What do You Mean…. Under the Law?

What do You Mean…. Under the Law?
By
James Scott Trimm

Often when I share with Christians that the Torah is everlasting, for all generations, they respond by saying, “But we’re not under the law.”

The phrase “under the law” appears only twelve times in the Greek New Testament and only in Paul’s writings:

Now we know that what things soever the law saith,
it saith to them who are under the law:
that every mouth may be stopped,
and all the world may become guilty before God.
(Rom. 3:19 KJV)

For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law,
but under grace? God forbid.
(Rom. 6:14-15 KJV)

20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew,
that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law,
as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21 To them that are without law, as without law,
(being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,)
that I might gain them that are without law.
(1Cor. 9:20-21 KJV)

But before faith came, we were kept under the law,
shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
(Gal. 3:23 KJV)

4  But when the fulness of the time was come,
God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,
made under the law,
5  To redeem them that were under the law,
that we might receive the adoption of sons.
(Gal. 4:4-5 KJV)

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law,
do ye not hear the law?
(Gal. 4:21 KJV)

But if ye be led of the Spirit,
ye are not under the law.
(Gal. 5:18 KJV)

It is important to note that the phrase “under the law” is used in the Greek New Testament in several places where it does not appear in the original Aramaic text:

But we know that what the Torah said,
it said, to those who are in the Torah:
that every mouth might be shut,
and the entire world might be found guilty before Eloah.
(Rom. 3:19 HRV)

And to those who are without the Torah,
I was like those without the Torah,
although I am not to Eloah without the Torah,
but I am in the Torah of the Messiah that I might gain
them–even those who are without the Torah.
(1Cor. 9:21 HRV)

But until Trust comes, the Torah is guarding us,
while we shut up to trust which is ready to be revealed.
(Gal. 3:23 HRV)

The phrase “under the law” was actually read into each of these three verses by the Greek translator.  But how should we understand the phrase “under the law” in the other nine instances where it appears both in the Aramaic and in the Greek:

For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law,
but under grace? God forbid.
(Rom. 6:14-15 KJV)

20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew,
that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law,
as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
(1Cor. 9:20 KJV)

4  But when the fulness of the time was come,
God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,
made under the law,
5  To redeem them that were under the law,
that we might receive the adoption of sons.
(Gal. 4:4-5 KJV)

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law,
do ye not hear the law?
(Gal. 4:21 KJV)

But if ye be led of the Spirit,
ye are not under the law.
(Gal. 5:18 KJV)

This phrase may best be understood from its usage in Rom. 6:14-15:

For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law,
but under grace? God forbid.
(Rom. 6:14-15 KJV)

If we look at this passage carefully we can see that Paul sees “under grace” and “under the law” as diametrically opposed, one cannot be both.

Like the term “Works of the Law” (see recent blog here) the term “Under the Law” appears to have been a technical term referring to a halachic dispute between the Pharisees and the Essenes, with the Yeshua and the Nazarenes agreeing with the Pharisees, against the Essenes.

This dispute was about whether man is positionally “Under the Torah” or the Torah is positionally “Under Man”.

The Pharisaic view is revealed in the Talmud as follows:

R. Jonathan b. Joseph said: For it is holy unto you (Ex. 30:22; 31:14); I.e., it [the Sabbath] is committed to your hands, not you to its hands.
(b.Yoma 85b)

This passage has it’s parallel in the teachings of Yeshua:

27 And He said to them: The Sabbath was made for a son of man, and not a son of man for the Sabbath.
(Mark 2:27 HRV)

This halachic argument is based on the phrase “for it is holy unto you” which is found in reference to the Sabbath in Exodus 30:22 & 31:14. This phrase is also found in relation to the Jubilee year in Lev. 25:12. Based upon the fourth rule of Hilel (building a rule on two or more passages) we can now generalize this principle from the Sabbath in specific, to the Torah in general.

In the Hebrew the phrase “to you” in these passages is לכם which, in Hebrew, which can also indicate possession or ownership. For example, If I want to say “Yochanan’s book” in Hebrew, I would say literally הספר אשר ליוחנן “The book that is to Yochanan”.

Thus we derive the halachic principle that the Torah is “under man” and that man is not “under the Torah”.

Unlike the Pharisees and Yeshua, the Essenes had a completely different view. Josephus writes:

…they [Essenes] are stricter than any other of the Jews in resting
from their labors on the seventh day; for they not only get their food
ready the day before, that they not be obliged to kindle a fire on
that day, but they will not remove any vessel out of its place, nor go
to stool thereon.
(Wars 2:8:9)

There is a lengthy discussion of the Sabbath in the Damascus Document, I will include here only some key points:

No man shall eat on the Sabbath day aught save that which is prepared
or perishing (in the field). Nor shall one eat or drink unless in the
camp. (If he was) on the way and went down to wash he may drink where
he stands, but he shall not draw into any vessel. … No man shall walk
after the animal to pasture it outside his city more than two thousand
cubits. None shall lift his hand to smite it with (his) fist. If it
be stubborn he shall not remove it out of his house. No man shall
carry anything from the house to the outside or from the outside into
the house, and if he be in the vestibule he shall not carry anything
out of it or bring in anything into it. … Let not the nursing father
take the sucking child to go out or to come in on the Sabbath. … No
man shall help an animal in its delivery on the Sabbath day. And if
it falls into a pit or ditch, he shall not raise it on the Sabbath. …
And if any person falls into a place of water or into a place of… he
shall not bring him up by a ladder or a cord or instrument. No man
shall offer anything on the altar on the Sabbath, save the
burnt-offering of the Sabbath, for so it is written `Excepting your
Sabbaths’.
(Damascus Document 10:14-11:18)

Here it is clear that the Essenes held the opposite position, that man was less important than the Sabbath, and that the Torah is not “under man” but that man is “under the Torah”.

