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Friday, August 3, 2018

Commonly Misunderstood Phrases by Paul

Works of the Law, Curse of the Law, Under the Law, Dead to the Law.
By Maria Merola אריאל 
© Copyright Double Portion Inheritance, March 2018

The term “under the law” as it is used by the Apostle Sha’uwl (Paul) in his epistles has been misinterpreted by the majority of Christendom to mean that we are “no longer under obligation to obey the law” of our Creator.
However, we are going to learn in this study, that Paul was consistent with the “Old Testament” and the rest of scripture, with his usage of this phrase.
I find it interesting that Paul’s usage of the phrase “under the law” can be found exactly ten times in his epistles:  Romans 3:19, 6:14, 6:15; 1st Corinthians 9:20 & 21; Galatians 3:23; 4:4 & 5; 4:21; 5:18.
It is no small coincidence that there are “Ten Lost Tribes” from the Northern Kingdom of Yisra’el (1st Kings 11:31-35), and these were sent into exile in the nations because of their “lawlessness.” Could there be a prophetic reason why the Ruwach ha’Qodesh (Holy Spirit) inspired Paul to use this phrase ten times? Is it possible that he is reaching out to the nations with this peculiar phrase “under the law?”
We are going to learn that to be “under the law” means to be “under condemnation,” or in other words “under the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).
After Adam & Chawah (Eve) sinned in the garden, YaHuWaH pronounced curses upon them:
Bereshiyth (Genesis) 3:16  Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.
Bereshiyth (Genesis) 3:17  And unto Adam he said, Because you have hearkened unto the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: cursed is the ground for your sake; in sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life;
Bereshiyth (Genesis) 3:18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the herb of the field;
Bereshiyth (Genesis) 3:19 In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.
The prophet Daniel confirmed these curses when he prayed for  the nation of Yisra’el, and acknowledged that they were under a curse for not obeying the Towrah (law) of Elohiym:
Daniel 9:11  Yea, all Yisra’el have transgressed your Towrah (law), even by departing, that they might not obey your voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the Towrah (law) of Moses the servant of Elohiym, because we have sinned against him.
From Daniel’s prayer, we get a hint of what it means to be “under the curse” of disobeying the Towrah (law).
The Apostle Sha’uwl (Paul) was being consistent with the rest of scripture when he introduced the phrase “curse of the law,” and “under the law.”
Galatians 3:13 Messiah has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.
Most Christians read Galatians 3:13 to mean that we are no longer under obligation to obey the Towrah (law) because it (supposedly) brings us under bondage and under a curse. However, we can see that Paul was not deviating from the entire counsel of scripture. Paul’s usage of this phrase is consistent with the warning given to Yisra’el in Deuteronomy:
Debariym (Deuteronomy) 28:15 But it shall come to pass, if you will not hearken unto the voice of YHWH your Elohiym, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you.
In the succeeding verses, (Deuteronomy 28:16-68), all the curses are listed for violating the commandments of Elohiym.
Our Messiah has redeemed us from the curses that we incur when we violate the Towrah. However, this does not mean that we are free to continue violating the Towrah. It simply means that when we sin, we have an advocate with the Father:
1st John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Yahuwshuwa ha’Mashiyach the righteous.
Under the Law of Freedom
If the “law of sin and death” brings us under a curse, then there has to be a law that gives us liberty and freedom. The Apostle Ya’aqob (James) used the phrase “Law of Liberty” (James 1:25 & 2:12) to imply that the Towrah (Mosaic Law) brings liberty when we are walking by faith in Messiah. And Paul is no different than James in what he is presenting to us.
In Romans 8, Paul is not teaching us that we are free to break the law. Instead he is teaching that we are free from the penalty of the law when we are being led by the Spirit.
Romans 8:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Messiah Yahuwshuwa, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yahuwshuwa has made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law [in stone or in the letter] could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, Elohiym sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The first thing you will notice is that there are four different ways the word “law” is used.
1.)    The Law of the Spirit of Life – The Holy Spirit’s power in us, which enables us to obey law.
2.)    The Law of Sin & Death – Our sinful nature, which causes us to break the law.
3.)    The Law was weak because of our sinful flesh – We are unable to keep the Law when we are in the flesh.
4.)    The Righteousness of the Law – can be fulfilled in us when we walk by the Spirit and we mortify the deeds of the flesh.
Under the Law of Sin & Death
It is evident that when Paul uses the phrase, “under the law” in his writings, he at times infuses different connotations into this phrase. Only by studying the context of the surrounding passages in which this phrase is used can we understand the exact meaning that Paul is attaching to the term “under the law.”
In these next three passages of Romans, Paul’s usage of the phrase “under the law” is obviously speaking about being “under the penalty of the law” or “under the curses for breaking the law.”
