Messianic Apologetics editor John McKee briefly summarizes some of the major factors, which will affect our interpretation and application of Moses’ Teaching: Ancient Israel, the Messiah Event, Jewish examination, Christian examination.
If today’s Messianic students commit to reading the Torah from the perspective of Ancient Israel first—what will be a few of the difficult matters to overcome?
Within the broad Messianic sphere of influence, one will rightly see an emphasis on how God’s people need to return to a Torah foundation. But there are indeed those who imply that the Torah or Law of Moses is more important than the Eternal God who gave it.
Many people within today’s Messianic sphere of influence recognize the need to interpret the letters of the Apostle Paul from the vantage point of their First Century recipients in the Mediterranean. Yet, many of the same are unwilling to read the Torah from the vantage point of its original Ancient Israelite recipients in the Ancient Near East.
Studying the Torah and having a Torah foundation are very important for the people of today’s Messianic community. But how many of our approaches to Torah are colored by a fundamentalist lens, that has possibly done more damage than good?
How much time and energy have been wasted, by various Messianic people, by doing Torah study—with little or no emphasis on the significant ethical and moral matters that face us today?
John McKee discusses a few of the difficulties Messianic people can have with interpreting commandments in the Torah—given to Ancient Israel first. How do we read some instructions as ever-constant, and others for mainly ancient circumstances? What are apodictic laws, and what are casuistic laws?
Torah observance is much more than just Shabbat, the festivals, and kosher. A great number of ethical and moral issues/commandments become significantly conscious to the Torah reader. Likewise, a person has to encounter a world going not only back some 3,300 years to the time of the Exodus, but multiplied millennia to the Creation of the cosmos itself. The questions and the controversies that the first five books of the Bible present to us, not just as students of God’s Word, but specifically as Messianic Believers—are quite significant. Many people do not know what to do when the social norms of the ancient period are different than those of today, and are often at a loss when reading the Torah. Not infrequently, such issues are just avoided or outright ignored in Messianic Torah study.
One area that receives some discussion, in various parts of the Messianic movement, is whether or not the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)—which we usually refer to as the Torah—should ever be called the Law. A statement that can be heard from time to time in our Messianic faith community, is: The Torah is teaching. The Torah is not the law. It is said that Torah just means Teaching or Instruction, and should never be referred to by the term law.