Abraham, river of faith: interlude on bifurcation

This is a short rest on our journey, a place to cool our heels. In the old West, cowpokes would use these reprieves to tell stories, and pass around some grub or coffee.  In keeping with the traditions of the land where men were free, I too want to spin a yarn-not a tall tale of epic daring-do, but, rather, about a thematic element in the writing of Yahweh.  This element is bifurcation.

Some will beef with me on this.  How can I, a mere man, critique the words of the Almighty God?  Well, I am made in His image, Regenerate in His royal blood-and I have a university education.  Image, by the way, should be rendered likeness, or similarity.  Yahweh doesn’t have a body-He is supernumerary to the conventions He created (time, space, matter).  Our likeness to Him is our reason (or wisdom, in Psalms 8).  His mind works like ours, because ours works like His.

His writing can be deconstructed, just like any literary form.  El has themes, a plot, symbolism, and a conflict.  He has styles which He favors, that flavor His work, like any human writer does.  Accordingly, we can examine one of His primary thematic elements, which is bifurcation, the splitting of something into two parts.  This works in tandem with His consistent use of the symbolism of two in His work.

From the beginning, Yah divides the universe.  He makes water and land; earth and heaven; sun and moon; and, when HE makes His children, He makes them ‘male and female’.  This particular bifurcation, along with providing fodder for most music and writing, is considered by some cultures to be the fundamental substance of existence itself (Yin and Yang, Shiva/Shakti).  This is a curious situation, since El reveals Himself in the masculine primarily.  There does not appear to be a feminine aspect of Elohim (a fact which the Babylonians derided, as their religion was based on gods and goddesses having sex).

The theme of two repeats itself throughout the Bible.  Proverbs are phrased in couplets, for instance.  Some of the major overtures of the Bible come from two brothers in conflict: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ismael, Jacob and Esau, and even Judah and Israel.  If we examine history, we can see that Jew and Greek are not just terms of Paul’s day, but, rather, represent the perpendicular patterns of life between the Hebrew pattern-superintendence- and the Greek, which is inquiry.  The latter would build civilization to answer the great questions, and the former would come from the wilderness to bring them the sacred scroll, Torah.

Paul refers to this continually in his missives.  As we saw in Romans, he discusses the two sons of Abraham: the Circumcised, and the Uncircumcised.  This pattern is consistent with flow of the Bible.  Although the Shmei tells us ‘El is one’, he often has two sons that He loves equally.  Even when He separates out the Hebrews, and the Prosyltos with them, to make Israel, He also provides hope that He will one day tear down the walls, and bring the Gentiles home to Him.

In the end, there is only one.  When all is settled, there will be divisions no more.  This is the power of a well written story: when the end almost entirely resembles the beginning.  The circle completed is a hallmark of masterful writing.  In the Bible, we see this.  All was one, then divisions occurred.  But when the final second of the clock of this reality is struck, we will reunite forever in El.

Now that we have chewed the fat, and sat a spell, I will pick up my tack and head back out on the range.  The theme of two will recur often in this work, so I wanted to hash out the details before we hit the trail.  Let us take our kalak, now, into the swift, roaring waters of the Tigris.  The Great barge is still rumbling along, chugging inexorably to the end.  Let us see, then, what the trip on the Tigris entails.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter 3, Part 4

Now, let us turn to the narrative of the Scriptures on the the tribes of Israel.  The origin, the Exodus, immediately shows a faultline in the Hebrew peoples, that will manifest time and time again.  Stephen died pointing out this flaw: ‘you received the law as by Elohim, and you did not keep it.”  Without regard to the miracles done to show them that, as Yul Brenner said, ‘Moses’ God IS God’, they still ran the other way every chance they got.  It is irony of the first order that the Egyptians were willing, at the very last, to accept that this was so, and the People of Yah would reject it time and time again.

The first generation was condemned to die in the desert, because of their apostasy.  They were nearly obliterated from existence, by the wrath of Yahovah.  Only Moses saved the Godly line from ablution, a man who was a prince of Egypt, who murdered an overseer, and fled his country to the wilderness.  This man learned righteousness, and his character was testified to, not by men, but by El Himself.

“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision.
I shall speak with him in a dream.
“Not so, with My servant Moses,
He is faithful in all My household;
With him I speak mouth to mouth,
Even openly, and not in dark sayings,
And he beholds the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant, against Moses?  (num 12)

Yet the people did not.  Even as the Promised Land came into sight, the people were struck with terror, for the dreaded Annakim were amongst them.  Having forgot that El cowed the army of Pharoah, an army that won a pyrrhic victory against the mighty Hittites, and drowned that army, they still feared the giants.  It was the courage of Joshua, for whom Jesus was named (Yahoshua, God saves His people) that led them forward, in the promise of El for the land.  Yet it was not long before the troubles came.

Aachan scarred the victory at Jericho, causing the Holy Camp to obliterate him, and his family.  This would scar most people, watching the children die with him, as rocks cascaded over their frames, until at last, the stony rain washed away the last of their vitae, whose remains were then purged by holy fire.  Then, for  a time, things ran well. Joshua oversaw what seemed to be the Promise that they had been given, of a land of milk and honey.  This, unfortunately, was the calm before the storm.

In the accounts of Judges, we see the development of a dreaded cycle: Israel chases after other gods, is chastised by El through the scourge of the Nations, and then when they have been purified by anguish, they are delivered back to the Land.  There,  they promptly abandoned their vows to be holy, and went into ‘rinse and repeat’ mode.  Time  and time again, they put of the Asherahs, the Baals, Chemosh-then were punished for it, and thence delivered again.  It became a vaudeville, like the old Benny Hill show, where the whole world ends up chasing him to the burlesque music, but he ends up back home, safe.  On next weeks show, you know it will happen again; after a while, you get to expect it.

Finally, a Judge named Samson ends the parody-with the greatest life that was ever lived.  Samson was not the holy men of the past; he was a drunken fornicator, who had some character flaws (animal cruelty, and excessive egotism).  He also killed-not murdered- tons of people, which leaves some people in an ethical quandary, since these homicides occurred under the auspices of the holy Spirit.  Eventually, he committed suicide, to escape his nagging broad.  But even as death came for him, ‘them which he killed in his death, were more than those killed in his life’.

Then comes Samuel, who watched as Israel divorced Yahweh, to have a King like the nations around them.  They clamored for political power and intrigue, and they got it in spades.  The first king turned against El, and tried to murder his successor.  Then the righteous David murdered his loyal friend Uriah out of covetousness.  His son Solomon brought idolatry back to Israel, where it was consistently a problem until the Assyrians and Babylonians resolved it for them.

When the Hebrews got back to the land, they revolted against the Seluccid Greek rulers, were free a while, and then got a sweetheart deal with Marc Anthony that irritated Rome until they diaspora.  It was this special status, against bowing before the Paterfamilias, that the Pharisees and rulers wished to protect in the time of Jesus.  The men responsible to bless the one comes in the name of El instead wanted Him gone, to protect their privilege in the kingdom of the Gentiles (note: this is not Jew blaming, it is Sanhedren blaming).

This is how the journey progressed.  Though the Law was given as by Elohim, a Law declared not be beyond reach (deut 30), a Law that revealed the light of God, the chosen people not only did not keep it-they did not want it.  Yahovah called Israel His bride; and like most spoiled women, she only wanted what she didn’t, or couldn’t have.  Like Aphrodite in Baron Munchausen, as many diamonds as Vulcan fused from his bare hands, the same were tossed over her shoulder as she complained ‘ANOTHER diamond’.

Finally, the Temple is smashed by the Romans, the Hebrews scattered, and the veil torn by Christ, ending the priesthood of Aaron.  It would seem, then, that the river had dried up, the journey ended.  But the Euphrates is the Great River; it is history.  It has one final appearance to make, in the end of days, when the run of the Tigris is complete.  No, the Euphrates was not ended, or abolished.  It was suppressed, as per Eph 2:15; Paul uses the word Katagero there, to explain that the dividing wall was pushed down, deflated, so that those who were far could be brought near.  This was to bring in Abraham’s other children, those of the Uncircumcision, whose river we will now explore.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter 3, Part 3

The voyage of the Great Barge began in Abraham, when El promised him an heir from his body (gen 15). That seed would go into slavery in Egypt for 400 years, and would be marked by a sign-a physical seal of the Covenant, circumcision (gen 17).  This creates in them a unique identity, that separates them from the rest of the world.  Reinforcing this is the Law of Moses, a code of rules that reiterates the holiness, or quality of being set apart, of the tribes of Jacob.  This word, tribe, needs examination, as it is comprised of two elements.

The primary element, or branch, is the issue of Abraham, in the form of the Hebrews from his body.  The other branch are those who entered into Covenant with the natural root, who were not of his body.  Indeed, Yahweh says plainly “the same Law applies to you, and the stranger who sojourns among you” (exo 12).  many other times, He says that His justice is indivisible, comprehensive, and evenly applied.

This bolsters claims made by the Torah Community that indeed, there is one Law for everyone.  However, the word stranger/sojourner needs further examination here.  A study of this word conducted in our convocation revealed that this word, ger, relates very strongly to the word Proselyto/Proselytes in the Septuagint, which changes the connotation of the word.  This directly imputes a property of motion towards converting to the worship of Yahweh. not simply one ‘passing through’.  In other words, this is one who acts and lives as one native born.

This is a moebius band, an object with one side.  It appears to be a union of two, a common theme with El.  But, in fact, it is one.  It can, in fact, be no other way.  The commandments do not differentiate between two groups: they are for anyone living in Israel.  Observe the language: the 613 mitzvah all center around how you live in The Land, and How you worship Yahovah.  These events are localized.  If you are not near the Holy Land, you are not involved in these affairs.

Further, if you are near the Land, you still have a wall to cross.  If you did not come from the loins of Abraham, you had to enter in through the Covenant as native born.  You were no longer what you were.  To live in Israel, to have an inheritance, a potion, you had to belong to a tribe.  Your genetics did not change, but your body did: for it had to bear the sign of the Covenant.  To cross the barrier Paul describes in Eph 2 15, you had to become as Native born.

Consult the map of Israel.  How is the land demarcated? By tribe.  Where is the space for ‘ger’, or stranger?  Where is the land for the Hittite, the Jebusite, Gibbionite?  None exists.  This Land was for the offspring of Jacob-and any who, by conversion, took the sign of their people.  Subsidiary to this was the adoption of Yahweh as Elohim, the God.  This requires that any practice of former cultures-the shaping of beards, the carving of flesh to honor dead ancestors (note: that is not a commandment against ‘inking’ the skin).

Several statutes prohibit mixing of things-fabrics, seeds, even people.  The law prohibited miscegenation-yet, if they entered in, the very same people, genetically, could marry and live in Israel.  Why? They were now Native born.  Their very identity had been altered.  They were no longer goyim: they were Israelites.  Thus, while the Tribe had genetically different members, it was racially unique. It was a tribe, of Hebrews, whether through the loins of Abraham, or adopting his Covenant with El.

Thus, any who were in the Euphrates could be pulled up out of the water.  Indeed, there was much room on the Great Barge-for anyone near enough to enter it.  Further, as the hand reaches up, it changes: before the rescued can set foot on the Barge, he must transmogrify into a Hebrew, both in body, and in habit.  Where once he was a Hittite, he transforms into a Hebrew, and now, by commandment, must see the very people from which he came as Goy, as unclean, as the enemy-or, at least, as uncircumcised.

Thus, Steve the Hittite becomes Steven Cohen, although he still has the same history and genetics.  He might keep his old monniker, as in Steve “the Hittite” Cohen.  But once he joins the ecclesia, the Assembly, his identity is now Hebrew.  he has the sign of the Covenant, he has adopted the ordinances.  He is now reborn, as one native to Jacob.  In the New Covenant, the blood of Christ, this is called regeneration.

In this way, the Covenant of the Circumcision was, by its’ nature, exclusive and divisive.  It was meant to separate out, to keep undefiled the people of God.  Those people were Hebrew, or counted as.  That identity was required to inherit the Land, the blessings, the portions of the tribe of Jacob.  This was open to any who would come in, and transform, but the great majority of the Earth was not able to enter in.  The Circumcision was localized, immobile, and exclusive.  It would take another river to reach out to all mankind, one in which the transformation required was not bound by any earthly demarcation.

The Two Covenants of Galatians 4

Last update: 2019-06-24

All verses are in the New King James Version unless otherwise noted. This is a document written in response to some things about the law we were discussing at Bible study.

To understand the two covenants we must start with Paul’s introductory comments here:

“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?”(Galatians 4:21)

What does “under G5259 the law G3551” mean? Paul earlier compares “works of the law”–which is an Essene teaching that one could be justified by keeping certain laws[1]–to the work of Christ. Paul argues against “works of the law” and contrasts it with faith in many different places.

There are several directions you can go with the meaning of “under the law.” Gesenius connects H8478 to G5259 “under” in Greek and lists places when it can be used to designate being under “authority” for instance “under her husband” means “under the authority of her husband” [2] In addition Luke 7:8 and Matthew 8:9 clearly make this connection of being “under” someone to being “under the authority of” someone.[3] Gesenius gives Nu. 5:19 and Eze. 23:5 as examples which both have the context of punishment for the wrong-doing while “under” the husband. [4]  However, what does it mean to be “under authority?” If we go with this meaning I would suggest it means close to “under power” [5] the usage in the new testament seems to fit better with “power” than plain “authority.” [6] After all, what good is authority if you don’t have the power to carry it out? However, the meaning of “under” seems to depend on what is metaphorically on top. [8] The closest I could find to being under “law” in the Greek Septuagint was in 2 Maccabees 7:36 which speaks of dying “under (God’s) covenant” i.e. ὑπὸ διαθήκην (θεοῦ). The result or consequence of dying while “under God’s covenant” is “everlasting life.” [7][8] “Under covenant” is the closest parallel to “under law” I have found, therefore, keep in mind this meaning of “under the results of the law” when we read “under law” in the following. Let’s start in Romans to see if “under results” fits.

First some context:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1)

This is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4 and the context is about the Chaldeans being eventually judged for plundering Israel and other nations even though they are about to destroy the temple and attack Israel. This was brought about by Israel’s sin:

4 “Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.

5 “Indeed, because he transgresses by wine,
He is a proud man,
And he does not stay at home.
Because he enlarges his desire as hell,
And he is like death, and cannot be satisfied,
He gathers to himself all nations
And heaps up for himself all peoples.

6 “Will not all these take up a proverb against him,
And a taunting riddle against him, and say,
‘Woe to him who increases
What is not his—how long?
And to him who loads himself with many pledges’?
7 Will not your creditors rise up suddenly?
Will they not awaken who oppress you?
And you will become their booty.
8 Because you have plundered many nations,
All the remnant of the people shall plunder you,
Because of men’s blood
And the violence of the land and the city,
And of all who dwell in it. (Habakkuk 2)

Tim Hegg notes:

The context of the Habakkuk text is the conclusion of the prophet’s cry of woe, in which he questions God over the use of the Chaldeans to punish the chosen people. For the prophet, this brought into question God’s justice and even His holiness (1:13f). In raising the question of how God could use such a wicked nation to punish His people, he awaits God’s answer (2:1). The Lord’s answer comes in the form of a revelation or vision that Habakkuk was to record and make known. It’s application would be for the appointed time, and those who believed in God would await its fulfillment, even though it might appear for the interim that it was not correct. The proud in heart would doubtless refuse to accept the revelation given to the prophet, but the one who had faith (and would thus accept the revelation) would live, i.e., preserve his life on the basis of acting in accordance with the revelation which God would give the prophet. Thus, “the just shall live by faith.”

