Circumcision, what a subject of confusion!

 

Question:

Circumcision is a command. However Rav Shaul seems to make a concession for new believers who were not circumcised the eighth day. However he does not make a concession for children born to that new believer thereafter.  My question is this; does Shaul actually mean that new believers who have not been circumcised may remain that way after faith has come because they were not already circumcised on the eighth day?  If so, is there support for this allowance in Torah?  If not, then how can Shaul offer such a concession?

Answer:

Firstly, it is refreshing to see that you are already seeking a Torah based interpretation! That is the very first step to finding the truth!

We see much of the confusion of your question coming from three sections of scripture. One will be the book of Galatians, the second the book of Acts, chapter 15, and the third, 1 Corinthians 7:18-19. These three sections of scripture creates much confusion with regards to the question of Circumcision. I will not go into specific verses in this answer, but will rather handle the overarching theme of the book of Galatians, and how Acts 15 fits in with this, and explain what Paul really tried to say here. You can then go and read the book of Galatians from this mindset to see exactly what Paul was saying, and how it fits in with a Torah interpretation. I will handle the two verses from 1 Cor 7 separately, since this is a different theme to the one in Galatians.

The men from Acts 15:1, are the same men who caused the brethren to doubt the gospel in the book of Galatians. Paul and Barnabas was in Galatia when these men arrived from Judea, to show them the “true gospel” according to their understanding. Deeper research would indicate that these men’s beliefs was similar to the beliefs of the House of Shammai Pharisees, the opposition party to the House of Hillel, of which Paul was a member (he studied under Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel, who was the founder of the House of Hillel). The House of Shammai believed that a proselyte, who was already circumcised, had to be “circumcised again” by drawing blood (just a cut made to draw blood), while the house of Hillel did not believe this. They believed that it was not necessary to draw blood, as the person had already been circumcised. This is the also mutilation of the flesh that Paul talks about in Phi 3:2. You can read a VERY, VERY interesting article about this topic (the house of hillel vs the house of shammai) over here: http://www.british-israel.us/11.html. While I do not agree with everything that is stated here, it certainly gives a new perspective on the NT scriptures and what many of the authors meant in there.

So, back to Galatians. These men from Judea wanted to circumcise the believes, either first, for those not circumcised yet, in order to become Jewish proselytes, or again, for those who have already been circumcised. You see, the first century church was merely a sec of Pharisees, called followers of the way (Act 9:1, Act 19:9, Act 19:23, Acts 24:5, Act 24:14). They were not a new religion, called christianity. They were just a subset of Judaism, of the pharisees. As such, the pharisees saw all new believers as proselytes, and all wanted to reel them in as proselytes of their own sect of Judaism. These men from Judea, was Shammites, believing that, in order to be saved, one FIRST has to be circumcised. Once this is done, their is another process to be followed (follow the entire Torah portion cycle, which takes 1 year, and study Torah for that year), and only then, are they considered redeemed, and a child of Abraham. The house of Hillel, which Yeshua often supported in His teachings, and of which Paul was a member, did not believe in this. They believed that salvation, or redemption, was by faith alone, by the favour of the Most High Elohim. So, already at that time, the split was between those believed you had to work for salvation, vs those who believed it was by favour through faith alone.

Taking this into account, and if you read the book of Galatians with this in mind, you’ll see that Paul was actually refuting circumcision as a means to salvation, not because of the act of circumcision by itself. In fact, Paul says in Gal 5:

1 In the freedom with which Messiah has made us free, stand firm, then, and do not again be held with a yoke of slavery.
2 See, I, Sha’ul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Messiah shall be of no use to you.
3 And I witness again to every man being circumcised that he is a debtor to do the entire Torah.
4 You who are declared right by Torah have severed yourselves from Messiah, you have fallen from favour.
5 For we, in Spirit, by belief, eagerly wait for the expectation of righteousness.
6 For in Messiah יהושע neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any strength, but belief working through love.

You see, Paul clearly says who he is talking to, in verse 4… “you who are declared right by Torah”. Nobody has ever been declared right by Torah. Torah cannot save. Those who keep Torah, in order to be saved, are a debtor to keep the whole Torah (verse 3).However, he then continues in verse 13 to say that this does not mean that we should sin.

