Rabbi’s Reflections – Wednesday, February 8, 2023
What A “Baligan” – Romans, part 22
Romans 2:12 For all who have sinned outside of Torah will also perish outside of Torah, and all who have sinned according to Torah will be judged by Torah. 13 For it is not the hearers of Torah who are righteous before God; rather, it is the doers of Torah who will be justified.
Wait! Where did this come from? I thought Paul was anti-Torah, after all, many scholars think so. But we have to judge Paul based on his own writings, not on what someone else thinks about him. Besides, all this talk about judgment in the age of grace makes me nervous. Make no mistake, these passages are among the most difficult in the Bible.
Let’s start to “unpack” this with a definition of Torah. You might ask, why this is even necessary. After all, we carry the Torah around the congregation every Sabbath Day, and read from it. We know what it is, it is the Five Books of Moses written on sheepskin parchment. But different people mean different things when referring to “Torah.” Many rabbis say “Torah” and mean the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud. When they say, “I’m going to study Torah,” they mean, “I’m going to study the Talmud (which is rabbinic commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures). This is an important distinction.
So, when we read these verses of Romans 2, what do we believe Paul means by using the word Torah? In Greek it is “Nomos,” which is the Pentateuch (Five Books). But the Pentateuch is a revelation of God’s righteous principles, and this goes to the heart of the issue. The rabbis believe the Talmud is included in the revelation of God’s righteous principles, and I do not.
I do, however; believe that all of Scripture (Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament) are included. Also, keep in mind that Paul’s letters were not yet part of the canon of Scripture when these words were written. Finally, remember that the New Testament is based on and is consistent with the Hebrew Scriptures.
All this talk of hearers and doers seems inconsistent with our modern concept of grace. Then add to that the confusion of sinning outside of Torah and sinning according to Torah, and you’ve got what we call in Hebrew a “Baligan” (ridiculous mess).
Rabbi Trail: So much for “seeker friendly.” Those who promote seeker friendly will bend in the wind, while Scripture calls us to stand. Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist when the times are evil, and after you have done everything, to stand firm. That whole armor starts with the “buckle of truth.” But a “seeker friendly” church doesn’t know the truth. It tells people, “Come just as you are and you are acceptable before God. No change needed.” End RT.
Many people have made a mess of life. God is calling those who follow Him to come out of the mess and allow Him to “put us in order.” How will He do that? According to His righteous principles. There is much more to write, but this is just a short RR devotional. So let’s stop here for today and try again tomorrow. Shalom shalom.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Wed 8-Feb-2023 17th of Sh’vat, 5783
Ex 19:1-6 2 Ki 4 Ps 124-125 Jn 7:1-24 (1 Ti 2)