What Galatians Really Says

This past week, an unbelieving Jew-turned-Christian friend of mine, a very visible music artist in the Christian community, announced to the world that Messianics ought to read aloud the book of Galatians at their Passover Seders, drop all forms of Judaism, and be “free from Torah bondage”.

It was a bit discouraging to read this from a fellow Jew and believer in Messiah. Yet more discouraging to know that it is gentile Christians who have led him to this belief. Yet more discouraging still that many Christians are probably rejoicing in such news of Jewish abandonment of Torah and adoption of Christianity and Mother Church.

In response, I told my friend, “I’ll read Galatians until it agrees with Messiah in Matthew 5!”

In the end, though, I’m none too worried about my friend. I think he’s rebelling against his former religion. It’s something that God will work out in him in the proper timing and in His own way. I’m certain of it.

But Galatians itself is another matter. It is a key Pauline letter that Messianics often skip over without properly addressing. Messianic apologist J.K. McKee writes,

For Messianics today, Galatians often proves to be a problem text, as a surface reading of Galatians may appear to be quite negative toward a lifestyle of Torah obedience. As is summarized by most Christians, “Certain Jewish teachers, who professed to be Christians and acknowledged Jesus as Messiah, were obscuring the simplicity of the gospel of free grace with their propaganda. They insisted that to faith in Christ must be added circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic Law” (NIDB, 367). Similarly, much of the Messianic movement has been accused of doing the same thing.

Indeed, when Christians confront me with some Pauline quip from Galatians, my usual response is, “Ok, now fit that in with the rest of Scripture.” Very little addressing of Paul’s actual letter is done.

Later this week, I will write some of my own thoughts on Galatians and Judaism that I’ve re-evaluated over the years. But today, I wanted to post a paper by Dr. Daniel Botkin on the topic of Galatians. It’s a great read and well-grounded. It reflects many of the thoughts that have been on my mind regarding Paul. I hope you fine blog readers can muster the attention span to read it through. Enjoy.


The Ghost of Marcion and What Galatians Really Says

by Dr. Daniel Botkin

If a person has a fair amount of exposure to Mainstream Christianity, and a familiarity with the Bible, he may notice that Mainstream Christianity often de-emphasizes the Old Testament and puts a disproportionate amount of emphasis on Paul's epistles. I would hesitate to say that any part of the Scriptures could be overemphasized. However, if we give uncalled-for weight and emphasis to certain parts of the Bible, and neglect what the rest of the Scriptures teach about an issue, we will probably develop an imbalanced view of that particular issue.

By volume, Paul's epistles make up approximately 5% of the Bible. Paul's writings are Holy Scripture, but neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit expected us to give more weight and authority to these epistles than we do to the Old Testament or to the rest of the New Testament.

By putting a disproportionate amount of emphasis on these letters that Paul sent to various churches, we fail to follow the example of Paul, who told the Ephesians, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Ac 20:27). By neglecting certain parts of the Bible, we ignore Paul's declaration that “all Scripture is inspired and is useful” (2Tim. 3:16).

Christianity's strong emphasis on Paul's writings and lack of emphasis on so much of the rest of the Bible is puzzling. It is especially puzzling when we consider Peter's warning about Paul's writings: “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort. As they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2Pet.3: 16)

If it was easy for Paul's contemporaries to misunderstand his epistles, we can be sure that it will be even easier for us to do so, with out limited knowledge of the situations and problems Paul was addressing when he wrote to these various churches. Yet some Christians, perhaps unknowingly, are more intent on following the easy-to-misunderstand teaching contained in Paul's letters than they are on following the plain teaching of the Messiah Jesus contained in the Gospels.


What caused the Church to being paying so much attention to Paul?

How did this shift of focus come about? What caused the Church to begin paying so much attention to Paul and so little attention to the Law and the Prophets and other parts of the Bible? To discover the answer to this question, we must go all the way back to the Second Century. After all the original Apostles had died, other people took on the responsibility of continuing the Church’s work. The original Apostles were all Jews, who had been exposed to the teaching of the Law and the Prophets since their childhood. The leaders who replaced them were mostly gentiles from pagan backgrounds, who had comparatively little understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures. We can read about these people in various documents from the Second Century. One Church historian has this to say about these documents:
  "Many stories come in versions so distorted that it is hard to decide whether the principal characters were worthy successors to the apostles, or the devil's own agents. Perhaps their contemporaries were as uncertain as we were."1

There is one character, however, which was undoubtedly one of the devil's own agents: The heretic Marcion, who lived in the second half of the Second Century. Marcion taught that the entire Old Testament should be rejected because it belonged to an evil, inferior God, and not to the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth.

Marcion was very anti-Jewish; therefore he also rejected any New Testament writings which appeared to speak favorably of "Jewish practices" (i.e., keeping the laws and commandments of the Old Testament). As one writer notes, "Marcion started the trend which has had many followers right up to the present –– if it doesn't suit the theory, excise it as spurious or an interpolation."2

By the time Marcion finished editing the Scriptures, his "Bible" consisted of nothing more than Luke's Gospel (minus the "Jewish" elements) and ten of Paul's epistles. Paul, Marcion taught, was the only apostle who could be trusted. Marcion's anti-Jewish; pro-Paul churches spread throughout the Roman Empire and soon became a major threat to the Messianic faith. According to historians, Marcion's heresy continued to spread until it finally died out sometime around the Fifth Century.

