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the Living Torah
Torah - defining the Nature of Spirit
Circumcision

by haRold Smith

a citizen of the Commonwealth

(Ephesians 2:12)

"Watch out, so that no one will take you captive by means of philosophy and empty deceit, following human tradition which accords with the elemental spirits of the world but does not accord with the Messiah. For in Him, bodily, lives the fullness of all that YHVH is. And it is in union with him that you have been made full - He is the head of every rule and authority. Also, it was in union with Him that you were circumcised with a circumcision not done by human hands, but accomplished by stripping away the old nature's control over the body. In this circumcision done by the Messiah, you were buried along with Him by being immersed; and in union with Him, you were also raised up along with Him by YHVH's faithfulness that worked when He raised Yeshua from the dead. You were dead because of your sins, that is, because of your 'foreskin', your old nature. But YHVH made you alive along with the Messiah by forgiving you all your sins. He wiped away the bill of charges against us. Because of the regulations, it stood as a testimony against us; but He removed it by nailing it to the execution-stake. Stripping the rulers and authorities of their power, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by means of the stake." Colossians 2:8-15

Context, context, context. To properly understand the words of scripture, we must always consider the context they are presented in, the context of the Hebrew perspective they are presented from and the audience they are presented to. Paul was writing to a particular audience in this letter and his message must be understood within that audience before we can draw out any trans-cultural applications. The second verse of Colossians 1 tells us that this letter was addressed to the "saints and faithful brothers in Colossae". Throughout the Original Books (OT), those within the Jewish family of Israel were addressed as "saints" (click on highlighted words to view content) from the Hebrew kodesh meaning "apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness" - the same Hebrew word used to describe the Nature of YHVH. This is not a new word introduced into these letters, but is a "carry-over" from what was a familiar phrase written before to describe a particular people. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated "brothers") refers to siblings in a family having the same national ancestor. Paul was writing to followers of the Jewish Messiah (not the "Christ" - that phrase had not yet been formulated) in a Jewish synagogue in the Roman city of Kolossai in Turkey - the only place in the city where people congregated who worshipped the One True God of Israel, YHVH.

The term "bill of charges" from Colossians 2:14 above that is loosely translated as "record of debt" or "handwriting of requirements" by most modern versions actually comes from the Greek word cheirographon which means "a note of writing by one's own hand acknowledging the necessity of a repayment; a certificate of debt" and is the only place in scripture where it appears. What was nailed to the cross is the record of deeds, the actions committed through self-determination that caused a separation (condemnation) from the Nature of Light - not what defines His Nature. Yeshua took away that documentation of determination that said, "You Owe" which was forged in the garden with the first Hebrew, Adam, and subsequently passed to succeeding generations of Hebrews. Words mean things. However, reading this verse in most translations, there is shown to be a significant change in wording and, thus, meaning. Mostly, they say something to the effect of "having canceled the written code with its regulations". According to these translations, it was the Torah that was nailed to the cross, not the debts accumulated due to actions contrary to, disobedient to the Words that sets His Nature apart from the world - what makes Him holy. Instead, these translators would have you to believe it is the regulations, the definitions themselves that were done away with! That is the same as saying the Creator has cancelled Himself, the very Nature of Who He Is, out of existence - which is absolutely absurd (see the Word for more explanation).

The Hebrew name for "nation" is goy and is generally used to mean a nation other than Israel. The goyim (plural) were the surrounding nations, foreigners as opposed to Israel. In some instances, the Greek word used for Gentile is Hellen (as in "Hellinistic") and also generally means someone from a nation other than Israel. However, Amos 9:11-12 (quoted in Acts 15:17) is unique in its clarity that those who join themselves to YHVH's Family remain non-Hebrew by ethnicity and yet are called by YHVH's name - meaning they do not become "Jewish" but do become part of YHVH's Hebrew Family by right of adoption. Someone who is adopted not only takes on the name of the family to which they are adopted, but also adheres by the rules, regulations and attributes of that family. Acts 15:17, provides a different Greek word rendered as Gentile, ethnos, that has essentially the same meaning as goyim - "a tribe, nation, or people group, foreign nations not worshipping the true Elohim of Israel". It is only in the plural that it is used for heathen (Gentiles). James is quoting the passage from Amos to substantiate that the covenant of relationship with YHVH has always been in the heart of the Father which occurs apart from circumcision and, thus, salvation is possible apart from circumcision. And recall from Acts 15:1 that this was the issue: can non-ethnic Hebrews be in covenant apart from circumcision so that they may receive salvation even in an uncircumcised state? The answer, of course, is "yes" - but, does that also mean everything else contained in Torah no longer applies? Christians have been taught that, because circumcision is in Torah, it is equivalent to Torah and have come to that conclusion in spite of Yeshua's words otherwise. Remember, though, that Abraham was accepted in a behavioral relationship covenant with YHVH prior to circumcision. Circumcision is a sign and seal of the pre-existing covenant - not the covenant itself and not the vehicle of salvation. Genesis 26:5 says Abraham kept YHVH's covenant 430 years before those words were given on Mount Sinai and Romans 4:11-12 says he kept it before being circumcised. How was he able to do that? He was able to keep YHVH's Words because he KNEW the Nature of YHVH contained in those Words - He was in a behavioral relationship covenant with YaHoVeH.

