Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.
You can read more at the bottom of this page or read my full disclosure on my Affiliate Disclosure Page
What does the word Torah mean? Many people think that it means law. This is not only inaccurate, but it also misses the heart of what the Torah is.
In this article, we are going to explore the true meaning of the Torah, what it encompasses and whether or not Torah is relevant to our lives today!
So read on and learn more!
What is the Torah?
The Torah is the Five Books of Moses but also refers to the entire corpus of religious Jewish knowledge. The word Torah literally means “instruction”.
It discusses the creation narrative, the faith of our patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, and freedom from slavery.
It was given to Israel as a sign of God’s covenant with her.
It is the ketubah, the “marriage contract”, that spells out the standard of holiness expected of her with decrees, laws, and statutes in order “to be a light to all nations,” leading all the nations toward God. (Exod 19: 5–6)
Despite some thought and teaching to the contrary, Yeshua’s teachings are based on the Torah. The Torah is precisely where the Gospel’s ideas are first introduced.
It is where we learn about God, holiness, purity, sin, sacrifice, repentance, faith, forgiveness, covenant, grace, and righteousness.
Yes, grace is IN Torah!
As I mentioned, many times people mistranslate the word Torah as ‘law’.
While we do see that the Torah is sometimes referred to as ‘The Law of Moses’, it CONTAINS law but it is not the law in and of itself.
In fact, when the word Torah is used, many apply it not only to the five books of Moses but also to the rest of the Tanakh (the Jewish Bible), and, as you will see, many Messianic Jews also believe it encompasses the Besorah (Gospel) as well.
What Does the Word Torah Mean?
According to First Fruits of Zion:
Like FFOZ, many esteemed Messianic Jewish scholars are also of the opinion that Torah includes the Brit Chadasha, known as the New Testament to Christians.
It should not be written off as some archaic set of books that have no meaning to the Christian.
Remember, when Timothy says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God….”, he did not have a New Testament.
What Did Torah Mean to Yeshua?
What does the word Torah mean when we look at Yeshua?
Well, first let’s clear up that very common misconception.
Yeshua did not do away with Torah. Actually, it was quite the contrary. Yeshua is the LIVING Torah.
Renowned scholar (and one of my all-time favorite people), Amy-Jill Levine, Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, and may I add, a Jew (non-Messianic), quite frequently states that Yeshua not only did not do away with Torah, He often expanded upon it.
For instance, she says the law tells us not to murder. Yeshua says don’t get angry…that’s harder.
She says that the law says not to commit adultery but Yeshua says don’t even look…that’s harder.
What Yeshua is actually doing here is not only focusing on the action itself but the intent – which often leads to the action.
He is putting a fence around Torah, not doing away with it.
Sin takes root in thought and in the heart, so start there.
He didn’t abrogate Torah; He embodies it.
Yeshua Quoting Torah
He used it in the wilderness to fight off the enemy’s temptations.
Let’s have a look and see Yeshua quoting Torah.
First, let’s look at the text of Yeshua and the temptation in the wilderness.
Now we will look at each instance.
In Matthew 4:4 Yeshua says, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Here He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 which says “He afflicted you and let you hunger, then He fed you manna—which neither you nor your fathers had known—in order to make you understand that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of Adonai.” (TLV- Bible Gateway)
Now let’s look at Matthew 4:7 where Yeshua says, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put Adonai your God to the test.’“
That is from Deuteronomy 6:16 which says, “You are not to test Adonai your God, as you tested Him at Massah.” (TLV – Bible Gateway)
Then there is Matthew 4:10 where Yeshua says, “‘You shall worship Adonai your God, and Him only shall you serve.’
This is from Deuteronomy 6:13 which says, “You must fear Adonai your God and serve Him, and swear by His Name.” (TLV – Bible Gateway)
And there were many other instances where Yeshua quoted Torah as well.
When the young lawyer approached Him and asked Him what was the greatest commandment, Yeshua replied as such:
This is a quote from v’ahavta which is a prayer that is a continuation of the Shema.
He is quoting Deuteronomy and Leviticus here.
Even if we ignore the fact that He specifically mentions the Torah and Prophets, Yeshua in this verse from Matthew is making it quite clear that He is NOT abrogating Torah.
Torah is to Be on Our Hearts
Each middah or spiritual trait is what draws us toward following Torah from our hearts, where it is written.
All spiritual disciplines and practices, from humility to equanimity to keeping kashrut is covered in Mussar.
So we welcome you to give it a try. You can find out more info on our Mussar page.
Torah is not something that is done away with.
It is God’s covenant with Israel and Yeshua is the One Man Israel who joins Jew and Gentile together in one union in Messiah – one ekklesia.
We may have distinct identities but we worship one Messiah as a united community.
Next time we will discuss the Oral Torah!
Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*.Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society. Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.