We who claim to believe the Bible must ask ourselves an important question: Did Marcion's anti-Jewish, anti-Old Testament, pro-Paul heresy really die out? Or did the Church simply succumb to it and accommodate it and incorporate it, in a subdued form, into Mainstream Christianity?

Of course our Bible, unlike Marcion's, includes the Law and the Prophets, but how much do we heed their instruction? When we examine the average Christian’s attitude to the Law and the Prophets, it is obvious that the ghost of Marcion is very much alive in the church today.

Although the Church pays lip service to the inspiration and authority of all the Scriptures, its de-emphasis of the Law, the Prophets, and anything "Jewish," and its heavy emphasis on Paul, reveals that the Church today is basically Marcionite in practice. For those who doubt this assertion, let us examine some things that Marcion taught, and we will see that the spirit of Marcion still has a very strong influence of the Church today.

Marcion's most influential writing was a work entitled Antithesis, described as "a highly competent work" which consisted of "contrasted statements arranged to prove the incompatibility of the law and the gospel".3

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) there are no known copies of Antithesis in existence. What we know about Marcion's teachings comes mainly from the writing of those who opposed his heresy.

Two 'Gods'?

The one to write the most about Marcion was Tertullian, a church leader who wrote a lengthy work called Against Marcion. Tertullian describes Antithesis as "A work strained into making such a division between the Law and the Gospel as thereby to make two separate gods, opposite to each other, one belonging to one instrument (or, as it is more usual to say, testament), one to the other, and thus lend its patronage to faith in another gospel, that according to Antithesis."4

No real Christian today would admit to believing in two gods, of course. Yet many believers make such a division between Old Testament Law and New Testament grace, that they view the Law as something opposed to grace. The law is seen as something obsolete and of little use to a Christian. Such a warped view of God's Law will carry over into our view of God Himself. If God's Old Testament Law is opposed to God's New Testament grace, we end up with either a schizophrenic God, or Marcion's two gods.
  "Marcion sets up unequal gods." Tertullian writes, "The one a judge, fierce and warlike, the other mild and peaceable, solely kind and supremely good."5

Is this not exactly what many Christians do? They shun the "Old Testament God" because He is too stern and fierce. They focus instead upon the "New Testament God," who, in their minds, does not expect obedience to His laws. Listen to Tertullian's description of Marcion's God, and see if it is not a description of the god presented by the Church today: Marcion's god "displays neither hostility nor wrath." He "neither condemns nor disdains" and "does not punish." "A better god has been discovered," Tertullian sarcastically writes, "one who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts punishment……..he is merely kind. Of course he forbids you to sin—but only in writing. It lies with you whether you consent to accord him obedience."6

"To what purpose does he lay down commands?" Tertullian asks. "This god is exceptionally dull-witted if he is not offended by the doing of that which he dislikes to see being done."7

We might ask ourselves the same question about the God we worship: To what purpose does He lay down commands? We are certainly not Justified by keeping the Law. We are justified by faith. But after we are justified, what are we to do with God's Commandments? Are we to put them into practice, or are we to disobey them?

One thing that has helped the ghost of Marcion to thrive so well in the Twentieth Century Church, is the popularity of the Scofield Reference Bible. Even Christians who have never seen a Scofield Bible have probably been affected by it indirectly, through preachers and teachers who have been influenced by it.

The Scofield Bible contains many excellent study notes and aids to understanding the Scriptures. Several of Scofield's notes, however, strongly suggest a Marcionite view of Law and Grace. A reader of Scofield's notes is left with the impression that Law and Grace are mutually exclusive.

Scofield's anti-law bias has fed and nurtured and sustained the tares of nomophobia (fear of the Law) that Marcion sowed in the Church nineteen centuries ago. As the end of the age approaches, God is sending forth His messengers to uproot these tares, so His wheat can mature and bring forth the fruit of obedience to God's Laws. 


Spirit of Lawlessness

A spirit of lawlessness has been hanging over the Church for most of its history. Some Christians have been influenced by it more than others have, of course. Paul saw it beginning in his lifetime. Second Thessalonians speaks about “The secret power of lawlessness” Which was “already at work” when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians.

Paul told the Thessalonians that before the Messiah returned, there would be a “falling away” (apostasy, “departure from truth”). This departure from the truth would then open the door for something called “The man of lawlessness” to come forth. This “coming of the lawless one” would be accompanied by “all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” which would “deceive those who are perishing.”

“They perish because they refused to love the truth and be saved,” Paul writes. “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.” In preparation for the Return of the Messiah, God is also sending powerful revelation to graciously expose the ancient lie, so that those who love the truth can depart from error and be freed from the bewitching influence of the spirit of lawlessness.

In 1989, Ted Turner of CNN declared the Ten Commandments obsolete and offered his own “Ten Voluntary Initiatives” as an alternative to God’s outdated laws. No one should take Turner seriously, of course, but he did make one comment that deserves our attention. “Nobody around likes to be commanded,” he said. “Commandments are out.”8

Christians may scoff at Turner’s idea of replacing God’s Laws with human ideas, yet is this not the very thing the Church has done with some of God’s Commandments? We have replaced the 24-hour, seventh-day Sabbath with an hour or two of Sunday morning worship; we have replaced the Biblical holy days with holidays of pagan origin; we have replaced God’s dietary guidelines with our own ideas about what we should eat.

