Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter 4, Finale

     For all the damage the kalak has suffered, it is still making its’ way down the Tigris, for that meeting with the Barge.  In the West, few are seen on the river; most have been abandoned on the shores, tipped over, half sunk in the mud.  But in China, Somalia, and other places, people are risking death to get in one.  There are still places where the little boat still travels, on its’ mission to make disciples of all men.

     Even in the West, there are still some churches that preach the right, accurate Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They have not bent their knee to Babylon or Mammon- for El always keeps a remnant.  These are mostly in America, but in the Phillipines, Ethiopia, and Armenia (the latter two of which established the world’s first state churches), they still continue on.  France and Ireland still boast healthy Catholic congregations as well.  So it cannot be said that the kalak failed; rather, it did not fill the pews as it should have.  It was meant to do that, but humans, with their pesky choice mechanism, often throw a shoe in the gears.

     Ultimately, our ability to choose can be a blessing as well.  It can be directed at finding and receiving the salvation of Jesus Christ.  And there is the hope, that will not pass away: that despite the cruelty and iniquity of our rotten, rancid, broken world, there is still a kalak for us.  The rulers of this present darkness, with all the terrible power at their command, cannot stop you from getting into the boat.

     They may harm you, or kill you, but they cannot stop you.  You can take to the Tigris, and make your way downstream, if you want to take the journey.  Whatever consequence awaits your adventure, you will arrive in the Kingdom of God, if that is your desire.  Despite all that has occurred before, the kalak will take you to the sea; for as Paul writes:

” I am not ashamed of the Gospel {of Jesus Christ}, because it is the power of salvation to those who believe, first to the Jew, and then, to the Greek.”

    This verse well fits my closing entry, since it encapsulates my main theory nicely.  The Gospel was preached first to the Jew-who was instructed in righteousness at Sinai-and then, those apostles went to the Greek, the Gentiles, and carried the Word to them.  So, from the Great Barge came emissaries, who then launched the kalak for mankind, to fill the hall of the Master, for the great day of His wedding.  For it is His desire that all should come, to be clothed in white for His day of joy and triumph.

     Imagine then, the sea where the two rivers meet, when the sons and daughters of Abraham come cascading down the streams. Wave after wave of the kalaks appear, their crews singing loudly, rapt in fulfillment, as they greet one another on the sea.  There, they surge and build to a swarm, shouting ‘Hosannah!’, pouring like a waterfall to the ocean.  As they laugh and hug and play, a roar goes up from the throng, and the ships part down the middle, as the Great Barge makes its way among them, the flagship of the faith, joining the armada at last.

    Whose joy will then be greater, when at last the navy conjoins?  Will it be the kalaks, at the sight of great ship, of whom they had heard so much, but never seen?  Or the mighty Barge, when it sees all the children the kalak in it diligence had brought home?  Who can tell.  When that day comes, it will no longer matter.  For there, the Messiah awaits us, ready to takes us home.

     What a sight it will be for Him, to see that grand fleet arrive.  With Great Barge amidst the many kalaks, it will be beautiful to His eyes, I am sure. For our sails will be full and robust, filled by our faith and hope, and our paddles driven by the Love Eternal that finally, finally has come to restore our weary souls.  On that day, no arm will tire, nor any voice grow faint, as we present our eager flotilla to our God and Father at last.

     Here ends, then, the story of the Two Rivers, born in the Bosom of gentile Abraham.  From his faithfulness, his righteousness, and his love came the covenant of Yahweh, first to the Jew, and then to the Greek.  For His firstborn, Yahweh made a might ship, that would endure till the end of the Euphrates; and from this, officers were dispatched to the Tigris, where a smaller craft was made to gather in the Gentile to Abraham’s house, that all men might be saved.  Be you of the barge or kalak, peace be unto you, until that glorious day shall come.  Selah, and Amen.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter 4, part 6

Having laid the groundwork for the outright brigandage of Calvin, let us turn to his more pervasive corruption of the Cross. In the wake of the revolt against the Papacy, Europeans were frightened, endangered, and even worse, unsure. The lethal weapon at Luther’s command-the printing press-had spread a dangerous outbreak of ideas, against which tyrants have always cursed and abjured. As a result, people were left with a void of security, which is the most primal of all human needs. Thus, a time of uncertainty created a prefect soil for a dark harvester to sow. And sow he did.

Calvin was a prolific writer, so it would be manifestly unfair to cherry pick him lop-sidedly. Some of his commentary was valid, even sagacious at times. But we must review the effects of his work, to see what he left behind for us, and little that was mundane survived him. After all, Luther and other Reformers were better exegetes than himself. What did survive his works was his deadly, deranged doctrine of double predestination.

Free will vs pre-destination: preachers and clerics hate this adversity, for it truly has no resolution before the discovery of particle physics. Arminius, the Dutch Reformer, made effective argument against Calvin’s position, but the truth of the matter is that free will is not mentioned in the Bible, and predestination is. That conflict still drives theology today, what little remains. To boil it down, Arminius claimed that Calvin was making God the author of sin, if He predestined a soul to sin against Him and fall. Without a choice, there is no justice in condemning a sinner, since it was God who wrote his life. A normal person would consider that a problem.

Calvin, on the other hand, had no problem with that at all. That was subsidiary to the Depravity of Man-that men were born into sin, and were damned until saved from it, which Augustine declared from times past. This terrible estate drove the ancient church to practice infant baptisms, to shield a baby from going to hell. This practice was rejected, however, by Protestants, including some Calvinists who made it their flagship issue, who became the Baptists. Baptism had to be chosen, as a sign of accepting the Gospel: and the hard core still maintain that in must be a dunk, not a sprinkle.

Yet, Calvin’s double predestination made it clear that you were not in control of salvation. That was decided by Christ, and Christ alone. This made people even more nervous, since the comfort of salvation was now utterly beyond their reach. Why do anything, then, if you are damned or saved before you were even born? Calvin at least knew that this had to be countered ahead of time, lest he be painted into a corner. So he added another impossible dimension to the axiom.

You cannot control you fate, but, you can show that you are amongst the elect, by working very hard, and adhering to all the rules. A life unstained by indolence, sluggardly repose, and waste was the one way you could know that you were likely a saint in the making. This of course meant that if you were not doing this- keeping perfect piety, working hard, with industry, never wasting time on frivolities (Weber concentrates heavily on the ‘time is money’ that made America and its’ ethic)-then you were not a saint. You still might go to hell, even if you did everything right: but, you could find comfort in being able to believe that you at least had a chance, if you adhered to absolute ardor.