Now, the book of Acts, chapter 15, is talking about the court case between Paul and Barnabas, and these men from Judea. The verdict, by James, shows that new believers are not to be circumcised (initially), since this would be a burden to them (salvation by works). However, they are to do four initial things, and then continue to study the Torah, at a pace they can manage (verse 21), in the synagogues every Sabbath in every city.

Paul, in 1 Cor 7, speaks of a different theme. However, there is one thing he says, that makes no sense at all, if you interpret this in the traditional sense. Lets look at 1 Cor 7:18-19

18 Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised.
19 The circumcision is naught, and the uncircumcision is naught, but the guarding of the commands of Elohim does matter!

Paul says, according to popular interpretation, that we should not get circumcised, but then he says that the commands of YHWH matters. So, how can he say that, taking into account that circumcision is a command. Clearly, this is a contradiction. Well, if you know Paul, he’s probably being misunderstood. Paul calls a number of things “circumcision” and “uncircumcision”. Here is a list:

  1. The state of being circumcised is called circumcision, and the state of being uncircumcised, is called uncircumcision.
  2. The Jews are called “the circumcision”, while the gentiles/greeks are called “the uncircumcision”.
  3. The act of circumcising someone, is called circumcision.

In verse 18, Paul talks about point number 2, not point number 1 (primarily because he could not talk about point number 1, since that would contradict Torah, and proclaim him a false teacher). He then staves that he is talking about point number 2 above, by what he says in verse 19, which makes it clear that he is talking about a people, not the state of being circumcised or uncircumcised. And then he ends off with the last part, “the guarding of the commands of Elohim does matter!”. This clearly says that, being a Jew profits you nothing, and being a gentile (a non-Jew) profits you nothing, but the commands matters, so keep the commands. In other words, its not about how you are born, but rather the decisions you make. Paul was speaking about not caring whether you are of Jewish bloodline, or a gentile who becomes a believer, but that your choices determines the outcome. The same message that Yeshua taught many times.

I hope this has answered the question sufficiently.

Shalom to you all, and YHWH bless you.

Can you please interpret Colossians 2:16-23 for me? What is Paul really trying to say here.

 

This question is one that I often get. It seems, especially verse 16, creates a lot of confusion about keeping the feasts and keeping the Torah. Lets look at this section of scripture, and see if we can interpret it to not contradict scripture.

Colossians 2:16-23:
Let no one therefore judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths – which are a shadow of what is to come – but the Body of the Messiah. Let no one deprive you of the prize, one who takes delight in false humility and worship of messengers, taking his stand on what he has not seen, puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the Body – nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments – grows with the growth of Elohim. If, then, you died with Messiah from the elementary matters of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations: “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle” – which are all to perish with use – according to the commands and teachings of men? These indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed worship, humiliation and harsh treatment of the body – of no value at all, only for satisfaction of the flesh.

As a start, we have to realise that Paul here, is talking to former pagans. They were of the “flesh” (Romans 8:1-8 , that you can read of here) tells us what Paul defines as the flesh, and so does the book of Galatians – Gal 5:19-21), and did the works of the flesh.

Secondly, we have to interpret these verses in a manner that will be consistent with the rest of scripture. If Paul wrote here, that we are not to be judged for eating and drinking whatever we want, by those who keep the law, then he would be contradicting the rest of scripture. Yeshua Himself said that no yod of tittle of the law will change, while heaven and earth exists. And even Paul Himself says that we are to keep the law, and the feasts (Rom 3:31 & 1 Cor 5:8, Rom, 2:13, Rom 7:12), so if he tells us here that we are to not care about what we eat or drink, or which day we keep set apart as the Sabbath, then he would not only be contradicting the rest of scripture, but also himself.

If we look at Acts 15, we see that James gives a verdict, speaking of 4 laws that the gentiles (the Colossians were former gentiles) should keep for a start, and then they are to attend the synagogues, and learn the rest of the law at a pace they can manage, which is preached every sabbath in every city (Acts 15:21). So, these gentiles would, consistent with the words of the book of Acts in general, cleanse themselves of the 4 basic things, and then start to learn the law, so that they can identify sin, and live lives holy and set apart to Father YHWH.