After a person has been forgiven and justified by faith, where should he look for moral instruction? Should he look to God’s Commandments to tell him how to live the Christian life, or should he ignore God’s Commandments and live according to man’s suggestions? Even Scofield, in spite of all his anti-law bias and nomophobia, concedes that the Old Testament commandments “are used in the distinctively Christian Scriptures as an instruction in righteousness.”9


Against Marcion

In Against Marcion, Tertullian accuses Marcion and his followers of “forbidding what (God) commands and commanding what He forbids.”10

The ghost of Marcion continues to do this in the Church today. Mainstream Christianity has criticized believers for keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, for celebrating the Biblical holy days, for practicing the dietary law, and for refusing to shave their beards—things that God has commanded. And, like Marcion, Mainstream Christianity often commands what God forbids: “Forget the Sabbath. Ignore the holy days and dietary laws. And shave that beard, so you will look like a Christian!” (Many Bible colleges and seminaries command their students to shave their beard, in spite of God’s command in Lev. 19:27).

Marcion, like many church leaders today, misused the words of Jesus and the words of Paul to support this nomophobic, anti-Jewish, pro-Paul gospel. Tertullian rightly points out that Jesus’ verbal attacks on the teachers of the Law were not aimed at the Law itself, but at man’s perversion and misuse of God’s Law. “He is not criticizing the burdens of the law,” Tertullian writes. The burdens Jesus criticized were, according to Tertullian, “those which they piled on of their own, teaching for precepts the doctrines of men.”11

Tertullian shows the importance Jesus attached to keeping the commandments when he writes about the rich young ruler who approached Jesus: “So when he is asked by that certain man, “Good “Teacher, what shall I do to obtain possession of eternal life?”, he inquired whether he knew –which means, was keeping, the Creator’s Commandments….Come now, Marcion, and all you companions in the misery and sharers in the offensiveness of that heretic, what will you be bold enough to say? Did Christ here rescind those former commands….?12

Tertullian opposes Marcion’s misuse of Paul’s writings by pointing out the “Jewishness” of Paul’s faith, and then asking, “What had (Paul) still to do with Jewish custom, if he was the destroyer of Judaism?”13

He also refers to Romans 7:7, to combat Marcion’s hatred of the Law: “What shall we say then? That the law is sin? God forbid.”Shame on you, Marcion. God forbid: the apostle expresses abhorrence of complaint against the law…Yet he adds even more: “The Law is holy, and its commandment is just, and good.”14 As Tertullian points out later, “you cannot make a promoter of the law into an opponent of it.”15

Unfortunately, the Church ignored Paul’s positive statements about the Law and Jesus’ warning about the necessity of continuing to practice and teach the Old Testament commandments. (See Matt. 5:17-19)

The Epistle of Barnabas, an influential letter written in the Second Century, indicates the general direction the church was heading in its attitude to the Old Testament. “The main theme of Barnabas,” writes one church historian, “is a spiritualization of the Mosaic Law. The writer holds that the Jews were wrong to take the Old Testament literally.”16

Everything in the Old Testament was allegorized to give it a Christian meaning. Even the commandments were taken figuratively, because, according to Barnabas, “The Law of Moses had never been meant to be taken literally.”17

Even the dietary restrictions were said to represent not actual food, but various kinds of sinful habits.

Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho also shows early Christianity’s negative attitude toward the Law. Trypho the Jew expresses bewilderment when he tells Justin, “(You Christians) spurn the commands…and then try to convince us (Torah-observant Jews) that you know God, when you fail to do those things that every God-fearing person would do. If, therefore, you can give a satisfactory reply to these charges and can show us on what you place your hopes, even though you refuse to obey the Law, we will listen to you most willingly, and then we can go on and examine in the same manner our other differences.”18

Justin replies by saying that the Law is “obsolete,” “abrogated,” “voided,” and tells Trypho, “You understand all in a carnal way.”19

Not all followers of the Messiah were influenced by the nomophobic, anti-Old Testament, pro-Paul gospel of Marcion. There is historical evidence of several groups of believers who practiced the Law as an expression of their faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah.

After Trypho asks Justin about the possibility of believing in Yeshua as the Messiah and continuing to observe the commandments, Justin writes his reply: “Yes, Trypho, “I conceded, there are some Christians who…desire to observe as many of the Mosaic precepts as possible—precepts which we think were instituted because of your hardness of heart—while at the same time they place their hope in Christ…”20 Justin obviously disagreed with these Law-keeping Messianic believers, but he does acknowledge their existence.

The best-known of these groups who believed in Yeshua and practiced the Torah were the Nazarenes and the Ebionites. There were other groups, more obscure and far less orthodox, such as the Elchasaites and the Pseudoclementines.21

Some doctrinal errors in some of these predominately Jewish groups probably contributed to the decision of the Mainstream, Gentile Church to adopt Marcion’s anti-Law, anti-Jewish attitude. One writer notes that “Jewish Christianity in various forms continued as a disturbing factor until almost the Fifth Century.”22

It is interesting that this is the same time that Marcion’s heresy supposedly “died out.” Once Marcion’s error (in a modified, subdued form) had been fully assimilated into the Mainstream Church, “Jewish Christianity” was no longer a “disturbing factor” because the Law-keeping Christians were greatly outnumbered by those who had adopted Marcion’s attitude toward the Law. The number of those who upheld both the Torah and the Messiah (see Rev. 12:17 & 14:12) was so insignificant by the Fifth Century that the Mainstream Church no longer considered them a threat. They could now be written off as a fringe group, and conveniently ignored. Though they were few in number compared to the now-Marcion-ized Mainstream Church, these groups who upheld both the Torah and the Messiah continued to exist until at least as late as the Tenth Century.23

While Mainstream Christianity, influenced by Marcion, de-emphasized the law and over-emphasized Paul, groups such as the Ebionites totally rejected Paul, viewing him as an apostate and enemy of the Law. Both of these extremes are distortions of true, Biblical faith in the Messiah.