Romans 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the Towrah (law) says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before Elohiym.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
Romans 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? Elohiym forbid.
When Paul uses the phrase “under the law,” in Romans 3:19, is he referring to the Jews who were legally obligated to obey the Law of Moses, as mainstream Christianity teaches? If this is the case, then why does he speak about the whole world becoming guilty before Elohiym? The whole world isn’t Jewish, so how could Paul be referring to the whole world being “under the law,” as in being obligated to obey the Law of Moses? Furthermore, how is it that the whole world is “guilty before Elohiym?”
The answer is simple. The whole world, (including the Jews), is guilty of breaking the Laws of Elohiym. In other words, the whole world has sinned, for “sin is the transgression of the law” (1st John 3:4). Paul states this also in Romans 3:23, when he says “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of Elohiym.”
All of humanity is guilty before Elohiym of sinning. What is YaHuWaH’s punishment for sin? Paul answers that question in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of Elohim is eternal life in Messiah Yahuwshuwa our Master.”
Therefore, when Paul uses the phrase “under the law,” and applies it all humans becoming guilty before Elohiym, he is saying that all are under the Elohiym’s death penalty for violating the Towrah (Mosaic Law), because all have sinned. He is not saying that the Jews are under obligation to keep the Towrah, while the rest of the world (i.e., the Gentiles) are free to disregard the Towrah, yet this is what mainstream Christianity teaches.
Under A False Interpretation of the Law
In 1st Corinthians 9:20-22, Paul uses the phrase “under the law” four times. However, the first three times in these passages, he is using the phrase to mean “in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Towrah” as David Stern translates it in his Complete Jewish Bible and then explains reasons behind this translation in his Jewish New Testament Commentary. The Greek translation for the phrase “under the law” in 1st Corinthians 9:20 means “inferior to the law.”
The fourth time Paul uses this phrase “under the law” in 1st Corinthians 9:21, the Greek translation for “under the law” is the word “ennomos” which means “subject to the law.” This time, Paul is not using “under the law” to mean “under the penalty of the law,” as is the case with his letter to the Romans. 
Here Paul identifies four groups of people, each of which had its own view of the Towrah:
1.) Ethnic Jews who were not under Rabbinic Law.
2.) Ethnic Jews who had come under a legalistic view of the Towrah in that they believed, (for example), that circumcision was a prerequisite for salvation (certain Pharisees believed this [see Acts 15:1], and Paul was dealing with this doctrinal perversion in the first several chapters of his letter to the Romans.
3.) Gentiles who had no knowledge of the Towrah.
4.) New believers who were still weak and unstable in their faith.
In Paul’s final usage of this phrase at the end of verse 21, he adds to the phrase “under the law” the two words “in Messiah.” This changes the entire meaning of the term “under the law.” As we have noted above, “under the law,” as Paul uses it can mean “under the [penalty of] the Towrah,” or “under a legalistic perversion of the Towrah,” but here Paul is referring to Towrah obedience in the context of faith in Yahuwshuwa.
1st Corinthians 9:20 And unto the Yahuwdiym (Jews) I became as a Yahuwdiy (Jew), that I might gain the Yahuwdiym (Jews); to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law.
In the above verses from 1st Corinthians 9:20, the word “under” is the Greek word #G5259 “hupo” meaning “underneath, from an inferior position.” This tells us that to be “under the law” is to be inferior to the law of our Creator.
The word “law” in each of these instances is #G3551 “nomos” meaning “to parcel out, especially food or grazing to animals); law (through the idea of prescriptive usage), genitive case (regulation), specially, (of Moses (including the volume); also of the Gospel), or figuratively (a principle):--law.”
As you can see, the Greek word “nomos” can mean “the law of Moses,” but it can also mean a “principle in nature” such as “the law of gravity.”
This would suggest that those who are “under the law” are inferior to the Law of Moses. In other words, they are lawbreakers.
Paul was trying to win those who were Jews, as well as those who were inferior to the Towrah (law). If you keep on reading, in verse 21, he describes those who are “without the law” and he says that he became like them in order to win them to Messiah.
However, in parenthesis, he explains what he means by saying “being not without law to Elohiym, but under the law to Messiah.”
In verse 21, when he says “under the law to Messiah,” the word “under” is a different Greek word. It is not the same word “hupo,” as used in the previous verse. The word “under” in this instance is #G1772 “ennomos” meaning “subject to the law.”
Even though Paul became “all things to all men” (even to those without the law), he was still “subject to the law” of Elohiym through Messiah’s power. This tells us that those who were “under the law” in 1st Corinthians 9:20 were under Rabbinic Law, or the “traditions of men.” Our Messiah, as well as Paul chided those who would forsake the Towrah (law) of our Creator in exchange for man-made traditions:
Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of Elohiym, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do.
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Messiah.
The word “tradition” in the above verses is #G3862 “paradosis” meaning “a precept, traditional law, an ordinance.”
