I found it amazing, when I was a Christian, how most didn’t read His Word. For example, when I disagreed with a fellow believer, instead of them sitting down and studying it out with me, most defaulted to their Preachers. Usually they would say things like “let me bring that up to my Pastor”. It boggled my mind, the unwillingness to be able to interact with God’s word first hand. Secondly, it concern me that a person would so easily surrender their responsibility to studying through God’s Word to another man. Granted, though that “man” might be a religious teacher, it did not make his words flawless. Even now that I have left Christianity, and have become more Torah centric, I find the same mindset amongst Torah believers. Admittedly, it is understandable that one would consult someone more steeped in scripture than themselves, but to make them your authority equates to making them your God. I had to dig into the Tanakh (Old Testament) to get a better understanding of where God is on this topic. Are we allowed to freely survey His Holy Writ, or do we become subservient to our religious leaders conceding that they have divine understanding and knowledge?
As a Christian, it appeared that the church had authority over God’s Word, or at least had the sanctioned understanding of His Word. Since most people are lemmings, this authority is seldom challenged. However, when it is challenged, Preachers can cherry pick verses like Hebrews 13:17 “…obey your leaders and submit to them…” using this as the crux of their authority. Yet, to context this verse we need to realize that unlike the Tanakh, the New Testament insisted on submission to civil authority: Mark 12:17, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-3, Titus 3:1,Hebrews 13:7, 1 Peter 2:13-14, 5:5 . For example, if the precepts of the New Testament were taught in Moses’ time, the Israelites would still be in Egypt and happily serving Pharaoh. So why do the New Testament and Tanakh have such polar opposite teachings? One reasons is that there may have been ulterior motives behind the New Testament and Christianity that benefitted the Roman Empire (see, Why Did Christianity Make Rome Look So Good?). For example, Roman leadership in the New Testament is painted in a positive light. This is amazing, since, historically speaking, Rome and Israel relationship was toxic, especially in the first century. Yet we have positive stories of the Roman Empire like the 3 separate tails of Roman Centurions mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7-10, 23:47, Acts 10).
Yes, the New Testament teachings can be both questionable and problematic. Nonetheless, what does the Tanakh say about the relationship of a teacher and self when studying His Word? The Tanakh is pretty clear that you are to study His Word directly; Deuteronomy 6:6-9, Joshua 1:8, Job 23:12, Psalm 1:2, 119:10-11, 15, 18. Also, if we examine Deuteronomy 6:6-7,
“These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children…
We can deduce that you are to first know His words, and then we are to teach it to others. Bare in mind, these are not special instructions for teachers but everyone’s responsibility. It also makes sense that you must have some book knowledge before you are taught. How else would you evaluate the credibility of the teacher? Understandably, to consult a subject matter expert when you get into disagreements makes sense, but it should not be your “go-to” answer without even opening up the bible.
A good way of understanding our relationship with God in learning His Word is by examining the era of Israel’s Judges. This was about 1375 BCE after the the death of Joshua. As Judges 21:25 says “In those days, there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his eyes”. In this period Israel did not have a leader like Moses and Joshua or even a King. Instead, God led Israel and Judges enforced God’s laws (1). We should view our studying of the Tanakh the same way. We have a direct responsibility in reading and studying God’s Word without putting a person between us and God. Yet, there are people in our lives, like the Judges, that can guide us. As we read on from the book of Judges, we see that the time of the Judges ended in 1 Samuel 8, after about 325 years. In 1 Samuel 8:4-9 we see the Israelites wanting a King to rule over them. This parallels to how many followers perceive their relationship with God. They don’t want that “one-on-one” study with His Word. In truth, they want their religious leader to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to studying God’s Word, and then turn around and give their interpretation. In short, they want a King to tell them what to do instead of going to the source – God. Nevertheless, in 1 Samuel 8, when the people turned their backs on God wanting a king, God’s response was “…they have rejected Me from reigning over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). This is very sad, but the lesson here is that those that do not want to process God’s Word first hand, are no better than these disengaged Israelites.
In summation, the Tanakh tells us to process God’s Word first hand. If we do get to a “stuck-point” there should not be a problem getting an opinion from someone who may know more. But; at no point are we allowed to surrender our autonomy of God’s Word to another man. We must vet our teachers, not just for our own benefit, but for theirs (Leviticus 19:17).
- Arnold, Bill T.; Williamson, H. G. M. (2005). Dictionary of the Old Testament. Intervarsity Press, USA. p. 590.