This ethic, of never wasting a moment or a coin, was the security that replaces the old Catholic model. Thus, Weber identifies it as the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’: it is not to imply that Catholics are lazy. It was a specifically Protestant, Calvinist response to not having the assurance of the Roman Catholic paradigm. This idea was horrific; I doubt Calvin even knew what he was unleashing. But it was here that the malice associated with Christianity began in full. The Inquisitions, the barbarity in New Spain-these were atrocious. But they died out, having been rejected over time as evil. Calvin’s idea was only beginning.

The terror of hell, of never being certain-without diligence-created a growing coterie of followers who took to the idea fervently. They developed fanatical strength of will, and extraordinary intellect through discipline. This was, in a sense, a ‘super soldier’ program: it refined the genetic limits of the practicioner. This became its’ own curse, however, and a source of great malice to boot. First, it created the idea that if you were doing well in life, God is blessing you. That it to say, if you are successful-as industrious, focused, pennurious people mostly tend to be-it is a sign of God’s favor. This begins the trend to see unsuccessful people as not favored, and therefore, damned.

Here, we see the beginning of the division of the world into the chosen few, and the great unwashed. There is no pity for the weak or wretched; if they failed, then God did not want them. If their piety was impure, they failed. Such sinful lapses revealed a weak will, and that was only made right through the rectification of the flesh, usually through flagellation. And should the weak be unable to rectify himself-well, the whip hand was always at the ready to drive some righteousness in to their hide.

Since the program of double predestination elicited the very best efforts from people, they tended to be extremely genetically fit, and this eventually became, over time, the basis for not only the superiority of white men over all others, but of the physically adroit of the weak and puny, as a sign of divine affirmation. The Greeks called this idea Charisma: that the beautiful were anointed by the Gods, and the deformed rejected by them. There was no physical defect but spiritual light. You had both or neither. Thus, by the mid 19th century, Calvinism had become the basis for Muscular Christianity, the promotion of fitness as a sign of racial and spiritual signs of the blessing of God. This idea transformed into Eugenics, the elimination of the weak and fallow, to preserve the race-which itself was borrowed by a failed artist in Germany.

The survivors of the terror program of Calvinism lost all compassion, all sympathy, and all pity for those who were defective. As a group, they were traumatized into psychotic behavior, and this, in turn, transferred to any who were deemed unworthy. These are the people who gave us witch hunts, hangings for breach of Biblical code, and the genocide of a people in the Americas, who were assigned to hell as ‘red devils’, and wiped out wholesale where possible. The Puritans were miserable, angry, and repressed, which finally led to the collapse of their societies. By the dawn of the 18th century, The disciples of Calvin were largely divested into new traditions, that excised the madness of Calvin in different measures, creating new denominations like Baptists and Presbyterians.

Unfortunately, the dismissal of Puritan power did not erase the impact of Calvinism. The seeds had already been sown. The dawning New World was febrile with hope and energy, with the possibilities of a vast horizon, ripe for a ‘manifest destiny’. Colonial trade with Europe was thriving, and an age of invention was afoot. A man could own his labor, his freedom, for just a few years indentured servitude to pay for passage across the Atlantic. Then, there were some who could not ever do either, who paid with their very humanity to make across the waves.

Slavery in America is a grotesquely complicated, intricate affair, that cannot be cut like the Gordian Knot. You could fill the credit requirements for a History Major with the classes needed to comprehend the elaborate nuances involved in a mastery of all the data involved. I will address the matter spiritually, which is am inversion of the terrestrial examination of the affair. The making of slave-the commodification of a person-is perpendicular to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This rests on on one commandment:

“Do unto others, as you would have done unto you”

No one wants to be vulgarized beneath humanity, robbed of their freedom and dignity, and converted into property for chattel. You cannot out-argue this position. It has a primacy that cannot be eroded, obviated, or ablated. Accordingly, I can say that the Bible does not condone chattel slavery, or the making of free men into slaves. The estates permitted in the Torah were applicable only to Canaan, and only under extreme strictures.

But we know how history went. Slaves were profitable short term-indentured people as well-as the growing economy was hungry for the production of goods. Profits were there to be made-and if that required indentured serfs, African slaves, or Indian genocide, well-they were obviously not elect. Profit was king, because in advancing in wealth, you were one step closer to God. And God loved you, because you were successful.

I will conclude this unhappy affair in the next post, as it becomes a morbid thing to dwell upon too greatly. When I have shown why the Cross is so despised today, I will put the negative behind us, and return to the voyage of the Kalak, which does have, at least, a happy ending. It should have been a spotless vessel, the tiny boat made to reach all men, all places, all times. It should have been a joy to see, as it brang the tidings of the Good News. What would the world look like today, if it had run the Tigris as it was meant? We will see a window on this ahead, as we examine what it looks like now.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter 4, Part Five

“A tree is known by its’ fruits” Jesus says. A good tree does not make bad fruit, or vice versa. This metric, while not true in a biological sense, is meant rather to impel a deeper meaning. After all, apples are not good or evil. This refers, rather, to the parentage of righteousness and depravity. We hear of the ‘bad apple’ in the bunch, but whence did it come? In the West, it almost certainly came from Jean Calvin.

Examine the recorded history etched into history. He was in most ways an ordinary human. He was blessed, however, to have lived in the most explosive times since the Fall of the old order. After a thousand years of mayhem, the Papacy was being challenged, by a monk-and some shrewd politicians. In the vortex that followed, Calvin had the opportunity to transform from mundane into the cosmic; like so many other cult leaders-Joseph Smith, Mohammad-he took the reigns of destiny, to become more than a man.

In the Swiss cantons, the ideas unleashed by Luther were being discussed openly. and act of bravery in light of France’s brutal murder of those possessing a Protestant bible. Zwingli was being debated with Luther, and Calvin wanted the spotlight those men had acquired. Armed with some legal training, a keen mind, and relentless will to prevail, he worked his way to the top, achieving patriarchy over Geneva, where he wrote his famous Institutes. How great the irony-the hater of Popes, now was one.

I wonder if he saw, for a moment, his face in the mirror, adorned in the miter-or how much like his enemy he was. His governorship of Geneva is well documented: he established the Law of Moses as the civil code (even though he was not in the priesthood of Aaron)-which ended in him being forcibly removed from office, after demanding someone’s daughter be stoned for impertinence. Many will contest this: Calvin has ardent followers still, centuries later. I do not have reason to believe he would attempt this, considering the Michael Servetus affair.