The solution is not to reject either Paul or the Law; the solution is to view Paul’s writings in a way that will allow them to harmonize with what the rest of the Bible says about the Law.

How should a disciple of Yeshua / Jesus view Paul’s epistles? For those who desire to be faithful and to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, “ seven guidelines are listed below. The Bible student should keep these guidelines in mind when reading Paul’s writings.


Over-All Biblical Context

Paul’s epistles, like any other part of Scripture, must be viewed in the light of the entire Bible. This means that when we are dealing with the Law, we must not focus in on a few statements Paul made, and ignore everything else the Bible says about God’s Law. As pointed out earlier, Paul’s writings make up approximately 5% of the Bible. Paul’s writings must be understood in a way that will make them compatible with what the other 95% of the Bible says. In other words, let the other 95% of the Bible interpret the 5% that Paul wrote.

It is important to remember that for many years, the Old Testament was the only Bible the Early Church had. The New Testament writings were gradually accepted into the canon of the Scriptures. It was not until about the middle of the Second Century that the term “The Scriptures” referred to the New Testament as well as the Old Testament.24 Therefore, when New Testament writers mention “The scriptures” or “The commandments,” they are referring to the Old Testament.

Historical Context

The New Jerusalem Bible, in its “Introduction to Paul,” makes this statement: “It is important to remember that Paul’s letters were not meant as theological treatises: most of them represent his response to a particular situation in a particular church….Paul’s letters do not give any systematic and exhaustive exposition of his teachings; they presuppose the oral teaching which preceded them, and enlarge and comment only upon certain points of that.”25

Because Paul often wrote to correct particular problems in particular churches, we must have some knowledge of the situation Paul was addressing if we are to understand his writings. Sometimes the problem can be inferred from Paul’s remarks, but often we are left with little or no knowledge of the situations Paul was dealing with.

Theologians often try to reconstruct the historical backgrounds of the epistles and make educated guesses about the problems Paul was addressing. This can be a noble effort, if it is done in a sincere attempt to come to a clearer understanding of what Paul taught. Unfortunately, many people come to an understanding of Paul that contradicts what the rest of the Bible teaches, either by incorrectly reconstructing the historical background, or by ignoring it altogether.


Peter's Warning

It is important to bear in mind Peter’s warning that Paul’s letters are not easy to understand: “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position” (2Pet.3:16f).

Those with little or no knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures are especially apt to misinterpret Paul’s writing to their own ruin. Notice, it is not the Law-keeping disciples of Yeshua who distort Paul’s epistles—it is “lawless men” that Peter warns us about.


Jesus' Warning

Early in His ministry, the Messiah spoke this warning to His followers: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17-19).

Our Master’s warning seems plain and simple enough to understand, yet many Christians mistakenly believe that by fulfilling the Law, He thereby abolished it. This is exactly what He is warning us not to think! “I have come to fulfill the Law, “: He says, “but do not even think that by fulfilling it, I am thereby abolishing it.”

Sometimes it is easier for people outside Mainstream Christianity to see the blindness of Christians in this area. The Jewish Encyclopedia quotes Jesus’ warning of Matt. 5:17, and then makes this bold statement: “The rejection of the Law by Christianity, therefore, was a departure from its Christ.”26

In an article with the catchy title, “Jesus Was Not a Christian,” the writer points out that “Jesus certainly wouldn’t have been recognized as a Christian throughout his entire life. “He scrupulously adhered to the Law of Moses” and “enjoined his disciples to keep every detail of the Torah.”27

A story in the New York Yiddish Forward tells of a reporter’s encounter with an old Hasidic Jew in Paris years ago. This Jew had a fervent faith in Jesus as the Messiah. When the reporter asked him about the compatibility of Orthodox Judaism and belief in Jesus, the old man replied, “Who then should believe in Him, the gentiles?” The reporter describes the old man’s remarks this way:

“He said that only Jews can truly accept belief in Jesus as the Messiah and regard him as the last prophet, for gentiles can never accept such a lofty faith. It is next to impossible for them to walk in His ways, for first of all, Yeshua, as he called Him, commanded to observe all the Jewish laws, the entire Torah, and gentiles do not even know this.”28

Of course it is not impossible for gentiles to accept and practice such a lofty faith. The question is, will they do it? Or will they continue to cling to the lies of Marcion?


Paul's Positive Statements About the Law

Many Christians overlook or choose to ignore the positive things Paul said about the Law. He writes, for example, “The Law is holy, and the Commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). Paul says, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law” and “I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s Law” (Rom. 7:22,25).

