"Don’t Think That I Have Come to Abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I Have Come Not to Abolish but to Complete, to Make Their Full Meaning" Matt. 5:17-19

The teaching below is very clear in the scriptural understanding of the verses in light of the biblical language and culture of God’s Word. Please consider these things with prayer and Godly understanding and not the traditions of man’s dogma.

The Hebrew word for “Torah’” literally means “teaching, doctrine.” It is rendered in both the Septuagint and the New Testament by the Greek word “nomos,” which means, “Law.” The true rendering should read the “Teachings of Moses” not the “Law of Moses.” From this point on we will use the term Torah/Teachings rather than the word Law. This is one of the reasons that the Torah has come to be called by Christians, “legalistic.” Keeping this in mind, it is stated, “or the Prophets.” If you abolish one then you have to abolish the other, because they go hand in hand in the text. When the prophets are used as persons it is not capitalized; “prophets” in the singular is never capitalized. Yeshua’s meaning by mentioning both the Torah and the Prophets is that He has not come to modify or replace God’s word, the Tanakh.

The Greek word for “to complete” is “plerosai,” literally “to fill,” the usual rendering in the English text is “to fulfill.” Replacement theology wrongly teaches that the church has replaced the Jews as God’s people. This understanding causes misuse of this verse in two ways.

First, the word “fulfilling” the Torah does not mean that it is unnecessary for people to fulfill it now. Yeshua obedience to follow Torah, does not cancel out our need to obey it. It is a fact, according to the words of Shaul (Paul) in his letter to the Romans that obedience comes from “trusting” in Yeshua. This teaches that such trusting does not abolish Torah, but confirms it (Rom. 1:5, 3:31).

Secondly, with this same lack of logic, by Yeshua “fulfilling” the Prophets, implies that the prophecies from the Tanakh no longer remain for the Jews. The fulfillment by Yeshua is an added assurance that everything God promised Israel will yet come to pass (see 2Cor 1:20). Just because Yeshua kept Torah perfectly and fulfilled predictions of the Prophets, does not change things for us. This is not the point Yeshua was teaching. To put it simply, He came not to abolish, but “to make full” (plerosai) the meaning of what the Torah and the ethical demands of the prophets require. In other words, this completes our understanding of the Torah and the Prophets, so that we can with greater effectiveness be and do what the Lord requires of us, to be Holy. You will see in verses 18-20, three ways enunciated in which the Torah and the Prophets remain in force, applicable, and most of all, necessary. The remainder of chapter 5 gives specific cases which explain the fuller spiritual meaning of points in the Torah/Teachings.

Chapter five, of Matt. verses 18-20 in particular, state the theme and agenda of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Yeshua completes, and makes fuller the Talmidim’s understanding concerning the Torah and the Prophets.

Here are the words of Anglican Christian writer Brigid Younghughes which state, ‘“…I came not to destroy, but to fulfill.’ And surely ‘to fulfill’ means to complete, in the sense of bringing to perfection, not as Christians have all too often interpreted it, to render obsolete; to fulfill in such a way as to perfect a foundation on which to build further.” (Christianity’s Jewish Heritage, West Sussex: Angel Press, 1988, p.8).

When you look at verse 17 more closely, if the point Yeshua is making is He is “the end of the Torah /Teachings,” then why does He say in the next verse that the Torah/Teachings will never disappear? If, in verse 17, Yeshua is stressing the messianic fulfillment of the Torah/Teachings, then verse 17 is in conflict with verse 18. If we have a conflict here and the Greek cannot penetrate the true meaning, then taking the Greek back into the Hebrew is the only answer. Once in Hebrew it will make sense. Let us start with the words, “I have come,” which is a Hebrew idiom denoting intent or purpose, not referring to His Incarnation.

Then this tells us that everything hinges on the meaning of the words “destroy” and “fulfill” in verse 17. These are technical terms, which are used, in Rabbinic argumentation. If a sage felt that a colleague had misinterpreted a passage of Scripture, he would say, “You are destroying the Torah/Teachings!” This only meant that his colleague strongly disagreed. So, by this understanding you can see that what was “destroying the Torah/Teachings” for one sage, was “fulfilling the Torah/Teachings” for another.

What truly is happening in verse 17 is that Yeshua was accused of “destroying” the Torah/Teachings. Neither Yeshua nor His accuser would ever think of literally destroying the Torah/Teachings. What is in question is Yeshua’s system of interpretation of Scripture. When Yeshua rebuttals, He strongly denies that His method of interpreting Scripture “destroys” or weakens its meaning.

