to be avoided who believe in the Jewish scriptures.

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.       Bruce, F.F. “The Books and The Parchments”, Revel Books, Old Tappan New Jersey, 1963, page 79.
  2. 2.      Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 108.
  3. 3.      Metzger, Bruce, Flack, Elmer, and others, The Text, Canon, and Principal Versions of the Bible, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1956, page 24.
  4. 4.      Metzger, Bruce, The Canon of the New Testament, Claredon Press, Oxford, 1987, page 96.

Do Not Judge the Things of the Sabbath

“So, let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths” (Col 2:16 NKJV)

     As a torah-observant Christian, this verse is often thrown at me as theological justification for ignoring the Feast Days of the Old Testament that were commanded by God.  It is also used to make the case that the Old Testament has been “done away with.”  Obviously, these statements don’t exactly sit well with me because many of these feast days were commanded by God to be “statutes forever.”  This seems to suggest that they were meant to be continued. (It is my opinion that the commandments of God didn’t just vanish with the resurrection of Messiah)  This premise tells me that God’s intention, from the giving of the torah (or instruction), has been for us, His people, to continue to observe these holy days.  (And not, subsequently, replace them with ones of pagan origin) However, in all fairness and on the surface, the above-quoted verse seems to really enforce this idea of the “doing away” with the torah.  Even among sabbaterians, this verse has caused some confusion.  I recently read one commentary which states, “Paul’s warning may mean that Christians should not be drawn into keeping ceremonial events—festivals, new moons, and ceremonial Sabbaths as described in the OT.” (1)  This explanation is simply not tenable.  Why?  Because the very first mentioned “feast” in the Old Testament is the weekly seventh day Sabbath. (see Leviticus 23)  Hence, this interpretation by seventh day advocates actually bespeaks against their own observance of the Sabbath.  Something else must be at the heart of this verse.  I believe that there is something else to this verse and it has to do with the interpretation of the Greek.  To begin with, the translation in the NKJV doesn’t get all the meaning of the Greek text.  So, we must dive deeper into the language of the New Testament.

     The verse in Greek reads: 

Mh oun tis umas krinetw en bresei h en posei h en merei eorths h noumhnias h sabbatwn.

     Perhaps a little syntaxical exegetical dissection will shed some light on why this verse is grossly mistranslated.  To begin with, the verse is written in the imperative mood. (The etw on the end of the verb krinetw tells us the mood)  In Greek, this is the mood of commands.  The Mh at the beginning is a negative particle and the verse will begin like this, “Therefore, no one is to judge you.”  The “let” is generally always added by translators when translating the third person imperative but it doesn’t exist in the Greek and oftentimes softens the sense of the Greek command.  What follows this is a string of future third person verbs (as evidenced by the sei on the endings of them) which are translated with the English “ing” on the end of them and are eating and drinking (en bresei h en posei.)  The phrase “merei eorths” is basically a direct translation from Hebrew and means “any particular feast day.”  The word eorths is used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) for the Hebrew word “gj” pronounced “chag” meaning feast day or festival day.  What is interesting about the use here in the Greek is the ending “ths” which will indicate the genitive case of the noun.  This is where the breakthrough will come for us.  In fact, the next two nouns of the verse will also be written in the genitive case, they are the words for new moons and Sabbath. (The ias and the twn ending indicate the genitive case for these nouns in their respective declensions.)  This makes a tremendous impact on how the verse is translated and on how the author intended the verse to be interpreted by the Colossians.

     The genitive case is the case of “possession” or “ownership.”  The expression “The people of God” would be written, in Greek, in the genitive case.  This is making a statement about both the people and about God and their relationship but mainly, that God has possession of the people, they are His.  Let’s now apply this to the verse in question.  The feast days, new moons, and the Sabbaths are in the genitive case which tells us that they have the possession.  So, we must add a “things” to the verse to clarify what the text is saying.  For example, the best English translation of the verse might be, “Therefore, no one is to judge you in eating and in drinking or in any particular things of a feast day and a thing of a new moon or in the things of the Sabbath.” (italics indicates that it is not in the Greek but is added in the English for clarification of what the Greek is saying)  You see, the genitive is almost always translated with “of” in front of it and this gives an entirely different meaning to what the verse is saying.  What Paul is saying is not that all those things are relegated to the past and done away with; on the contrary, he is telling us that we have freedom to observe and keep these holy days as our own conscience is clear before God.  This is the freedom in Christ that Paul is incessantly talking about in his epistles.  He is always telling us that it is not any man’s place to tell another man how they ought to keep the Sabbath.  This was a constant source of tension between the religious leaders of the time and Jesus.  They had constant debate about Sabbath observance and Messiah position was that it is not the business of another man to judge what another man does on the Sabbath as long as that man’s conscience is clear before God.  This verse has nothing to do with getting rid of the statues and commandments that were given by God in the Torah.  It is a point of clarification.  In Colosse, religious teachers were attempting to tell the believers that they had to obey torah in a specific way or they were sinning (Hence, in the beginning of chapter two Paul is talking about the commandments and doctrines of men.  He never mentions the commandments and doctrines of God.)  Paul is saying that it is not their place to tell someone how to keep a particular commandment.  This agrees with the teachings of Jesus on the matter (see my article entitled, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”) Rather than announcing that this verse does away with the law, it actually, when read in the Greek and translated correctly, demonstrates that not only were New Testament gentile believers observing Torah but that they had a freedom to keep the “instruction” as each man conscience led him to before God, who ultimately, will judge him and not his fellows.

      This seems to make much more sense to me.  We know that Jesus kept the instruction (or torah), as did all of the apostles, including Paul.  Hence, this interpretation of the Greek, which is what the Greek actually says, makes much more sense of the entire letter than anything else that I’ve read.

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.       Dybdhal, Jon, (General Editor),  Andrews Study Bible, Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, MI, 2010.