FFOZ TV Review: The Torah Is Not Canceled

ffoz_tv13_mainEpisode 13: It is commonly taught that Jesus came to cancel the law but Jesus tells his disciples “I did not come to abolish the law.” Episode thirteen will revolutionize the viewer’s understanding of the law by learning that the law was given for Godly instruction. They will discover that not only has the law of God not been done away with but the prophets tell us that it will be observed even in the Messianic Era. It will also be taught that the law has different applications for different people, with some commandments only being applicable to Jewish people.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 13: The Torah Is Not Canceled

The Lesson: The Mystery of Jesus and the Torah

In this episode, First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teachers Toby Janicki and Aaron Eby take on one of the major misconceptions of Christian doctrine, that the death of Jesus canceled the Torah and invalidated the Law. Toby calls this “The Mystery of the Torah is not Canceled,” but I prefer the other expression he used: “The Mystery of Jesus and the Torah.”

The core to this episode is a scripture that practically everyone in the Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish movements is keenly aware of:

Do not imagine that I have come to violate the Torah or the words of the prophets. I have not come to violate but to fulfill. For, amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one yod or one thorn will pass away from the Torah until all has been established.

Matthew 5:17-18 (DHE Gospels)

These verses are part of what is called the Sermon on the Mount, which is thought of in Christianity as the core of Jesus’s moral teachings.

Toby tells his audience that a closer analysis of Matthew 5:17 will help us get to our first clue in solving today’s mystery.

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

Matthew 5:17 (NASB)

According to Toby, Jesus had been criticized by the Jewish religious authorities, saying that he was not teaching and living by the Torah correctly. Jesus was taking this opportunity to explain his intent as a teacher. The phrase “I have come” has the sense in the Hebrew of purpose and intention. Toby tells us that in this section of his sermon, Jesus isn’t explaining his role as Messiah in relationship to the Torah, but his intention and purpose in teaching the Torah. He wants to clear up any misunderstanding about what he’s teaching, not explain how he is going to impact Torah obedience in Israel as the coming Messiah.

ffoz_tv13_tobyBut we have to have a proper understanding of the terms “abolish” and “fulfill” in order to understand Jesus’s words. While Christians have to take at face value the verse saying that Jesus didn’t come to “abolish” the Law, that is, to destroy, discard, overturn, or annul, they often interpret “fulfill” as abolish, since the net effect in Christian thinking is that Jesus “nailed the Law to the cross.”

But within a first century Jewish Rabbinic context, how are the words “abolish” and “fulfill” understood?

Rabbi Jonathan would say: Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty, will ultimately fulfill it in wealth; and whoever abolishes the Torah in wealth, will ultimately abolish it in poverty. (emph. mine)

-Pirkei Avot 4:9

Pirkei Avot is also called Ethics of Our Fathers, and is a collection of ancient Rabbinic teachings compiled from 200 years before Jesus’s birth until 200 years after his resurrection.

Here we see how the early Sages defined the use of fulfill and abolish in relation to the Torah (the word “neglect” was in place of the word “abolish” in the quote of Pirkei Avot 4:9 I copied from a Chabad email newsletter). I bolded some of the words in the above quoted phrase so you could better see Toby’s point.

To “abolish” in this context, means to disobey Torah.
To “fulfill” in this context, means to obey Torah.

Jesus is saying that in his teaching and his life, he did not come, that is, it was not his intention and purpose as a teacher, to disobey the Torah, but rather, to obey the Torah. Let’s look at Matthew 5:17 again but in a modified form.

Do not think that I came to disobey the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to disobey but to obey. (emph. mine)

A rather startling change of meaning, don’t you think? Now we have the first clue we need to solve the mystery:

Clue 1: Jesus came to obey and teach the Law.

But exactly what is “the Law” and why does Christianity see it so negatively? To get the answer, the scene shifts to FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby in Israel.

ffoz_tv13_aaronWhat is the Torah? Most often, we think of it as the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And while the Torah does contain many laws for Jews living in the Land of Israel and diaspora, as well as Jewish ethical and moral conduct, it also contains the story of Creation, the calling of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the astonishing redemption of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Aaron teaches us that Torah means something like “guidance,” “teaching,” or “instruction.” The root word in Hebrew is an archery term implying something that is cast, thrown, or shot with aiming or guidance, like one might shoot an arrow at a target. In this sense the Torah can be any spiritual or Biblical teaching directing someone toward righteousness. To differentiate this broader meaning from the first five books of the Bible, we call those five books the Torah of Moses.