Servetus was an atheist, a critic of religion and the Papacy, and a recklessly brave man. A physician, he held religion to be tales of the powerful to control the uneducated. He had read, certainly, the works recovered during the Rebirth, amongst which would be the works of Seneca, whose tenets on religion are still adhered to today (it is regarded by the common as true, by the wise as false, and by the ruler as useful). He was, unsurprisingly, condemned to death-psychotic, intimidating death, at the stake-for his crimes of speaking against power. He had evaded capture, making for safe haven in Itaky, until he was caught in Geneva, where he would die the death.

Servetus had made the wrong man very angry. He had received Calvin’s institutes, and returned it, with pointed criticisms in the margins. Calvin opened correspondence with Servetus, which grew explosive, and Calvin grew to despise the man as much as the Papacy did. When Servetus came into his power, Calvin put him to the stake, atop of pile of Servetus’ books, and burned him alive. To saturate his thirst for revenge, he added a wreath of gunpowder, to extend the torment. The last words Servetus uttered were these:

“Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me”

The record shows that Servetus was killed for heresy-the act of executing heretics being repugnant to Reformers-but Calvin’s letter to Farel shows the real reason. Calvin’s ego had been bruised, and he would see vengeance for the slight, no matter the cost. Here, Calvin showed from which tree he fell.

If you want to experience true madness, watch a Calvinist defend Calvin. Cognitive dissonance doesn’t begin to cover it. The evidence is replete; but they will use arguments like ‘it was common then’ or ‘everyone has bad days’. Even more insane are the true cultists-the ones who never admit that Great Leader has a fault. Great Leader is perfect. Great Leader was blessed by God. These Calvinists remind me of the North Koreans who cannot admit that Un defecates, as feces would make him defiled, a mere man.

I have to be careful-reason and wit got Servetus killed. The savage irony of Calvin is that he had an opportunity to read most of the Bible-and yet, still found a way to justify what can not-can not- be found as permissible in the Scripture. There is no power granted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to commit mayhem or murder. The ills associated with Bible-Crusades, slavery, etc-are not sustainable in cohesion with commandments of the Messiah. Period. Yet, people find a way.

Even today, Calvin is defended, upheld, cherished. If you are in a church in America. you have likely felt his spectre brush past you. His works still haunt us, and, indeed, the world itself. From his tiny city in the Alps, Calvin warped a planet with darkness. It was he who mastered what he Popes, greedy for wealth and power, could only dream of attaining. It was the son of the Papacy, the Protestant Pope, who forged, as Sauron, the Ring of Avarice. It was he who would unleashed the Gospel of Mammon.

Calvin instituted several edicts that would bring this about. The greatest of these was the dispelling of the prohibition against usury, he lending at interest, which Yahweh forbade. If El forbids something, He probably has a reason why. There is a reason that the one demon Jesus abjures by name is Mammon, which is, Avarice. The demonic host of the power of wealth, Mammon bends all to his will. Some murder; some rape; some steal: but all want. All desire; and that desire is directed towards the great lie of the Garden: you can be your own God. This is the promise that Mammon holds out, rapt in the splendid light of gold, and all of humanity has been its’ victims-either as the commodified, or the commodifiers. Mammon makes it all happen; Mammon has the key to the door of your dreams. All Mammon needs is interest.

It would take books of sobering, boring data to bear this out. I will give you a bullet point summary, and let you decide if you believe me. Interest pays the investor on the principle. I put in a thousand, and I get a few bucks on top of it back. Cool, right? Well, no. The interest you received came from somewhere-and that is from someone else going into debt peonage. Debt peonage is the assumption of a human as property. It is never stated this way: that would frighten people. But that is the end goal of debt. You loan, you require an interest payment, which upon default of the loan, remands the money or property back to the lender. And if there is a shortfall in the restitution-well, somehow, the balance must be paid.

Not long ago, America had Debtors prisons for those unable to pay debts. There, you would work off the shortage-in the custody of the state. These are starting to make reappearances today. Along with this is the prison slave labor system, that MIC companies employ to cheaply manufacture circuit boards that are featured in the missiles that blow up children in Warzistan. And, if you want some flush quarters, you can hide toxic assets in a CDO, while still merrily handing out the toxic loans-which, of course, were never going to be repaid.

What is the root of all evil, that makes the bad tree? It is not money, but the love of it. Money is fine. Basic capitalism-working hard for your wages, in the rote of John Locke-is not evil. The Bible commends honest work and honest gain. But there is no wealth in Law of El. You cannot squeeze your brother for the vig. No, to make wealth, your money must make money. That is the difference between rich and wealthy. Rich people make tons of money-but still have to work to pile it up. The goal of the rich is to get wealthy enough to retire-so their money finally becomes self-sustaining.

The goal, ultimately, is to defeat the curse of Adam: “By the seat of your brow, shall you make your bread”. To defeat this, mankind made civilizations, and later, empires. Civilization were made, generally, by commodifying people. Slavery began as a way to feed the needs of the citizens, to liberate to urbanites from the drudgery of work-by enforcing it on some one else. These liberated folk accumulated wealth, and became the priest and philosopher classes. One such man of that class was Cliesthenes, who looked out over his family’s helots-slaves- and wondered if every person had inherent worth, which was the foundation for what we now call Democracy.

Interesting, how it took a civilization to make the wealth to allow Cliesthenes to ponder the wretchedness of the Helots. Here, he punctures the mundane, to understand an idea-that people should not be commodified, that they were something more, affirming the very Law of El that he had never seen. What is striking is that this thought-this simple idea-became a major force in shaping Western civilization. Why, why is it so amazing, that a person should grasp this concept? Does it not speak volumes that we remember this man. mostly, because he stopped for one moment to consider the truth?

That is the power of Mammon. How many countless millions died agonized in horror, as they were converted into profit for the sake of the acquisition of wealth? How many are buried in the Great Wall of China. or the Pyramids? How many baskets of severed hands did Leopold require of the Congo? How many plains tribes watched their families die of smallpox, from blankets donated by the people the Indians once saved from famine?

I am reminded of a moment from the movie 30 minutes or less where two insanely inept criminals hatch a titanic failure of a heist. They order a pizza, then strap a bomb to the delivery guy, and order him to rob a bank to get them some cash. Finally, the delivery guy asks Danny McBride’s character, why are you doing this? McBride answers, deadpan, almost dolefully :”for the sh*tiest of all reasons: for the money”. What makes this memorable to me is the performance by McBride. The character, who is a lowlife-not Hitler or Stalin, just a low end kind of human-attains a Platonic degree of perspicacity. In that moment, McBride portrays a man who knows-knows-that what he is doing is wrong, and hates himself for it. But he is doing it anyway.