Center for Tanakh Based Studies
Many of us who walked away from Christianity and towards the Torah brought with us some questionable baggage. Many of these Christian teachings have permeated our subconscious. Mostly because some of the sermons and theology we were taught are supposedly from the Tanakh (Old Testament). This may be why we give them credence, even though our belief has change. One of the stories that comes to mind is the serpent, or in Christianity, AKA “Satan” who tempted man and brought about death to all of humanity. Although, on the surface this may appear plausible, after researching it, we will find out that it is inconsistent with God’s Word. Remember, it is crucial when we cleanse ourselves of wrongful teachings that we use His Holy Word. The Tanakh is our purging agent.
The New Testament lays out the case that because of Adam’s sin (eating the forbidden fruit) mankind is now doomed to death (Romans.5:12,19, 2 Corinthians 11:3). This concept is referred to as “Original Sin. Websters tells us Original Sin is “the state of sin that according to Christian theology characterizes all human beings as a result of Adam’s fall”. It is like Adam poisoned all of humanity with his one rebelios bit.… “but wait”, we have the antidote – it is the Christian messiah (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9, Hebrews 7:25). This is a huge motivator that has brought flocks of people to the church. Yet, what if this whole theology that Adam caused the disease of death to mankind is a misdiagnoses. We have to admit, as Christians, one of the reason JC was so important is because of our fear of the afterlife, especially if you add in a hell (a non-Tanakh belief). Yet, what if you found out that JC was just a placebo ? Many would stop going to church and hopefully would spend their time trying to find the true God.
So where did the theology of “Original Sin” start? It was actually Augustine of Hippo that taught it. Augustine was an early Christian theologian and philosopher. He lived between 354 – 430 CE, thus his teachings would have been in the 3rd or 4th century. This would have been 800 years after the Tanakh was penned, but would have been about the same time that the Christian bible was canonized. Interestingly, Augustine was very influential in the canonization process. Another point to ponder is where did Augustine’s pick up this understanding. Remember, Augustine came up with the “Original Sin” concept before the New Testament was accepted. You see, before the New Testament, there were numerous books with diversified theologies that Christians followed. In Augustine’s case, his greatest influence would have been a gentleman known as Irenaeus. Irenaeus was an early Church Father whose writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. He was also Augustine’s teacher. In the early Christian church credibility was given to how close a person was to witnessing the events of the New Testament. So as the order goes; the Christian messiah taught the Apostles, who educated Polycarp (69 – 155 CE), who instructed Irenaeus (130 -202 CE) and it was Irenaeus who educated Augustine. I guess they were looking for men closest to the source. That being said, Augustine’s opinion about “original sin” differed from his teacher, Irenaeus. Irenaeus interpreted that original sin was God’s necessary step for the education of mankind 2. So it can be said within Christianity, the idea of “Original Sin” morphed as it went down the line of Christianity’s forefathers.
Now we know that the teaching of “Original Sin” was born more than 4 millenniums after Adam. So, what does God Word say? If we actually examine Genesis 3, blocking out the “Original Sin” sermons of the past, we might hear a clearer message. For starters, the serpent, is just a serpent (Genesis 3:1). Point and case, in the three other books of the Tanakh that mention Satan, God has no problem calling Satan, Satan (1 Chronicles x 1, Job x 11, Zechariah x2). So why would He have to talk in code in Genesis? As for sinning, Adam did sin, but he had “free will” which is going to result in sin eventually. God knew this, we can tell this from His dialog with Adam before Adam eats the fruit. As you recall, God gave Adam rules and consequences (Genesis 2:16-17). You see, because of “free will” God knew man might choose evil. So, He established repercussions well before the great produce incident and He would continue to do this throughout the Torah.
Another point to ponder is that by saying we, as all of humanity, suffered the consequences of Adam’s sin is to say that we are suffering for our forefather. This is inconsistent with God’s Word. Children are not to suffer for their parent’s sins; Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 25:4; Ezekiel 18:20. Likewise, no one can intercede for us. This is proven in Exodus 32:30-33 when Moses tried to Intercedes for Israel:
“The next day Moshe said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin. Now I will go up to Adonai ; maybe I will be able to atone for your sin.” Moshe went back to Adonai and said, “Please! These people have committed a terrible sin: they have made themselves a god out of gold. Now, if you will just forgive their sin! But if you won’t, then, I beg you, blot me out of your book which you have written!” Adonai answered Moshe, “Those who have sinned against me are the ones I will blot out of my book.”
