Torah for Christians: Unlocking the Bible

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Of the 66 books of the Bible, why do Hebraic Roots Believers focus so heavily on the Torah – the first 5 books of the Bible? What is it about Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that makes people study them over and over each year (or more!)? Is the rest of the Bible less important? Aren’t we missing out on a lot by studying these 5 books?

These were questions I had when I first started practicing a Hebraic Roots type of faith. I noticed that many focused much of their study of the Bible on the first 5 books. I’d previously been in many different types of Bible studies on various topics as well as books of the Bible and I couldn’t help but think I would be missing out on so much by repeating study after study on the first part of the Bible.

But after a few months of studying the Bible through the weekly Torah portion, I realized why studying the Torah is so important for Christians. Here are a few reasons.

The Torah is the Root of the Bible

Tom Bradford (of Seed of Abraham Ministries’ Torah Class) once said that studying the New Testament without a solid understanding of the Old Testament is like walking into a movie half-way through and trying to make sense of it. Not only does the Torah set up the foundation for the rest of the Bible, it also provides a filter through which the rest of the Bible should be interpreted.

Often, when interpreting verses, we look to the New Testament to see what a verse or concept means and how to apply it. But this is backward. When a verse from the New Testament requires clarification, we should instead look to the first place that concept was addressed and begin our interpretation there.

For example, if we look to Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-31, where Jesus answered a question about which are the greatest of the commandments, we may conclude that he was telling his followers to ignore all the other commandments in the Torah and just “love God and love people”. But those familiar with the Torah recognize that he’s instead pointing his audience back to the most important commands given in the Torah, found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

When we take Jesus’s words in light of the Torah, we see that he’s not only enforcing the commands given in the Torah but also telling us that all of the commands, if followed, will lead to a proper love for God and for people.

This is just one example but there are so many! Try this: The next time you’re studying a concept or verse in the New Testament, delve into what it says about it in the Old Testament. Spend some time digging and include the original Hebrew of the Old Testament in your search. Blue Letter Bible is a wonderful resource for this. I guarantee Bible study done in this way will deepen your understanding of the entire Bible and deepen your faith as well!

The Bible’s Authors Speak Highly of the Torah

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law [“Torah” in Hebrew] of the Lord,
And in His law [“Torah”, again] he meditates day and night. 

Psalm 1:1-2

And here’s another example:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Here, Paul refers to “Scripture” in the New Testament. Since the New Testament wasn’t yet written, we know he was only referring to the Old Testament. And, with some exceptions, the Torah is the part of the Old Testament containing material for “reproof”, “correction”, and “training in righteousness”.

The above verses are a couple examples but there are many places in the Bible where the Torah is held in high regard. Psalm 119, Proverbs 4:2 and 6:20-23, Luke 11:28, and James 1:22-25 are just a few more. As Believers who base our faith on the truth of Scripture, we should likewise “delight” in the Torah.

Much of the New Testament is Quoted From the Old Testament

There are hundreds of direct quotes from the Old Testament in the New Testament and thousands of references to the Old in the New. Since many of these come from the Bible’s first five books, a study of the Torah will reveal so much about both the New Testament and about our Savior!

If you’d like to find out where the Old Testament is referenced in the New, this is another aspect of Bible study that Blue Letter Bible will greatly help you with. Depending on your Bible, the footnotes may have some of these valuable cross-references. The Scriptures Bible has quoted phrases from the Old Testament in bold print. Whatever tools you use to find out where the Old Testament is referenced, look into them and see where your studies lead to put some umph in your Bible study!

Jesus Taught from The Torah

Of the references to the Torah in the New Testament, those from Jesus himself are the most interesting. Above, I referred to when Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 as the two greatest commandments. Here are a couple more:

 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 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 5:17-19

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Luke 24:27

“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.  But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.

Luke 16:16-17

Our Savior upheld the authority of the Torah. As his followers, we should place the same importance on it. Here are more incidents of Jesus quoting the Torah.

Jesus’s Followers Practiced a Torah-Based Faith

After Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers here on earth practiced their faith based on how the Torah said to practice it. Here are some situations in which we find the apostles adhering to the Torah post-Jesus.

