Introduction to theTorah

My speaking engagements have regularly brought me as a guest speaker before all kinds of churches and a variety of associations running the gamut from evangelic groups to churches having their origin somewhere in the time of the reformation, my listeners young and old. I have a strong impression that there is currently a tendency that penetrates the walls of all churches: an increasing interest in the Torah, God’s Law. Believers (re)discover the riches of the Torah, and this despite the dogma that we are ‘no longer under the law’. The brilliance of the Torah has such power that on its own it is able to win out in the face of theological resistance, yet without the dogma having been thoroughly and intrinsically refuted. The Torah evidently has such a power of attraction for me, even though I had no idea what I was supposed to do with all those texts that almost forbid me to have anything to do with Torah. Even the conviction of some Christians: that you place yourself outside the bounds of God’s grace if you have the desire to live in accordance with the Torah - yes, even in the face of that my interest did not flag. Nor was I put off by the risk of being labeled “legalistic”. Its allure was such that these prejudices could not keep me from becoming increasingly engrossed in the Torah.

 

Interest in the Torah varies greatly. Within Judaism there are those loyal to the whole Torah, including the services assigned to the priests, the sacrifices, feasts, dietary regulations and national boundaries; Judaism is also generally loyal to the oral tradition, the Talmud, a sort of second Torah, devised by rabbis (see paragraph 2.2). When the Torah is mentioned in this book, it always a reference to the written Torah, the five books of Moses, also succinctly referred to as ‘the law’. At the other extreme we find the doctrine of some Evangelical or Pentecostal groups. Their position is that we are not only free from the law of Torah, but that the whole OT is just that, old, in the sense of obsolete, and since the coming of the Messiah none of that is relevant anymore. According to them the leading of the Holy Spirit is sufficient and we no longer need any practical instructions from the OT. And between these two extremes there are all manner of variations.

On the spectrum of beliefs regarding Torah, the position closest to that of traditional Judaism is held by the Karaites, a Jewish movement that rejects the Talmud/oral tradition and only holds to the written Torah. In addition to the Karaites there is the messianic movement. These are Jews and Christians loyal to the Torah and to some parts of the oral tradition on the basis of their loyalty to Judaism. Thus, messianic Jews wear a yarmulke and practice the separation of dairy products from meat products. Both of these customs derive from the oral tradition and not from the Torah. But above all what distinguishes messianic believers from their Jewish brothers is, of course, their conviction that Jesus is the Messiah. Moving along the spectrum we then come to the Seventh Day Adventists, who keep the Sabbath. Some of them also celebrate other biblical feasts like the Great Day of Atonement and the Festival of Booths, Sukkot. They are often vegetarians and thus go one step beyond the provisions of the Torah. They are an interesting intermediate step in the direction of the following group: the traditional protestant churches. These churches teach loyalty to the ten commandments, whereby the commandment to keep the Sabbath has been replaced by the observance of a day of rest on Sunday. Some churches have a loving relationship with the State of Israel, and others do not. The biblical feasts and the dietary rules regarding clean and unclean food are not doctrine practiced in any of these churches. Many evangelic groups fall under the category of the traditional protestant churches as regards the application of Torah.

For the sake of convenience, I place the spectrum in sequence below, followed by the posture each takes with regard to Torah, the NT and the Messiah. In the interest of providing more complete information, I include the sources that each of these movements consider authoritative in addition to the Bible. Just as the Jews have their oral tradition/Talmud, the Seventh Day Adventists have the writings of their prophet E.G. White and the protestants have their catechisms, the writings of their church fathers and reformers. 

§  Judaism: Torah + Oral tradition/Talmud

§  Karaites: Torah

§  Messianic movement: Torah + parts of the oral tradition/Talmud + NT + Messiah

§  Seventh Day Adventists: parts of Torah + NT + Messiah + writings of E.G. White

§  Traditional protestant churches: 10 commandments + NT + Messiah + catechisms

§  Evangelical groups: 10 commandments + NT + Messiah

§  Some Pentecostal and Evangelical groups: NT + Messiah

 

Evangelical and other free groups distinguish themselves by the absence of additional authoritative writings. That speaks well on their behalf, though they often have unwritten laws, not all of which are based on the Word.

 

As a recommendation in favor of the Torah, this book is actually superfluous, because after all, a good wine can be appreciated on its own merits. The Torah can manage on its own merits, even without this book. Yet I started to write because among some groups the Torah is not recognized as good wine, in those circles it bears an erroneous label: past its “use by” date. As a result some people no longer dare to open it and never even get around to tasting it.

 

This book is my effort at making a contribution to providing biblical basis for renewed interest in the Torah. And with this, I hope we will see interest in the Torah really soar among believers from all persuasions, creeds and denominations.

 

I am totally convinced that the Torah is not just for any select party or assembly, but for everyone.

 

Not only for the Jews, not only for messianic fellowships, nor only for all believers. No, the Torah is for all people. For Jews and Gentiles, believers and unbelievers -  really for everyone!

 

Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
because this is the whole duty of man.

(Ecclesiastes 12:13b) NET

 

And as to my personal motivation, well, that is especially about the body of Christ, because the church is very dear to my heart. Which is the reason I write. For some people this book may be a thorn in their side or provoke them as to strongly held beliefs, for others perhaps false doctrine. But then for others this book will be a feast of recognition. I write for all of them. I love my brothers and sisters too dearly to remain silent, because it is my desire to …..

 

move onward, ... together!

This text is a part of the introduction from the Dutch book Vrij van de Wet? 

Publisher: Sola Scriptura, Wijngaarden, The Netherlands

Author: E. Noordermeer. Translated by D.A. Schechter

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