The main point of Aaron’s teaching is rather straightforward. Torah doesn’t mean “law,” it means teaching, instruction, and guidance, in a spiritual or moral sense. It doesn’t have to refer only to the “mechanics” of the legal parts of the Torah of Moses. He also explains what a “jot” and a “tittle” or “thorn” is which illuminates how Jesus used those terms in Matthew 5:18. Jesus was saying that he did not intend to abolish or disobey even the smallest detail of the Torah until heaven and earth passed away.

Returning to Toby, we have our second clue:

Clue 2: Torah is God’s Instruction.

Toby takes the lesson one step further and describes the future role and function of the Torah in the Messianic Era. To understand how this works, we must turn to Jeremiah 31:31-34

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Here, Toby interprets this scripture about the New Covenant in the same way I’ve been doing on this blog for quite some time. On the surface, the prophet is saying that there will be a new covenant and that it will be different from the old covenant, but what exactly will be different. Grace instead of Law? That’s not what scripture says. Let’s drill down into verse 33:

I will put My Torah within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (emph. mine)

ffoz_tv13_torah_bethemmanuelI substituted the word “Torah” for “Law” since that’s how it’s rendered in the Hebrew. Remember, the New Covenant is made with Judah and Israel, not with the church or the nations. God still expects the Jewish people to obey the Torah, His guidance and instruction, but it will be written internally and will be part of the fiber of their being, rather than being written externally. My understanding is that it will be second nature for the Jewish people to live a lifestyle in obedience to God, rather than struggling between the good and evil inclinations.

We saw in the FFOZ TV show None Greater Than John that verse 34 refers to the state of the people of God during the Messianic Era. We will all know God, from the greatest to the least of us, as prophets, with an overabundance of the Spirit of God upon us.

This is the Messianic Era, when the Jewish exiles are returned to their Land, the Land of Israel, all of Israel’s enemies are finally defeated forever, and King Messiah establishes world peace. In those days, all Jews will obey Torah and even the Gentiles of the nations will go up to Jerusalem to learn:

And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Isaiah 2:3 (NASB)

Here we have the third and final clue:

Clue 3: The Torah will be obeyed in the Messianic Era

But this brings up the subject about the relationship of the Torah to the non-Jewish people. I thought that the topic would be ignored as in past episodes, but Toby briefly touches on it by saying that the Torah has different applications to Jewish and non-Jewish people. Most (non-Messianic) Jews would probably say the Torah has little to no application to the goyim at all, but Messianic Judaism sometimes has a unique perspective regarding non-Jews and particularly Christians.

At the end of the episode, FFOZ Founder and President Boaz Michael comes on camera and refers to the Torah as “God’s loving instruction.” He says that both Jews and Gentiles need to study the Torah and discover how it applies to our lives, also implying that there are different applications of the Torah to Jewish and non-Jewish people.

What Did I Learn?

ffoz_tv13_torah_lettersI gained a greater appreciation of the Rabbinic use of the terms “fulfill” and “abolish,” although I’d heard something similar in the past. I was also reminded of a discussion I had with my Pastor last week on this very topic: will there be distinctions between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic Era and will there be any such thing as “Torah” in those days? He says “no” and I say “yes.” I don’t think the Torah ceases as we understand it today until “all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). The question is, when is everything that must be accomplished actually accomplished? If not even the smallest detail of the Torah pass away until heaven and earth pass away, then the only possible answer is that the Torah passes away only when there is a new heaven and earth.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them…

Revelation 21:1-3 (NASB)

When the Messianic Age is established, the Torah will still be in effect upon Israel, that is the Jewish people. There will be some applications for non-Jewish believers, but Toby was deliberately vague in this area. Only after everything has been accomplished, evil has finally been defeated, and a new heaven and earth have been established, that the Torah, as we understand it, will pass away.

But as I was watching this episode and reflecting on my conversation with Pastor last week, I was reminded of a question he asked me. There are several Jewish people who attend my church. None of them are “Messianic,” and would be better called “Hebrew Christians,” people of Jewish ethnic and family lineage but those who practice a traditional Christianity. In other words, they likely believe the law is abolished in the sense of being permanently destroyed.