You can almost see a demonic shadow, lurking above his soul. It is almost as if he is not in control of himself. He almost looks like a man crying for help, who is in the grip of something from which he cannot escape. McBride conveys a deep human empathy for the delivery man. His eyes all but say ‘forgive me’. But the money is calling. The money is calling, and he must go. The lending at interest, which seems innocuous at first, is the gateway to wealth, which is the basis of all real power. This is one of the gifts of Calvin-the normalization of the worship of money.

In the next installment, I will go further into detail on this. I will discuss Calvin’s effect on the young nation America, drawing heavily on Max Weber’s Spirit of Capitalism. Note, here and now, that the problem is not Capitalism, which is the best idea fallen man has produced. The problem, as penned by the late, sovereign wit of Douglas Adams, is people. I will also look as some other odious doctrines of Calvin’s, that have led people today to see the weak and failed as subhuman-and divorced from the grace of God, which led to spiritual malice and moreover, the disrepute of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter 4, Part 3

Now, we have seen how the Great Barge made its’ way through history, as the vessel of one people, in one place, at one time. From their river, the Euphrates, came the Tigris, and the vessels for it, the kalak. Let us then examine the navigation of those tiny boats, for history will turn on them. Indeed, all the world will soon be covered by the swarm of them out on their run.

Following the reports of the resurrection of the Messiah, a frenetic wave of activity covered the Roman empire; first in Judea, then in Greek cities like Corinth, Thessaloniki, and the Gallic city Galatia. Within a generation, men trained to go out into the waters of the nations-to be fishers of men, as the kalak is used often-to spread the word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The most famous of these is of course Paul, the apostle to the gentiles; but, while chief amongst them, he was one of many who went forth, proclaiming the Good News.

There were fish to catch, for the Kingdom of God, and the early followers of The Way-known now as Christianity-left no stone unturned for those willing to repent and believe. They sailed the Tigris, casting their nets on all sides, looking for people to fish out and be saved. In the beginning, this was a tidal swell of activity, which was threatening to wash over the whole world. Indeed, until the age of Constantine, it looked for all the world like the Way might prevail against all odds. There seemed to be no way to stop the conversion of the Earth to the Gospel.

This is not empty rhetoric; Gibbons felt strongly that Christianity brought the Roman Empire down, as did Nietzsche. As a side note, I personally think the disease brought back from the Parthian wars of the third century did them in more than anything. Inflation was killing them, and political discord after the death of Marcus Aurelieus led to the splitting of the Empire into four factions. But it is perfectly reasonable to assert what Gibbons and Nietzsche did. An army with no weapons had beaten Rome-no weapons except having gained mastery over the fear of death.

You will recall our discussion of the impact of death on humans. Oddly, this is a dull sting to aboriginals and hunter-gatherers. They have an easier time accepting the way of things. Only as people became civilized did they become afraid: it would seem that having a luxurious life leads one to fear it ending. After all, if death eats you, what was the point of anything? If the only fate that awaits is nothingness, is it not the ultimate cruelty, to live long enough to realize that you are going to blank out, then go dark, extinguished, and erased?

The idea-the fact, in a Roman mind-that you will end was a torment they could not endure. They sought for every way possible to gain immortality-through writings, sculptures, histories. When you see these things, you seeing the Roman soul, flailing in fear, that they will not even be remembered. It was the keen awareness of this fear that the Romans used to dominate and control people; without this, Rome could not stand. A person who did not fear death was a weapon that could not be disarmed. This did challenge the Roman way of thinking, and undermined their cultural values greatly.

So, Christianity could be seen as an assault on Roman values themselves, as Nietzsche points out in Genealogy of Morals. Even today, I still cannot find a way to conclusively dismiss his argument empirically. While I do not agree with Frederick’s conclusion, his synopsis is quire valid. Romans did not like The Way. It was emasculating, prudish, and, well, Jewish. Romans liked conquest, personal glory, domination, and the glorious festival of the winter solstice, the Saturnalia. They were lovers of life, the Romans-for death was always after them.

Christianity is the death they fear, plus a new kind of death-a death to self, which took away the thin veneer of joy they had, in keeping Grendel upon the moors. In any other circumstance, they would have obliterated the offending cult-as they were famous for doing. But in Christianity, they finally met their match. They met an opponent who grew stronger as you killed them. Roman plebians-the commoners-who had long suffered under the patrician class, found that The Way offered them a power they could not have elsewise: the power to defy Rome. Slaves, as Frederick noted, were especially attracted to the Gospel, as it offered what they had never known, which was hope for a better tomorrow.

So the swell built, washing away the Roman power, and was being followed-even against psychotics like Diocletian-in the breadth of the Empire, surging as the Pagan ways were dwindling out. After Adrianople, Rome was an empty shell, a paper tiger that barbarians would to scoff-and later, take. Those people, the Goths, would elevate Christianity to new level-but at the price of creating a juggernaut of terror unmatched even in the days of Rome. This terror was Rome plus the Church, which became known formally as the Papacy. Please note, with acumen, the following:  This is not anti-Catholic. This is anti-Papal. I love my Catholic brethren fully and unconditionally. The Papacy is not Catholic: it is a tumor than grew up on the church. After the Peaces of Westphalia. the terror was finally leashed, and today is actually a spiritual center of some sorts, although the sybarite, hedonistic elements still remain strong within the Vatican.

The fall of the Terror of Rome was coterminus with the discovery of the New World (or, not Europe), and with this came a literal sailing of missionaries across the whole Earth, in the wake of Magellan’s epic quest to triumph over the insults heaped upon him by the King of Portugal. Unfortunately, this would not be the tale of epic splendor one would hope-for vessels meant to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead brought horror and darkness, and the commodification of people in the service of avarice. This is largely due to the impact of the arch-criminal of history, who harmed more than can be counted. This isn’t the standard bad guy-Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or even Karl Marx. This person cast a shadow over most of our planet that threw billions into ruin and nightmare, all through uniting the Gospel of Christ with that of Mammon. He is the son of the Papacy, who in fighting Popes became one, and the father of most protestant denominations in the West. This was Jean Calvin, and our next interlude will have to examine why he and his Papal counterparts made the Cross of Jesus Christ a sign of disrepute and disgust to most of humanity.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter Four, Part Two

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter four, part two

     So, we have discovered the basic state of play for mankind in the time of Jesus.  It was to this broken, fallen world that He came, draped in human flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.  He ministered to the Hebrews, to the tribes of Abraham, to the Great barge, because only they could
know who He was.  No one else would have understood His miracles, His sermons, His sacrifice.  Having ministered for three years, He established His church, and prepared her to got out into the rest of the world, to make disciples of all men, in preparation for the day when the rivers merge again.