He tells Timothy, “We know that the Law is good if one uses it properly” (ITim. 1:8). To the Corinthians he writes, “Keeping God’s Commandments is what counts” (ICor.7:19). Even when explaining the righteousness that comes by faith, Paul is careful to make sure his readers know that their faith does not give them an excuse to ignore God’s Law: “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the Law” (Rom.3:31).

Paul's Negative Statements About the Law

Paul, in his negative statements about the Law, was not criticizing the Law itself, but man’s misuse of the Law. The Law was meant to be a moral guide for a people already justified by faith, but some people in Paul’s day were depending on their Law-keeping as the means of their justification before God. What Paul criticized was not Law-keeping itself, but making Law-keeping the basis of one’s justification before God.

Between the Babylonian Captivity and the time of the Messiah, Israel developed an erroneous understanding of the Law’s purpose. The Jews who first returned from Babylon knew that their exile had been the result of the breaking of God’s Laws; therefore, they put a heavy emphasis on the Law when they returned to their homeland. Unfortunately, this new emphasis eventually developed a theology that caused some people to erroneously view Law-keeping, rather than faith, as the key to their justification. Paul’s negative statements about the Law were simply his attempts to correct this erroneous use of the Law.

One writer puts it this way: “Paul, in his epistles, affirms the Law, yet condemns the wrong emphasis men place upon it. In this sense he is turning believers back to the original intent of the law, it being a rule for godly living for those who are already redeemed. He rejects the later shift towards making it a means of salvation.”29

Another author says basically the same thing when he writes, “Paul rejects the law as a “Method of Salvation” but upholds it as a “Standard for Christian Conduct.”30

To dispel these false accusations, the elders of Jerusalem had Paul go with four men who had taken a vow (probably a Nazarite vow), telling Paul that in this way “all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also work orderly, keeping the Law” (Acts 28:17).

To his Jewish accusers from Jerusalem, Paul said, “I have committed No Offense, either against the Law of the Jews or against The temple”(Acts 25:8). To the Jews in Rome, he repeated the same testimony: “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people, or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner into the hands of the Romans” (Acts 28:17).

Paul's Example

It is very clear that Paul continued to keep the Law after he met the Messiah. The only thing that changed was Paul’s reason for keeping the Law. Before, he had kept it in an effort to be justified before God. After meeting the Messiah, he found the justification he had sought through his Law-keeping. Paul was justified through faith, and the Law was internalized, “written upon the heart,” as Jeremiah prophesied it would be (31:31-34). Now he desired to obey God’s commandments because of the inward impulse of his new nature. His obedience was no longer the result of an external compulsion to justify himself before God by Law-keeping. Thus, he was free to obey “in the way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code: (Rom.7:6).

By keeping the Law, in the right way and for the right reasons, Paul left an example for all disciples to follow, whether Jew or non-Jew. Some people seem to think that only Jewish believers were expected to continue practicing Torah. The so-called “Great Commission” rules out this possibility. When Jesus instructed His Jewish disciples to go to “all nations (Gentiles),” He told them to teach the Gentile nations “to obey everything I have commanded you (My Jewish Disciples)” (Matt.28:18ff). He commanded His Jewish disciples to obey the Torah (Matt 5:17-19 & 23:1-2), and they were to teach the Gentiles to do it.

The key to godly living is not to ignore the Law and elevate Paul, as Marcion did. Nor is the solution to overemphasize the Law and reject Paul, as the Ebionites and others did. The solution is to do what Paul said to do: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of the Messiah” (Icor.11:1). If we truly follow Paul’s example, as he followed the example of Messiah, we will begin to practice Old Testament commands that the Church has ignored or changed.

A.W. Tozer wrote, “Probably no other portion of the Scriptures can compare with the Pauline epistles when it comes to making artificial saints.”31 Let us avoid artificial sainthood by keeping in mind the above-mentioned seven guidelines for understanding Paul’s epistles.

As we let the naked truth of Holy Scripture renew our minds and change our thinking, the sunlight of God’s Word will dispel the mist of the ghost of Marcion. We will find ourselves transformed as the fog lifts, and as we see the Law as God always meant it to be seen: as something positive, holy, and good, “if one uses it properly” (1Tim.1:8).

Let those who wish to whole-heartedly follow the Messiah begin to learn the commandments, practice them, and teach them to others, for ”whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19). As we banish the ghost of Marcion, the “spirit of lawlessness,” from our theology, we will see the commandments not as a yoke of bondage, but as a moral guide by which we can joyfully live a life that is pleasing to the Heavenly Father. Then we will be able to rejoice in God’s commandments as the psalmist did:

“I will praise You with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws…I rejoice in following Your statutes as one rejoices in great riches…I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on Your laws. I hold fast to Your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path Of Your commands, for You have set my heart free…I will always Obey Your law, forever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I Sought out Your precepts…Great peace have they who love Your Law, and nothing can make them stumble” (Ps.119:7,14,30-32, 44f,165).