Yeshua’s halacha took this a step further. When he and his talmidim were accused of violating the Torah for a matter of health (but where a human life was not at stake) he said:

7 But if you had known what it means, For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,(Hosea 6:6) you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of Man is Adonai; even of the Sabbath.
9 And when He had passed over from there, He entered into their synagogue.
10 And behold, a man which had his hand withered. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to heal the sick? And all this was, that they might accuse Him <before the beit din. >
11 And He said to them: What man among you, having one sheep that shall fall into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
12 And is not a man better than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
13 Then said He to the man: Stretch out your hand. And he stretched it out, and it was restored to health, like as the other.
(Matt. 12:7-13)

Yeshus based this teaching on Hosea 6:6

For I desire mercy (Hebrew: CHESED), and not sacrifice:
and the knowledge of Elohim, rather than burntofferings.
(Hosea 6:6)

“CHESED” is a Hebrew word meaning “mercy, grace, undue favor, loving kindness.”

From this verse we learn that any matter of CHESED overrides the sacrifices.  This is important, because we know that the sacrificial offerings override the Sabbath, because they are performed on the Sabbath despite the fact that they involve acts normally prohibited on the Sabbath.

This is why Paul contrasts “Under the Law” with “Under Grace” in other words, “Under the Torah” with “Under Chesed”.

In Yeshua’s day, at least some Pharisees seemed to have agreed with his Hosea 6:6 based “under chesed” (under grace) teaching. In Matthew, read an account of Yeshua being questioned by a certain Pharisee:

34 But when the P’rushim heard that He had silenced the Tz’dukim, they took counsel together.
35 And one of them, which was a doctor of the Torah, asked Him, and tested Him, and said to Him,
36 Rabbi, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?
37 And Yeshua answered him, and said: You shall love YHWH your Elohim: with all your heart, and with all your nefesh, and with all your might. (Deut. 6:4)
38 This, is the greatest commandment in the whole Torah.
39 And this is the first, but the second is like it: And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev. 19:18)
40 On these two commandments hang all the Torah and the Prophets.
(Matthew 22:34-40 HRV)

If we look to Mark’s account of the same event, we see that this Pharisee doctor of the Torah responds to Yeshua in agreement and says:

32 The scribe said to Him, Good. Rabbi, you have spoken in truth, because He is one: and there are no others apart from Him.
33 And that a man should love Him with all the heart, and with the entire mind, and with all the nefesh, and with all might: and that he should love his neighbor as himself greater is [this], than all the offerings and sacrifices.
(Mark 12:32-34 HRV)

Here the Pharisee Doctor of the Torah, agreeing with Yeshua, conflates Lev. 19:18 “love your neighbor as yourself” with Hosea 6:6, apparently equating “love your neighbor as yourself” with “CHESED” in Hosea 6:6, implying that certain Pharisees in the Second Temple Era held to the same “Under Chesed” or “Under Grace” Hosea 6:6 based halacha that Yeshua also taught.

So when Paul champions the “Under Grace” teaching, he is championing this Hosea 6:6 based principle, and when he opposes the “Under the Law” teaching, he is champion the Pharisaic position that the Torah is under man, committed to man, and for man’s benefit, and that man is not “under the Torah” such that “ if any person falls into a place of water or into a place of… he shall not bring him up by a ladder or a cord or instrument” as taught by the Essenes.

As many of you know, we were called out of town unexpectedly about a month ago for a family emergency. We are heading for home today (Tuesday 8/2/21). However finances are tight. Up until Thursday, we had not received a single donation all week. Thankfully we have since received a few donations that will help a lot. Thank you to those who donated so far, you were lifesavers. The electric bill is past due, rent was due Sunday and we still need funds to make this trip back home. This has been a terrible time for a “donation drought”. If you can help us out, please donate by Paypal to donations@wnae.org

I want to thank all of you supporting this work. I literally could not do it without you!

This work takes hours of my time. As many of you know, my wife is very ill, and I spend most of my time at home as her caretaker. I work at a desk less than six feet from her bed. So I am in a position to dedicate many hours to this important work that I have been directed to do.

But I also realize that it is not the activity of James Trimm alone who is responsible to do this work, it is all of us together who are charged with the responsibility of accomplishing this work. I very much look on the efforts of this restoration work as a cooperative one with each one of you. We are all joint heirs with Messiah and should always be about our Father’s business. I am honored to be able to be partnered with truth seekers as this restoration of Scripture moves forward in fulfillment of prophecy.

Donations can be sent by Paypal to donations@wnae.org.

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Donations can also be made out to “Nazarene Judaism” and sent to:

Nazarene Judaism
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