     He explained by parable, that He wanted His hall filled, for the great day of His marriage, and that the disciples were to go and preach, ‘whosoever will’.  From Matthew 22:

Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with [e]dinner guests.

     This stands in stark contrast to the first journey on the Euphrates.  The requirements were harsh, terrifying and immutable.  There was no grey area for behavior under the Law.  This seemed like a bum deal to the Hebrews; after all, they bore the Torah through the desert, and suffered greatly for it.  We see the mind of Judah in the parable of the Prodigal: the older brother, the one who remained, was angry that the profligate was received.  And in the parable of the vineyard, those who worked all day were angry that the wage was the same for those who worked an hour.  To be honest, they kind of have a point.

     It seems grossly unfair that the gentiles would be treated as family by El Shaddai.  What was the point of separating out from the nations, if those nations are welcomed in anyway?  I sympathize with the Hebrews in this: like Jonah, I have to call BS on what must be called as such.  The Ninth commandment compels it.  I can understand the older brother: why did he remain and work, if the younger could party and come back like nothing happened?

     Well, as the story goes, the older brother, Judah, did not get shorted after all.  The Father comforts him, and says, clearly in Luke 15

29 But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never [k]neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your [l]wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you [m]have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

     Yahweh has never left Judah, not even in the worst of times.  He cannot, for Judah is His inheritance.  While the Gentiles were welcomed in, to be loved, restored, and uplifted, he has no portion on the farm.  It is, in fact, Judah’s farm.  Now, please pay close attention to the following words:

     This not about the love of God: this is about the proprietorship of the farm.  Jesus loves all mankind, no exceptions.  He paid for the sins of all people, no exceptions.  He sent His disciples to all the world, no exceptions. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is supernumerary to all barriers, all thoughts, all constructs of matter or will than do or can exist.  There is no power, in hard or limitless reality, that can interpose between the soul reaching to be saved, and mighty hand Yahweh to do so, as he attests in Isaiah 59. 

     That love belongs to all His progeny, no exceptions.  However, the administrative functions of the farm-those are not handed out to the wedding guests.  Those belong to Judah.  This will rankle a few people-and let me state that I am a gentile by birth-but the facts are intransigent.  The older brother has, as his portion, all the Father has.  This is established by the leadership team of the next reality, the final one, immortal, impervious to darkness.  Eternity is going to be run by thirteen Jewish men.  One Messiah, Yeshua, and His twelve friends, the Apostles.

    If you think that is incidental, try this.  Flip a coin thirteen times in a row, and try to get all heads.  Unless you have an Altered Carbon download, you will die of old age before that happens.  A permutation of 2 to the 13th power is pretty huge; it’s a series circuit that fails the first time you flip tails-and that just represents that they are are males.  That they are all Hebrew males-the chance of that event occurring is so  astronomical that I can’t calculate it.  It would be a theta value, which in Trigonometry is a number so small, it can be said to be 0, even though it is not.

     So let’s face the facts: Judah has not been subjected to ‘replacement theology’.  El may add to that number-after all, there were Ger who followed the Law, and were counted as native born, with an inheritance (ezek 47).  But Judah is given reign over the estate.  When all things come to an end, when the Millenium is over, and this world obliterated, the leadership team of New Jerusalem, which has a gate for each Tribe of Israel, will be Hebrews, and those who joined them on the Great Barge. 

     If this chaffs you, please remember that if you attending the wedding of the Lamb, you are not on fire.  That is a benny worth-well, anything.  If you are on fire, that is your job.  Not being on fire is an amazingly  good deal, especially when we earned it.  So, I am alright if I say ‘Sir’ to a Hebrew-considering that I could be saying “AHHHHHHHHH!” as I run around perpetually immolated.  Perspective, at times, is a virtue worth pursuing.

     This segue will lead us right to where Paul discusses the Jew and the Gentile, in Romans 3, where he explains that Hebrews have lost nothing.  Rather, the goyim have gained life, and the love of God, which can be spread around to as many as will receive them.  Now, we have returned to Romans 4 again, where the circumcised and uncircumcised children of Abraham are being brought in their vessels.  We will discuss the Kalak one more time, so that we can envision the day when all the vessels of faith join up in that happy armada, the Marriage of the Lamb.

Abraham, River of Faith: Chapter Four, Part One

So, what then is the purpose of having a Tigris?  El gave a Law to His people, to govern their existence.  Why then does the Tigris branch off at all?  After all, it would seem that He had a plan in place for the superintendence of His people.  But that proved to be the very reason the Tigris run was needed.  There were people living in this world that had grown up under the aegis of inquiry.  These had never heard of the written Torah, and did not know how the universe worked.

The civilized world was built on power, brutality, and avarice, all of which stemmed from one source: the fear of death.  From the mighty to the small, death plagued the soul of fallen men.  It was the spectre on the moors, a dread banshee that could not be repelled.  In fact, the more power and largess an empire acquired, the more the feared death.  The race of power makes one aware of the danger of power; thus, as one gains power, one fears losing it even more.  This was true for civilizations as well as people; the savagery and cruelty needed to make civilization (as Nietzsche detailed in Genealogy of Morals) always leaves a haunting whisper in the mind of the victor, as he surveys the dead he slaughtered to become a king: one day, this will be you.

Death, the constant northern star of fallen man’s literature and art; Death, the motor that drives his quest for first medicine, then immortality; Death, the hand and their throat, waking them in the night, waiting silently just beyond the door, silently, patiently.  Death, the cessation of anima, obsessed fallen man.  Death is the progenitor of all the gifts of civilization, either through the arts, philosophy, medicine and logic, or through mathematics and science, through which power may be gained.  It’s invincibility, omnipresence, and inevitability made it a god to men, literally.  Every ancient pantheistic religion had a god of death, who generally had to be appeased to stave him off.

If you think I am overstating this, pick up some Camus, or give Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal a watch.  For an abridged version of existentialist angst, watch What if Ingmar Bergman directed the Flash? on youtube.

Ultimately, we can go back to the man that the Greeks and Romans revered as the great sage: Homer.  It was he that penned the verse by which all of them lived:

“Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

This diatribe is of overwhelming importance, because you can now see how the minds of men were formed by history.  It was to this verse that Paul referred when he wrote “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope”.  (1 thess 4).