"Wherefore remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time you were without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without Elohim in the world: But now in Messiah Yeshua you who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Messiah. He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of partition (or hostility) between us by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to YHVH in One Body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (or enmity)." (Ephesians 2:11-16)

So, just what is the "the dividing wall of hostility" Yeshua broke down between us? Tim Hegg, in his excellent article on Ephesians 2:14 (excerpts from which appear following), makes the observation that the English term translated "broke down" is the Greek word, luo, which can mean "to loose, untie, set free, break up, destroy, bring to an end, abolish, or do away with". It is used of the demolition of buildings, as in the saying of Yeshua regarding the Temple (John 2:19) or of the destruction of the ship on which Paul was traveling (Acts 27:4 - the compound form of this word, kataluo, is used by Yeshua in Matthew 5:17). Ephesians 2:16 further defines the use of luo by adding "having put to death the enmity (hostility created) by it." Contextually, the abolishing action is viewed as final - as a death. Thus, the barrier is done away with forever. But, how could that be if the temple was still standing after Yeshua's resurrection and at the time of this writing to the Ephesians?

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Greek tablet, attached to the Soreg, forbidding Gentiles to pass beyond that point. Discovered by Clermont-Ganneau in 1871. Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums.
When once asked what an expert was, Mark Twain quipped, "Someone from out of town." Some "expert" Christian theologians have assumed the barrier spoken of in this text in Ephesians is the wall which separated the clean from the unclean courts in the Temple, known as the Soreg. However, the Greek word translated "dividing wall", mesotoichon, only appears this one time in the Messianic Writings so further definition must be sought outside of the biblical text. The Greek word translated "partition" or "barrier" in this passage is phragmos, found three other times in the Messianic Writings with all using the same sense of a barrier consisting of a "fence" surrounding something. However, the balustrade preventing Gentiles and unclean-Israelites from proceeding into the court of the circumcised was never so designated in contemporary usage, nor is it labeled phragmos or mesotoichon by any ancient writer (Josephus calls the separating wall in the Temple court drufaktos lithinos meaning "fence of stone" [Ant. 15.417] and Philo also calls the wall drufaktos [leg. ad Gaium 31]). More importantly, in the inscription engraved on the balustrade itself, the wall is also referred to by this different Greek term: "No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade (Greek drufaktou) around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death." (E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice & Belief 63BCE—66CE, Trinity Press International, 1992, p. 61). If Paul had intended his readers to understand it was the physical wall within the Temple which separated clean from unclean to be what Messiah destroyed, the common Greek term, drufaktou (something doubtlessly seen time and time again entering the Temple), would certainly have been used. Plus, it seems unlikely that Paul would teach the present reality of peace between Hebrew and Gentile on the basis of Messiah's having already abolished the physical separating wall in the Temple if, in fact, it were still standing! Why, then, would the Greek phrasing mesotoichon tou phragmou (translated as "the dividing wall of partition") be used; unless - there was another point being made?