We find important clues as to the meaning of “faith” in this quote of Habakkuk by understanding the Hebrew word ה ָמוּנֱא’ ,emunah. The first time we find the word in the Tanach, it refers to the hands of Moses held up by Aaron and Hur (Ex 17:12)—“his hands were ה ָמוּנֱא until the going down of the sun,” i.e., they were raised continually and incessantly. In every other passage where the term ה ָמוּנֱא is found, it refers to the conduct of persons or of God, sometimes categorizing such actions as attributes (“faithful,” “genuine,” “reliable,” etc.). Jepsen notes:

Thus ‘emunah is not so much an abstract quality . . . but a way of acting which grows out of inner stability, “conscientiousness.” Whereas ‘emeth [a related word meaning “truth”] is always used in relationship to something (or someone) on which (or whom) one can rely, ‘emunah seems more to emphasize one’s own inner attitude and the conduct it produces. The frequently suggested translation, “conscientiousness,” would seem to come closest to the meaning intended in many passages.26

On the basis of the meaning of ה ָמוּנֱא’ ,emunah, it seems warranted that some translations (NEB, JPS, margin of RSV and NRSV) have opted to translate Hab 2:4 along the lines of “the righteous will live on the basis of his faithfulness.” Indeed, in BDB’s Lexicon (p. 53) Hab 2:4b is translated as “a righteous man by his faithfulness liveth.”

Keil and Delitzsch state:

 אמוּנה does not denote “an honourable character, or fidelity to conviction” (Hitzig), but (from ‘âman, to be firm, to last) firmness (Exodus 17:12); then, as an attribute of God, trustworthiness, unchangeable fidelity in the fulfilment of His promises (Deuteronomy 32:4Psalm 33:4Psalm 89:34); and, as a personal attribute of man, fidelity in word and deed (Jeremiah 7:28Jeremiah 9:2Psalm 37:3); and, in his relation to God, firm attachment to God, an undisturbed confidence in the divine promises of grace, firma fiducia and fides, so that in ‘ĕmūnâh the primary meanings of ne’ĕmân and he’ĕmı̄n are combined. This is also apparent from the fact that Abraham is called ne’ĕmân in Nehemiah 9:8, with reference to the fact that it is affirmed of him in Genesis 15:6 that האמין בּיהוה, “he trusted, or believed, the Lord;” and still more indisputably from the passage before us, since it is impossible to mistake the reference in צדּיק בּאמוּנתו יחיה to Genesis 15:6, “he believed (he’ĕmı̄n) in Jehovah, and He reckoned it to him litsedâqâh.” It is also indisputably evident from the context that our passage treats of the relation between man and God, since the words themselves speak of a waiting (chikkâh) for the fulfilment of a promising oracle, which is to be preceded by a period of severe suffering. “What is more natural than that life or deliverance from destruction should be promised to that faith which adheres faithfully to God, holds fast by the word of promise, and confidently waits for its fulfilment in the midst of tribulation? It is not the sincerity, trustworthiness, or integrity of the righteous man, regarded as being virtues in themselves, which are in danger of being shaken and giving way in such times of tribulation, but, as we may see in the case of the prophet himself, his faith. To this, therefore, there is appended the great promise expressed in the one word יחיה” (Delitzsch). And in addition to this, ‘ĕmūnâh is opposed to the pride of the Chaldaean, to his exaltation of himself above God; and for that very reason it cannot denote integrity in itself, but simply some quality which has for its leading feature humble submission to God, that is to say, faith, or firm reliance upon God.

This type of “faith” is different than checking off a rule list. In the verses before the vision of justice was said by God to not come for a while but that it would surely come so a long-suffering trust is implied in God’s promises:

2 Then the Lord answered me and said:

“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. (Habakkuk 2)

Paul is using this to say that the basis for justifying sinners (sinners such as Israel) was always this type of faith. Habakkuk later makes connection to eschatology according to Keil and Delitzsch. This is possibly why Paul says he is “not ashamed” of the gospel since he knows Christ will have victory in the end:

In Habakkuk 3:12 there follows a description of the judgment upon the nations for the rescue of the people of God. Habakkuk 3:12. “In fury Thou walkest through the earth, in wrath Thou stampest down nations. Habakkuk 3:13. Thou goest out to the rescue of Thy people, to the rescue of Thine anointed one; Thou dashest in pieces the head from the house of the wicked one, laying bare the foundation even to the neck. Selah. Habakkuk 3:14. Thou piercest with his spears the head of his hordes, which storm hither to beat me to powder, whose rejoicing is, as it were, to swallow the poor in secret. Habakkuk 3:15. Thou treadest upon the sea: Thy horses, upon the heap of great waters.” The Lord, at whose coming in the terrible glory of the majesty of the Judge of the world all nature trembles and appears to fall into its primary chaotic state, marches over the earth, and stamps or tramples down the nations with His feet (compare the kindred figure of the treader of the winepress in Isaiah 63:1-6). Not all nations, however, but only those that are hostile to Him; for He has come forth to save His people and His anointed one. The perfects in Habakkuk 3:13-15 are prophetic, describing the future in spirit as having already occurred. יצא, referring to the going out of God to fight for His people, as in Judges 5:4; 2 Samuel 5:24; Isaiah 42:13, etc. ישׁע, rescue, salvation, is construed the second time with an accusative like an inf. constr. (see Ewald, 239, a). The anointed of God is not the chosen, consecrated nation (Schnur., Ros., Hitzig, Ewald, etc.); for the nation of Israel is never called the anointed one (hammâshı̄ăch) by virtue of its calling to be “a kingdom of priests” (mamlekheth kohănı̄m, Exodus 19:6), neither in Psalm 28:8 nor in Psalm 84:10; Psalm 89:39. Even in Psalm 105:15 it is not the Israelites who are called by God “my anointed” (meshı̄chai), but the patriarchs, as princes consecrated by God (Genesis 23:6). And so here also משׁיחך is the divinely-appointed king of Israel; not, however, this or that historical king – say Josiah, Jehoiakim, or even Jehoiachin – but the Davidic king absolutely, including the Messiah, in whom the sovereignty of David is raised to an eternal duration, “just as by the Chaldaean king here and in Psalm 2:1-12 we must understand the Chaldaean kings generally” (Delitzsch), wince the prophecy spreads from the judgment upon the Chaldaeans to the universal judgment upon the nations, and the Chaldaean is merely introduced as the possessor of the imperial power. The Messiah as the Son of David is distinguished from Jehovah, and as such is the object of divine help, just as in Zechariah 9:9, where He is called נושׁע in this respect, and in the royal Messianic psalms.

Paul then talks about idolatry:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1)

Continuing on we have something interesting:

1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.

Paul uses Israel’s idolatry to point out that both they and the pagan nations are without excuse as Tim Hegg notes this is addressed to the Jewish part of the congregation:

The opening word of the second chapter, “Therefore,” has caused some difficulty in understanding how what Paul is now saying connects to what he has already said in chapter one. But to answer this question we must first ask ourselves to whom Paul addresses his remarks in the present text: to Gentiles who were a “cut above” in their moral outlook, or to Jews, or to a mixed group? While each of these options have been held by scholars, I would think that several factors weight the case toward Paul addressing Jews beginning in 2:1. Here are the reasons: 1) the language of v. 4 fits the history of Israel but does not fit God’s activity toward the nations. While it is true that He does show mercy to the Gentiles (such as at Ninevah), the strong language of mercy and patience in view of Israel’s often rebellion seems to underly Paul’s words here. 2) Since it seems clear that Paul has two groups in mind in 1:18-3:20, i.e., Jews and Gentiles, it seems most likely that he refers to Jews when he characterizes a group as morally superior, as he does in 2:1ff. 3) It is clear that he addresses the Jew at v. 17, but it does not seem that he begins to address someone different at this point than he has from the beginning of the chapter. Therefore, one would conclude that he addresses Jews from the beginning of the chapter. 4) It was characteristic, at least by the report of our extant literature, of some (perhaps a majority of) Pharisees that they had an attitude of superiority toward the Gentiles, so that the attitudes described in the opening verses of our chapter best describe the Jew rather than the Gentile. In light of these things, I would think it best to interpret Paul’s words in 2:1ff as addressed primarily to the Jewish congregant in the synagogue at Rome

Notice Paul is not speaking to people as individuals but people as part of Israel and God’s people in the greater historical context. This is thinking that seems to be prevalent in the Bible and hence Israel’s particular tribal culture. Another example of this type of corporate non-individualist thinking appears in the prayer that Daniel makes for Israel in Daniel 9. Paul then uses this to establish that everyone is guilty. However, he notes that different people will be judged in different ways:

12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

17 Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

Circumcision here may refer to the group distinction rather than the physical sign. (you could be circumcised but still not be considered Jewish, this will be discussed in another article) If it does refer to physical circumcision it may be saying that he who fails to keep the requirements of the law loses the right to bear the physical sign of circumcision. (Essentially: physical circumcision has become a hypocrisy.) Paul says that circumcision benefits in some way but he is not saying this is a matter of salvation. He seems to refer to it as one of identity and representation.

1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.

Here we see that the Jews have an advantage because they were raised in the oracles of God, not from the specific act of circumcision. If this refers to physical circumcision it seems to refer to them who were circumcised on the eighth day, not those who would convert and become circumcised as adults. If this refers to physical circumcision there are some questions this raises about whether circumcision was actually required by the law for adults: “Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?” might imply a negative answer but Paul later uses the same Greek word to talk about fulfilling the law through being justified by Christ:

2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5″ (Romans 8)

This leaves the meaning uncertain. Even if Paul did say something positive or negative about adult physical circumcision we would need to evaluate the context in which he said it. If Paul said something negative we must ask: could he just be referring to it’s irrelevance to salvation?  If positive we must ask: in what sense? as a requirement that fulfills part of the law? or as sign of being raised in the oracles of God? This is beyond the scope to get into detail I just want you to know that this question exists. I do not believe adult circumcision is required in any way. (only if one wants to eat of the Passover sacrifice, see: Exodus 12:48 which is irrelevant now because there is no temple) Let’s continue:

3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:

“That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.”

5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?

7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

Here Paul is saying that God is just, whether or not people, even Jews, believe in God. Commenting in more detail would be irrelevant to the topic. In the following we see that Paul does indeed view his previous arguments as putting everyone “under (the results of) sin.”

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

10 As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13 “Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3)

Paul starts his quotations with Psalm 14 (also see the almost identical Psalm 53). Psalm 14 begins:

1 The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good. (Psalm 14)

Maybe Paul is making the point that goodness only comes from God and that God can only justify man. The fool who uses the lack of God to justify his actions is an example of this. One might say: “man – God = sin”

2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one. (Psalms 14)

Is it broadening the context or still talking about fools that reject God? I think the latter. Paul goes on to say that since man without God cannot do good we cannot be justified by God except by grace. Adam (as a representative of humanity) had sinned causing all to suffer for it, Israel (as priesthood to the world) had broken the old covenant hence imparting the curses of not following the law to all God’s followers. What could solve this problem? Since we were unable to write the law on our own hearts God would do it for us. Compare the following:

32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write H3789 it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31)

18 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.​ (Deuteronomy 11)

It is true that the law was in their hearts in some sense in Deuteronomy 30:

But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, h3824 that you may do it. (Deut 30:14)

However, there are several differences with the wording in Jeremiah 31:33

1 God puts the law in the heart and not man. (hence grace)

2 The law is “written” now. (possibly suggesting more permanence)

3 It adds “put My law in their minds H7130” (a totally different word than h3824 for “heart” in Deut 30:14)

Considering points one and two we can observe some significance attributed to the writing instrument used and of the writing surface:

“The sin of Judah is written H3789 with a pen of iron;
With the point of a diamond it is engraved
On the tablet of their heart,
And on the horns of your altars, (Jer 17:1)

O Lord, the hope of Israel,
All who forsake You shall be ashamed.
“Those who depart from Me
Shall be written H3789 in the earth,
Because they have forsaken the Lord,
The fountain of living waters.” (Jer 17:13)

It seems like God would have better instruments than us to write the law. Keil and Deilitzche in their commentary on Deut 10:6 make the observation that the writing surface will be entirely different as well:

The Lord will then circumcise their heart, and the heart of their children (see Deuteronomy 10:16), so that they will love Him with all their heart. When Israel should turn with true humility to the Lord, He would be found of them, – would lead them to true repentance, and sanctify them through the power of His grace, – would take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, a new heart and a new spirit, – so that they should truly know Him and keep His commandments (vid., Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33. and Deuteronomy 32:39.). “Because of thy life,” i.e., that thou mayest live, sc., attain to true life. The fulfilment of this promise does not take place all at once. It commenced with small beginnings at the deliverance from the Babylonian exile, and in a still higher degree at the appearance of Christ in the case of all the Israelites who received Him as their Saviour. Since then it has been carried on through all ages in the conversion of individual children of Abraham to Christ; and it will be realized in the future in a still more glorious manner in the nation at large (Romans 11:25.). The words of Moses do not relate to any particular age, but comprehend all times. For Israel has never been hardened and rejected in all its members, although the mass of the nation lives under the curse even to the present day.

Knowing this may help us with the idea that in the final fulfillment of the new covenant “no man shall teach another.” Now lets read these two verses together that are positioned around Paul’s quotation:

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

. . .

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  . .  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3)

If “under the law” means “under the results of the law” then by charging that the whole world is “under sin” Paul is saying that everyone is subject to the penalty of the law which is death. Here, Paul is implying that the cursings of the law given at mount Sinai now fall on all of mankind. Essentially, the law + sin caused death, and this is part of the law “bringing knowledge of sin” which is why it states that the through the law “sin might become exceedingly sinful” but this will be explained later. For now, observe how everyone is under (the results of) sin and hence “death:”

“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

“15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; . . . I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Grace and law go together, because we need grace to be forgiven from transgressing the law. (sin)

21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3)

Here “apart from the law” just means “apart from the deeds of the law” see below:

24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. (Romans 3)

The statement “law of faith” makes a bit more sense if you remember that “Torah” (the Hebrew word that Paul is referring to with the Greek “nomos”) can mean “instruction.” The “instruction of faith.”  As for the meaning of “circumcision,” for now, just observe, that here, it could mean “Judaism” with all the rules and traditions that they followed in addition to the Torah. If Paul is saying that the law no longer applies to us his whole argument of us needing grace is complete nonsense. We no longer have the results of the law apply to us but it still defines God’s unchanging character, see here: http://www.the-ten-commandments.org/the-ten-commandments-god.html Moving on:

1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4)

Paul here is contrasting the physical with spiritual. He will also do this in Galatians 4 (we’ll see this later). We have works that show our faith but they are just a sign of our faith, works don’t save us. The physical sign does not make up for the substance of action (spirit) which is the same thing that animates a lifeless body. Compare the following:

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4 KJV)

And her spirit G4151 came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat. (Luke 8:55 KJV)

8 And I beheld, and behold, upon them nerves and flesh germinated, and [2ascended 3upon 4them 1skin] above; but [2breath G4151 1there was no] in them. 9 And he said to me, Prophesy over the wind! G4151 Prophesy, O son of man, and say to the wind! G4151 Thus says the Lord the lord; From out of the four winds, G4151 come wind G4151 and breathe onto these dead, and let them live! 10 And I prophesied in so far as he gave charge to me, and [3entered 4into 5them 1the 2wind G4151], and they lived; and they stood upon their feet, [4gathering 3great 1a very 2exceedingly]. 11 And the lord spoke to me, saying, O son of man, these bones [2all 3the house 4of Israel 1are]. And they say, [4dry 3are 2bones 1Our]; [3is destroyed 2hope 1our]; we are perished. 12 On account of this prophesy and say! Thus says the Lord the lord; Behold, I shall open your tombs, and I shall lead you from out of your tombs, and I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the lord, by my opening your graves, for me to lead you from out of your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my spirit G4151 into you, and you shall live. And I will put you upon your land, and you shall know that I the lord have spoken, and I will act, says the lord. (Ezekiel 37:8-11 ABP)

So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath H7307 came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. (Eze 37:10 KJV) (H7307 can also be translated as “spirit”)

But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, G4151 and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom 2:29 KJV)

(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit G4151 of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. (Rom 11:8 KJV)

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4 KJV)

God seeks substance and action, not physical appearance. For example, the temple and its rituals were physically impressive but Hebrews makes a list of its severe limitations which were eventually covered by Christ as our new high priest:

1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:

“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’ ”

8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 8)

Similarly, Stephen states the following:

44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, 45 which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, 46 who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built Him a house.