Now, I must be thorough, which requires a quick statement.  The Greeks were investigating the possibility of the immortality of spirit as early as 400 bc, in what were called the Eleusinian mysteries.  So the idea of escaping Death was not totally unheard of.  These cults were highly guarded and secretive, probably because they were sexual rites.  For the majority of mankind, however, it seemed that life was a cruel joke,  in which Camus said it was absurd to assign meaning.  It is perhaps summed up best by T.S. Elliiot:

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

It was to this world, a world without hope, a world of fear and terror, ruled by empires of fear and terror, that the Great Barge brought the sacred scroll, Torah.  Alexander of Macedon introduced the Hebrews to the world, and they moved to his eponymous city, Alexandria.  There, the Greek would work with them to translate the Torah into the Septuagint work that survives today.  Things were looking good, until the Hebrews revolted against the Seleucid Greeks (Seleucus  being a general of Alexander that inherited part of his master’s empire upon Alexander’s death).  Antiochus IV placed a statue of Zeus in the Temple, prefiguring the Abomination that causes Desolation in the End Times, when the Antichrist sits in the 3rd temple’s holiest seat, and declares himself God.  This led to the Maccabean revolt, which plunged Judea into constant turmoil and violence, until the Diaspora in 70 ad.

It was to Judea that Yeshua ben David, known also as Jesus, came with His ministry.  His work was strictly limited to the people of Israel;  not that He was a racist, but His focus was on the Hebrews, not the Goyim.  This was intended, for the Hebrews were versed in the Torah: they were educated and instructed by the Law, and moreover, knew of the prophesies that accompanied the arrival of the Messiah.  Jesus performed His miracles to show the Hebrews that He was the Anointed One, of whom the prophets had spoken.

In short order, the power elites of Judea worked to kill Jesus.  Like the empires of men, they feared death, and the loss of power.  That should have been the end of it.  But then, the world changed in three days (note: for a Hebrew, three days means “one whole day, with part or all of a day on either side of it’).  The impossible, if the reports of this man Jesus could be believed, had occurred.  Mankind’s ancient enemy, his tormentor, his god-like foe, had been thrown down.  As lunatic as it was fervent, the cries rang through the streets of Jerusalem, tearing down walls between Greek and Jew, and giving mankind the hope that they had never known:

“HE IS ALIVE!”

To the Greek, the Roman, the fallen, this simply could not be.  Death could not be defeated. And yet, here they were, the tribe of Christians (as Josephus called them), willing to face the very power at which all men and empires quailed, to proclaim the name of Jesus to Rome and the rest of the world.  Here, the Tigris Run, the Gospel of the Risen Christ, would burst forth from the water table made flush by the mighty Euphrates, to bring the light of the Torah to all mankind, borne on the modest Kalak that bears the joyous refrain:

He is Alive.

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 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: 2020-04-07

All verses are in the NRSV 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 subject G5259 to the law, will you not listen to the law? (Galatians 4:21)

or more literally:

Tell me, ye who are willing to be under G5259 law, the law do ye not hear? (Gal 4:21 YLT)

What does “under G5259 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 law.” Gesenius connects H8478 to G5259 “under” in Greek and lists places when it can be used to designate being under to “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. [7] 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.” [8][9] “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:

6 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

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 Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.
5 Moreover, wealth is treacherous;
the arrogant do not endure.
They open their throats wide as Sheol;
like Death they never have enough.
They gather all nations for themselves,
and collect all peoples as their own.

6 Shall not everyone taunt such people and, with mocking riddles, say about them,

“Alas for you who heap up what is not your own!”
How long will you load yourselves with goods taken in pledge?
7 Will not your own creditors suddenly rise,
and those who make you tremble wake up?
Then you will be booty for them.
8 Because you have plundered many nations,
all that survive of the peoples shall plunder you—
because of human bloodshed, and violence to the earth,
to cities and all who live in them. (Habakkuk 2:4-8)

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.”
https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/through-romans/RomansVol1.pdf

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.”
https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/through-romans/RomansVol1.pdf

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.
https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/habakkuk/3.htm

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;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

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.
https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/habakkuk/3.htm

If we realize that this type of faith (or the belief Abraham: “he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” or the obedience of Abraham: compare Hebrews 11:8) is different than having everything checked off with regards to your observance of the law–then we can see how Yeshua can tell the rich young ruler to “keep the commandments” to inherit eternal life:

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” 21 He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18-22)

16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:16-21)

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21)

Paul as well can say:

6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” (Romans 4:6-8)

This is because “keeping the commands” is not the same as doing specific works.

In Luke 18:21 “kept” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G5442 

in Matthew 19:17 “kept” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G5083

in Mark  10:19 “know” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G1492

in Mark 10:20 “kept” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G5442

If you look at these words and their context this has to do with guarding and respecting/remembering. Check the following occurrences. Really, I think this is not about the laws but about honoring the lawgiver himself. You can safely ignore the word for “know” because I think Yeshua was just pointing out that the man already knew what to guard not that this was a prerequisite for guarding but I’ve posted it below for completeness sake)

https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G5442

https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G1492

https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G5083

To summarize: “guarding the commandments leads to eternal life because by guarding the commandments you show you honor the commander but doing any number of specific things in the law will not gain you salvation.”

Back to the main subject, Paul then talks about idolatry:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a 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 degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)

Continuing on we have something interesting:

1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:1-11)

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
https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/through-romans/RomansVol1.pdf

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 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18 and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19 and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21 you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God. (Romans 2:12-29)

Verse 2:27 is more literally translated as:

27 and the uncircumcision, by nature, fulfilling the law, shall judge thee who, through letter and circumcision, [art] a transgressor of law. 28 For he is not a Jew who is [so] outwardly, neither [is] circumcision that which is outward in flesh; 29 but a Jew [is] he who is [so] inwardly, and circumcision [is] of the heart, in spirit, not in letter, of which the praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:27-29 YLT)

Notice how “letter”, “flesh”, and “outward” are contrasted with “spirit”, “spiritual” and “inward.” The school of Hillel was lenient and followed the “spirit” of the law while Shammai followed the “letter” of the law and was strict. Yeshua seems to side with Hillel most of the time. Also, the school of Hillel accused Shammai of following after flesh and blood and not after spirit with regards to the kingdom of God. (more on this later) 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 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 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1-2)

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: “So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded 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 set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-5)

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 its irrelevance to salvation?  If positive we must ask: in what sense? as a requirement that fulfills part of the law? or as a 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 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,

“So that you may be justified in your words,
and prevail in your judging.”

5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved! (Romans 3:3-8)

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 any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:

“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who has understanding,
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
there is no one who shows kindness,
there is not even one.”
13 “Their throats are opened graves;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of vipers is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery are in their paths,
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 speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:9-20)

Paul is not pulling out of the air: “no human being will be justified in his sight.” Paul gets this from Psalm 143:

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness;
answer me in your righteousness.
2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143:1-2)

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

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good.(Psalm 14:1)

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 on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.