There is an acknowledged Rabbinical injunction regarding a fence around the Torah, as in Avot: "…They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence round the Law" (m.Avot 1.1 Cf. also b.Chullin 110a; b.Yebamot 20a). "R. Akiba said, Jesting and levity habituate [a man] to lewdness. [The] Tradition is a fence to the Law; tithes are a fence to riches; vows are fence to abstinence; a fence to wisdom is silence" (m.Avot 13.3). Yeshua spoke to the result of tradition in Mark 7:9-13. Additionally, the Greek term phragmos ("fence") was commonly used in the 1st Century to identify the oral Torah (the Talmud) as a "wall" or "fence" around the written Torah and the Pharisees as "builders of the wall". Finally, it was aspects of the oral Torah, not the written Torah, which laid the foundation for a strict separation between ethnic and non-ethnic Hebrews. The Ephesian text before us helps define the dividing wall with the phrase "the law of commandments in ordinances", ton nomon tOn entolOn en dogmasin (rather than all the prior usages in the Messianic Writings of ha nomos - "the law"), to denote those Rabbinic ordinances which had been, in fact, the obstacle of separation, the "fence" of dogma found at the end of this phrase. A study of the Greek word, dogma, in both the LXX and Messianic Writings confirms that the term was used of man-made laws and not of the YHVH-given Torah of Sinai (in spite of Strong's inference). We may therefore conclude that Paul adds it to his description of (nomos, "law") in order to identify the abolished law as the legal fence of the Rabbis, particularly the parts of the oral Torah that separated ethnic and non-ethnic Hebrews and, thus, were at odds with the written Torah that prophesied the unity within the promise of blessing given to Abraham. This does not mean the entire oral Torah was abolished. In fact, there are many instances recorded in the life of Yeshua where He gives clear allegiance to oral Torah. What Yeshua abolished were those Rabbinic laws which, when practiced, set aside the Torah of YHVH by separating ethnic and non-ethnic Hebrews that YHVH always intended to make one in Messiah. This was the "dividing wall, the (Rabbinic) law contained in the ordinances (of the oral Torah)." Those parts of the oral Torah that affirm the written Torah or are in harmony with it remain viable for the Messianic believer as the traditions of the fathers.

"And the foreigners who join themselves to YHVH, to minister to Him, to love the Name of YHVH, and to be His servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast My Covenant - these I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples ." Isaiah 56:6-7

Simply stated, the dividing wall within the Temple that was abolished by Messiah was none other than those rabbinic ordinances which had identified non-ethnic believers of YHVH as "unclean" and enforced a separation between ethnic and non-ethnic Hebrews in opposition to the written Torah. In fact, the Tanakh gives very clear instructions against erecting barriers to separate Israel from the nations. The foreigner who desired to worship the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by keeping His Words was to be welcomed into the Hebraic community and treated with the same respect as was given the native born (Exodus 22:21, 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34, 25:35, Deuteronomy 26:12). They were to be given full participation in matters of Torah and Torah-life (Sabbath, Exodus 23:12, cp. Isaiah 56:3; Gleanings, Leviticus 19:10; Justice, Exodus 12:49, Leviticus 24:22; Festivals, Deuteronomy 16:11, 14; Worship and Prayer in the Temple, 1Kings 8:41-43, cp. 2Chronicles 6:32-33). And the prophets pronounce judgment upon any who would neglect their responsibilities to the "foreigner" on the same grounds as neglect of orphans and widows (Psalm 94:6, Isaiah 56:3, Jeremiah 22:3, Zechariah 7:10).

To join with YHVH's Family means to be in a behavioral relationship covenant with the Father of the Family by keeping His Words - beginning with the Sabbath. Because of His obedient Life to the Words of the Father found in Torah, what was bestowed upon Yeshua was the Name of the Father that is above every name. Holding the status of firstborn gave Yeshua legal claim to the Name that was inherited. As the firstborn Son, Yeshua was able to claim the inheritance of the Family in the Name of the Father because He had become echad with the Father. Isaiah 63:19 says that those not in covenant with YHVH are not called by His Name. So we see that this idea of being called by someone's name refers to those in a relationship covenant. Yeshua's obedient Life culminating in His Resurrection fulfilled YHVH's promise of the reunification of being echad with His Family - of all ethnicities. The evidence of that reunification is provided by yet a third witness - the indwelling of YHVH's Spirit within first, His Family, and subsequently, upon all righteous Gentiles who join themselves to YHVH by keeping His Words - from without to within.

"Yeshua answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Pharisees. But my kingdom is not from the world.' Then Pilate said to him, 'So you are a king?' Yeshua answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world - to bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the Truth listens to my voice'." John 18:36-37

???Questions???
Please feel free to email me at harold@hethathasanear.com. While not claiming to have all the answers, it would be an honor to partake with you of what the Spirit is uncovering.
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