The Torah and Freedom
It will not take long while reviewing Torah Focus (torahfocus.com) and the teachings presented here to realize that we take a pro-Torah approach to interpreting the Scriptures. Obviously, this approach creates several interpretive problems. For the most part the worldview of the contemporary Church leans towards antinomian (against the Torah) interpretations of the Biblical text. We have dealt with this superficially in past posts and pages. See Torah Focus, Shaul and the 613 and the New Englanders & the 613.
First, let us interject that we are not trying to make an apologetic for this stance. We are presenting truth to those who desire to learn what it was like to live under the teachings of Yeshua and Shaul.
Therefore, the question at hand is how we can take this approach when men like Shaul talk about freedom from the Torah?
The fundamentals of Hermeneutics
Firstly, we must establish a positive method of hermeneutic. There are two fundamental methods of hermeneutic used by Bible researchers.
The first is Exegesis.
1. Exegesis follows a method of interpretation that demands use of scripture for all hermeneutic procedures.
Exegesis demands that the Scripture be used as the means for developing a methodical understanding of the Biblical text. The most appropriate method is to start with the Torah itself as the foundational toll for understanding and interpreting all other scriptural texts. Because the Torah is the foundation to all subsequent Biblical texts, we must first have a solid grasp of these foundational books before coming to any conclusions on later narratives.
Exegesis is reading out of the text. Exegesis allows the text to speak first before the interpretive process begins. This idea is actually the foundation for the English word “educate.” The word educate is derived from the Latin word educare and educre both of which contain the idea of bringing out or “out to lead”. Therefore, education in the scriptures is a “bringing out” what is written within the text. This type of interpretive process is also called deductive interpretation.
2. Eisegesis is a method of interpretation where the interpreter interjects his own biases and views into the interpretive process.
While exegesis means to read out of the text eisegesis means to read into the text.
Both methods have their place in the hermeneutic process. Unfortunately, most of the contemporary Biblical homily is based on eisegesis.
Eisegesis must NEVER be used as a primary hermeneutic tool or process. This process will inevitably return a flawed hermeneutic.
Therefore, we must realize, as we have said in our post on “Midrashim,” that the Torah itself is the foundation for all Scripture. This being the case we must base all exegesis on proper Torah interpretation. Likewise, before any opinions (eisegesis) can be established we have to have completed that appropriate exegesis.
Ideally, we must read and understand the text before determining an eisegesis. When the exegesis process is completed, we can fill in the gaps with eisegesis. By following this hermeneutic process, we can read out of and then back into the text the things requisite for clearly understanding the text.
Before we condemn the idea of Torah and freedom, we must understand what freedom really means. Likewise, we must understand what the Torah is and what תורה “Torah” means.
Two Biblical events stand out as precedential in hermeneutics. The first is Pesach (Passover) and the second is מתן תורה Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah on Sinai.)
Why do we suggest these two events with regards to freedom? Both events are related and both events are directly related to understanding freedom.
פסח / Peasch
When HaShem looked down on the troubled B’nai Yisrael, he planned to liberate them from the tyranny of Mitzraim. There were simple requirements for this emancipation. Keep the prescribed Peasch (Passover) meal as He given its details to Moshe. Other than this the B’nai Yisrael did nothing to “earn” this emancipation (deliverance -salvation).
מתן תורה / Matan Torah
With their deliverance from Mitzraim, the B’nai Yisrael marched strait to Har Sinai (Mt Sinai). Here HaShem betrothed Himself to Yisrael and gave them the Torah. This must be clearly understood before we can further understand freedom. The betrothal contract was entered into by both HaShem and Yisrael. The betrothal demands that both parties remain faithful until the final marriage. The language of the Biblical text tells us that the B’nai Yisrael came to the foot of the mountain. It was there that the B’nai Yisrael saw voices and saw lightning. (Shemot 19:17) However, the Hebrew text of the passages tells us that the B’nai Yisrael were actually under the mountain. In other words, HaShem held the mountain over their heads. Scholars tell us that the mountain being held over the heads of the B’nai Yisrael is a picture of the marriage canopy that is held above the heads of Jews when they enter into a marital covenant. You might be asking what does this have to do with freedom.