3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one. (Psalms 14:2-3)

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 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, 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 within them, and I will write H3738 it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:32-34)

 You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. (Deuteronomy 11:18)

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

No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart H3824 for you to observe.(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)

4 Tim Hegg has observed that the new covenant is a nationalistic covenant with both houses of Israel. Therefore the idea of Israel being united and following the law seems to be part of what makes it new since throughout the Bible Israel and even the good kings are described as failing in various respects. 

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 an iron pen; with a diamond point it is engraved on the tablet of their hearts, and on the horns of their altars, (Jer 17:1)

O hope of Israel! O Lord!
All who forsake you shall be put to shame;
those who turn away from you shall be recorded H3789 in the underworld,
for they have forsaken the fountain of living water, the Lord. (Jer 17:13)

It seems like God would have better instruments than us to write the law. Keil and Delitzsch 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.
https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/deuteronomy/30.htm

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 any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:

. . .

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:19-23)

Verse 20 is more literally translated as:

wherefore by works of law shall no flesh be declared righteous before Him, for through law is a knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20 YLT)

If “under the law” means “under the results of the law” then by charging that the whole world is “held accountable” 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 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:”

 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4)

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

15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)

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

21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:21-23)

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

“Works prescribed by the law” is literally “works of the law.”

therefore do we reckon a man to be declared righteous by faith, apart from works of law. (Romans 3:28 YLT)

24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:24-34)

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 are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor 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 reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3)

Paul here is contrasting the physical with spiritual and works with faith. However, these are simply two different ways of viewing your relationship with the law. If you believe in works then you are not being saved by grace. 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 of circumcision does not show the character or spirit of the person bearing it. Spirit (ruach) in Hebrew can also be translated as “wind” or “breath.” It is the same thing that animates a lifeless body with a given personality. Compare the following:

so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4) 

Her spirit H4151 returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. (Luke 8:55)

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)

 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath H7307 came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. (Eze 37:10) (H7307 can also be translated as “spirit”)

Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual G4151 and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God. (Rom 2:29)

but a Jew [is] he who is [so] inwardly, and circumcision [is] of the heart, in spirit, G4151 not in letter, of which the praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom 2:29 YLT)

as it is written,
“God gave them a sluggish spirit, G4151 
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.” (Rom 11:8)

so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4)

God seeks spirit and character, 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 Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.

8 God finds fault with them when he says:

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah;
9 not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors,
on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
for they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. (Hebrews 8:1-9)

Similarly, Stephen states the following:

44 “Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. 45 Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, 46 who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says,

49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
50 Did not my hand make all these things?’

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. (Acts 7:44-51)

Now we can compare this to these verses:

like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Hebrews 13:15)

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

1 Thus says the Lord:
Heaven is my throne
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is my resting place?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things are mine,
says the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look,
to the humble and contrite in spirit,
who trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)

All this is to say that Paul contrasts things associated with the physical such as “works,” “letter,” and “flesh” with “faith,” “spirit,” and “writing on the heart.” The “heart” is associated with the new covenant where we will be given new hearts and the law will be written on our hearts. Let us continue with Romans 4:

4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” (Romans 4:4-8)

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 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:9-12)

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:

Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31)

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 inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. (Romans 4:13-15)

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 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23 Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. (Romans 4:16-25)

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, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. (Romans 5:1-13)

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

14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:14-19)

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

20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)

The law was given so that sin would become painfully apparent or obvious. 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:

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:1-15)

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 then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means!  . . .

15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:1-15)

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 if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:16-23)

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:

She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. (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 7:1-12)

Several things to notice here: 1. It is through our death that we become free from the condemnation of the Torah, not that the Torah dies in any way because it is specifically talking about the condemnation of the law and not of it ceasing to be: “she will be called an adulteress . . . she is no adulteress” 2. The law is good. 3. The law makes us aware of our sin 4. Without the law, sin could not cause punishment 5. The letter is contrasted with the spirit which are different ways of relating to the law.  6. 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:

Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. (Romans 7:13)

The commandment showed sin as sin and it made it [appear] sinful beyond measure. (it made it 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
http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf

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

Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be [guilt], and through the commandment might become [guilty] beyond measure. (Romans 7:13)

It continues in the same vein lamenting guilt/sin:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25)

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 is where grace covers us. Paul continues to contrast the spirit with the flesh:

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not 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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers and sisters, 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 all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing 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, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.(Romans 8:1-17)

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 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)

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 helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:26-36)

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 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

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:

yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. (Gal 2:16)

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, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.(Gal 2:17-18)

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 misled us and caused us to sin.

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life 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 nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:19-21)

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 has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)

The word for “iniquity” is literally “lawlessness” 

who did give himself for us, that he might ransom us from all lawlessness, and might purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; (Titus 2:14 YLT)

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 all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” 12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” (Gal 3:10-12)

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:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes. 4 My ordinances you shall observe and my statutes you shall keep, following them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the Lord. (Lev 18: 1-5)

11 I gave them my statutes and showed them my ordinances, by whose observance everyone shall live. 12 Moreover I gave them my sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, so that they might know that I the Lord sanctify them. (Ezekiel 20:11-12)

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 the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise. (Gal 3:16-18)

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 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. (Gal 3:19-20)

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 opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, (Gal 3:21-25)

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 its 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 its curses. Hence being “under (the results of) the law” while being “under sin” means being “under the results of sin” and hence “under the penalty of the law.”

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:26-29)

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, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. 23 One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. (Galatians 4:22-25)

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 will not obey me, and do not observe all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and abhor my ordinances, so that you will not observe all my commandments, and you break my covenant, 16 I in turn will do this to you: I will bring terror on you; consumption and fever that waste the eyes and cause life to pine away. You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down by your enemies; your foes shall rule over you, and you shall flee though no one pursues you. 18 And if in spite of this you will not obey me, I will continue to punish you sevenfold for your sins. 19 I will break your proud glory, and I will make your sky like iron and your earth like copper. 20 Your strength shall be spent to no purpose: your land shall not yield its produce, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.
21 If you continue hostile to me, and will not obey me, I will continue to plague you sevenfold for your sins. 22 I will let loose wild animals against you, and they shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock; they shall make you few in number, and your roads shall be deserted.
23 If in spite of these punishments you have not turned back to me, but continue hostile to me, 24 then I too will continue hostile to you: I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 I will bring the sword against you, executing vengeance for the covenant; and if you withdraw within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into enemy hands. 26 When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven, and they shall dole out your bread by weight; and though you eat, you shall not be satisfied.