48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?
50 Has My hand not made all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. (Acts 7)

Now we can compare this to these verses:

“5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2)

33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15)

Also, the context of the verses Stephen quotes in Acts 7 are from Isaiah 66 about having the right heart condition:

Isaiah 66
1Thus says the LORD,
“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
2“For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD.
“But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

Let us continue with Romans 4:

4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

Notice this is not about changing the law but about covering the transgression made against it. Paul is simply pointing out that if you make your salvation conditional on any action or any physical sign (manifestation of faith) you are not believing in salvation by grace. Again, this is all about how we have salvation despite the law applying to us:

9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

This sign of circumcision was for the faith that Abraham had not vice versa which means all people can be justified by faith whether they are circumcised or not. In Romans 4, we can easily forget the verse that comes before that chapter:

“31Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.”

As for whether circumcision was required for gentiles converting there are several possibilities here: 1 circumcision is required for adults and the point is only that it is not a matter of salvation. 2 Circumcision was not required as an adult so it is not required for an individual to circumcise themselves except if they were going to eat the Passover sacrifice. 3 Circumcision means “Judaism” so it’s not even talking about circumcision literally. When Paul is talking about Abraham being declared righteous before he was circumcised he is saying that circumcision is just a sign, and the true circumcision is a circumcised heart. Note, there is no law commanding adults who join Israel to be circumcised (with the exception of eating the Passover sacrifice), only that you circumcise your son on the eighth day. I believe that option 2 is correct, and in this case what Paul is condemning is an outward appearance that has nothing to do with following God. Regardless of that we can say that Abraham was declared righteous because he believed, and while belief leads to obedience, the outward appearance of something is not to be confused with the heart condition, especially in the context of salvation.

13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

Again, being under sin + results of the law = punishment = death. Faith, as we have seen leads to justification which is needed to save us from condemnation. Hence, grace, as is made clear in the following:

16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4)

Again all that is going on here is that we are being promised redemption and we are not earning it by doing any specific works in the law:

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (Romans 5)

Again sin + law = penalty = death. This means we need grace. The same idea is made clear in the following:

14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)

18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5)

Again, without the law still applying to us this argument is nonsense.

20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5)

The law was given so that sin would become painfully apparent. (obvious) The same word translated “offense” is translated “transgression” in the Septuagint:

26 In the turning of the just from his righteousness, and he should commit transgression, and he should die in the transgression which he did; [2in 3it 1he shall die].(Ezekiel 18:26 ABP)

Paul, now has to explain why we need to not sin even without being under (the results of) the law because this means the penalties of the law won’t fall on us:

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6)

Commenting on all of this is beyond the scope here. For now let’s look at the starting and ending verses to further establish our theory of what “under the law” means:

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not!  . . .

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! (Romans 6)

The law still applies because grace abounds when we sin. Also, why would we start to sin simply because we are not “under the law?” If “not under the law” means the entire law no longer applies then we can’t sin . . . If we are now under a “law of love” (as some argue) which has no specific rules, just “anything we consider loving” why would not being under the old law imply we might break this law of love? However, if “under the law” means “under the results of the law” and by implication “under the penalty of the law” (because of all being under sin) then we might be tempted to sin because there are no more law-related results/consequences for sin. Paul relates the reason we do not continue in sin to the fact that we serve God and not sin:

16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6)

Believers even in the old testament were always intended to be under grace: Daniel 9:18; Gen. 6:8; Ex. 33:12, 17; Judges 6:17f; Jer. 31:2. However, Israel broke the covenant and the northern kingdom was divorced by God and yet Israel was promised to be restored:

8 Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. (Jer 3:8)

How would God restore Israel? This is what Jews expected the messiah to do.  Paul uses an analogy here to explain this. Notice, the relation to Israel as a whole is easier to see if you remember that Paul is talking to people as being part of their larger groups in the greater historical context:

1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Romans 7)

Several things to notice here: 1 the law is good. 2 the law makes us aware of our sin 3 without law sin could not cause punishment 4 sin taking the opportunity of the commandment killed him  .  .  . what does that mean? I think he’s using an analogy here. Sin is clearly being talked about as bringing curses/death through punishment. However, Paul is still alive therefore his idea of being righteous on his own has to be what was killed, allowing him to accept grace. Let’s read on:

13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. (Romans 7)

The commandment made sin appear as sin and it made it [appear] exceedingly sinful or obvious. I inserted “appear” to make it make more sense. However, if you know that “sin” can also mean “guilt” you’ll understand better how this happening:

ἁμαρτία,-ας+ N1F 186-54-94-92-119=545
Gn 15,16; 18,20; 20,9; 41,9; 42,21
guilt, sin Gn 15,16; sin-offering Lv 4,33
Cf. COX 1990, 119-130; DANIEL, S. 1966, 301-328; HARL 1986a, 62.63; HARLÉ 1988, 33; LE BOULLUEC
1989 294.297; →NIDNTT; TWNT

Here, “guilt” makes sense as a translation for the second two occurrences. Try this reading:

13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that [guilt] through the commandment might become exceedingly [guilty].

It continues in the same vein lamenting guilt/sin:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7)

Again remember “law of” could mean “instruction of” and this is pretty self explanatory and backs up the law being good. Everyone should still try to live by the law but when we fail to do this that is where grace covers us. Paul continues to contrast the spirit with the flesh:

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

Paul then harkens back to his quote of Habakkuk seeming to refer to the trials of Israel as a whole before it would be restored:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

The context of Paul’s quote of Habakkuk is promised sufferings in the near future with redemption from the Chaldeans and other nations in the end. Paul continues to encourage patient endurance and hope:

26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Romans 9)

The last verse is a quote from Psalm 44 which promises present troubles but hopes for future redemption. It also mentions Israel being scattered among the nations and asks God to rescue them. (a possible reference to Israel being reformed)

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)

Here Paul also makes the point of the irresistible nature of God’s grace that nothing physical can separate us from it, again relating it to his theme of contrasting physical and spiritual. Now, lets continue with the context in Galatians:

16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Gal 2)

The Essene MMT document argues that certain works of the law could justify you associates this with separation and purity. [1] (Paul was refuting this in some of his letters) This backs up one position of E.P. Sanders in his reading of 1st century Judaism in “The New Perspective on Paul” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Perspective_on_Paul He says that many Jews believed that by separating themselves from impurity and observing certain laws that they considered boundary markers of their distinctiveness among the nations would allow God to show his grace to them and save them. Those who didn’t observe these boundary markers had to be separated from. “Pharisee” means “separate.” This explains why issues of salvation and issues of separation or table fellowship are often mentioned together like they are the same thing. Here, in Galatians 2 Paul is simply making the point that law cannot justify you since we know that Christ justifies us and that is well accepted among us.

17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. (Gal 2)

Galatians 2:17-18 is a reductio ad absurdum  to the position of “works of the law” that “if seeking to be declared righteous in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners” is saying that if we have Christ but we still need works of the law then Christ has mislead us and caused us to sin.

19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2)

Here “through the law I died to the law” means that the law kills our idea of being self righteous and of saving ourselves. Once we die to self, we can accept a savior outside of ourselves and paradoxically live more in line with the law which is part of the work of grace as Titus 2:11-14 explains:

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2)

In addition, this may be because we are no longer being righteous in a self serving way. Without knowledge of sin we cannot humble ourselves and repent which is reflected in several old testament references describing what behavior God’s people will have to have if they are to be forgiven. (this will be alluded to later) This idea is developed in Galatians 3:

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” (Gal 3)

Here Paul relates the law to the cursings added at Sinai so we see “the law” in the general sense of “the first five books” or “God’s instructions” is not applicable here; rather it is a specific part of the instructions which started at the Sinai covenant. I’ll explain, there are many parts of the first five books which give instructions to God’s people and give unconditional promises like in the Abrahamic covenants in Gen 15,17 and 22. However, here “the law” seems to reflect curses and blessings, life and death, which started at Sinai:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. 4 You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. (Lev 18: 1-5)

“10 “Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them.’ (Ezekiel 20)

God promised the inheritance to Abraham with no strings attached but the law at Sinai came with blessings and cursings and was conditional on them following the law. Let’s see if this theory holds up:

16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (Gal 3)

Here we see “law” is used in a specific context for that which was given at Sinai after Abraham “four hundred and thirty years later” he’s clearly distinguishing this from the other parts of the old covenant such as the Abrahamic covenants: “cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ” He’s not saying they are separate, those covenants/instructions all apply to us but Paul is using law specifically to refer to the blessings and cursings in this context starting at Sinai.

19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. (Gal 3)

Here clearly it says the law was given because of transgression. We see this in several ways, 1 it was given with a penal system to punish transgression, 2 it was given with a priesthood to atone for transgression. However, is this what Paul means?

21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Gal 3)

Here we see the third purpose relating to transgression for which the law was given: to make people aware of their transgression. Without humility and acknowledgment of sin we cannot come to Christ and accept grace. Once you leave a tutor and go to university the tutor’s more elementary teachings should still hold (otherwise you went to a bad tutor). No longer being under the tutor means no longer being under the law. This means you know you are not righteous (since the law taught you that) and therefore you are no longer trying to justify yourself by doing the law which means the law is no longer needed to teach you that you need grace through it’s punishments: you already know you deserve punishment. This is shown clearly through the history of the curses that God brought on Israel. Israel can’t claim they are righteous on their own after breaking the law and being put through it’s curses. Hence being “under (the results of) the law” while being “under sin” means being “under the penalty of the law.”

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3)

Paul relates Christ to the unconditional promises to Abraham as distinguished from the covenants starting at Sinai. Does this mean the Sinai covenant is no longer valid for us? No, if it isn’t valid for us then it makes Paul’s whole argument absolute nonsense: we don’t need Christ to save us from a penalty of a law that is no longer valid. To further establish this distinction lets jump ahead and look at what Paul says later:

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Galatians 4)

Why is being “under (the results of) the law” related to mount Sinai? Because that is where the curses and hence death started to be piled up and while being “under (the results of) sin” those curses will fall us:

14 ‘But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments,

15 and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant,

16 I also will do this to you:

I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.

And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. . .

38 You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.

39 And those of you who are left shall waste away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands;

also in their fathers’ iniquities, which are with them, they shall waste away.

. . .

46 These are the statutes and judgments and laws which the Lord made between Himself and the children of Israel on Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses. (Lev 26)

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4)

Christ is said to be born “under (the results of) the law” because he was born into a world where the cursing from mount Sinai could still be applied to God’s people.

Knowing this we can continue reading Galatians 4:

1 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

“Elements of this world” is interesting. He’s contrasting being redeemed from under the law with being in bondage to the “elements of this world.”

The root of the word G4747 for “elements” is G4748 and is in the Septuagint:

στοιχέω+ V 0-0-0-1-0=1
Eccl 11,6
to prosper, to go on to sprout

This is clearly not referring to the law of God as the same word is used to describe the traditions of men in the same book. Here’s the usage in the new testament (there is none in the Septuagint version of the Tanakh )

9 But now, having known God, but rather having been known by God, how do you return again unto the weak and poor elements,  G4747 in which again, as at the beginning [2to serve 1you want]?(Gal 4:9)

8 Take heed lest [2anyone 4you 1there shall be 3robbing] through the fondness of intellectual pursuits and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements G4747 of the world, and not according to Christ! (Colossians 2:8 ABP)

20 If then you died with the Christ from the elements G4747 of the world, why as living in the world do you subject yourselves to decrees? (Col 2:20 ABP)

20 If then you died with the Christ from the elements G4747 of the world, why as living in the world do you subject yourselves to decrees? (Colossians 2:20 ABP)

12 For though you ought to be teachers because of the time, again [2need 1you have] of one to teach you what are the elements G4747 of the beginning of the oracles of God; and you have become [2need 1having] of milk, and not of solid nourishment. (Hebrews 5:12)

10 But shall come the day of the Lord as a thief in the night, in which the heavens by a loud noise shall pass away, and the elements G4747 being destroyed by fire shall be loosed; and the earth and the [2in 3it 1works] shall be incinerated. (2 Peter 3:10 ABP)

12 expecting and hastening the arrival of the day of God, by which the heavens being set on fire shall be loosed, and the elements G4747 being destroyed by fire shall melt away? (2 Peter 3:12 ABP)

“World” or “kosmos” (G2889) is the other word and is also used for “ornaments:”

κόσμος,-ου+ N2M 5-2-17-5-43=72
Gn 2,1; Ex 33,5.6; Dt 4,19; 17,3
world, universe Prv 17,6a; world, earth 2 Mc 3,12; world, mankind Wis 2,24; ornament, decoration Ex
33,5; honour, delight Prv 28,17a
*Gn 2,1 ὁ κόσμος ornamentation-◊צבה or-צבי for MT ◊צבא host, army, see also Dt 4,19, 17,3, Is 24,21,
40,26, Sir 50,19; *2 Sm 1,24 μετὰ κόσμου ὑμῶν with your ornaments-עם־עדיכן for MT עם־עדנים with
luxury, with ornaments
Cf. DOGNIEZ 1992, 138; HARL 1986a, 98; SCHMITT 1974, 152; →MM; NIDNTT; TWNT

Paul says we are crucified to the world through Christ. This other word also can’t be talking about some divine law:

14 But for me may it not be to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom to me the world has been crucified, and I to the world G2889.(Gal 6:12 ABP)

1 And [6were completed 1the 2heaven 3and 4the 5earth], and all the cosmos of them. Genesis 2:1

5 And the lord said to the sons of Israel, You are a people hard-necked; see that [2do not 5calamity 4another 1I 3bring] upon you! and should completely consume you. Now then remove [2apparels 1your glorious], and the ornament! and I will show to you what I will do to you. 6 And [4removed 1the 2sons 3of Israel] their ornamentation, and the attire at the mountain of Horeb. (Exodus 33 ABP)

It continues in the same fashion:

6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.