  1. Smith, M.A. From Christ to Constantine (London: Intervarsity Press, 1971), p. 14.
  2. Ibid., p.53.
  3. Tertullian, Against Marcion, trans. And ed. Ernest Evans (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. xv.
  4. Tertullian, IV.1.
  5. Ibid.,I.6
  6. Ibid.,I.26f
  7. Ibid.
  8. Turner''s Commandments, ""Peoria Journal Star, 27 Oct., 1989, section D, p.22.
  9. The Scofield Reference Bible, ed. C.I.Scofield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1917), p.1245.
  10. Tertullian, IV.1.
  11. Ibid., IV.27
  12. Ibid., IV.36.
  13. Ibid., V.5.
  14. Ibid., V.14.
  15. Ibid., V.17.
  16. Smith, p.39
  17. Eerdman''s Handbook to the History of Christianity, ed. Tim Dowley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977), p.102.
  18. Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, ch.10.
  19. Ibid., ch.11, 14
  20. Ibid., ch.47.
  21. Austin, Bill R. Austin''s Topical History of Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1983) p.72f.
  22. Ibid., p.73.
  23. Flusser, David Jewish Sources in Early Christianity (New York: Adama Books, 1987), p
    Guidelines How to View Paul
  24. Smith, p. 63.
    Guidelines How to View Paul
  25. The New Jerusalem Bible, ed. Henry Wansbrough (New York: Doubleday and Co.,1985), p.1852f.
    Guidelines How to View Paul
  26. The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. Isidore Singer New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls, 1903), Vol.V.,p.52.
  27. John Murray Smoot, Jesus Was Not a Christian, “A Way in the Wilderness, ed. M.G. Einspruch (Baltimore: The Lederer Foundation, 1981), p.28
  28. J. Feldman, “Yozel’s Hasid, “The Ox, the Ass, the Oyster, ed. Henry and Marie Einspruch (Baltimore: The Lederer Foundation, 1975), p.74.
    Guidelines How to View Paul
  29. Michael Schiffman, “A Pauline Understanding of the Place of the Law for New Covenant Believers, “The Messianic Outreach, 7:3 Spring 1988, p.9.
  30. Bacchiocchi, Samuele The Sabbath in the New Testament (Berrien Springs, MI: University Printers, 1985), p.101.
  31. Gems From Tozer (England: Send the Light Trust, 1969), p.18


  1. Two things I'd like to add:

    1. Aviad Cohen was never Orthodox, but was a non-religious Jew who met "Jesus" around the time he was beginning to look into becoming more religiously Jewish.

    2. The "works of the law" statement (ma'asei haTorah) used frequently in Galatians is talking about a specific term. "Works of the law" is not found in any Rabbinic writing whatsoever, but is a concept found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
    The Dead Sea Scrolls are Essene writings, and the Essenes who once were united with the Pharisees and were all called the Chassidim, split off from the Pharisees because they favored stricter halachot (ways to keep the Torah). The Essenes' ultra-strict halachot were called Ma'asei HaTorah - the exact term Rav Shaul uses in Galatians.

    What does this mean? Galatians is not talking about ANYTHING having to do with anything Rabbinic/Pharisaic/Talmudic
    , but rather that of the Essenes who were stricter.
    This is not to approve of Pharisaic/Rabbinic Judaism and disapprove of Essene Judaism - this is simply to set the writings of Galatians in proper, TRUTHFUL context.(Know that the Nazarenes descended from, almost exclusively, Pharisees and Essenes, so this was a real issue then.)If this understanding about Ma'asei HaTorah isn't known - nobody is going to have a very accurate picture of what Galatians is REALLY really talking about. That's why people shouldn't even read any of the writings of Shaul until they understand first century Judaism very well.

    And even more, if people aren't even over the hump that Rav Shaul was a pro-Torah Pharisaic Jew, then they DEFINITELY should not be reading Galatians, nor be reading any of the so-called "New Testament" whatsoever - it will only be detrimental to the Truth of Torah.


  2. Aaron,

    I had read some of his story and understood him to be coming into Orthodox Judaism (were his parents observant?) before he met Messiah.

    Regarding ma'asei haTorah, J.K. McKee has a good FAQ on Galatians the the Works of the Law mentioned within. He does some real solid academic research to arrive at conclusions regarding Galatians the the works of the Law.

  3. Of my knowledge, his mom is, but he wasn't until he started to look into becoming more observance - that is then when he had an encounter with whoever he had an encounter with.

    Yeah, I saw the references to the Dead Sea Scrolls in there, I just wanted to add more emphasis on what it meant in relation to the beliefs of the Essenes, Pharisees, and the original Nazarenes.

  4. Ok, thanks for the correction. I've removed the Orthodox term from the post.

  5. Aviad Cohen... it's sad sight - it seems that he's become a classic convert Jew who turns against Judaism and his former coreligionists in anger and vitriol. His rants are now bordering on anti-Semitic, with anti-Judaism/Jewish conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure. Here's an interview with him to show you what I mean: http://www.letstalkmoshiach.info/2009/02/episode-messianic-jewish-mysticism.html

    Very sad - when he first found Yeshua, I really was hoping that he'd become a devout Messianic Jew. But he's become a TBN show Christian. I pray that some day he wakes up before he does too much damage to our Jewish nation and to Messianic Jews in the eyes of both yet-unbelieving Israel and Gentile church. He's a new believer and he's been given a platform to spew his "wisdom" as if he knows anything.

  6. Gene,

    Good to see you around. Been a long time.

    Aviad has done some great work for the Lord that is not to be belittled.

    At the same time, I am trusting God to do what He sees fit in Aviad. I will be keeping him in prayer now continually.

  7. Judan, hope you had good Pesach.

    Check out the message that Aviad has posted on the homepage of his site: http://www.aviadcohen.com

    I am really not sure what good he's done for the L-rd in the light of above and many other things he's said publically, whether it outweighs the damage that he's doing now.