27 But if, despite this, you disobey me, and continue hostile to me, 28 I will continue hostile to you in fury; I in turn will punish you myself sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars; I will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols. I will abhor you. 31 I will lay your cities waste, will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing odors. 32 I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And you I will scatter among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword against you; your land shall be a desolation, and your cities a waste.

34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its sabbath years. 35 As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it. 36 And as for those of you who survive, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; the sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall though no one pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though no one pursues; and you shall have no power to stand against your enemies. 38 You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall devour you. 39 And those of you who survive shall languish in the land of your enemies because of their iniquities; also they shall languish because of the iniquities of their ancestors.

40 But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me— 41 so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its sabbath years by lying desolate without them, while they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances, and they abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God; 45 but I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the Lord.

46 These are the statutes and ordinances and laws that the Lord established between himself and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses. (Lev 26:14-46)

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. (Galatians 4:4-5)

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 My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; 2 but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. 3 So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. (Gal 4:1-5)

“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
Cf. HORSLEY 1982, 97; →NIDNTT; TWNT

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 )

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 ABP)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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
http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf

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)

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 33:5-6 ABP)

It continues in the same fashion:

6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. 9 Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? 10 You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. 11 I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted. (Gal 4:6-11)

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 subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. 23 One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. (Gal 4:21-25)

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 easily 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 as it says in Jeremiah 3:13-15:

But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. (Gal 4:26)

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, you childless one, you who bear no children,
burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs;
for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous
than the children of the one who is married.” (Gal 4:27)

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

7 For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
8 In overflowing wrath for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,
says the Lord, your Redeemer.

9 This is like the days of Noah to me:
Just as I swore that the waters of Noah
would never again go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you
and will not rebuke you.
10 For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:7-10)

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 ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me— 41 so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its sabbath years by lying desolate without them, while they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances, and they abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God; 45 but I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the Lord. (Lev 26:40-45)

12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:

Return, faithless Israel,
says the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
says the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree,
and have not obeyed my voice,
says the Lord.
14 Return, O faithless children,
says the Lord,
for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion. (Jeremiah 3:12-14)

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 you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. 29 But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Gal 4:28-29)

“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:

You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting  G1377 the church of God and was trying to destroy it.(Gal 1:13 NRSV)

they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting G1377 us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Gal 1:23 NRSV)

But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted G1377 the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Gal 4:29 YLT)

But my friends, why am I still being persecuted G1377 if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. (Gal 5:11 NRSV)

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted G1377 for the cross of Christ. (Gal 6:22 NRSV)

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:

Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? (Gal 3:3)

This part is interesting:

30 But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” 31 So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. (Gal 4:30-31)

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;

5 Finally, the Zealot’s (of Shammai) were referred to as following after flesh and blood by the Hillelites:

Flusser discussed the political aspect of the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, arguing that originally “the Kingdom of Heaven” was an anti-Zealot slogan.[23] At the end of the Second Temple period there were various groups of militant Jewish nationalists who advocated armed revolt against the Roman Empire. These insurgent groups believed that national liberation could be achieved through violent means. They believed that their armed struggle would provoke divine intervention on Israel’s behalf and the eschatological events of the final redemption would be set in motion as a result of their terrorist activities. It seems likely that at least one stream of militant Jewish nationalism emerged from the School of Shammai. This militant Jewish nationalist ideology was countered by the Hillelite stream of Pharisaic Judaism with the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. According to Hillelite ideology, violent militant insurgence can only replace the Roman Empire with a kingdom of flesh and blood:

Rabbi Hananiah, prefect of the priests, says: He who takes to heart the words of the Torah is relieved of many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. But he who does not take to heart the words of the Torah is given over to many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. He used to say: Do not look at me because I am dark and the sun has tanned me [my mother’s sons were angry with me (Song 1:6)]—these are the assemblies of Judah who broke off the yoke of the Holy One, blessed be he, and caused a king of flesh and blood to reign over them. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 20 [ed. Schechter, 70-72])
. . .
Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai says, “From the time murderers increased, the calf’s neck rite was annulled, because the calf’s neck rite is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now murderers increased in the open. From the time adulterers increased, they stopped the ordeal of the bitter waters, because the ordeal of the bitter waters is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now those who see [their lovers] in the open are many. From the time the lovers of pleasure increased, wrath came to the world and the glory of the Torah was annulled. From the time whisperers increased in the Sanhedrin, deeds were perverted, the judges were cursed, and the Shekhinahceased from Israel. From the time respecters of persons increased, You must not show partiality in judgment…you must not respect persons [Deut. 1:17] was annulled and they cast off the yoke of Heaven and caused a yoke of flesh and blood to reign over them. (t. Sot. 14:1[1-4])

In this saying Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticizes those who set up a yoke of flesh and blood and who cast off the yoke of Heaven. The terminology is similar to that of Hananiah the prefect of the priests. Does “murderers” who kill “in the open” refer to terrorist groups like the Sicarii? Does “whisperers…in the Sanhedrin” refer to the chief priests, and in particular those of the House of Hanan (cf. t. Men. 13:21; b. Pes. 57a)? If so, then Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticized both the militant Jewish nationalists on one extreme and the high priests who colluded with the Romans on the other. If so, Jesus was not unique in his rejection of violent insurgence and condemnation of the corrupt priesthood.
https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/13546/

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 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. 4 You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. (Gal 5:1-6)

This allegory is introduced as a response to those who wish to be “under the law” and ends with something about those who want 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.

Click to access letter-writer.pdf

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:

For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.(Hebrews 9:15)

13 For we write you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end— 14 as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.
15 Since I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favor; 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” 20 For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. 21 But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, 22 by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment. (2 Corinthians 1:13-22)

[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.”
http://www.sabbathreformation.com/article-paul-works-of-the-law-and-mmt-118800746.html

[2]

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.”

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8478&t=KJV

[3]
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)

[4]
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)

[5]

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
7,27
see ἀρχή
Cf. CARAGOUNIS 1986 68-70 (DnLXX 7,27); HORSLEY 1982 83-84; SCHOLTISSEK 1993, 85-88;
→NIDNTT; TWNT

http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf

[6] Usage of “authority” (G1849):

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1849&t=KJV

[7]

Compare the following usages of “under” with alternate translations, it seems the meaning of “under” is related to what is metaphorically on top:

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)

[8]
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)

[9]

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

http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf

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.