Sundays With St. Paul: Do We Still Need Torah?

With my spring semester at George Fox having finished this past week and my “Paul and the Law” class with it, I’ve been thinking a lot about Torah and how much it matters to us in modern day Christianity. Ever since the first few weeks of class, this question has been on my mind: Do we need Torah if we have Christ?

My first inclination is to jump to Romans 13:8-10[1], combine it with Romans 3:31[2], and make the conclusion that those who are in Christ and love as Christ has loved fulfill Torah, which means we would no longer need Torah for our faith in Christ. Yet, I know this cannot be true because 1. Paul either quotes Torah (understood here as a general reference to the Hebrew Bible) or at least references it as a foundation for teaching about Christ and 2. we would not be able to make much sense of Paul without a thorough study of the Hebrew Bible.

Furthermore, if we take 2 Tim. 3:16-17[3] as a reference (at least) to the Hebrew Bible (and if 2 Tim. has Pauline authenticity – or at least his stamp of approval), then it’s clear that Paul wanted those in Christ to utilize the teachings of Torah to build up the church. And even beyond that, there is much to be found within the Hebrew Bible that reveals the character of God (as is implicit within Paul’s letters).

I guess what I’m reacting against is the idea that since Christ has come the “old” way of studying Torah is no longer necessary. It’s an idea that I don’t think was ever taught to me explicitly, but certainly was by implication. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,”[4] is the general understanding behind the implicit idea. Yet does this truly apply to our modern day usage of Torah?

I’m not suggesting we turn back to Judaism, nor do I think Paul is suggesting such a thing (although I don’t think he initially saw a difference between Christianity and Judaism until much later in his life). I just think, after learning the world in which Paul lived and breathed and talked about Jesus, there is still significant value to Torah. And in my experience of 12 years of Christianity, I am finding very little – if any – focus on the Hebrew Scriptures. Until I had taken “Paul and the Law” with Kent Yinger, I feel as though I was missing out on so much within the Hebrew Bible.

In your studies, teaching, or life in general, do you give weight to the Hebrew Scriptures? Do you think there is still significance to the Hebrew Bible in and of itself? What are some of your experiences in coming to Torah with or without the Christ lens? Did you find something good or did you see something lacking?

This is part of a series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Feel free to read it there or read other posts by other bloggers.

 

[1] “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
[2] “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”
[3] “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
[4] 2 Cor. 5:17b, English Standard Version. I do not think Paul is talking about Torah practices in this passage, but I could be wrong.

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Jeremy

Cherokee / Whovian / Sherlockian / Aspiring Auror / Lover of Jesus, Scripture, and creativity / MATS Student at George Fox Seminary.

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