Let’s do a recap of 1st Corinthians 9:20-22
1st Corinthians 9:20–22 And unto the Yahuwidym (Jews) I became as a Yahuwdiy (Jew), that I might gain the Yahuwdiym (Jews); to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to Elohiym, but under the law to Messiah,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Explanation: Paul uses the phrase “under the law” four times in these two passages. Three of the four times, the phrase means the same thing, while his fourth usage is a completely different word in the Greek, even though it is translated as “under the law” in most English Bibles.
This passage explains four different categories of people, each of which had different, unbiblical views of the Towrah. In Paul’s final usage of the term “under the law,” he adds to it the phrase “to Messiah.” The phrase “under the law to Messiah” more accurately should read “in the law to Messiah,” which is how several English translations render it (e.g., the Geneva Bible, the Wycliffe Bible, Young’s) or “subject to the law of Christ.”
What did Paul mean when he said that he was “under the law to Messiah?”
In 1st Corinthians 11:1 he urges us to imitate the Messiah as he imitated him. Messiah Yahuwshuwa obeyed the Towrah (law) of Moses. If not, he was a sinner and could not have been our Savior. Yahuwshuwa instructed his followers to love him by keeping his Towrah commandments (John 14:15).
Elsewhere, Paul upholds Towrah-obedience, and he urges others to obey the Towrah. He even stated that he faithfully obeyed the Towrah himself (Romans 3:31; 7:12, 22, 25; 1stCorinthians 7:19; Acts 21:24; 24:14; 25:8).
What Paul is saying in 1st Corinthians 9:21 is that he obeys the Towrah by following Yahuwshuwa’s example. Through the power and strength of Messiah’s Holy Spirit (who has written Elohiym’s laws on our hearts), and through the divine empowerment of Elohiym’s grace at work in us, we are able to keep the Towrah properly, and therefore, we are no longer “under the law” (inferior to the law), but rather, we are “subject to the law” through Messiah!
Under the Law of Faith
In his letter to the Romans, the third chapter, Paul is not making the Towrah (Mosaic Law) void, but rather, he is illustrating that keeping the law without faith in Messiah does not bring us into a life of righteousness.
Righteousness comes by faith in Messiah “first” and then, obedience to the Towrah (law) is the “bi-product” or the “fruit” that we bring forth, showing that we have faith.
The Apostle Ya’aqob (James) explains this well in James 2:14-26 when he declares “But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
The Apostle Paul is not in contradiction with the writings of James, for he explains that we are made righteous by faith in Messiah, and not by “empty works” of attempting to obey the law without faith.
Romans 3:21  But now the righteousness of Elohiym without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
*Note: the word “without” in the above passage is the Greek word “choris” which means “separately, by itself.” This is not the same word used in 1st Corinthians 9:21, where Paul uses the phrase “without the law” (anomos) meaning “a transgressor of the law.”
Paul is expressing here that Elohiym is righteous all by himself, separately from the law. That is not to say that the law is not righteous. He is saying that Elohiym’s character is righteous, and that our righteousness comes from him. Yet, his righteousness was witnessed in the Towrah and the Prophets.
Romans 3:22  Even the righteousness of Elohiym which is by faith of Yahuwshuwa ha’Mashiyach unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
Romans 3:23  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of Elohiym;
Romans 3:24  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Messiah Yahuwshuwa:
Romans 3:25  Whom Elohiym has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of Elohiym;
Romans 3:26  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Yahuwshuwa.
Romans 3:27  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
Romans 3:28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
*Note: the word “deeds” here is the Greek word “ergon” which means “labour, toil.” Paul is expressing in the above passages, that simply doing “dead works” without faith in Messiah is pointless. We are initially justified (made righteous) by having faith in him. Yet, once we have that faith established, it is understood that we will obey the Towrah as an outward expression of our faith.
Romans 3:29 Is he the Elohiym of the Yahuwdiym (Jews) only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Romans 3:30 Seeing it is one Elohiym, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the Towrah (law) through faith? Elohiym forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Paul wraps up this chapter perfectly by making sure that we know that he is not abolishing the Towrah. He concludes that we do not make void the Towrah (Mosaic Law) because of our faith in Messiah, but rather, we all the more establish the Towrah!
For a more in depth understanding of the phrase “under the law,” see the blog entitled: “What Does it Mean to be Under the Law?”
To gain a firm foundation of the role of the Mosaic Law (Towrah) in the New Testament, I highly recommend reading my blog entitled: “Grace Establishes the Law.”
The Cult Called “Works of the Law” Found With the Dead Sea Scrolls
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he uses the phrase “Works of the Law,” to describe a specific Sect of Judaism in those days who gave themselves this title “Maaseh haTowrah” (Works of the Law). To learn more about Paul’s letter to the Galatians, see this blog: “What is a Schoolmaster & What Law Was Added Because of Transgression?”