Commenting on the verses 12-20 is beyond the scope here so we will skip ahead. Here we start out with the verse that caused us to ask the question “what does under the law mean?” in the first place:

21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—

Notice that Paul is using symbolism here and the majority of translations here use “allegory” or “illustration.” If Paul is suddenly going to tell us that we don’t need to follow the law–here is not the place to do it, it would too easilly be misunderstood as figurative. Let’s get into the allegory: the reason the Jerusalem at that time was in bondage was because they weren’t accepting the grace of Christ and they were trying to justify themselves through “works of the law.” Doing this makes the curses of the law fall on you. God instead wanted Israel to “acknowledge their iniquity. (Jeremiah 3:13-15) 

26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

The reason the Jerusalem above is free is that by acknowledging their iniquity God will redeem Israel from the curses of breaking the covenant. The law is the thing that “brings knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20) and again we see that grace and law go together. To explain more fully, let’s continue:

27 For it is written:

“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.” (Gal 4)

Here we see a picture of Israel being restored being quoted from Isaiah 54:

7 “For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
Says the Lord, your Redeemer.

9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10 For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54)

Things to notice here: 1 God will keep this covenant of peace with them no matter what. 2 God keeping this covenant is based on mercy not on anything that they did 3 It is a promise like God made not to destroy the earth with water any longer so it was certainly not based on anything humanity did. When God made that promise there was no time for humanity to do anything after the flood to prove that it wouldn’t be corrupted again.

40 ‘But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me,

41 and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies;

if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt—

42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember;

I will remember the land.

43 The land also shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them;

they will accept their guilt, because they despised My judgments and because their soul abhorred My statutes.

44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them;

for I am the Lord their God.

45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God:

I am the Lord.’ ” (Lev 26)

12 Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord;
‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you.
For I am merciful,’ says the Lord;
‘I will not remain angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your iniquity,
That you have transgressed against the Lord your God,
And have scattered your charms
To alien deities under every green tree,
And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord.

14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3)

As mentioned earlier, if they humble themselves and accept their guilt God will not bring death (i.e. the curses for breaking the covenant at mount Sinai) Again, notice Sinai is not the only covenant in the line of covenants with God’s people. There are the covenants with Abraham’s descendants is Gen 15, 17 and 22 and the covenant at Moab apart from the one at Horeb (Sinai) in Deuteronomy 29. However, Paul picks Sinai when talking about being under the penalty of the law and Sinai was the place where the penalties were laid out including the judicial penal system and the laws of the priesthood and the tabernacle for atoning for sin. (“the law was added because of transgression”) Paul continues:

28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.

“even so it is now” clearly states that this is contrasting the ones persecuting “the way” with those of “the way” (part of this would later become known as Christianity) Paul actually participated in this persecution. You can confirm this by seeing the usage of the word in Galatians:

for ye did hear of my behaviour once in Judaism, that exceedingly I was persecuting G1377 the assembly of God, and wasting it, (Gal 1:13 YLT)

and only they were hearing, that ‘he who is persecuting G1377 us then, doth now proclaim good news — the faith that then he was wasting;’ (Gal 1:23 YLT)

but as then he who was born according to the flesh did persecute G1377 him according to the spirit, so also now; (Gal 4:29 YLT)

And I, brethren, if uncircumcision I yet preach, why G1377 -> yet am I persecuted? G1377 then hath the stumbling-block of the cross been done away; (Gal 5:11 YLT)

as many as are willing to make a good appearance in the flesh, these constrain you to be circumcised — only that for the cross of the Christ they may not be persecuted, G1377 (Gal 6:22 YLT)

If Paul is saying that we no longer should keep the law he is doing a terrible job of it since the early Church was made up of a mixture of those who totally kept the law and those that didn’t (as evidenced by Acts 15) In addition since Christ almost always sided with Hillel the analogy of spirit and letter also fits here. Paul is instead continuing to contrast the physical with the spiritual as he did with circumcision earlier:

“3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3)

This part is interesting:

30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. (Gal 4)

Here some people jump to the conclusion that since we are not “of” the bondwoman we no longer should keep the rules at Sinai. There are a few things to remember here: 1 he started off with the context of those who wish to be “under the law” and this is caused by using “works of the law” to justify yourself (we have already discussed this) 2  This is allegorical. 3 This can’t be only about the old and new covenant because of how he says the people of the bondwomen are persecuting the people that are free even now.  In addition, Paul is not just contrasting the new covenant and the old covenant because the freewoman is symbolic of the promises given to Abraham which are older than Sinai. 

However it is possible that Paul is making some allusion to the new and old covenant here. Here’s why I think this: 1 The old covenant brought curses and the people who are of “works of the law” are “under the law” and therefore subject to its curses. 2 The promises given to Abraham are the precursors to Messiah who is the mediator of the new covenant. 3 The new covenant is about being restored and perfected by having the law written on our hearts (something that was not accomplished in the old covenant) and Christ followed the spirit of the law not the letter (he almost always sided with the house of Hillel) Also compare the following (YLT)

2 Corinthians 3:3
3 manifested that ye are a letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in the tablets of stone, but in fleshy tablets of the heart,

Ezekiel 36:26
26 And I have given to you a new heart, And a new spirit I give in your midst, And I have turned aside the heart of stone out of your flesh, And I have given to you a heart of flesh.

Jeremiah 31:33
33 For this [is] the covenant that I make, With the house of Israel, after those days, An affirmation of Jehovah, I have given My law in their inward part, And on their heart I do write it, And I have been to them for God, And they are to me for a people.

Hebrews 8:10
10 because this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord, giving My laws into their mind, and upon their hearts I will write them, and I will be to them for a God, and they shall be to Me for a people;

However, the explanation that Paul is only contrasting the new and the old covenant is completely impoverished as we have already seen. Rather if Paul is alluding to the old and new covenants he is only mixing it in with his main subject material. The last section we will look at backs this up again: 

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

This allegory is introduced as a response to those who wish to be “under the law” and ends with something about those who attempt to be justified by law: the context is clear. Here Paul is not making any comments about what we should or shouldn’t do physically but rather what we should or shouldn’t justify ourselves by. This is a mistake people often make when reading Paul’s writings, context is key. However, the language here is slightly confusing. It can’t be that just by becoming physically circumcised that Christ profits you nothing since a change in your physical appearance can never cut you off from Christ. Paul also circumcised Timothy because of the Jews so it couldn’t be that Paul was cutting Timothy off from Christ by circumcising him. This issue may be helped by some historical context that Tim Hegg presents in his commentary on Acts 15:

The prevailing belief of the Judaisms in Paul’s day was that only Jews had a place in the world-to-come since God had made the covenant of blessing with Israel and no other nation.

All Israel have a place in the world-to-come. [[m.Sanhedrin 10:1.]

This central theological axiom shows that from the perspective of the Rabbis, a Gentile could secure a place in the world-to-come only by becoming a Jew. This, the Rabbis taught, was possible through becoming a proselyte, a ritual based entirely upon their rules but without any foundation in the Torah itself. In fact, the added phrase “according to the custom of Moses”629 in the opening verse of Acts 15 may point to the fact that the disagreement taking place between Paul and Barnabas and the others was not over what the written Torah prescribed for Gentiles but whether or not the additional teachings of the Sages were binding upon them. Thus when men from Judea taught that “unless you are circumcised (undergo the ritual of a proselyte) according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved,” they were simply applying the standard theology of their day. This is what the Council was dealing with: Did all Israel have a place in the world-to-come? Did Gentiles therefore need to submit to the man-made ritual of the proselyte so that, in accordance with the prevailing theology, they too could secure eternal life, that is, be saved? Nowhere in God’s word is there a ceremony outlined for a Gentile to become a proselyte. . .

The issue was one of status. What status qualified a person to be assured of a place in the world-to-come—ethnicity or faith? What was essential for salvation: the status of Jewishness or the  status of being “in Messiah?” Paul and the other apostles at the Jerusalem Council unanimously agreed that one’s ethnic status had no bearing whatsoever on one’s salvation. The crux was faith not ethnicity.


In conclusion, this has all been to show the context of what Paul is talking about in Galatians 4 with the two covenants. He is responding to those who wish to be justified by works of the law or want to be under the law. The two covenants in Galatians don’t seem to be directly related to the “old” and “new” covenants because Paul uses part of the old covenant (the older part before Sinai) in arguing for us being the children of promise. Rather Paul seems to be contrasting two parts of the old covenant and saying (to oversimplify things) that the blessings of it will save us from curses of it eventually. The new covenant rather is about the law eventually being written on our hearts by God since we were unable to do so. There is however a relation here: the writing of the law by God in the new covenant is accomplished by the work of Christ (through the holy spirit) as a mediator of the new covenant and Christ was predicted by the promises given to Abraham. In any case to say that the judgments of the law are done away with makes Paul’s argument nonsensical; rather, Christ needed to come to save us from the results of those judgments.

Compare the following:

15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)

13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (Gal 3)

20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1)

“The topic of the work is reflected in the phrase tohorat haqodesh, “the purity of the holy.” Stated simply: “Do not allow the holy to be profaned by what is impure.”

The issues include bringing Gentile corn into the Temple, the presentation of Gentile offerings, and the cooking of sacrificial meat in unfit (impure) vessels. Other rulings concern cleansing of lepers, admitting the blind and the deaf into the Temple; and permitting intermarriage with Ammonite and Moabite converts, long forbidden to enter the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3). Other issues involve the transmission of impurity by a flow of water (musaq), the intermixture of wool and linen (sha‘atnez), plowing with diverse animals (qilayyim) and perhaps the climax of the discussion: the intermarriage of priests with the common people.

Most of the rulings espoused by the author of MMT are based directly upon Biblical law (for example, the prohibition against plowing with unlike animals in Deuteronomy 22:10). A few others are interpretations or amplifications of Mosaic prescriptions (for example, bans on Gentile offerings and dogs in the Temple). The list clearly reflects a conservative reaction against a relaxation of Torah precepts.”


Gesenius says:

“Prep. below, beneath, under (ὑπό) . . . Of a woman it is said, she commits whoredom, adultery, under her husband, Nu. 5:19; Eze. 23:5, i.e. she commits whoredom who ought to obey the authority of her husband.”


8 For I also am a man set under G5259 authority, G1849 with soldiers under G5259 me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”  (Luke 7:8 New Revised Standard Version)

9 For I also am a man under G5259 authority, G1849 with soldiers under G5259 me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” (Matthew 8:9 New Revised Standard Version)

Under husband’s authority:
19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, “If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings the curse. (Numbers 5:19 NRSV)

19 `And the priest hath caused her to swear, and hath said unto the woman, If no man hath lain with thee, and if thou hast not turned aside [to] uncleanness under thy husband, be free from these bitter waters which cause the curse;(Num 5:19 YLT)

19 And [3shall adjure 4her 1the 2priest], and he shall say to the woman, If no one has gone to bed with you, if you have not violated to be defiled being under [2husband 1your own], be innocent from [2by the 3water 4of rebuke 1this accursing]! (Num 5:19 ABP)

Gesenius’s usage in Ezekiel 23 may relate to “consequences” or “power” from doing something while “under” an authority

5 And go a-whoring doth Aholah under Me, And she doteth on her lovers, On the neighbouring Assyrians, (Ezekiel 23:5 YLT)

5 And Aholah fornicated from me, and doted upon her lovers, upon the Assyrians being next to her; (Ezekiel 23:5 ABP)

5 Oholah played the whore while she was mine; she lusted after her lovers the Assyrians, warriors . . . 9 Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, for whom she lusted. (Ezekiel 23:5-9 NRSV)


ἐξουσία,-ας+ N1F 0-1-0-39-39=79
2 Kgs 20,13; Ps 113(114),2; 135 (136),8.9; Prv 17,14
power, authority 1 Ezr 4,28; control over [τινος] Ps 135(136),8; permission [+inf.] 1 Mc 11,58; office,
magistracy Dn 3,2; <αἱ> ἐξουσίαι (the) authorities (personification of invisible, angelic powers) DnLXX
see ἀρχή
Cf. CARAGOUNIS 1986 68-70 (DnLXX 7,27); HORSLEY 1982 83-84; SCHOLTISSEK 1993, 85-88;


[6] Usage of “authority” (G1849):


hypó, hoop-o’; G5259 example usage in the Septuagint:

For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God’s covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride.  (2 Maccabees 7:36 Brenton Septuagint Translation)

36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. (2 Maccabees 7:36  NRSV)


ὑπό+ P 61-42-43-140-212=498
Gn 9,2; 16,9; 18,4.8; 19,8
[τινος]: by (with a pass. verbal form indicating the agent) Gn 26,29; from Ps 73(74),22; under, in
(indicating reason) Jb 30,4; under Jb 8,16
[τι, τινα]: under (with verb of motion) 1 Mc 6,46; under (place) Gn 18,8; under, at the foot of Ex 24,4;
under (in geogr. sense) Dt 3,17; beyond Ex 3,1; about (time) Jos 5,2; little before Jon 4,10; in the course
of, during 3 Mc 7,12; under (as subordination) 1 Ezr 3,1; under, in the hand of 2 Mc 3,6; under (reason)
Ex 23,5
ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν under heaven, on earth Ex 17,14; ὑπὸ τὴν ὄψιν under (our) notice Est 8,12i; ὑπὸ
χεῖρας in (your) hands Gn 9,2; ὑπὸ τὴν σκιάν in the shadow Bar 1,12; ὑπὸ διαθήκην (θεοῦ) under
(God’s) covenant 2 Mc 7,36; ὑπὸ φόρον under tribute 1 Mc 8,2; ὑπὸ καιρόν within the space of one day
2 Mc 7,20; ὑφ’ ἕν at one stroke Wis 12,9
Cf. DORIVAL 1994, 56; JOHANNESSOHN 1910 1-82; 1926 174-184; →NIDNTT



Compare the following usages of “under” with alternate translations:

Gen 9:2:

2 And the fear of you and trembling will be upon all the wild beasts of the earth, upon all the winged creatures of the heaven, and upon all the things moving upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea. Under your hands I have given them to you. (Gen 9:2 ABP)

2 The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. (Gen 9:2 NRSV)

Esther 8:13:

. . . to the future, that we may maintain the government in undisturbed peace for all men, adopting [needful] changes, and ever judging those cases which come under [our] notice, with truly equitable decision. . . . (Esther 8:13 Brenton Translation of the Septuagint)

. . . In the future we will take care to render our kingdom quiet and peaceable for all, by changing our methods and always judging what comes before our eyes with more equitable consideration. . . (Esther 8:13 NRSVACE)

Bar 1:12:

And the Lord will give us strength, and lighten our eyes, and we shall live under the shadow of Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, and under the shadow of Balthasar his son, and we shall serve them many days, and find favour in their sight. (Baruch 1:12  Brenton Septuagint Translation)

The Lord will give us strength, and light to our eyes; we shall live under the protection of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and under the protection of his son Belshazzar, and we shall serve them for many days and find favour in their sight. (Bar 1:12 NRSVACE)

2 Maccabees 7:36:

36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. (2 Maccabees 7:36 NRSVACE)

For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God’s covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride.  (2 Maccabees 7:36 Brenton Septuagint Translation)

Deuteronomy 33:3:

3 And he spared his people, and all the ones being sanctified by your hands; these [2under 3you 1are]; and he received of his words (Deuteronomy 33:3 ABP)

3 Indeed, O favorite among peoples,
all his holy ones were in your charge;
they marched at your heels,
accepted direction from you. (Deuteronomy 33:3 NRSV)

3 Also He [is] loving the peoples; All His holy ones [are] in thy hand, And they — they sat down at thy foot, [Each] He lifteth up at thy words.  (Deuteronomy 33:3 YLT)

Esther 3:6:

6 But he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. (Esther 3:6 NRSV)

6 And he took counsel to remove all [2under 3the 5of Artaxerxes 4kingdom 1the Jews]. (Esther 3:6 ABP)

6 and it is contemptible in his eyes to put forth a hand on Mordecai by himself, for they have declared to him the people of Mordecai, and Haman seeketh to destroy all the Jews who [are] in all the kingdom of Ahasuerus — the people of Mordecai. (Esther 3:6 YLT)

6 and took counsel to destroy utterly all the Jews who were under the rule of Artaxerxes. (Esther 3:6 Brenton)

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter 3, Part Two

Now, for all intents and purposes, the written Torah is used interchangeably with Moses, as it was he who carried it down.  It is called the Law of Moses, when in fact it is the Law of El.  However, over time, conflation and usage simply overlapped the one with the other.  This effect emerges as stereotyping in modern culture.  When you see x and y together long enough, you begin to refer to them as a single unit, as if they are inextricable from one another.