Pastor asked me if I thought they are obligated to the Torah. My principles say “yes,” but I was suddenly confronted with the reality of my words. Could I go up to any of these individuals unbidden, and tell them to their face that they should be performing the mitzvot, not as a matter of salvation or justification, but out of covenant obedience? Probably not (not unless they asked, of course…). It would be like going up to a Jewish person driving to shul on Shabbos and telling them they shouldn’t drive but walk instead. Who am I, the religious police? On the other hand, if the Torah is incumbent upon all the Jewish people now and will be even into the Messianic Age…what are the consequences to a Jew for abandoning the Torah, even at the behest of the Christian church?

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:19 (NASB)

prophetic_return1I believe that Jewish people are currently obligated to perform the mitzvot, but that doesn’t mean I must forcibly impose my beliefs upon them. Every person negotiates their own relationship with God. Every Jew must discover who they are as a Jew in relation to Hashem. I can only pray that all Jewish people everywhere return to the Torah and thus bring the Messiah that much closer to bringing his rule and reign fully into our world. For when he returns, as Toby and Aaron teach, the Torah will be established in Israel and will go forth into the nations from Zion.

When G‑d made the world He gave each creature, each nation and each individual a role and a meaning.
When each plays its part there is harmony.
When the lines become too blurred, there is acrimony.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Distinctions”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

I will review another episode next week.

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25 thoughts on “FFOZ TV Review: The Torah Is Not Canceled”

  1. While I certainly agree that you cannot and should not attempt to police or enforce the performance of Torah responsibilities by the Jewish Christians in your church community, you could certainly initiate discussions with them of the sort you write about in this blog, probably in the context of your Sunday school classes. Learning must come before performance, and these particular Jews would need to unlearn and relearn some important matters before they would be motivated to return to HaShem in order to fulfill Jewish responsibilities, or even the “greater” aspect of Matt.5:19.

  2. I think “relationship” would have to come before those conversations, PL. I barely know one of the Jewish people in question and have only seen the other in class. In the latter person’s case, those times I’ve mentioned anything that could be classified as “Messianic Judaism,” have elicited a rather sour expression from this gentleman. I’d rather proceed cautiously rather than run over people with a steamroller and totally turn them off.

  3. “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (KJV Col 2:14) What is Paul talking about when he mentions “the handwriting of ordinances”??? Christian thinking states that Paul is talking about the Torah (Law), but I think that he is talking about the book in which all our sins are written and that will be used against us by the accuser (HaSatan) in our final trial… @James and @PL am I correct in my thinking? or Paul is talking about something else? Thanks !

  4. “Every person negotiates their own relationship with God. Every Jew must discover who they are as a Jew in relation to Hashem.” That says it in a nutshell. I am in a small fellowship, and the only Jewish person there. But a couple who used to attend and moved away, the husband said he discovered in his thirties that his maternal grandmother was Jewish (which would allow him to be considered Jewish according to halacha.) The family was actually quite open to exploring this aspect of their history that they knew little about and had been kept from them. He had been taught his grandmother was Russian, and the Jewish part was left out. I gave them some materials to learn about the Biblical moed for their children. I am going to guess that your “Hebrew Christian,” folks may be older, and so very much indoctrinated by the church, as well as rejected by their families. It has to be difficult if both the church and the Jewish community are telling you that you are not Jewish. I read an article that claims researchers have shown the 20% of all Americans change their religion at some point in their lives, and this does not count those who change from one Protestant denomination to another.

  5. Alfredo, my personal opinion (but I’ve been wrong before) is that Paul is referring to the curses of the Torah, the consequences for imperfect observance to the mitzvot. He also could have been referring to halachah that said only if one were ethnically Jewish and kept the mitzvot perfectly could one be saved. Frankly, this is a very difficult text to manage, at least for me.

  6. I am going to guess that your “Hebrew Christian,” folks may be older, and so very much indoctrinated by the church, as well as rejected by their families. It has to be difficult if both the church and the Jewish community are telling you that you are not Jewish.