To read more about this Gnostic Essene Sect of Judaism that enforced a non-Mosiac Law form of circumcision, click on this link:


The term Paul used in his epistles is ergoon nomou, (in the Romanised Greek), meaning the works of the law. That translates a Hebrew term, we have found now from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The term is Miqsat Ma’ase Ha’Towrah, or MMT, the translation of which, by Strugnell and Qimron, is “Some of the Precepts of Towrah.” It is found nowhere in rabbinic Judaism. It did not become normative and the understanding was hence lost. 

However, miqsat does not mean simply some. When used in MMT it does not refer to some random laws. An understanding can be gleaned from its use in the Talmud. Thus Martin Abegg considers (Paul, Works of the Law and MMT, Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov.-Dec. 1994, pp. 52 ff), that we might translate the word as some important or pertinent. Strugnell and Qimron translate the phrase ma’ase ha towrah as “precepts of Towrah.” Lawrence Schiffman suggests legal rulings of Torah (from Abegg ibid). 

Perhaps that is more generally translated as the specifics of the law. But its use in the Greek has been translated as ergoon nomou. This term was used in the Septuagint to translate the term ma’ase ha torah. The term ergoon nomou is the term used by Paul and which is translated into English as “the works of the law.” It is becoming obvious that Paul was actually talking about a view of the law which the Qumran Sect held, and which became current in non-rabbinical Judaism in the first century and did not become part of Talmudic tradition and translation.

The Cult called “Works of the Law” was no different than the Roman Catholic Church today, as they have successfully supplanted the commandments of our Creator in place of legalistic “traditions of men.

Thankfully, salvation is by the grace of Elohiym through faith in Yahuwshuwa (Ephesians 2:8–10).

To understand the phrase “Messiah is the end of the lawin Romans 10:4, see the blog: “Is Messiah The End of the Law?”

To understand Romans 7:4, where Paul declares that we are become “dead to the law, see the blog entitled: “Freed From the Law of Divorce!

In the next coming weeks, we will be addressing different contexts for the word “Law” in the New Testament Scriptures:

The Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17-19).
The Laws of Nature (Romans 2:14 & 27).
The Law of Faith (Romans 3:27).
The Law of Divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Romans 7:2-4 & Romans 7:39).
The Law of sin and death (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12; Romans 8:2).
The Law of the Spirit of Life (Romans 8:2).
The Law of the Schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24-25).
Curses for Violating the Laws of YaHuWaH (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Daniel 9:11; Galatians 3:10 & 13).
The Law of Jealousy (Numbers 5:11-30; Colossians 2:14).
The Law of the High Priest (Hebrews 7:28; Psalm 110:4).
The Works of the Law: The name of a Sect of Judaism that enforced outward circumcision in the flesh as a means to salvation (Galatians 2:16; 3:2; 3:5; 3:10).
The Perfect Law of Liberty (James 1:25 & 2:12).
The Civil Laws of the Land (Romans 13).



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