Moses is a good captain for the Great Barge.  Like all captains, he has to hard enough to make the tough calls on the waters ahead.  He has the distinction of meeting Socrates’ standards of leadership: he didn’t want the job to begin with.  Further, when he is offered a chance to be the father of a new humanity, he roundly rejects it.  When he is informed that there are elders showing gifts, he is relieved.  Someone else can herd the cats for a while.

Frustration in dealing with the slovenly generation of the desert resulted in him going postal on the Rock of Meribah, where his nerved were taxed to the point of the abandon of reason.  For this, he could not cross into the promised land, a bum deal if ever there was one.  They drove him crazy, and he has to pay for it?  This completes the epic of the rambunctious rubes who left the state of Egypt.

This offers us a window on the people who came out to the desert-and why the ordinances were written as they were.  These were a slave people, which means, historically, they were illiterate and uneducated.  That is how you establish a control matrix over slaves, a method used up until the 20th century.  A reading of the Mitzvah reveals an audience who can do very little without supervision and guidance.  Indeed, the overall metaarchitecture of the written Torah is superintendence, which would place the Hebrews directly perpendicular to the people who would receive them-the Greeks.

The Greek world, as the figurehead of civilization, was driven by doubt, which leads to questioning.  This forms the context of almost all learning, which leads to advances in knowledge.  The Hebrews were not sent in this direction.  Rather, they were given a shepherd to follow, and a rulebook to observe.  As discussed, these rules were not about growing a civilization.  It was a management system, to polish up the rubes, who showed, throughout the Tanakh, that they indeed needed close observation to function.

They were fearful, ignorant and dim.  This is not speculation.  What reasoning person, having seen the pillar of fire, the ten plagues, the parting of the sea, then proceeds to grief the Elohim who did them?  After Moses and the Levites cut down thousands, and the ground eats Korah and the 3000, who would EVER go outside the lines? But the ycan’t help themselves.  They are slaves: they have poor impulse control, no comprehension of rational, critical thought, and are unable to remember much of anything.

Let me obviate the inevitable charge of ‘anti-Semitism’, a word rent to ruin by applying it to mean ‘has mass and occupies space’- at least, if you criticize Israel (which, as a follower of Yahweh, I must, as His land is stained by an Apartheid State) or the Likud and Jewish Home political parties (see previous comment).  I am not an anti-Semite.  I am pro justice, and the rule of law.  Whatever runs afoul of these will find in my words an apt opponent to stand and deliver against iniquity.  Even if I were as such, I have an ally at my back,who is a thousand times moreso, and that is Yahweh, God of Gods.

This is not a ‘Christ-Killers’ episode.  We all killed Christ, to the last human being.  I speak, rather, of Yahweh’s own opinion of His own people.  The Torah and Tanakh are replete with objurgations of the first order that were pronounced by His Majesty, Baruch Adonai.  Here are a few of His own evaluations of the tribes of Jacob.

“You spread your legs for every man who passed by” Ezek 16

‘Name him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God’  Hosea 1

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are e]an obstinate people. 10 Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”  (exo 32)

Now, this is not ‘anti-Semetism’, in the sense of racism.  El i s above such things.  These  are the evaluations of the Deity.  It is simply His demands of holiness being abjectly and thoroughly discarded and ignored.  The operating emotion here is not hatred, ignorance or bigotry (an aside-declaring homosexual concourse as abominable in the sight of Yahweh is not bigotry-it is promulgation of Imperial Law): rather, it is frustration.  El is simply out of His mind concerning His children-not because He hates them, but rather, the reverse.  He wants to make a Holy people of them-but all they do is complain that they had better meat in Egypt.

It us not difficult, then, to see why the ordinances look as they do.  They spell out a very controlled, defined existence, which is managed to near-strangulating tightness.  This is only just if the recipients simply CANNOT get their head right.  This training program makes the navy Seals look like hippies at Woodstock.  After all, the Seals were never eaten by the ground, forced to drink gold, or run through the camp and kill everyone in arms reach.  They were never carpet bombed by a death plague, or told by the commandant that they would never graduate the program.

having belabored the point, I hope I have driven it home.  The Great Barge was made to very slowly, very deliberately trundle through time, without a great deal of hard waters to face.  The rolling Great River was too difficult for the first generation, and subsequent ones did little better.  Stephen died for stating what was known: ‘you were given the Law, as by Elohim, and you did not keep it.’  Next, then, we should examine how the story of the Great Barge unfolded as it made its’ way down the Euphrates.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter 3, Part One

So let us take the Great Barge, as it slowly, inexorably rolls along, to the end of history itself.  Something we will need to discuss before proceeding in the difference between Eternal Torah and written Torah.  Paul’s use of Law is sometimes confusing, so a deconstruction of what is being referred is prerequisite.  The difference is between source and destination.

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet, a Light to my path”  Thus David says of the Scriptures.  The imagery here is potent; as an official biographer of Yahweh, David has a deeper insight into the character of El.  Here, he expertly divides the two aspects of the Law.  First, he reveals the rubber on the road function, found in the written Torah.  This is the lamp function.

The lamp acts as a symbolic standard for the Mitzvah.  The ordinances formed the context of all aspects of a Hebrew’s life.  It was the mechanism of their existence.  Whatever occurred in the Holy Camp, the written Torah was sought a light on the matter.  In this way, it is the lamp.  Where it is held up, light bathes the holder, and illuminates his environs.

More importantly, though, is that the Light shows the path.  A path goes somewhere; it isn’t static.  A lamp can set on a table, and it is good.  But when you need to travel through the dark, it must move.  The Light of Eternal Torah shows the way forward.  It isn’t there to sit in one place; it is there to keep you moving, towards a destination.

Thus, the lamp serves as the icon of the local; the Light, the icon of the universal.  This is born out by what the Scripture reveals of itself.  Paul says ‘sin was in the world before the Law was given’.  This means the subject is not eternal.  It has a beginning-and end.  When everyone dwells in perfect love, there will no longer be a code of ordinances (against perfect love, there is no Law).  But that cannot refer to the Eternal Torah, the light of El-for that is forever a part of Him.  ! tim 6 says ‘ He dwells in light immortal’.

So, if one Law is temporal, and one is Eternal, are they the same thing? It is more accurate to say that Eternal Torah powers written Torah, as the latter reveals El’s disposition on sin.  Sin cannot be defined in sum toto as breaking the law, as Paul says sin preceded the Law of ordinances.  This Law divided mankind, whilst the Eternal Law is uniting us, on our voyage to the end of human history.

Now, it is true that this final period of the world will see the written Torah emerge, where the Holy Edicts will govern humanity for 1000 years.  But the existence of the Ordinances still accompany a division, between the Holy People, and the hordes of Gog and Magog.  When the last division is resolved by judgment, then the Law of ordinances will have no more use.  Yet, the Light of God goes on forever, even as this reality paradigm is destroyed 2 peter 3).

This subject requires a great deal more discussion to fully consummate.  Labyrinthine arguments exist on these matters, and I cannot do them justice with bullet points.  I am only revealing how I see the matter.  My goal was to define the elements.  This being done, I can now turn to Captain Moses, to show us a tour of the Great Barge.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter Two, Part Two

SO, what are the conveyances that the children of Abraham use?  There is the Law, the ordinances of El, that were the commandments of the holy camp of Israel.  These were to be observed without exception.  Those that came from the mountain at Sinai were to conduct their existence inside the regimen they proscribed.

This is also true of the Gospel.  The Regenerate are holy, separated people.  They must live under the regimen proscribed by the Messiah and His apostles.  The rules  are to be observed as fully as those from Sinai. In form, there is no real difference.  It would seem that they are not very different.

The truth is, they aren’t. El does’t demand that one group exert effort, and the other lives care free.  Both ways demand obedience, faith, and trust.  Both rewrite the course of your life.  In truth, they become your life. There is no difference in this.

Imagine, then, our  two ships: the Great Barge, which sails the Great River.  Ponderous and purposeful, like the description of the Sphinx in Yeat’s superb Second Coming, the Euphrates rolls along, throughout out history,winding its’ way to the end.  This ship picked up the tribe of Hebrews-and those who would become ‘as native born’-as it made its way onward.  Then, there is the kalak, the smaller vessel.  Sleek, fast, it roams the faster waters of the Tigris, picking up anyone who will reach up a hand.

The kalaks can make many trips.  You collapse them, and take them back up river.  The great barge makes only one.  Thus, the motif of the great barge is that of we are history.  Mankind is only bit player in the story of the Hebrew.  This is the tribe that brought forth the Messiah, and the Sacred Torah, which they carried to mankind (romans 3:2).  The Gospel is themed whosoever will.  It does not camp in one region; rather, it was sent out to the whole of the Earth.

But it is all Yahweh’s will.  Why the discrepancies? Torah Observant followers believe that Torah is for all mankind.  It is called ‘the light on the path’. This seems a legitimate assertion.  Why would the rules system change, if they uphold what El says is good?  The answer is the basis of the Sinai covenant: circumcision.

Look at Romans 4.  Paul comes into this asking, from 3, ‘What advantage, then is there for the Jew? Of what benefit is the circumcision?’ Here, Paul is directly tying the word Jew (read Hebrew) to circumcision.  They are one and the same.  While many Ger or Gentiles joined into Israel, they were considered ‘as native born’.  There was no place for a Hittite, Jebusite, Gibeonite, etc.  The map of Israel is marked by which tribe is your home.  There is no inheritance, no portion, for anyone who does not belong to these tribes.

So, while any who came to the Holy Camp could convert, it was, in effect, a racial conversion.  They could not retain their previous identities.  To reside in Israel, to have a portion, you had to be of the tribe.  And that was accomplished by the sign of the covenant of Sinai, the circumcision.  This sign, in fact, identifies the possessor as a Hebrew, just as Paul is saying.

Consider the past tense language in Romans 3.”They were entrusted with Oracles (Torah)”.  Look at this. One, he says ‘they’, referring to the Hebrews.  Was Paul not a Hebrew?  Why are they ‘they’?  Look at the tense. They were entrusted. Why not now? Yet, at the end of 3, he writes

 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

Thus, he begins 4 with a connection to the circumcision.  Gen 15:6 declares Abram was credited with righteousness.  Paul never says the Law is bad-not once.  He declare sit is righteous (Romans 7:12).  Yet, after this, he drops a bomb.  He asks if Abraham received the covenant while circumcised or not?  It was while uncircumcised.  Now, the father of faith appears to lack the one thing that is sine qua non to the Hebrew identity.  Here is the whole passage:

Is this blessing then on d]the circumcised, or on e]the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it credited? While he was f]circumcised, or g]uncircumcised? Not while h]circumcised, but while i]uncircumcised; 11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which j]he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which k]he had while uncircumcised.

There it is , in black and white.  He received the blessing while uncircumcised, so that those who were not could call him father.  I know it will rankle many ( a speciality of mine), but this is the fact: the circumcision covenant was for the Holy People.  The light of Torah, while still good, only shone on those who could make it to Israel.  And you could only live there by becoming a Hebrew.  Thus, the nations, the goyim, the Gentiles were locked out.  Then Jesus tore the temple veil, and the Tigris River was born.

To continue this deconstruction. I will identify the characteristics of the vehicles of faith. First I will examine the format of the circumcision, followed by the format of the Gospel, the uncircumcised river, over which Paul was appointed Apostle.  Let us then examine the barge, whose skipper was Moses.


Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter Two, Part One

Now, down to the meat of the matters.  The opening framework here will be to show the symbology of the pattern which I have assigned to Abraham.  In the beginning, he was Abram, of Mesopotamia.  Thus, from his start, he was a man of two rivers.  The Tigris and Euphrates were the most important features of his homeland.  They made possible the rise of the Sumerians, the forebears of Assyria, Akkad, and Babylon.  They gave fertile soil to a hostile region, and commercial waterways that are still used today.

Time has not erased the power of these rivers.  You can still see the various barges, large and small, sailing along them, as in times past.  The Kalak, a raft made of strong reed and goat skins, can still be seen, although the British rail system greatly reduced water traffic in the region.  Barges, flat bottom boats, were commonplace until the river was dammed in the 20th century.  Barges were usually large vessels, designed to move cargo on the Euphrates slow speed, while the Tigris required curved hulls to navigate safely.

From a land of two rivers came Abram, to a Promised Land, which was marked off by-two rivers.  Genesis 15:18 describes it:

“To your t]descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates

Thus, he kept the river of his origin, and added another.  This is consistent with the character of El: he gives generously, multiplying liberally, desiring always to bless.  Thus, we can see a window here, of an adding on.  Something here must be addressed, to clarify any ambiguity.

While the Tigris is a branch of the Euphrates, with different vessels, on a different route, it is still a river.  That means that, morphologically, it must share more attributes than it differentiates. This is to assert, bluntly, that the two rivers do not represent two gods or two religions.  The Tigris is a product of the Euphrates; as such, it is a descendant, with the same character.  What differs are not the rivers so much as the vessels upon them, and the routes those take to reach the unification in the end.

Thus, the Tigris route does not vary ethically from the Euphrates.  Yahweh does not change what is right and wrong.  The sailing conditions, however, are bifurcated for a while.  This corresponds well to the fact that Grace is only a limited time offer.  The time will come when the great hall is closed, and no more guests or virgins will get in.  Fortunately. this only occurs when mankind has gone reprobate, and the times of the Gentiles are complete.

So, let us look at the covenant given to Abram.  First, it changes his name.  This is important in the Bible.  This change, to Abraham, magnifies his character, from strong one, to very strong one.  This also indicates an increase in his possessions, and his progeny. He will increase in blessings, and he will have more of what he had before.  Thus, we see multiplication already begin in the name being elevated.