    Yes, they are older, though I have no idea about their history. The Pastor doesn’t “undo” their being Jewish and encourages “Jewish Christians” to observe the moadim in some fashion (though I doubt they do), but he is very definite that the Law is not currently in effect and that perhaps only certain portions to do with the Temple will be revived in the Messianic era. I’m hoping he reads today’s “meditation” and is willing to discuss. It would be fabulous if he’d actually watch the TV show. It’s only 30 minutes.

  7. In the early years of MJ, we were also taught that the Moedim and various biblical and extra-biblical traditions should be observed by Jews mostly for the purpose of relating to and being accepted as kosher by the Jewish community, not for the purpose of following torah. They were on the right path, but I believe the motivation was wrong. The leaders were mostly graduates of Christian seminaries and bible colleges.

  8. If I am not mistaken, the phrase rendered “handwriting of ordinances” is a legal term describing the verdict of a court case. In the case of a death sentence by crucifixion, it would be posted on the criminal’s execution stake. Its use in this context would be describing metaphorically the condemnation of a sinner that would result from evaluation of their shortfall from the standards of Torah. It is this metaphorical decree that is envisioned as posted on Rav Yeshua’s execution stake, where the written words of the decree are obliterated or covered over by the blood draining from his wounds. It’s a gory image, but no doubt one that was appreciated by Rav Shaul’s audience.

  9. @PL : Thanks for your response. So, if I don’t misunderstand you, being a legal term used in a court case, it could really be related to each one of us trial once we die (or whenever that trial happens). Being myself a sinner (that is not being able to fulfill the standards of Torah), this verdict would be “guilty”. But then, with Yeshua’s blood draining from His wounds at the cross, I would be saved because of His sacrifice, not because of my works, but because I have received it by Grace. Would you more or less agree with this interpretation? I acknowledge that this is a really tough issue, since there is not much detailed information in the Tanakh or the Apostle writings about this trial… Is there more elements of information in Talmud or other Jewish documents?

  10. If we look at the legal perspective: I have committed a crime. The judge is asking for me to pay a fine and I don’t have the money. They are going to throw me in jail until I can pay the fine. But someone comes along and says he will pay my fine. I go free. Now, am I free to ignore the law, without consequence, because another has paid my fine?

  11. Thanks, PL. So what was “nailed to the cross” was the death sentence of a humanity that couldn’t possibly live up to God’s standards of holiness. The Master’s death covered, once and for all, that sentence against us.

  12. Yes, alfredo (& James), you’ve understood the imagery of the metaphor. Don’t worry about finding any more detailed info — it’s a metaphor and an illustration to foster understanding of a meaningful concept; it doesn’t require any special fuss about it beyond that.

    @chaya — You’re right that possessing a “get out of jail free” card is no excuse for cavalier scofflaw behavior, much as one could never really hope to get away with any particular sin simply because one could bring a sacrifice to the Temple. The prophets make it quite clear that such an attitude renders the sacrifice meaningless because it lacks any real sense of repentance or gratitude. The same principle would apply to the metaphorical sacrifice mediated by Rav Yeshua. There is a warning to that effect in Matt.7:23.

  13. The Greek word translated “handwriting of ordinances” is DOGMA. In the 5 times this word appears in the Apostolic Writing it was always in reference to man-made rules and decrees. And here is where you guys are caught in a trap, since your camp invokes divine authority to rabbinic halacha (man-made laws) and you dance around the issue for fear that you will be labeled “sons of Korach” as stated bt the great teacher Boaz Michael….

  14. In this case Dan, we were talking about the “χειρόγραφον τοῖς δόγμασιν” (handwritten decree) in Col.2:14. Not every use of the word “dogma” has identical meaning. Nor is every human decree worthless. No dancing around any issues is required to be able to affirm the human halakhic authority granted by HaShem’s Torah, which is a different matter entirely from the sort of legal document under discussion here.

  15. Hi Dan. Nice to meet you. I have a question : If in this specific verse “handwriting of ordinances” (DOGMA) is a reference of “man-made rules and decrees”, and you seem to label such “dogmas” as worthless, pointless and without any power whatsoever because of their origin from men, then why Yeshua even bothered to “nail them to His cross”??? As far as I know, Yeshua’s teaching were about the more weightier issues of Torah. So if these “handwriting of ordinances” mean little to none, I don’t see any point being mentioned in Col 2:14 and in context of “sins” in Col 2:13. Please, explain this to me. Thanks.