God established this intercession standard as far back as the Exodus, and He can’t go back on His Word (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29). This means not even JC can intercede for us. Additionally, if the antidote to death hadn’t showed up until JC, how did father Abraham make it into heaven (Luke 16:22)?
There is no doubt the “Original Sin” sermon makes an appealing and powerful message. In truth, it could be considered a cornerstone to the Christian faith. But, upon further examination one would have to go contrary to Torah to make it stick. Remember, God already came up with a salvation plan. So don’t look towards a human deity for an antidote when it already exists in the Tanakh; Isaiah 30:15, Malachi 3:16, Psalm 50:23, 51:19, 85:10, 103:17.
- Augustine of Hippo, Contra Julianum, V, 4.18; PL 44, 795
- “Evolution and the Sin in Eden.” Lifeissues.net,
As we read in the Torah, we find Moses telling the people of Israel, in painstaking details, what foods to eat and not eat (Leviticus 11). Later on in Deuteronomy, as part of Moses’ farewell speech, he ties up God’s commandments with a neat bow by stating “Do not add to the word which I command you, nor diminish from it, to observe the commandments of the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 4:2). We need to remember in the book of Deuteronomy Moses is restates many of the laws that were covered in the previous three books (Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers). In these restatements of important ordinances, he again beseeches the children of the Lord that “You must not eat any detestable animals that are ceremonially unclean….” (Deuteronomy 14:3). He then goes on and relists the animals that should and should not be eaten (Deuteronomy 14:4-21). Apparently this is very important to God.
Some might argue that these laws were only handed to the Israelites at Mount Sinai and the generations that proceeded them. However, when we look at Noah, a millennium earlier, we see that he knew clean verses unclean animals (Genesis 7:2). Thus these laws were established before Leviticus 11. Additionally, to think that these laws are unique to the Sinai people and would imply that God’s laws do not have a Universal application – this would be incorrect (Deuteronomy 29:9-15; Ezekiel 18:5-9; Psalm 94:12, 119:172).
So we can establish that God had His people eat clean for thousands of years. Now, 400 years after the last entry in the Tanakh (Old Testament), the Christian messiah overturns Levitical law by stating that “There is nothing outside a person which, by going into him, can make him unclean. Rather, it is the things that come out of a person which make a person unclean!” (Mark 7:15). He was talking about the ritualistic hand washing that Jews performed before eating. Many Christians believe that he was including food, which makes sense. Furthermore, shortly after the Christian messiah’s passing the new fledgling religion of Christianity made their own decision as to what could and could not be eaten. They shorten God’s list to just three items (Acts 15:20): Do not eat….
- Food offered to idols,
- Meat of strangled animals, and…
- Consuming blood.
If we have any doubts of Christianity trying to modify God’s clean food laws, Paul confirms our suspensions. The apostle Paul adds in 1 Timothy.4: 1-4 that all foods are clean. And let us not forget Acts 11:6-9. This is where Peter has a vision of eating biblically unclean foods. Some say this was God authorizing the Jews to go to the Gentiles, still most say it was Christianity getting the green light to eat pork chops and lobster bisque.
Another thing to consider is what is the benefit of God reneging on His Law? Was there a big gain in adding pork and lobster to our diet? Pork is bad for you and so isn’t shellfish, why would a loving God introduce them into our diet after saying no for 15 centuries? It could be that Christianity was attempting to appeal to the masses. Remember these unclean foods to Torah observant people were delicacies to the rest of the world. This also might be a reason why the New Testament minimized things like circumcisions. By Christianity challenging these standards it would creating fewer obstacles. Acts 15 is all about minimizing the standard. Remember this though, God had these heightened standards to set His people apart, to be Holey. When there is no standard and nothing to set you apart you are no longer Holey, you are common.
God was specific in His laws and made sure to add the disclaimer that no one has the right to mess with His ordinances (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32). Yet, we have four verses within the add on religion of Christianity that convey that His food laws are no longer relevant. Granted, in some more Torah observant Christian sects they do argue that God’s food laws are still intact. These people can pretty much minimize or explain away the New Testament verses that appear to counter God’s Word on eating clean. What they can’t absolve is the first Christian church taking liberties by both shortening and altering His list (Acts 15:20). Again, God gave us a simple measuring stick:
Deuteronomy 11:26-28 … I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.