Marriage demands commitment and faithfulness. Marriage is the freedom to love your spouse. Marriage is the freedom to love only one person. Most marital vows in this contemporary age recite the line that they will “keep themselves only to the marital partner.” This is covenantal vow. To violate this vow is a violation of the covenant. While in many cases, infidelity will end in divorce it need not be the end of a marriage. Please understand this in no way condones infidelity.
In understanding this process, we must realize that humans can make and break vows often with little regard. However, HaShem cannot. Once HaShem has made His vow, it cannot be retracted. We see a rainbow each time it threatens to rain. This “bow” is a constant reminder that HaShem entered into a covenant with Noach and that He will never violate or abrogate that covenant. This is also true of the covenant made with the B’nai Yisrael.
Many clichés are recited with regards to marriage such as “tying the knot.” This cliché tells us that the two who were separate have become bound to each other. Being bound to the marital partner requires faithfulness. In this antinomian society, these values are daily being challenged. However, no one really takes infidelity lightly.
Having said these things I believe you can get the idea of marital commitment. However, the idea of marital commitment is exactly the image that HaShem wants us to draw from Har Sinai.
Shaul picks up on this idea in the seven chapter of his letter to the Romans. The fourth verse (Romans 7:4) seems to be very problematic to many scholars. This because the Greek word nomos is used in a variety of ways. One of the words that the word nomos is associated with is the Torah (translated most frequently as Law). However, not every place the Greek word nomos is used is it a direct reference to the Torah. The word nomos is used countless times in extra-Biblical literature. It is very seldom a reference to the Torah unless the subject is Judaism. As a result, we must determine the context of every use of nomos in Shaul’s writings. We have dealt with this superficially in our “Shaul and the 613” article.
We must remember that the Hebrew word “Torah” means teaching, instruction and principle.
In the 8th chapter of Romans Shaul talks of the “law of sin and death.” This is most defiantly NOT the Torah. This PRINCIPLE is found in the book of Bereshit (Genesis). Adam was forbidden to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of good mixed with evil. The result of eating from that tree was death. Herein lays the PRINCIPLE of sin and die or sin and death. Consequently, the Greek word nomos can be talking about various principles affecting Shaul’s readers.
The context of the opening passages of Romans Chapter 7 is not being married to the “Torah.” The problem with reading Biblical text is that it has a number of chapter and verse breaks. These tools were not an original part of the Biblical text. These contraptions were added later to help the reader locate Biblical passages. However, many of these breaks make absolutely no sense. Consequently, the text should be read without them. Such is the case with Romans six and seven.
The conclusionary verses of verses of Romans chapter 6 talks about being slaves to sin, not the Torah of HaShem.
Shaul speaks of being a slave to sin. In the seventh chapter sin (the principle of sin and death continues.) Shaul uses the illustration of being married to sin in chapter seven. The Law (Torah) librates the sinner from sin. In other words, when we die to sin we are free to marry HaShem. We can clearly understand this pint by reading verse five of Romans 7.
The context is sin and being married to sin. The context is further established in the idea that the Torah defines sin. Without a definition of sin, anyone can do whatever he or she please and rationalize it. Shaul clarifies the fact that Torah defines sin and as long as we are married to sin, we will die. (6:23)
Freedom in Shaul’s letter is freedom from sin and death through the work of Mashiach. The work of Mashiach enables us to bear fruit for HaShem.
Look back to Romans chapter 6.
We can gain a tremendous amount of clarity when we read these passages carefully.
Thanks are to HaShem who has liberated us from sin. We were slaves to sin. Now, we have become slabs to righteousness.
Herein is the great overlooked truth. You must be a slave to either sin or righteousness. Mind you that the vocabulary Shaul uses are “slavery.” Those who are slaves are not free. The contrast is further drawn in these passages.
Shaul uses this same Greek word (dulos) in his letter tom the Ephesians speaking to slaves telling them to be slaves to Mashiach.
Shaul makes it very clear that being free from sin brings into slavery to righteousness. In the 8th chapter to the Romans Shaul tells us that there are requirements for righteousness.
Freedom is not free. Freedom requires obedience.
Freedom requires obedience to the righteous requirements of the Torah (the 613).
- 6:20 ¶ For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [↩]
- 7:5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. [↩]
- 6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. [↩]
- 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? [↩]
- 8:4so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [↩]
- 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. [↩]