Example: To Yeshua what is called a “light” commandment “Do not bear hatred in your heart,” (Lev 19:17) is as important as a “heavy” commandment “Do not murder,” (Ex 20:13, Deut 5:17). There are five examples given by Yeshua using this method of interpreting Scripture. Yeshua’s intent is not to misinterpret, weaken or negate the Torah/Teachings, but to make it everlasting. Yeshua said, “Heaven and earth would sooner disappear” than something from the Torah/Teachings. Not the smallest letter, the yod, nor even its decorative spur will ever disappear from the Torah/Teachings.


The two great qualities of the Torah/Teachings are its permanence and attractiveness for all, eulogized side by side in earlier literature. Philo is one example. One may read in the Talmud that with the approach of the Messiah that “all (Gentiles) will become proselytes dragged along attaching themselves by foul means like the Gibeonites when Joshua proved victorious.” Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (second half of the First Century AD) detects confirmation in Zeph 3:9, Bab. A.Z. 242, ‘Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may “all” call upon the Lord.’ Most Rabbis, to be sure, think little of these last-minute converts and they predict that these will desert before the ultimate consummation.


Note: Maybe we ought to render A.Z. 242 not ‘all (Gentiles) will become proselytes attaching themselves by unfair means,’ but ‘all (proselytes coming over as late as that) will be proselytes attaching themselves by unfair means,’ (i.e. will belong to the worthless class of bandwagon proselytes). At some moment near the end, people will come in flocks to accept a pure Judaism.


Acts 21:24 — Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the Torah/Teachings.

Acts 28:17 — And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

Rom 3:31 — Do we then make void the Torah/Teachings through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Rom 7:12 — Wherefore the Torah/Teachings is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Rom 7:14 — For we know that the Torah/Teachings is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Rom 7:22 — For I delight in the Torah/Teachings of God after the inward man:

Rom 7:25 — I thank God through Yeshua Messiah our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the Torah/Teachings of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Rom 8:4 — That the righteousness of the Torah/Teachings might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Rom 13:8 — Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the Torah/Teachings.

Rom 13:10 — Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the Torah/Teachings.

1 Tim 1:9-11 — Knowing this, that the Torah/Teachings is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for enstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

James 2:8 — If ye fulfill the royal Torah/Teachings according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

Acts 24:14 — But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Torah/Teachings and in the prophets:

Acts 25:8 — While he answered for himself, Neither against the Torah/Teachings of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.

Acts 21:20 — And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the Torah/Teachings:

Acts 21:24 — Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know
that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the Torah/Teachings.

Acts 22:3 — I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the Torah/Teachings of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.

Rom 2:13 — For not the hearers of the Torah/Teachings are just before God, but the doers of the Torah/Teachings shall be justified

1 Tim 1:8 — But we know that the Torah/Teachings is good, if a man use it lawfully;

Acts 22:12— And one Ananias, a devout man according to the orah/Teachings, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,

Gal 5:14 — For all the Torah/Teachings is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

James 4:11 — Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the Torah/Teachings, and judgeth the Torah/Teachings: but if thou judge the Torah/Teachings, thou art not a doer of the Torah/Teachings, but a judge.

Note: Scripture cannot contradict itself. Understanding the language and historical content is needed for ones interpretation for clarity. If there is a misunderstanding in the English, then one must turn to the root language, Hebrew, not Greek.


Arguments:


1. Can we modify God’s Word?

2. We cannot throw out “Torah” (e.g., Law or Teachings of Moses) without throwing out all of the Prophets. This then means, if the Torah is thrown out, then all of the “prophecies” of the church are suspect and incorrect, based on an improper foundation.

3. Matt. 5:18 states that the Law (Torah) will not pass away, but goes on and on.

4. In Telushkin’s book Jewish Literacy, (page 123-124, chapter 71) he examines Yeshua and the Law/Teachings and states: “The New Testament depiction of Yeshua suggests that he was largely a law-abiding and highly nationalistic Jew, and a man with strong ethical concerns. Like many of Judaism’s great Rabbis, he saw love of neighbor as religion’s central demand. Though many Christians are under the impression that he opposed Judaism’s emphasis on law, in actuality he criticized anyone who advocated dropping it. ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law [the Torah] or the Prophets,’ he declared to his early disciples. ‘I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.’ The law’s “purpose,” of course, is the universal recognition of God. He concludes his message with a severe warning: “Therefore, the man who infringes even the least if these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5: 17-19).”


Sources:


1. Understanding the Difficult Words of Yeshua, 1994, Destiny Image Publishers, pages 112-115, David Bivin/Roy Blizzard, Jr.