  • Paul circumcises Timothy (Acts 16:3).
  • Paul supported the stoning of Stephen because Stephen was reported to have been preaching against the Torah (Acts 6:11-14).  But Stephen was falsely accused. 
  • The Jerusalem Council determined Gentiles new to the faith needed to adhere to some of the commands in the Torah (Acts 15).
  • Paul is then falsely accused of preaching against the Torah (Acts 18:12-13).
  • Paul takes a Nazarite vow from Numbers 6:1-21 (Acts 18:18).
  • Paul kept the Feast Days from Leviticus 23 (Acts 18:20-21).
  • Paul was arrested twice when accused of teaching against the Torah but said in Acts 24:14 that he didn’t preach anything other than the Torah. He then helps 4 others take the Nazarite vow (Acts 21:18-24 and 21:27-28).
  • Paul appeals to the Torah, accuses Ananias of breaking it, then apologizes for mistakenly breaking it in speaking out against Ananias (Acts 23:3-5).
  • Paul says he believes all that was laid down by the Law and Prophets (Acts 24:13-14).
  • Paul says he didn’t do anything against the Law of the Jews (Acts 25:8).
  • Paul says he didn’t do anything against the customs of his people (Acts 28:17).
  • Paul tried to convince them from the Law and the Prophets (Acts 28:23).

For more on the faith of the apostles, check out The Pauline Paradox by 119 Ministries. It’s an eye-opening explanation of Pauline scripture, interpreted within the context of the entire Bible!

It Shows Us the Temple and Sacrifices

When the New Testament references the Temple, the priests, and the sacrifices to teach us about Jesus, it’s helpful to know what those were and their functions in order to understand what’s being said. Here’s an example.

 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.

Matthew 27:50-51

How would we know the function and the placement of the veil, let alone what that has to do with Jesus’s death, without a knowledge of God’s description of the Temple in Exodus 26? The more solid our Old Testament understanding, the more we get out of the references to it in the New Testament.

For a more thorough understanding of the sacrifices in depth, I recommend the book What About the Sacrifices by John Lancaster at First Fruits of Zion.

It Teaches Grace and Salvation

The concepts of both grace and salvation are introduced in many situations in the Torah. God showed grace to Adam and Eve when he spared their lives and banished them from the Garden of Eden. Those who were with Noah in the ark were saved through faith in God’s warning of destruction to come. God saved His people from slavery in Egypt when He sent plagues that eventually resulted in their freedom.

The examples go on and on in the stories of the Torah most Christians know. Before we even reach the New Testament, we’ve studied so many stories that show us just how much grace and salvation are a part of God’s character!

It Teaches the Importance of Obedience to God

From the very beginning of the Torah, we see how disobeying God can have devastating consequences. When God said not to eat the fruit in Genesis 2, He meant that. We don’t have a record of Him explaining the whys of this command or laying out exactly what “eating the fruit” meant. He just said it and they were expected to obey because God knew what was best for them and they were expected to trust Him. We know the rest of the story – they didn’t and the consequences were so serious they even continue to affect us today!

Interestingly, that’s how a lot of God’s commands throughout the Bible are. He gives them and expects us to trust Him and obey them, even if they seem irrelevant or don’t make sense to us. This story in the Garden of Eden is just one but there are many in the Torah that teach the importance of obeying God’s commands.

Although often translated “law”, the word “Torah” in Hebrew would be better translated as “instruction” or “teaching”. Instead of merely showing us where we go wrong, the Torah teaches us how to live God’s way – the way that’s best for us because our Creator chose it!

We Learn from God’s Calendar

Perhaps the most obvious explanation of God’s calendar comes from Leviticus 23, where God commands the Holy Days to be observed. He not only says which days to observe, but exactly when they’re to be observed. Leviticus 23:4 says: “‘These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim the times appointed for them” and then proceeds to list them with explanations.

The Holy Days or appointed times (Moedim in Hebrew) in Leviticus 23 are:

But this calendar was established well before Leviticus. It was in Genesis during creation that God put bodies in the sky for the purpose of allowing His people to follow His calendar.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for appointed times and for days and years”

Genesis 1:14

It’s interesting that God set his calendar in the very beginning, at creation, but what’s even more interesting is that He tends to ensure that the pivotal events in history correspond with His calendar and have meaning through that.

For example, Jesus died on Passover and rose again on the Feast of Firstfruits! This indicates that he is indeed our Passover Lamb and is the Firstfruits of those who have eternal life!

It was on Shavuot that the Hebrew people received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Then in Acts 2, when the apostles were celebrating Shavuot, God chose that day to send His Holy Spirit – the Torah written on their hearts! Isn’t that mind-blowing?!

I’ve heard Christians describe the Old Testament as irrelevant in this day and age but this is so far from the truth! The Torah reveals to us the character of the God of the Bible, the identity or our Savior, and even gives us pointers on how to live as God’s people here on earth.

A Torah Study for women? The Rooted Kafe brings that and more to you wherever you are!
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Interested in studying the whole Bible through a study of the Torah? Chances are, Torah Club has a group near you! Find a Club in your area here!

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