So, already, he is not the man he was before.  He has two names, and expanded blessings-the foremost of which is that he will have a son.  Now, in Gen 15, it is written: “Abram believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’  Here is a conundrum.  What exactly did Abram do?  Yah told him He would do these things.  Is that, then, belief?  The definition of faith ,from Hebrews, “the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Here I must inquire: where is the faith in this?  El appears to Abram, and tells him He will perform some verbs.  Anyone in the universe can believe that.  Yet, the Scripture affirms that Abram believed.  How is this anywhere as strong a faith as the offering of Isaac?  They aren’t even close.  That is why I thought of Gen 15/17 as one covenant, the circumcision/flesh covenant, and Gen 22 as the covenant of the Gospel.

The problem here was a false choice dilemma.  It isn’t an either or affair.  In 15, the faith is trust and obedience, which is also required in the Gospel.  The Torah requires the evidence of things not seen.  If it were not so, would Israel have turned away, time and time again?  Even with the Law given, as by Elohim, they still ran after false gods and fallen men.

So, why then the two rivers? It seems that each has common elements.  Is this division illusory?  Let us examine the vehicles of faith that the covenant of Abraham produced: the Law and the Gospel.  Here we will see the difference.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter One, Part One

Abram, as all of us, had a story from which he arose.  Unlike most of us, his came from a band of survivors from a world destroyed for iniquity, sailing on a barge to a new beginning.  His ancestor, Noah, was also a man of faith, also approved of by El.  Like Abram, Noah would be given a covenant by Yahweh, that would apply to his sons, for as long  as this world persists.  I must pause here, to explain something you will almost certainly reject, and that is the account of Noah.

I won’t bury you under volumes of work here; that would be a diversion.  Very simply stated, the events listed in Genesis concerning Noah did not occur on this planet.  You will likely recoil from this idea, but we are, by the Word of Yahweh, under commandment to be honest.  The ninth commandment compels right witness; Jesus does as well (let your yes be yes).  So, on either river you take, your steward demands you accept the truth.

Here are truths observable to mankind today.

1)  the human race did not emerge from 8 people

2) the human race did not reset 5000 years ago

3) life has not been wiped clean here (almost, but not 100%)

4) structures and artifacts exist that predate the Ussher numbers

5)  The Flood did not cover our mountains.  Everest stands at almost 30000 ft.  If the waters covered it, that adds 908 atmospheres of pressure.  This results in the loss of all topsoil, converting the planet to a ball of mud, killing most plant life as well.

There is much more, but that is another story.  I mention it only to prevent confusion if I use phrases like ‘Noah’s world’, etc.  If you disagree, so be it; it isn’t necessary for you agree with me to see what I am presenting about Abraham.  Noah was the last righteous man of his world; he was also the forbear of the Messiah.  His trip is symbolic of the journey of faith in all cases.

Noah left all he knew behind, to venture forward to a new life.  He sailed onward, keeping his eyes on the horizon, searching for that land promised to him.  When he arrived here, he founded three lines of people, one of whom would be the Hebrew race, from which would arise Abram (I know, Hebrew comes from Eber, but that is how we refer to the genetic group commonly called Jews).  He was also given a covenant, a sacred calling, and a promise of hope.

Noah’s covenant was for he, and his descendants, with a promise to all life not to drown it again.  He went out in faith, a man of righteousness, a man approved, and made the line that would give us Abram.  In that sense, Noah is the father of all who sail the river of faith, which ever branch they traverse.  Abram followed this pattern.  Going out from Ur, he made for a land promised to him, a place where he would have descendants from his body-and some who were not.

Noah serves as the symbol of God seeing us through the storm-contrary to the Ninja rapture advanced by Darbyites.  Noah obeyed and believed, as his descendant would do.  But he never made a sacrifice like his only son; and that is why he only sailed on one water.  His progeny, Abram, would supercede him.  Abram would also at in absolute, Kirkegaardian trust that his friend, El Shaddai, would not turn against him.  And thus, from the mountain of hope beyond reason, a new river was made.  Carved from Abraham, it would bend away from the Great River, for a little while.  Thus Abraham would become the father of two rivers: one from his body, a covenant of a land, a people, a tribe, and one from his faith, which would usher in everyone else.

Abraham, the river of faith: Seeing the Euphrates and Tigris as the Torah and the Gospel

Prologue: how it came to be

Greetings to all.  This blog series will explore an epiphany I received last Friday, during our Holy Convocation on Skype.  I want to thank all our members, who make the gathering a true joy for me.  I give special thank here for our brother Jason; it was his presentation on the covenant of Abraham that laid the groundwork for the awakening; it was also he that spoke the words that caused me to here the striking of the Truth.  This is not to elevate one man over another: it is simply right to acknowledge from whence the radix of the understanding emerged.

One of the most vexing elements of my faith walk has been the apparent dichotomy between the Sinai covenant of old, and the Gospel, the new covenant of Calvary.  I find myself a product of the latter, who seeks instruction from the tutor, which is the former.  Yet, the hobgoblin remains: why does there seem to be such a gulf between them?  This struggle-Law vs Grace-has driven much of Western literature.  The legendary Hugo explored this theme masterfully in his brilliant epic, Les Miserables.

In our Sabbath gatherings, we have had many discussions on this divide.  I am not in the full Torah Observance movement; I look to it as a guide, a teacher.  Paul refers to this covenant as that of Hagar, and the Gospel as Sarah.  But many believe that it one covenant, building piece by piece over time.  We have had vigorous struggles on this theme, which led to the last meeting.  I was having a hard time dealing with the Abramic covenants; Genesis 15 is the covenant of flesh, and Genesis 22 the covenant of faith.  I saw these as the roots of the Torah and Gospel, two separate events.

Jason presented a paper to address this conflict.  He asserted that it was one covenant, whilst I held to 15/17 and 22 being the divide Paul discusses in Galatians.  I could not believe that Abraham was not multiplied more in 22 than in 15.  Jason asserted that the number in 15 and 22 were the same seed promised, that the sum was given in 15 and 22.  In the midst of the debate, Jason made the prophetic (the minor usage, a right witness) statement that made it all clear.  He said ” They may look different, but they all meet in the end”.  And so it was. In that moment, the sacred chord was struck, and I heard it.  We were both right.

Jason was moreso than I; he correctly assessed that 15/17 and 22 were not different covenants at all. I held that Romans 4 clearly came from Gen 22; but then, it also hearkened to Gen 15.  Yet Paul refers to Sinai and the Gospel as distinct from each other.  It was maddening.  Why is it that this happens so often in the Bible?  Why is there conflict in  a divine revelation?  The answer is, there isn’t.

Jason said it perfectly: the seed in 15 and 22 are one number, because they all meet in the end.  When those words fell, I was immediately taken to Revelation 12:17: whose children keep the commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.  Here, all of Abraham’s children, through Torah and Gospel, meet in the end.  Just as the Tigris and Euphrates do, at the Persian gulf, before heading into the sea.

The Euphrates is the Great River.  It is the mightiest of the ancient world, and served as the basis of the Mesopotamian civilization.  But Mesopotamia was a named given the fertile land by the Greeks; it means ‘the land between two rivers’.  That second river is the Tigris; but is it really a second at all? Geograpically, it does not directly stem from the Euphrates; but the water table on which it rests, including Lake Hazar ( its’ source) is saturated by the Euphrates.  But for a small turn of fate, a minor channel forming would have made it so.

I am treating the Tigris, therefore, as having the Great River as the tributary for the Tigris; this isn’t a lesson in geology or water tables.  It is meant to show a spiritual principle: of how one river, Abraham, carved out a fork that became a different stream  for a while, until rejoining the Great River once again.  Thus, in Abraham, we find both Torah and Gospel, which are not opposed, but are two different currents, rolling towards the place where they will reunite.

This groundwork having been laid, I will take us back to the first Great Barge that traveled waters of faith, that being Noah and the Ark.



Follow The Lamb, Part 16: A Lamb on a White Horse

http://renewedheartministries.com/presentation/Follow-the-Lamb I’m paraphrasing (and analyzing in part) this series of lectures on Revelation by Herb Montgomery because it relates to the kingdom of God. My Bible study is discussing this series and I just now decided to start posting about it so I will be following along with them for the rest of the series on parts 12-17. I will post a summary during the week before we have Bible study Friday night and will update it after Bible study to account for anything else learned there. I will finish parts 1-11 on my own after 12-17. Hopefully I will be able to get the others to comment on those as well. Herb argues that there is a change in teaching in the new testament to pacifism–from the Tanahk (or Old Testament)–and argues that Revelation fits with this. This also interests me because our paper “Unless He Gives up All His Possessions” argues for a change in teaching in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) with regards to possessions but only due to a different situation arising after Christ. The TNIV translation is used unless otherwise noted. Links to the paraphrased material, lecture:  https://renewedheartministries.com/sermons/followthelamb/16alambonawhitehorse.mp3
handout: https://renewedheartministries.com/sermons/followthelamb/outlines/16thelambonawhitehorse.pdf

Tonight Herb says he will cover four chapters that each need their own presentation but he will condense it to two presentations.

Revelation 19.11-21–Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a WHITE HORSE! Its RIDER is called Faithful and True, and in RIGHTEOUSNESS HE JUDGES and makes WAR.

This sounds not like a contradiction to the Lamb, the sermon on the mount, and a contradiction to . The promise the angels made when Jesus ascended in Acts 1 is that this same Jesus would come back as he ascended.

Revelation 2.13–I know where you are
living, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are
holding fast to my name, and you did not
deny your faith in me even in the days of
Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who
was killed among you, where Satan lives.

The characteristic of someone who is faithful in Revelation is “Faithful unto death” This type of death is not passive, it holds the same action the imagery of the rider on the white horse. We choose non-violence because it is an active way of winning the war and of winning our enemies and winning that victory.

Psalms 45.3-6–Gird your SWORD on your side, you mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty RIDE FORTH VICTORIOUSLY in the cause of TRUTH, HUMILITY and JUSTICE; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds. Let your sharp arrows PIERCE THE HEARTS OF THE KING’S ENEMIES; let the NATIONS FALL BENEATH YOUR FEET. Your throne, O God, will last FOR EVER AND EVER; a scepter of JUSTICE will be the scepter of your KINGDOM.

Revelation 19.11-21. . . , and in RIGHTEOUSNESS HE JUDGES and makes WAR. . .

Compare with:

Psalms 98.9– [New Song]He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.

This is not retributive justice but restorative justice.

Psalms 96.10– [New Song] Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

Psalms 58.1–Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge people with equity? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out VIOLENCE on the earth.

The implication is that if you deal in justice and equity your hands will not mete out violence.

2 Corinthians 10.4–The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

Ephesians 6.12–For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but
against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

In other-words, the enemies that we are fighting against are not genuinely our enemies. If it has flesh and blood even if it’s attacking you it is just a conduit of the real enemy.

Let’s say there’s a tussle with someone breaking into my home and intending to do my family harm but when the mask is ripped off it’s my sixteen year old daughter. Every person is like the sixteen year old son or daughter of God. It’s active warfare.

Revelation 12.7-9–And there was WAR in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

The root word used for “war” here is πόλεμος (polemos) and is where we get our word “politics.” Herb saying John is essentially saying: “remember the war being fought here is not a literal war.”

Revelation 19.11-21 . . .His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems [crowns]; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in A ROBE DIPPED IN BLOOD, and his name is called The Word of God. And the ARMIES OF HEAVEN, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. FROM HIS MOUTH comes a sharp SWORD with which to STRIKE DOWN THE NATIONS, and he will REIGN OVER THEM with iron SCEPTER [rather than rod] ; he will TREAD THE WINE PRESS OF THE FURY OF THE WRATH OF GOD THE ALMIGHTY. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the mighty, the flesh of horses and their riders–flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great.” Then I saw the BEAST and THE KINGS OF THE EARTH with THEIR ARMIES gathered to make WAR against THE RIDER ON THE HORSE and against HIS ARMY. And the BEAST was captured, and with it the false PROPHET who had performed in its presence the signs by which he deceived those who had received the MARK of the BEAST and those who WORSHIPED its IMAGE. These two were thrown ALIVE into the LAKE OF FIRE that burns with sulfur. And the rest were KILLED by the SWORD of the rider on the horse, THE SWORD THAT CAME FROM HIS MOUTH; and ALL THE BIRDS WERE GORGED WITH THEIR FLESH.

Herb says don’t jump to conclusions yet. He asks what it means to be slain by a sword coming out of someone’s mouth?

Isaiah 11.4–But with righteousness he will JUDGE the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the ROD of his MOUTH; with the breath of his LIPS he will slay the wicked.

God’s justice here is not retributive it’s restorative. God is not punishing the needy for being needy.

Revelation 2.16–Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you
and will fight against them with the SWORD of my MOUTH.

This is what God says he will do with his Church if they do not repent.

Psalms 2.1-9–Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” I will proclaim the LORD’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will BREAK them with a ROD of iron ; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

When John quotes this he doesn’t use the work “break” we will see why in just a moment.

Isaiah 63.1-6–Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”Why are your garments red,like those of one treading the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress ALONE; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. It was for me the day of vengeance; the year for me to redeem had come. I looked, but
there was NO ONE TO HELP, I was appalled that no one gave support;
so my own arm achieved salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me.

John takes this violent imagery of blood coming up to the horses bridal for 16,000 stadia and changes it subtly. Notice he is not using the one treading the winepress alone in Revelation he is there with his army.

Ezekiel 39.17-20–As for you, mortal, thus says the Lord GOD: Speak to the birds of every kind and to all the wild animals: Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth–of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. You shall eat fat until you are filled, and drink blood until you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with warriors and all kinds of soldiers, says the Lord GOD.

This shows the rider destroys all of God’s enemies but the question is how does he destroy them?

Psalms 59.7–See what they spew from their mouths–the words from their LIPS are SHARP AS SWORDS, and they think, “Who can hear us?”

Job 5.15–He saves the needy from the SWORD IN THEIR MOUTH; he
saves them from the clutches of the powerful.

in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver . . . to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him

Notice the sharpened sword that came out of the mouth of Isaiah was not to physically kill Israel but to turn Israel back to their God.

Hebrews 4.12–For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Psalms 149.6–May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword IN THEIR HANDS,

Revelation 2.16–Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you
and will fight against them with THE SWORD OF MY MOUTH.

Revelation 1.16–In his right hand he held seven stars, and COMING
His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

Revelation 19.15–Coming out of HIS MOUTH is a sharp sword with
which to strike down the nations. “He will REIGN OVER THEM with an
iron SCEPTER.” He treads the WINEPRESS of the fury of the wrath of
God Almighty.

Psalms 2.7-9–I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You
are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make THE
NATIONS YOUR HERITAGE, and the ends of the earth your POS-
SESSION. You shall BREAK them with a rod of iron, and dash them in
pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

REIGN OVER–Poimaino; to Shepherd

I’ve already described how Herb is incorrect about the John changing the meaning of the words used to describe the function of the iron scepter in Psalm 2:7-9. See: https://kingdomofgodcommunes.org/2018/10/07/follow-the-lamb-part-15-empire-and-the-lamb/

Luke 17.7–Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or TENDING sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’?

1 Corinthians 9.7–Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who TENDS a flock and does not get any of its milk?

Matthew 2.6–And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a RULER who is to SHEPHERD my people Israel.