    I wonder who his mentor is. We should pray for him that his eyes be opened.

  8. Aviad's done good in the world by speaking to secular and religious Jews about Messiah in frank and bold language. I've got to praise God for that.

    I do recognize a truth that Dr. Michael Brown is communicating, and I think Aviad is trying to communicate:

    We've seen too many fill up with religious tradition which then stifles or replaces a heart-felt love for God. Trading spontaneity for ritual, custom, tradition.

    It's true that can happen. We have to be on guard against this. If one accepts liturgical and 3-times-a-day prayer as a valid form of a prayer life, for example, we may spend all our time in a Siddur and no time in spontaneous prayer.

    It's a danger. My response is, traditions are good and can be done without abandoning heart-felt and spontaneous praise, prayer, and so on.

    In the end, God will bring Aviad to where he needs to be. I'm certain of it. I trust God for it. I'll be praying continually for it.

  9. Beautiful, Beautiful Blog brother. Thank you for this. Baruch Hashem.

    I hope you and your family are well.

  10. Judah and Gene,

    Of course there is truth that Aviad has spoken, but in comparison with the horribly hurtful anti-Semitic garbage that has come from him - all I can say is, I'm praying he does a lot of teshuvah.

    And Gene, you said Aviad has gotten borderline anti-Semitic, but I would say its past borderline in my opinion.

    Also, regarding the traditions, I'd say that the problem is not with the Torah or the customs, but with the people. It is people who can make them dry observances. There is nothing wrong with wearing a kippah (in fact, ancient Nazarene historian Hegessipus from the first century named the Christians as proud, kippah-less, corrupters of truth), celebrating the Pesach seder which is only written down in the Mishna - which Yeshua said was prophetic of himself (an Oral Tradition prophetic of Yeshua!?), the Rabbinic traditions of Hoshana Rabbah which Yeshua also named as prophetic of himself, etc, etc.

    I think the bigger problem is the massive Hellenization which is hugely present among those who call Yeshua their Messiah. HaRav Yeshua didn't come to make Jews into gentiles, but gentiles into Jews. And HaRav Yeshua was not a Sadducee/Karaite.

    Just my opinion.

  11. Aaron,

    I agree that traditions themselves are not the problem. Traditions are prone to abuse, however, and that is something worth noting.

    For example, in the past 2 months I've instituted mincha prayer in my own life. It's been very helpful in trying to live for God; it's reshaped my day-to-day life, to be frank. However, if I used ritual prayer to replace all spontaneous prayer, then I would be worse off. This is the danger with traditions, that they can become meaningless ritual and replace a real relationship with God.

    It's a danger that Aviad and Dr. Michael Brown have highlighted, though Aviad has communicated that poorly.

  12. Both Aviad and Dr. Michael Brown come from classic Protestant Evangelical bias against tradition and rabbinical Judaism - which means they are hardly objective voices in this matter. Both, although Jewish, are really part and parcel of mainstream Evangelical Christianity. Aviad's criticism in particular is not constructive to say the least. Nonetheless, I wish him well as my Jewish brother.

    Judah, until very recently, you were not that fond of Jewish traditions either (and following your version of what you see as "Biblical Judaism"), but at least you were not deriding it at every turn.

    There's ALWAYS a danger of abuse in anything we do, so we always have to be on guard for proper motives. Even our "spontaneous" non-liturgical prayers can become mechanical, wordy and repetitive (in essence, they become our personal "liturgy").

  13. They aren't objective, and neither are we who practice some traditional aspects of Judaism.

    This does not have to a be a "they're all wrong, and we're all right" thing. I understand some of the concerns that Dr. Brown has -- tradition tends to stifle relationship.

    I think he's right. So let's be on guard against it.

    Aviad is getting at this too, I think, but as you say, Gene, his criticism is not constructive. I think it's due to a blinding zeal that caused him to rebel against all forms of Judaism.

    I just visited Aviad's site and he's got an announcement on there saying,

    Shalom, it's Aviad Cohen. Thank you for visiting my website. I have gone on sabbatical for an undetermined period of time to be quiet with God and to seek Him whole-heartedly. There is a lot of healing that I need to go through, and I am seeking spiritual counseling at this time. I will be unable to respond to email correspondence. Thank you immensely for understanding and for your love, prayers and support.Now is the time to be praying for our friend and brother. I've always loved Aviad, theological differences aside, and I will be praying for him daily.

  14. Excellent post as far as background on Marcion and reinforcing Rav Shaul's views.

    However, I was expecting it to focus on Galatians a bit more than it did due to the title. I feel it conveys a better understanding of, "What Galatians Cannot Possibly Say and Here's Why", versus, "What Galatians Really Says". Non the less, I enjoyed it!


  15. Judah, you said:

    "Traditions are prone to abuse, however, and that is something worth noting."But couldn't you also say "rules are made to be broken"?

    "For example, in the past 2 months I've instituted mincha prayer in my own life. It's been very helpful in trying to live for God; it's reshaped my day-to-day life, to be frank. However, if I used ritual prayer to replace all spontaneous prayer, then I would be worse off. This is the danger with traditions, that they can become meaningless ritual and replace a real relationship with God."The daily prayers were never meant to be all written, fixed recitations, only with guided outlines, such as basic outlines for the Amidah prayer using a Rabbinic formula that HaRav Yeshua uses in his "Lord's Prayer". These were basic outlines/skeleton-forms which could be added or even shortened by the individual praying.

