1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. |
When on Mount Gerizim the Children of Israel enter the covenant of God and become His people. The Gerizim covenant wording contains the following curse, "Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them (Deuteronomy 27:9-10; 26)." Paul takes up this statement in, For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them (Galatians 3:10))." Sadly, this passage is commonly interpreted to mean that if a believer begins to observe the Commandments, he 'falls from grace' and places himself under the curse of the Law. This interpretation completely omits the Paul who concurred with the idea that we live by our observance in, But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them (Galatians 3:12 on Leviticus 18:5)." This reading in Paul is also at the root of Christian Anti-Semitism.
The Torah does tell us that we 'live' or 'die' as pertaining to our obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 27:26). This are not teachings of Men but Oracles from the mouth of God which Paul would not dare to disagree with. What did Paul mean then? The problem is simple: ignorance of Judaism and reading the text with an already established theology. This problem caused the translators of the English texts of Galatians to fail in making the difference when Paul speaks about a trusting obedience in the Law of God, or about the legalistic perversion of it often promoted by religious folks. A legalistic perversion of Torah makes the Commandments a ladder by which we obtain God's favor, regardless if we have a loving trust and relationship with Him, a type of ritualistic obedience that is found in many faiths, including with Christian who decry the Pharisees of the Master's day as 'legalistic'.
Paul agrees with the Torah, but also knows how to balance verse with verse. Follow me here through a Rabbinic exegesis of the definition of a life of faith through Hebrew Scriptures. These Scriptures work to complement each other's understanding, not against each other. As Paul did, the Rabbis did recognize the absurdity of basing eternal life on absolute obedience to the 613 Commandments so Rabbi Simlai brought up King David who trimmed it eleven (Psalms 15), Isaiah who condensed it to six (Isaiah 33:15-16), Micah who simplified to three (Micah 6:8), Amos to one (Amos 5:4), to which Habbakuk agreed (Habbakuk 2:4) which is the statement Paul uses in his contention for a trusting obedience as opposed to a legalistic faithless one. As you can see, the principle of 'living by faith', within obedience to Torah is not something that Paul invented, but that was often brought up by the prophets to remaind people that ritualisatic 'obedience' is ot the thing. Actually, some of the prophets claim that God would rather do without the offerings when done in the wrong spirit ((1 Samuel 15:22).
As we discover the beauty of serving God through obedience to Torah, may we never forget that our service is nothing without our love. Alongside with the prophets of old, this is what Yeshua came to remind us and to teach us: the dimension of love and trust in our service.
Patrick Gabriel Lumbroso
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