Now, if you take the above into account, Col 2:16-23 takes on a whole new meaning. These Colossians, formerly pagan gentiles, have started to learn about the law, and started to apply these principals to their lives. They started to keep the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath, and not the first day of the week, the venerable day of the sun, made holy by the pagan sun-god worship practicers, including much of the other religions of the time. They started to eat according to the laws of Lev 11, and they started to keep the feasts.

Their former friends, pagan gentiles, then started to judge them, and Paul said that they should not be judged by those who walks according to the flesh. Further more, according to Paul’s words, only the body of Messiah should judge themselves (so only a believer may judge another believer. A believer may not judge the world, since only YHWH judges the world – funny how believers today do exactly the opposite, isn’t it? – excellent point, thanks brother Zachary Jefferson!).

He gives us a big clue that he was truly speaking of those who walks according to the flesh. Verse 18, worshippers of angels, puffed up by his fleshly mind. Again, Paul defines the fleshly mind over here:

Rom 8:
7 Because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards Elohim, for it does not subject itself to the Torah of Elohim, neither indeed is it able,
8 and those who are in the flesh are unable to please Elohim.

So, we see that Paul defines the mind of the flesh, as a mind that cannot subject itself to the law of YHWH, and that this mind of flesh is unable to please YHWH. This should give us an incredible insight into the rest of Paul’s letters. We also see that Paul defines the Torah, the law of YHWH, as spiritual, in Romans 7:14

Paul also tells us in verse 20 that we died from the elementary matters of the world. A study of this term will bring you to the conclusion that the elementary matters of the world, is the works of flesh (as defined above), and he then goes further to define it as the commands and teachings of men (contradicting the commands and teachings of YHWH).

The regulations in verse 20 refers to the commands and teachings of men, not that of YHWH.

If we keep in mind that Paul cannot be creating a new set of rules, or that Yeshua could not have come to create a new set of laws/rules to live by, then things become a bit easier to understand in their proper context. All of the NT, including Paul’s letters, are explanations of the OT. It cannot contradict. We see this clearly in Acts 17:10-12, where Paul preached to those in Berea. Those in Berea searched the OT scriptures (that’s the only scriptures they had) every day, to test what Paul said, whether it was true or not. They would not have been able to find agreement in the OT to Paul’s words, if Paul was contradicting the OT with new statements and sayings.

By the above interpretation, we can see that Paul did not preach against the law, and that he, as per his words in Acts 28:5

8 while Sha’ul said in his own defence, “Neither against the Torah of the Yehuḏim, nor against the Set-apart Place, nor against Caesar did I commit any sin.”

So, either Paul lied, or he preached, and kept, the Torah.

I hope this explanation has blessed you, and that it put your mind at ease about this section of scripture.

Shalom, and may YHWH bless you in your reading and studying of scripture.

How did sin come to be in heaven?

sin

Scripture isn’t clear how sin came to be (to my knowledge, although I don’t know all of scripture perfectly). But, it is clear how it started, and who started it. Here is my personal opinion, based on how I understand scripture.

We see that Lucifer, who was once one of the Arch Angels (scripture calls him the angel who “covered” the throne of Elohim (God)), and he was made perfect in many ways.

Isa 14:12-14 tells us how Lucifer fell, and why he fell. It was due to pride.

12 “How you have fallen from the heavens, O Hĕlĕl, son of the morning! You have been cut down to the ground, you who laid low the gentiles!
13 “For you have said in your heart, ‘Let me go up to the heavens, let me raise my throne above the stars of Ěl, and let me sit in the mount of meeting on the sides of the north;
14 let me go up above the heights of the clouds, let me be like the Most High.’

 

Eze 28:11-19 tells us how he fell, how he was made, and what he did.