John 21.16–A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you
love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus
said to him, “TEND my sheep.”

Revelation 2.26,27–To everyone who is victorious and continues to
do my works to the end, I will give authority over THE NATIONS; to
REIGN OVER [shepherd] them with an iron SCEPTER . . .

Revelation 3.21–To the one who victorious I will give a place WITH
ME on MY throne, just as I myself was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

He can’t wipe out the nations and then rule them. Herb argues that the word in Psalms can be translated as “rod,” “scepter,” and “staff.”

Revelation 20.1-3–And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the ABYSS and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the DRAGON, that ancient SERPENT, who is the DEVIL, or SATAN, and bound him for a THOUSAND YEARS. He threw him into the ABYSS, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from DECEIVING THE NATIONS anymore UNTIL the thousand years were ENDED. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

Each one of the schools of thought we talked about post-Constantine has a way of interpreting the millennium. Of all the teachers in the new testament the millennium is only mentioned by one. John does not give us enough information to solve the questions surrounding this.

Exodus 20.4-6–You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATION of those who hate me, but showing love to A THOUSAND GENERATIONS of those who love me and keep my commandments.

John is contrasting God’s judgement with his restorative justice. The devil is allowed to reign for 3.5 years (Rev 11 and 13) but the church is allowed to reign for a thousand. However, in Rev 20 the promise in Ex 20 is fulfilled.

Revelation 20.4-6–I saw THRONES on which were seated those who
had been given authority to JUDGE [Reign, see Psalms 96 & 98]. And I saw the SOULS of those who had been beheaded because of their TESTIMONY about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had NOT worshiped the BEAST or his IMAGE and had not received his MARK on their foreheads or their hands. THEY CAME TO LIFE and REIGNED with Christ A THOUSAND YEARS. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. THE SECOND DEATH HAS NO CLAIM OVER THEM, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign WITH him for A THOUSAND YEARS.

Some people in the early church took the millennium metaphorically and some took it literally. Herb says that he thinks John doesn’t give us enough information to decide. We need to be careful about making definitive statements about the millennium just from this passage. This is directed to a specific group (martyrs).

Revelation 6.9,10–When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the SOULS of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and vindicate our blood?”

It says that they will reign over the nations from Rev 19 so that king of muddies the waters.

Daniel 7.9-14–“As I looked, “THRONES were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of FIRE was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and THE BOOKS were opened. Then I continued to watch because of the BOASTFUL words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until THE BEAST was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a SON OF MAN, COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and SOVEREIGN power; ALL NATIONS AND PEOPLES OF EVERY LANGUAGE WORSHIPED HIM. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Revelation 11.11–But after the three and a half days the breath of life
from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.

The imagery revelation gives in a first century setting is that after they are raised they will reign with Christ for a thousand years.

Revelation 3.21–To those who are victorious, I will give the right to sit
with me on MY THRONE, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Daniel 7.18–But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the king-
dom and possess the kingdom forever–forever and ever.”

Daniel 7.21-22–I looked, this horn made war with the holy ones and was prevailing over them, until the Ancient One came; then judgment [reign, soveriegn power] was given to THE HOLY ONES of the Most High, and the time arrived when THE HOLY ONES gained possession of the king-dom.

Daniel 7.26-27–“`But the court will sit, and his [the beast’s] power will
be TAKEN AWAY, CONSUMED and completely DESTROYED forever.
Then the SOVEREIGNTY, power and greatness of all the kingdoms
under heaven will be handed over TO THE HOLY PEOPLE of the Most
High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and ALL RULERS

Who’s going to rule for a thousand years? The holy people.

Daniel 7.14–He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; ALL NATIONS AND PEOPLES OF EVERY LANGUAGE WORSHIPED HIM.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Those who take part in the second resurrection it says death has no claim over them.

John 14.30–I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this
world is coming. He has no CLAIM over me

Hebrews 2.14,15–Since, therefore, the
children share flesh and blood, he himself
likewise shared the same things, so that
through death he might destroy THE
free those who all their lives were held in
slavery by the fear of death.

When the lamb dies it defeats the dragon frees all those who are being held captive by the dragon. Do you see a parallel in revelation 20.

Acts 2.24–But God RAISED HIM UP,
having freed him from death, because

Those two witness for a metaphorical three and half years like Jesus did. They have the power to use the methods of Elijah and Moses but they choose to use the methods of the lamb. The beast will kill the two witnesses but that is good for the lamb. Jesus didn’t see his death as a failure but what must be done to overcome the enemy. Remember all the inhabitants of the earth are celebrating and after three and half days the breath of God comes into these two witnesses (the church) there’s a great earthquake a tenth of the city falls 7,000 perish and what happens to the survivors? They fear the God of heaven and give him glory.

What we are seeing in Revelation 20 is the first resurrection in Revelation 11. Herb says to get lost in the story and put aside different doctrinaire interpretations of Revelation. He specifically says of the historicist position “That’s not what John’s doing” This may contradict something he said earlier where he seems to leave on the possibility for a futurist/historicist interpretation of Revelation. However, he is probably emphasizing a matter of weight. John’s weight of importance is on the story not on giving us predictions of the future (if that is even what John is doing)

After this the white rider comes and kills all the enemies which is another way of describing the war of the lamb. (he dies to defeat his enemies) Herb says remember there is going to be another resurrection for those who were slain for not worshiping the beast and his image. (the martyrs) John is not concerned with giving you imagery that symbolizes the resurrection when Jesus comes back. He is trying to just tell a story with different metaphors and imagery that will inspire you to continue to follow the Lamb. This is why there is so much debate over how the millennium is really going to happen. Every time you try to apply the millennium to real history it produces more questions than answers.

Herb Montgomery, Malkav reborn

As my variegated existence has unfolded here, for more than half a century, I have on occasions sampled some of the cultural offerings available to me as a dividend of my American citizenship.  Many of these Hors de ouvre have been the plethora of films that have been proffered generously by Tinseltown and others; a good deal of apertifs have come from the music industry. The dish that provided some of my most intense pleasures, however, was the RPG, or Role Playing Game, the grand-daddy of which was D&D. A good amount of my creative energy went into the boundless adventures it provided, which were limited only by the mind.

The success of Dungeons and Dragons opened a plethora  of avenues for new formats to emerge, ranging from space, old west, and superhero games.  All of them had a common characteristic: you would generate a character using the rules, and enter him into the imaginary world created by the Referee, who acted as the arbiter of decisions in the game.  Along with these games, I brushed up against a rather unique experiment: Vampire the Masquerade.  In this genre, you made an actual Vampire to play, complete with powers to use, and disadvantages to overcome.


This introduction, while arcane, is necessary to explain our good Mr Montgomery, for he strikes me as one of the main orders, or bloodlines, of Vampires, the Malkavians, who bear the name of their sire, Malkav.  This breed has a power available only to them: dementation.  This investment allows them to use madness itself, to see what no one else can.  And that is what I experience frequently when listening to Herb.

I am sure he means no harm; he seems like a good soul.  But his theories possess a quality of frenetic circumambulation that I have only seen Peter Parker perform while exerting his famed acrobatics.  Herb pulls verse after verse from the Scriptures, darting like a mamba from point to point, charged with obsessive dynamics that were once labeled ‘religious ecstasy’.  All the while, he is drawing you in, mesmerized by the sheer magnitude both of his passion, and his detachment from reality.

At times, he goes into raw madness, uttering the patently absurd, that cannot survive a cursory examination of the whole Bible.  Many are the times I have been struck by the Dementation of Malkav, unable to comprehend how he could transcend mere factuality with so little effort.  Then, just as I am scoffing (scoff, I tell you! harumph!), he detonates in a quasar of sheer brilliance, effulgent in its’ superlativity to mere intellect.  Bathed in the scintillation of the infant star, I stand diffused from comprehension, as I rasp from my throat “Hey-that was actually right”.

This does not occur on regular points: it emerges on complex, machinated hypotheses and theories, that require massive cogitation to master.  Ideas born of years of study, deliberation, and scrutiny by the Scientific and Socratic methods suddenly strike forth, from a mouth that had only a moment before committed sophomoric inaccuracy.  Thus, my quandary: how can this be?  How can they proceed from the same mind?  The answer, I have concluded, lies with Malkav.

Herb has reached genius conclusions at times: he is absolutely correct in decrying empire, in the age of Constantine dooming the Church, and in the rotten behavior of the Church making the Gospel anathema to mankind.  In fact, it is right to say that anyone touched by John Calvin actually helped Satan destroy the world.  His observations on the dark side of the American super system, based on the Swift system domination of Earth, are quite accurate.  His compulsion to follow Jesus, even against cultural norms, is Biblically accurate.  These are not trivial achievements: these conclusions are the product of massive sums of data being studied intently over long periods of time.

So, when he utters the incongruities so prevalent in his theory-such as Yahweh not being violent-I cannot explain the disparity in modality, except as a side effect of his  Malkavian dementation, which is both a power and a curse to his line.  In some cases, like this one, Herb is utterly wrong in reality, but his theory absolutely correct.  El would never be violent, in a world where humans never fell.  It is El’s desire to withhold judgment and destruction.  But humans have a nasty streak that, on occasions, require Yeshua to get ugly with them.  I am using the divine terms interchangeably, since we know Yahweh is One.

Mr Montgomery’s primary notion-that the Book of Revelation is a missive designed to convince Christians not to long for Nero, or the resurrection of his Rome, is just to baffling to contemplate.  Further, he suggests that many of the phrases refer to events already gone by.  This simply cannot make sense.  For Herb’s theory to be correct, the following must be so.

One, Jesus called John to write down a history lesson.  This is ruinous to consider.  Why would the Messiah appear, in glory, to tell John to write and exhaustive drama, when it would been simpler to reiterate the actual of recent history? Half the book disappears if John writes ‘Nero was a bad guy, but he’s gone.  Since we know the history of Rome, we know what happened.” Okay, but Herb says that the legend of Nero might be frightening people.  That might, actually, have been true.

Even so, John could excise the other half of the book by saying “If Nero returns, follow the Lamb. Nero is a man, so he cannot return from the dead.  So stay steadfast in what you have been taught.  The Kingdom of the Lamb will prevail.”  Other than the letters to the churches, his entire ‘revelation’ can be summed in a paragraph or two.  Also, no one in the upper class was impressed by Nero.  He was a drooling imbecile, noted for his corruption, ineptitude, and lack of redeeming character.  He might have impressed the plebians, but the power set regarded him as an embarrassment to Rome and Romanism alike.

Herb says that the ‘revelation’ is a passion play for the Christians, using the Scriptures to create a high drama of sorts.  That condemns Christianity to oblivion.  If the Revelation is not, if it is bunk, a sham, a conceit, then the men of Nicaea made an erroneous testament.  They warped the Word of God, and threw mankind into darkness.  Without an accurate product emerging from the councils, over seven decades of study and review yielded a lie.  We simply, at this point, cannot know God, if His Word is corrupt.

My heart goes out to Herb.  He is passionate, driven, obsessed with an ideal, and these help him to spin wildly through the Scriptures to create his grand illusion.  What he teaches people is ethical and upright, without regard to his accuracy or sanity.  Therefore, I am content to let great Malkav peer into the darkness, and in his madness, forge genius.  His labyrinthine convocations are as vivid as what he claims John’s ‘revelation’ was; they have dizzied and subjected to vertigo my mere Greek reasoning, many, many times.  But I have also learned much in his presentations, and therefore do not hold them valueless.  So, as Malkav peers into the beyond, I will listen still, for that moment of apotheosis that makes the madness worth enduring.

Follow The Lamb, Part 15: Empire and the Lamb

http://renewedheartministries.com/presentation/Follow-the-Lamb I’m paraphrasing (and analyzing in part) this series of lectures on Revelation by Herb Montgomery because it relates to the kingdom of God. My Bible study is discussing this series and I just now decided to start posting about it so I will be following along with them for the rest of the series on parts 12-17. I will post a summary during the week before we have Bible study Friday night and will update it after Bible study to account for anything else learned there. I will finish parts 1-11 on my own after 12-17. Hopefully I will be able to get the others to comment on those as well. Herb argues that there is a change in teaching in the new testament to pacifism–from the Tanahk (or Old Testament)–and argues that Revelation fits with this. This also interests me because our paper “Unless He Gives up All His Possessions” argues for a change in teaching in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) with regards to possessions but only due to a different situation arising after Christ. The TNIV translation is used unless otherwise noted. Links to the paraphrased material, lecture:  https://renewedheartministries.com/presentation/Follow-the-Lamb?msds_pif_cat=empireandthelamb
handout: https://renewedheartministries.com/sermons/followthelamb/outlines/15empireandthelamb.pdf

This building is not the church this is just a building the church meets in. Herb thanks everyone in the church and the Bliss family whom he stayed with. The Book of Revelation is not as many have taken it to be. It is not about an angry God come back to take vengence but a lamb. The Lamb takes vengeance but it is of a different nature. The way a lamb takes vengeance on it’s enemies is through the non-cooperative principles of non-violence but with the aim of destroying his enemies by making them his friends. The early church would have seen this violent imagery of the old testament that John turns on its head and gives it new meaning.

Revelation 18.1-8–After this I saw another angel coming down from
heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor. He called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! . . .

This is imagery has been stolen from the Tanahk. In the same way that Israel was going to brought of captivity to Babylon we see in Revelation that every nation tribe and tongue will be brought out of captivity to Babylon. Likewise he is using the exodus imagery to talk about all nations being brought out of slavery to Babylon.

. . . It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird, a haunt of every foul and hateful beast. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.”

The Lamb of God is an itinerant teacher announcing that there is a new kingdom being established which is a radical new way of structuring society and life in general.

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in HER PLAGUES; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed. As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her a like measure of torment and grief.

Ezekiel 16 The sins of Sodom were that they were overfed and unconcerned.

Since in her heart she says, `I rule as a queen; I am no widow, and I will never see grief,’ therefore HER PLAGUES will come in a single day–pestilence and mourning and famine– and she will be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”

Revelation 18.9-10–And THE KINGS OF THE EARTH, . . .

This is who were are told in Rev 21 will leave Babylon and bring all their glory into the new Jerusalem.

. . . who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas, alas, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.”

Response to the fall of Babylon is mourning because the kings of this earth are invested in the way of life. Luke 6 sermon on the plane, blessed are you who poor, mourn, are hungry, but What Jesus would accomplish would take the downtrodden and the marginalized of this world. Woe to you who are benefiting by their abuse. Those who are benefiting from creating poverty.

Merchants of the earth were benefiting from the luxury of Rome.

Revelation 18.11-16–And THE MERCHANTS OF THE EARTH weep
and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves–HUMAN LIVES. ” . . .

What John is doing here is not critiquing Rome or the killing of the Lamb’s followers. He is engaging in an economic critique that the luxury wealthy people live in perpetrates abuse on the rest of the world.

. . .The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your dainties and your splendor are lost to you, never to be found again!” The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, “Alas, alas, the great city, clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! For in one hour all this wealth has been laid waste!”