    Early Pharisaim did not have written prayers as modern Orthodox (Pharisaic-descended) Judaism does. That's the way it was never meant to be, and the Talmud records this opinion.

    So I completely agree with your position here regarding the prayers.

    The only problem is that neither Aviad Cohen nor Michael Brown support the One True Faith, they only follow and emulate modern Hellenistic (per)versions of it, in very Christian-y forms to be frank.

    If Michael Brown isn't going to be a righteous Jew by separating himself from the goyim and maintaining his identity as a member of the set-apart people - then he is a false teacher and we should not listen to him. Anyone who seeks to diminish or not uphold Torah should not be listened to by those who obey the Mitswoth and hold to faith in Yeshua.

    Aviad Cohen has neither displayed the maturity level of an grown man nor any plain facts about the truth of the One True Faith to be listened to whatsoever. He's an emotionally distraught man with a chip on his shoulder against Jews because they won't accept his B.S.

    I would put more stock into Michael Brown if what he said most of the time about "traditions" was actually true. If he says "tradition tends to stifle relationship", then I would disagree.
    Torah is all tradition, in written and oral form. The Written Torah and that wisdom, tradition, and customs that were indeed passed down and taught by Moshe from Sinai are divine and holy tradition that draw us close to HaShem. In fact, these traditions are the only thing that add any meaning to our lives whatsoever. Without living with the Torah, our lives are vain, meaningless, and our labor is for nothing but only to maintain the ability to survive physically. What good is that without Torah?

    In fact, the Torah tells us in D'varim/Dt. 11:22 and 13:5 that we are to obey the commandments of Torah and CLEAVE unto HaShem. D'vequth/devekut (clinging) means covenentially marrying oneself, as a member of the bride of HaShem, Israel, to HaShem himself.
    This is related to D'varim/Dt. 6:4-9 which includes the command to "love HaShem your El with all your hear, soul, and ability."
    These are the same verses contained in the boxes of tefillin worn in prayer, which when wrapping the tefillin the custom is to recite Hoshea 2:21-22.

    Now, of course, if one dryly recites these things, or takes note of them only from repetition and does not apply his heart as these verses say - there is no meaning. But how can people who do not these things have any say in any of it? They can't, that would make them hypocrites. The best is to do and have the heart's intent, rather than to have heart's intent but not do. Then you're just a spirit without a body or a body without a spirit - and not a living, breathing being.

    I'm put off and can't listen to Christian-y or Karaite-y "Messianics" who seem to like to fit most of the descriptions that the ancient Nazarene named Hegisippus detailed about those who departed from Nazarene Judaism - the first Christians.

  16. Aaron, you said something I agree with:

    Now, of course, if one dryly recites these things, or takes note of them only from repetition and does not apply his heart as these verses say - there is no meaning.That's what I'm getting at. Tradition is prone to this. For example, liturgy is more prone to this than spontaneous praise.

    Underneath all the arguments of Dr. Brown and Aviad Cohen, I think this is what they're getting at too.

    It's an argument that resounds with me. I have completely abandoned the tradition of praying before meals, for example, because it became a meaningless ritual to me. It is very difficult for me to keep traditions without letting them becoming meaningless out of sheer repetition.

    Any married person can relate to this too. You say, "I love you honey" before you hang up the phone call. It's a tradition. But it's very difficult to say it with full meaning and emotion each time you say it.

    That's why I say tradition is prone to this. But I still practice (some) traditions because they are righteous and improve my walk with God, such as daily mincha prayer. I am doing my best to keep them heart-felt.

  17. I think there are some differences between traditions and customs (you may call them good habits). For example, scripture say that it was Yeshua's custom to go to synagogue every Shabbat (Luke 4:16). He didn't have to go (it's not in the Torah), but it says that it was his custom so he did it. One could say that it's "traditional" to go to "synagogue' every Shabbat - and indeed, if one goes JUST because it's his custom - and not to seek fellowship and communal worship - only THEN it's a problem.

    One's custom may be to give G-d thanks before you eat your meal (or after). You don't have to - but it's not a bad custom to thank G-d for your food. We thank our hosts for the food whenever we are invited for dinner - so why not G-d? Again, if it's an issue for you - I am sure G-d will not hold it against you if you don't. Yeshua himself prayed before a meal or two. Peter's custom was to pray three times a day (as was Daniel's).

    It's always about the heart. You can say that the whole ritual part of the Torah can become meaningless (and at times, read Isaiah ch. 1, this indeed became so and it was disgusting to G-d) if one does it without heart and thought.

  18. Zak,

    Sharp eye. You're right. Stay tuned this week and next, I've got some posts planned that more directly addresses actual bits from Galatians.

    I know J.K. McKee has a bunch of material that also directly addresses Galatians. For example:

    Does Galatians 3:24-25 mean we no longer need the Torah?


    Is the Torah the "elemental things of the world" discussed in Galatians 4:3?

  19. I share Aaron and Gene's concern ... not just for the message of Aviad Cohen, but for the remarkable danger in the efforts of "believers" to turn Jews into assimilated Christians. Yeshua is not Mashiach if the consequence of following him is the destruction of the Jewish people through assimilation and the trashing of Torah. If we followed the advice of these "believers," then G-d's promises to the Jewish people were nothing more than fantastic lies.