11 And the word of יהוה came to me, saying,
12 “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the sovereign of Tsor, and you shall say to him, ‘Thus said the Master יהוה, “You were sealing up a pattern, complete in wisdom and perfect in loveliness.
13 “You were in Ěḏen, the garden of Elohim. Every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, topaz, and diamond, beryl, shoham, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald and gold. The workmanship of your settings and mountings was prepared for you on the day you were created.
14 “You were the anointed keruḇ that covered. And I placed you, you were on the set-apart mountain of Elohim. You walked up and down in the midst of stones of fire.
15 “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you.
16 “By the greatness of your trade you became filled with violence within, and you sinned. So I thrust you from the mountain of Elohim, and I destroyed you, O covering keruḇ, from the midst of the stones of fire.
17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your loveliness, you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour. I threw you to the earth, I laid you before sovereigns, to look at you.
18 “You profaned your set-apart places by your many crookednesses, by the unrighteousness of your trading. Therefore I brought forth fire from your midst. It has devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth before the eyes of all who see you.
19 “All who knew you among the peoples were astonished at you. Waste you shall be, and cease to be, forever.” ’ ”

Now, with this as background, here is my theory.

Scripture defines sin as breaking the law of Elohim (1 John 3:4):

4 Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law.

There is, from a scriptural perspective, only one law, and that is the Torah. Torah consists of the first 5 books of the Bible, as written by Moses. However, since Torah is the baseline of everything in scripture, and since Torah is the measuring stick (that which everything else is measured against) of righteousness, and of loving Elohim and our neighbours, we can easily say that Torah is all instructions in the Bible, since every instruction/law after Deuteronomy, is merely an explanation of an existing law from Torah. There is no new laws after Deuteronomy, since Torah is the standard, perfect and complete, as Father wants it.

So, based on this definition of sin, we can easily see that sin isn’t a thing on its own, but rather a lack of something. A lack of keeping the law of Elohim. So, just like cold isn’t something in itself, but merely the lack of heat, we can see that sin is not something in and of itself, but rather the lack of keeping to the law of Elohim.

Therefore, while Father did create “sin” as a direct result of breaking the law, He did not create sin itself, since sin itself is not a “thing”, an entity, but the lack of something. Paul tells us this same thing, in one of his letters

Romans 7:7-12
7 What, then, shall we say? Is the Torah sin? Let it not be! However, I did not know sin except through the Torah. For also the covetousness I knew not if the Torah had not said, “You shall not covet.”
8 But sin, having taken the occasion through the command, did work in me all sorts of covetousness. For apart from Torah sin is dead.
9 And I was alive apart from the Torah once, but when the command came, the sin revived, and I died.
10 And the command which was to result in life, this I found to result in death.
11 For sin, having taken the occasion through the command, deceived me, and through it killed me.
12 So that the Torah truly is set-apart, and the command set-apart, and righteous, and good.

What Paul is saying here, is that, when there was no law, there was no sin (Rom 4:15). He says that, the law came to point out sin. However, the moment this happened (when the law came) sin became alive (since sin did not exist before the law) (this is what is said in verses 8, 9 and 11 above).

Now, the biggest question is, how can Lucifer sin in heaven, before the foundation of the world was laid, if the law was only given at Mount Sinai. One cannot sin where there is no law.

Well, to this question, I ask that we look at Cain and Abel. These two, a number of years after Adam and Eve left the Garden, both of them sacrificed to Elohim. Now, how did they know to sacrifice, if they did not get a command from Father, and if the law was only given at Mt Sinai? While the law was only written down at Mt Sinai, Father cannot create a new part of Himself after He already existed. The Law is a part of our Father. Its His character. It is how He chooses to reveal Himself to us. John 1:1 says that the “word” was in the beginning with Elohim, and that the word was Elohim. Therefore, the entire scriptures, is Elohim. Therefore, it must have existed from the very beginning. and that is how Lucifer could sin before the Garden of Eden.

I hope this answer has blessed you, and has given you some knowledge in this area. If you have any further thoughts, please contact me via the contact us page.

Questions and Answers

 

Shalom everyone,

I often get questions via HRTI, which I have to answer. I’ve decided that I will answer some of these questions here as well, since it’ll benefit more people that way.

I hope you enjoy, and please feel free to correct me, if I say anything that isn’t scriptural.

Shalom!