2. Jewish New Testament Commentary, 1992, Jewish New Testament Publications, pages 25-27, Author David H. Stern

3. The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism, 1998, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. pages 294-296, Author David Daube



"Messianic Jews and the Law of Moses”


In this chapter, we find the churches greatest doctrinal travesty. The church believes and teaches that they have replaced Israel as God’s chosen people and Israel has been cut off from God. People that teach this kind of theology need to read Romans chapter 11, and not think of themselves more highly than they should. Because justification of Jews and Gentiles has always been and will always be by faith. Our “works of faith” are those right actions produced by a loving trust in the God of Israel and His Messiah, Yeshua.

The First Covenant was never intended as a “covenant of works.” Rather, it embodied God’s graciously supplied instruction for Israel’s successful life in the land. God was motivated by kindness and love when He revealed His teaching (Torah) to Moses, and intended that His chosen nation in their obedience glorify Him, be blessed by Him, and, as a kingdom of priests, be an example to a rebellious, unbelieving world. Further, the Law shows us our sin and leads us to faith in the Messiah.

The Renew Covenant promised in Jer. 31:31ff and Ezek. 36:22ff was inaugurated at the time of Yeshua’s death and resurrection but will find its complete expression when our Messiah returns. The New Covenant did not eliminate the value of the Mosaic Covenant but, after the pattern of ancient Near Eastern covenant treaties, its rules, regulations and standards were updated. Although this involved a shift in the obligatory nature of some of Moses’ teachings, the primary differences between the First and Second (New Covenants) are scope (“for they shall all know Me”) and internalization (“And I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes.”). Second or Revised Covenant because of His people’s inability to keep His instruction; the covenant was revised because we needed to be changed from within, not because the Torah was deficient per se.

Having established a properly positive attitude toward the First Covenant, we can thus be correctly informed as to the nature of Yeshua’s fulfillment of the Law. Yeshua fulfilled the Law in that:


a. He kept the Torah perfectly, thus becoming the spotless Passover Lamb who died as atonement for our sins.

b. He brought out the implications of higher teachings of Moses, as can be clearly seen in the Sermon on the Mount.

c. By His death and resurrection, Yeshua rendered non-obligatory the temple-related, ceremonial features of the Torah. That is to say, He was the goal (Telos, Rom. 10:4) of the Law - the One to whom the sacrificial system pointed. After the Messiah’s first coming the writer of the book of Hebrews was able to speak of features of temple worship as “regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation” (9:10). That time of reformation has now come.


It is our obligation and privilege to search the Torah with spiritual wisdom, and using all the best tools of ancient Near East and biblical scholarship, to decide which particular Laws of the First Covenant may be said to have continuing significance for the Messianic Jew. To date, a general consensus seems to favor the following specifics:


a. The Ten Commandments, including the Saturday Shabbat, have relevance for the Messianic Jew.


NOTE: Some Messianic Jews believe that Shabbat observance should be on Saturday. However, the view has also been expressed any day of the week. (Rom. 14:5)

b. Social/civil Laws detailing how we can “love our neighbor as ourselves” are binding in principle, but must be relevantly applied to our modern culture. These include just weights and measures, care for orphans and widows, respect for others’ possessions, etc.

c. We can meaningfully express our identities as Messianic Jews by observing our biblical feasts and festivals. Specific reasons for this include:


1. They are key features of our national identity.

2. They have reference beyond the scope of the First Covenant sacrificial system, hearken back to the Abrahamic Covenant, in
which God promised the Jewish people a land permanently to call our own.

3. They have eschatological significance, and thus have not been entirely fulfilled as yet. For example, Yom Kippur points forward to the final atonement of all Israel promised in Zech 12 and Romans 11. At all times, but especially in the case of our observance.


Circumcision is rooted in the Abrahamic covenant, and is the central sign of our Jewish identities. It should be considered a helpful and desirable means of transmitting our values to our children and stating to the world that we remain Messianic Jews (Gen. 17:11-12).

A Messianic Jew has the freedom in the Messiah to subject himself to any presently non-binding First Covenant Law or principle. For example, the B’rit Hadashah appears to teach a relaxing of the Laws of Kashrut. However, there may be great benefit in avoiding pork and shellfish, the prohibited foods common in our culture:


a. A daily testimony to our people and the Body of Messiah that we take being Jewish seriously.

b. A daily discipline with a natural spill over into other areas of our lives.

c. A good health practice.


Regarding the mixing of meat and dairy, good reasons may be offered for choosing to abide by such rabbinic norms, but all such practice should remain issues of personal choice. The Bible alone is our final authority in matters of faith and practice.


NOTE: Regarding biblical dietary regulations, some have expressed their conviction that insufficient evidence exists in the B’rit Hadashah to affirm any change in the status of these Laws. Thus, according to their view, the biblical dietary regulations are still binding for the Messianic Jew.