  16. Alfredo, You see, Christianity teaches that the “handwriting of ordinances” is the Mosaic Law, which is Written Torah. We Messianics say, no, this is Dogma, man-made laws. But, then we go and say that these man-made laws has divine authority, and we find ourselves trapped. Get it?…

  17. Hi Dan. Thanks, but I don’t get it…. My questions were very specific, but your answer didn’t address them. Then again, I understand that you are not obligated to answer them, since who am I to ask in the first place.

  18. I take a middle ground. Not everything man-made is either wicked or superfluous. It all depends if the human vessel has received divine wisdom for enlightenment, worship, remembrance, etc. The Jewish sages, as well as our great minds of literature, etc., are a part of our heritage, like our family. We don’t agree with or follow everything that is part of our heritage, but we don’t discard it either. Sharing your thoughts is one thing; thinking you have the right to dictate to others is arrogance. But the market wants and needs someone to eliminate the ambiguity, remove gray areas, and make everything clearly black and white. Tell them what to do so they don’t need to think and wrestle and take responsibility for their own actions. But dictatorship is popular, to the tune of $2M income yearly. The blessings of the internet; you can run, but you can’t hide.

  19. How pleasant it is to see your diplomatic answer, chaya — but who is the $2M dictator? Did I miss a recent news item?

    @Dan — while you are correct that traditional Christianity has misinterpreted this phrase as negating the entire Torah, you are misrepresenting the interpretation of “dugmasin” or dogma in this context as if it were referring to all man-made laws. Further, you are treating all human laws, including halakhot, as if they were the same, which they are not. In addition, you are dismissive of the human application of Torah as if it were somehow illegitimate despite the Torah’s definition of it as an earthly human responsibility. And beyond that, you are misrepresenting MJ as if it espoused some monolithic inconsistent position, which is entirely your error on both counts. Where is your sense of nuance? Why are you wielding such a broad brush to tar everything the same color? If you re-read my original post on this subject, in which I defined the handwritten decree referenced in Col.2:14, you will see that it is neither of the notions you cited.

  20. @PL : Dan says that DOGMA always mean “man-made laws”, but you stated that in this context, it is referring to other concept. How about Paul in 1Co 15:29? Mormons use this verse to baptize in behalf of dead people, which I believe is an error of interpretation of this verse. I think that Paul is not writing about the baptism for repentance, (which appears many times in the Apostolic Writings) but he is writing about Mikvah as a purification ritual after touching a corpse, since in Jewish custom, a dead body is prepared for the day of it’s resurrection, and those who prepare a beloved one, must baptize (perform a Mikvah) afterwards, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” Thanks in advance for your comments about this issue.

  21. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

    Matthew 18:18

    My understanding of this directive is that Jesus is giving Peter, and by inference, the apostles, the authority to make binding rulings and judgments in his name. This is what the counsel did in Acts 15 when they issued binding halachah regarding Gentile admission into “the Way.” Was it a man-made law? I suppose you could say so, but it had the “buy off” of the Master. Also Acts 15:28 states, For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials, so it would seem that in issuing halachah, the council also had the approval of the Spirit.

    Oh, BTW, I had my weekly discussion with my Pastor last night. I brought up Toby’s definition of “abolish” and “fulfill” as “disobey Torah” and “obey Torah” and relative to the Greek and how the those terms are used elsewhere in the NT, he wasn’t convinced.

  22. I believe you’ve understood correctly, alfredo.– about the decree in Col.2:14 and about mikvah cleansing after exposure to the tumah of death.

    The definition I’ve extracted from a lexicon reads as follows:
    δόγμα,n \{dog’-mah}
    1) doctrine, decree, ordinance
    1a) of public decrees
    1b) of the Roman Senate
    1c) of rulers
    2) the rules and requirements of the law of Moses; carrying a suggestion of severity and of threatened judgment
    3) of certain decrees of the apostles relative to right living

    This definition doesn’t explicitly address the usage of a public decree that I cited in the legal context of a verdict and its execution, but I believe it is implicit in the primary examples of this definition. Example 2 doesn’t seem to fit the notion of man-made laws, and example 3 could be interpreted as chaya did, as bearing the potential for both humans and HaShem to have been involved in their formulation.

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