Herb reads from “Climax of Prophecy” by Richard Bauckham. Gold: Rome imported gold especially from Spain where most of the mines had become state property during the first century. Sometimes by highly dubious means of confiscation. The use of gold was one of the commonly noticed features of the growth of extravagant luxury among the wealthy families of Rome during the first century. In one of the periodic attempts to curb this they had a law against the use solid gold plates at private diner parties. Pliny complains that even the ceilings of private houses are covered in Gold . . . With the place of gold at the head of John’s list it is worth noting the Eumolpus. . . If there were any land that promised a yield of gold, that place was Rome’s enemy. Fate stood ready for the sorrows of war and the quest of wealth went on. Herb asks if there are parallels between that today.

The case of silver was similar to that of gold. Pliny associated silver with the luxury of the Roman rich remarking on the fashions of silver plated couches, baths made of pure silver, the common use of silver for serving food. . .  Precious stones in John’s day came from India so people in Rome were pillaging so that they could live in extravagance. The emperor Tiberius in his letter to the senate about Roman extravagance in 22 AD referred to that special feature of Roman extravagance that transfer of currency for jewels to often hostile nations but Rome owed it to her empire that she could afford those expensive imports from beyond the empire.

Under the lamb we have to question is our pursuit of happiness coming at the price of human lives around the globe? Maybe John was more green than we thought, maybe John was more concerned economically than we thought. One thing in Rome was to dissolve a pearl in vinegar or alcohol and then drink it for the thrill of wasting so much money. The merchants of the earth will weep. This is John’s critique of empire in the first century. God hated the bricks of Egypt not because he’s against mortar but because he is against the cost of human lives. He hated the empire of Babylon and the stonework of Babylon not because he hates stone but because of the cost of human lives. There have been Christians in the last 100 years that have realized that every purchasing decision I make is a moral decision.

and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the GREAT CITY?” And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, the great city, where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in one hour she has been laid waste.

What is John doing here? Who are the mourners? The ship captains the ship owners and the kings of this earth. Remember they are invested in the way Babylon is doing life.

Revelation 18.20–Rejoice over her, O heaven, you saints and apostles
and prophets! For God has given judgment for you against her.” Then
a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into
the sea, saying, “With such violence Babylon THE GREAT CITY will be
thrown down, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flutists and trumpeters will be heard in you no more; and an artisan of any trade will be found in you no more; and the sound of the millstone will be heard in you no more; and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more; and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more; for your MERCHANTS were the MAGNATES of the earth, and ALL NATIONS were deceived by your sorcery. And in you was found THE BLOOD OF PROPHETS AND OF SAINTS, and of ALL who have been slaughtered on earth.”

Revelation 19:1-10—After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God, for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the GREAT WHORE who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has vindicated on her the blood of his servants.” Once more they said, “Hallelujah! The smoke goes up from her forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.” Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of THE LAMB has come, and his bride has made her-
self ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of THE LAMB.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS. Worship God! For the testimony of JESUS is the spirit of prophecy.”

If your interpretation of the Book of Revelation gives you different picture of God than the one Jesus gives on the sermon on the mount: the God who causes the sun to shine on the wicked and the God, the God who sends rain on the unkind and the just. Who kind to the unthankful and seeks to win them not destroy them. . . I know some of you need to die somewhere, but what about the book of Jonah? Would you be ticked off if God did not decide to destroy them? Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites in the kingdom with him. Herb suggests that if you are like Jonah and see something very different in Revelation than in the teachings of Jesus that you are misinterpreting the metaphorical Revelation. Some did indeed view it as complex to interpret (suggesting an allegorical interpretation) http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/ecf/201/2010243.htm  also see: http://global.oup.com/obso/focus/focus_on_revelation/ It’s interesting that the main debate among scholars is about whether the beast represents Rome or Israel and not about if there’s some literal future fulfillment of these things: https://blog.adw.org/2012/11/why-the-modern-view-of-the-book-of-revelation-may-be-flawed/

Herb Montgomery asserts that in the Psalms the word used in “break” for “break them with a rod of iron” while in Revelation it is “tend” or “shepherd.” It is true that the Greek word can have that meaning and the Hebrew is certainly translated as “break”

“Thou shalt break H7489 them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psa 2:9 KJV)

However, in the Septuagint the same word is used to translate the Hebrew as is used in Revelation:

“You shall tend G4165 them with a rod of iron; as vessels of a potter you shall break them.” (Psalms 2:9 ABP)


Rev 2:27 And he shall tend G4165 them with a rod of iron, as the vessels made of clay shall be broken; as I also have received from my father; (Rev 2:27 ABP)


This shows that John is most likely not trying to modify the original meaning of the verse. He is either quoting the Septuagint or (if it was written in Hebrew) he is most likely quoting the same Hebrew word in Psalms which got translated the exact same way. I think Herb’s point  still stands in that breaking the nations could simply not refer to the people but to the power structure they serve.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV)

Herb goes on to say “if your interpretation of the book of revelation gives you a different picture of God than the picture of God you see in Jesus then choose Jesus and allow Jesus to recast and reframe how the book of Revelation is interpreted.”

John purposely lists the mourning of those invested in a way of life that is coming to an end and he purposely contrasts that with the rejoicing of the following of the lamb. Herb asks us which side we would be on if a great empire supporting our luxurious way of life falls. For instance, for Americans, who would you sympathize with? the fall of America (which is ultimately necessary for the Lamb’s kingdom to reign in the end) or will you rejoice because the Lamb’s kingdom has come?

Herb says we’ve started saying that the exceptions are the rule and that it’s not possible for most Christians to care for the poor and be pacifists because the teachings of Jesus are too radical and it’s only those who are called that are required.




The Tall Man Cometh: The Phantasm of Herb Montgomery

During the last convocation, when we listened to Herb’s latest exposition, a lively round of discussions broke out on Revelation, which led to me employing my time honored idiom of making movie references to explain my points. In fact, one of the brethren remarked, jovially, “to understand Dave, you have to have seen every movie ever made”.  While technically untrue, since I would never willingly see a rom-com without sexual enticement, it is symbolic of my totem and tribe.  I do frequently use film to express a deeper, metaphorical idea, as I am about to now.  In this post, I will referencing a movie long buried in past, whose villain, The Tall Man, must arise from his slumber and serve as a simulacrum for our good Mr Montgomery.  The movie in question is Phantasm.

The eponymous character was not a person, in the traditional sense.  Rather, it was flying weapon, whose role, like Nemesis of old, was to hunt down and punish the wicked-or the teenaged.  Phantasm was semi-sentient, able to, upon being sent my the Tall Man, seek out a victim-and, upon finding one, exude a sharp metal blade from its’ frame.  The silvery sphere would then fly straightway into the victim’s forehead, causing the death of the mark.  What fortune, to be felled so quickly.

I, on the other hand, was pursued by far more agonizing a hunter than this. My Tall Man, Mr Montgomery, unleashed an argentine assassin all his own, a Phantasm to run me down without mercy.  It came when he tried to explain that El was not violent, but was only violent when humans made Him be.  Just like the film, I could not escape: the dreaded harbinger hunted me down, and slammed its’ wicked blade in my skull.

Or, at least, it felt that way.  I have no better way of describing my dumb-founded shock at hearing the lecturer say something so utterly ludicrous that I was stunned that no one called him on it.  Perhaps they, too, had a Phantasm all their own, burrowing vigorously into their now-disjointed mind.  Whatever the case, I was utterly unable to believe that he really meant it.  But the presenter of the material confirmed that this was a position that Montgomery held not only consistently, but with fervor. El was really a Lamb; only man made Him get destructive.

The Bible is a rampage of violence, some of which is very definitely sponsored by El.  6 chapters into the book, Yahweh drowns a planet.  The whole planet.  Wherever Noah was from, that world’s entire bio-matrix was abluted in sum toto.  Later, He would obliterate the 5 cities of the plains, including the headliners, Sodom and Gamorrah.  Then, when Israel is called into the desert, they make an idol, which gets 3000 of them killed by the sword.

Shortly, the ground opened up and swallowed 3000 more. 14000 are killed in a plague from Yah.  Finally, they are showed the Promised Land-which must be purified by genocide.  Now, people will respond ‘see, He was just passing right judgment’. Ok, but the animals of Noah’s world were judged for the sins of man.  The chabbabs, or bosom-nursers, of Amalek were ordered slain. When Sennacherib threatened Judah, his army was destroyed. not him. By the blast of the trumpet, 185,000 men died on the spot.

Which leads then to the howler of the night: Jesus didn’t actually threaten anyone in the Temple.  Rather, He chased the animals out, in a display of non-violent resistance (Herb’s penchant for revisionism is flush and vivid indeed).  Here, the lightning orb slams full into my skull, and from it shall not depart.  I have been Phantasmed, with no escape possible.  His attempts to turn an I shudder absolute monarch into a hippie revolutionary are febrile, but useless. Equally so is this Ghandi Jesus.

I have to have some pity for the Tall Man, even though his assertions lodge metal fury into my brain-for he, too, is a victim.  He was Phantasmed, the same as I: only in his case, the object smacking him in the cranium was reality.  Living in absolute denial of the collision between his assertions and the Bible, he refuses to give up.  I guess I have to respect that.  But Herb;s talents are being wasted in this enterprise.  His creative genius would be well-rewarded in Hollywood, where they are down to making movies about board games.

I certainly don’t want to hurt Mr Montgomery as a person.  But I also don’t want to have to run screaming down the hall, when I hear the signature whine of the Phantasm.  I shudder to think of what might lie ahead: for in the sequel, the Tall  Man captures the teen heroes, even when they thought it was all over. It remains to be see if he will part the curtain, at the end, and declare “No: it’s not!”


Countries for Communes

This post is more of an inventory than a post and may be used in the future as a page to collect legal and logistical information. The question: “what country is the best place to found a commune?” is dependent on several variables:

1. Ethics

Ethics asks where we could found the commune so as to love God and our fellow man most effectively? Could we morally follow all the laws of the country in which it is situated? Could we have a good impact on the environment?

Give Unto Ceasar

There’s a possiblity Yeshua was against paying taxes in his day. We will present evidence here but this does not mean that Yeshua would have been against paying taxes today. Herod was looked at less favorable by God than our leaders today since he was divinely executed for starting to accept that we was God (an anti-Christ) in Acts 12:22-23.

The Herodians were the political party of Herod the king and favored submitting to Rome, hence it is interesting that they brought that group in order to trap him and tried to flatter him so that he would disregard considering “men” in his answer (possibly danger from men or opinions from men?)

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.
(Matthew 22 NKJV)

Luke’s version is even more clear:

20 So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor.21 Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:20-22)

An unorthodox reading of Christ’s responses can be made in light of Deuteronomy 10:14 which says “Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it.” and Genesis 1:27 which states “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Now consider Yeshua’s response in this light:

“And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” . . . “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”” (Matthew 22:20-21)

Yeshua mentions an inscription which this may shed some light on:

“But what did the inscription say? On the front, the coin said “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” The reverse side of the coin read “Greatest Priest.” But that is how it was inscribed in Latin. In Greek, Tiberius coins and inscriptions read theou huios (“son of the god”). Note with special emphasis that Tiberius put the word “god” before the word “son” in his inscriptions and coins.”

Note: “son of” can mean “in the nature of”, or “in the image of” e.g. Colossians 1:15

Add on to this that Jesus had charges of opposing the payment of taxes: Luke 23:2 and that he says to shun tax collectors: Matthew 18:17 and you can see why you might read Jesus as saying cryptically not to pay taxes. (cryptically because the Herodians were there and he didn’t want to get killed just yet) However, this must not be used to negate: 1 Peter 2:13-25 for those rulers who “punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” We must ask ourselves which governments this holds for.

To sum up we must consider several things when choosing the country to found a commune:

1 Does it have a government we can morally pay taxes to?

2 Does it uphold 1 Peter 2:13-25 in general?

2. Viability

Viability is the likelihood that a commune would not go bankrupt. This would be dependent on the country’s economy and member’s experience with running businesses or services related to the economy and their ability to navigate the social, cultural and linguistic environment.

3. Legality

Legality asks: how would we have to structure the commune to make it operate legally in the country?

United States


7.25.23 Religious and Apostolic Associations (02-23-1999)
Requirements for Exemption

1. IRC 501(d) and 501(a) provide exemption for a religious or apostolic association or corporation if:

a. it has a common or community treasury, even if it engages in business for the common benefit of its members; and

b. the members include in their gross income their entire pro rata shares, whether distributed or not, of the taxable income of the association or corporation for the year.

2. Any amount included in the gross income of a member is to be treated as a dividend received.

Hutterite colonies are formed voluntarily by adult males who agree upon certain rights and obligations among themselves and on behalf of their families. The main purpose of the colonies is to live a communal life following the tenets of the Hutterische Church society. The colonies, while religious, engage in agricultural activities (farming, raising stock, dairying, etc.).

In the Denver Region, two types of colonies have been identified. The most common type is a nonprofit corporation with corporate officers and a board of directors. Generally, the officers do not draw a salary and the colonies do not issue stock certificates. The corporations are tax exempt under Section 501(d) of the Internal Revenue Code and are required to file a United States partnership income tax return (Form 1065). Individual members may or may not file individual tax returns.

The other type of Hutterite colony found in the Denver Region is an unincorporated religious association. Like the incorporated colonies, they are nonprofit and tax-exempt under Section 501(d). Instead of officers or directors, they have a board of trustees. They also file partnership tax returns. There are very few such associations. The majority of colonies are incorporated.

There is an unverified quote from Wikipedia that states that this structure, although officially “for-profit” generally results in no income taxes:

The group operates as a 501 (d) – “for-profit organization with a religious purpose and a common treasury.” The community pays property taxes, but the 501d structure tends to result in no income tax liability.[3][13]


If this is true, incorporating as this or another entity that results in no income taxes like a 501(c)3 may seem desirable but brings up two questions: 1 is this ethical? 2 What reaction would a growing network of communes get from the country and its citizens if that network was paying no income tax? A more extreme example to consider is: what would be the reaction if that network was labeled as an entity exempt from income taxes such as a 501(c)3?


We are also looking into Seasteading as a way to have more freedom for how to run the commune. However, it looks like it would be initially more expensive and it is unsure if this is needed but we thought we would leave it here just in case: https://www.seasteading.org

The Seasteading institute previously signed an agreement with the government of French Polynesia:  Memorandum of Understanding Although the agreement now is apparently void: Radio New Zealand

4. Profitability

Profitability is how profitable the commune would be and therefore how many resources could be dedicated to further expansion.

5. Leading of the Holy Spirit

We put this last not because we believe this is unimportant, on the contrary, we believe this is the most important aspect if it can be proven and tested. We just have not had any leading with regards to this thus far. This may or may not be normal. Regarding this we quote:

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. (Acts 2 NKJV)

David Bentley Hart has come to the conclusion that the word translated “fellowship” in verse 42 refers to the practice of common ownership and communalism. [1] Even if Dr. Hart is incorrect verses 44 and 45 make that statement anyway. The signs and wonders done by the apostles are mentioned together with them following their doctrine and giving up all their possessions. Therefore, it may be possible that we won’t have miraculous intervention by the Holy Spirit until we start practicing as the Apostles of old.



I came to the conclusion that koinonia often refers to a precise set of practices within the early Christian communities, a special social arrangement — the very one described in Acts — that was integral to the new life in Christ. When, for instance, the Letter to the Hebrews instructs believers not to neglect koinonia, or the First Letter to Timothy exhorts them to become koinonikoi, this is no mere recommendation of personal generosity, but an invocation of a very specific form of communal life.