Messianic Jews are free to enjoy Rabbinic, Eastern European, or Sephardic expressions of Jewish identity insofar as these accord with revealed truth. We are not, however, bound by the opinions or judgments of the rabbis. In this connection, Yeshua’s remarks in Matt. 23:1-3 must be understood against the great truth that the LORD has transferred leadership of the Jewish people from the Sanhedrin to the Apostles. These have become the authoritative leaders of Israel (Matt. 21:43, Acts 15). Nonetheless, reasons for adopting features of Rabbinic Judaism are as follows:


a. The early Messianic Jews were faithful to the “customs of the Fathers.”

b. Rav Shaul’s principle of “becoming all things to all men” behooves us to create a worship atmosphere where the traditional Jew can consider the claims of our Jewish Messiah.

c. The profound beauty and spirituality of traditional liturgy can be the key distinction of our congregations.

d. Rabbinic perspectives can be more biblical than views held by some believers. For example, the enjoyment of life in the will of God is a key Rabbinic idea which has been missed by many Believers who have unknowingly embraced Greek “anti-world/anti-matter” speculations.


In conclusion, careful study and spiritual sensitivity must guide congregational leaders as we seek to reflect the particularism of our call as Jews and non-Jews who wish to walk in the council of the whole Word of God, and the universal dimensions of our identity as part of Messiah’s body.

"God’s Nature as a Law Giver"


We, as a created people, must first come to the understanding that the “Law ‘Torah’ of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, and that there is only one Law ‘Torah’ giver, He who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12). His character is one of stability, “For I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). “For God’s Law ‘Torah’ is spiritual, and we must understand that we are carnal, sold under sin.” (Romans 7:14). God’s Law ‘Torah’ is necessary for the carnal man to know before he can be converted, “And knowest His will, and approves the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the Law ‘Torah’ (Romans 2:18).

When there comes a change in one’s life, from the carnal to the spiritual, the Law ‘Torah’ becomes part of the work of the spirit, “The Law ‘Torah’ of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure (unquestionably true), making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). We find by the words of the Messiah that He came not to abolish or change any part of God’s Law ‘Torah,’ “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law ‘Torah,’ till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18). Is all fulfilled? If the Messiah came not to abolish the Law ‘Torah,’ then what did He come to do in-regards to the Law ‘Torah’? We find the answer in Matthew 5:17, which states, “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law ‘Torah’ or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." If He came not to destroy, but to fulfill, then what is the meaning of fulfill? (To bring to pass), “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias (Isaiah) the prophet.” (Matthew 4:14). “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54). If death is the subject, then we need to come to the understanding how through the Messiah we gain eternal life, and walk in His commandments, not the precepts of man. Our Messiah is the example for us to walk, “Wherefore, when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offerings thou wouldst not .... Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do Thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:5-7). The bottom line then is that we do the will of God, not our own.

We have His commandments before us and yet persist in substituting a tradition in the place (of one) of them. Is this then Messiah’s meaning in Matthew 5:19? By what rule will men’s actions be weighted in the judgment? “For as many as have sinned without Law ‘Torah’ shall also perish without Law ‘Torah;’ and as many as have sinned in the Law ‘Torah’ shall be judged by the Law ‘Torah’ ... in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Yeshua according to my gospel.” (Romans 2:12-16). How many will be proved guilty by the Law ‘Torah’? “Now we know that whatsoever the Law ‘Torah’ saith, it saith to them who are under the Law ‘Torah;’ that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19). Then the Law ‘Torah’ of God must be the rule of life to all men. For the blessing of God will be given to those who have kept His commandments: “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14).

We must take note that it is not to be supposed, however, that the keeping the commandments will give one a place in the Kingdom; for “by the deeds of the Law ‘Torah’ there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” (Romans 3:20). But one must show a willingness to yield to the demands of God before he can ever have the blood of Messiah to wash away sin. The Word of God informs us that the Law ‘Torah’ of God is unchangeable. In fact, it could not be otherwise proceeding from the source it does. The Law ‘Torah’ of God reveals the attributes of its Giver:


1. Truth — “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Thy Law ‘Torah’ is the truth.” (Psalm 119:142)

2. Righteousness — “My tongue shall speak of Thy word: for all Thy commandments are righteousness.” (Psalm 119:172)

3. Love — “And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments. Master, which is the great commandment in the Law ‘Torah’? (Exodus 20:6) “Yeshua said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law ‘Torah’ and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

4. Holiness — “Wherefore the Law ‘Torah’ is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Romans 7:12)

5. Perfection — “The Law ‘Torah’ of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7)

6. Immutability — “The works of His hands are verity (true) and judgment; all His commandments are sure (unquestionably true). They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.” (Psalm 111:7,8)

7. Spirituality — For we know that the Law ‘Torah’ is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” (Romans 7:14)

8. Creative power — “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." (Exodus 20:8-11)