A WORD OF CAUTION: This post is not intended for new believers. It is meant for those who are already used to chewing ‘tough meat.’ If you do not immediately understand that reference, you might want to seriously consider skipping this post.
This post is a continuation of the discussion I started in my post about the fuller meaning of logos, usually translated as ‘The Word.’ In my studies of ancient Hebrew, I encountered something that, at first, might seem to be a false teaching. However, the more I have studied it and prayed on it, the more I have become convinced it is actually true. What did I discover? I found that, just as with the original meaning of the word, logos, the meaning of ‘TORAH’ has changed over time — and the change is significant.Here is what I found, and where I found it:
The Culture of the Hebrew Language
This same change can be seen throughout the Hebrew language. For example, the Hebrew word תורה (torah), which in the original Hebrew language was related to the idea of a “journey,” now in the Modern Hebrew language means “doctrine.”
Other Biblical words, which have lost their original agricultural meanings include; מצוה (mitzvah), usually translated as “command,” but literally means the “directions for the journey,” צדיק (tsadiyq), usually translated “righteous,” but literally means “traveling the path,” and רשע (rasha), usually translated as “wicked,” but literally means “lost from the path.”
HERE IS THE WARNING: unless one is firmly rooted in the Scriptures, with a rock-solid understanding of their precepts, this discovery — at first glance, anyway — might tend to suggest that salvation does not come through Christ, but by living correctly [Much like Buddhism or Hinduism, or even ‘the force’ in the movie Start Wars’]. But this would be a mistake! When one fully understands exactly Who and What Christ is, one understands that He is the One and only path to salvation and to God. I hope I can make this clear as we continue.
Now, I accept that ‘TORAH’ was originally understood as a reference to a journey, and that the original Hebrew words, mitzvah, meant “directions for the journey,” and tsadiya referred to “traveling the correct path,” and that rasha referred to “straying or being lost from that path.” Why would I accept this? Well, consider how closely this understanding relates to the Words of Jesus:
Matthew 7:13-14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
The path to the narrow gate is narrow, but it leads to eternal life (i.e. salvation). In other words, if you would be saved, as you journey through life, seek to stay on the correct path. How do you do this? By following the Lord’s Commands, which are “directions for this journey.” When you do so, you are not so much righteous as you are “on the correct path.” And when you stray, you are not so much evil as “lost from the path.” Now consider what else this helps us understand:
As a creations of God, no one has any right to condemn or judge another. Even if someone has strayed far from the correct path, we still have no authority to condemn that person in any way. Remember, even the archangel, Michael, refused to condemn Satan:
Jude 1:9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
This understanding helps us to understand that we are all children of God, and as such, we owe it to our Father to treat each other with equal respect. At the same time, it teaches us that we have a duty to give direction (or correction) to those who have strayed from the correct path, but we should not leave that path, to chase after them. If we warn those who stray and they still insist on wondering away, we must allow them to go. We must stay on that narrow path.
Now, going back to my post about the fuller meaning of ‘The Word’ (logos): think about what it means when John says Jesus is logos. Among other things, John is telling us that Jesus is the physical embodiment of the complete set of directions for staying on this narrow path. Think of these as ‘directions,’ then think of them as having been literally made into a human form. Once you can do this, you will start to have a better understanding of Who and What Christ is.
If this is difficult for you, or you do not understand how Jesus can be fully human and separate from God while still being one with and God, Himself, try this. First, remember that Jesus is the complete set of God’s laws set forth to govern and sustain this universe. Think of this as all your personal principles and ideals: the beliefs by which you govern your own life. Now, Jesus — still being these laws — became human (i.e. flesh). But He is still God. Well, why is this so difficult to accept? If you write down all your personal beliefs in a book, they are now material in nature, and separate from you, but they are still you. This is because they represent your will, your mind, your thoughts. This also means that, as a book, they have a separate identity, yet they still do nothing but your will. Well, this is similar to Who and What Jesus is: all God’s Laws wrapped in human form, but still fully God.
Now that we have discussed how TORAH originally referred to a journey, or staying on the narrow path, let’s look at something else Jesus said:
John 14:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Consider this: just because Scripture does not use the exact same language, it does not mean it is not saying the same thing — only in a different way. We must always consider that Scripture repeats lessons, only worded in a different way. This is no different than when we try to explain something to others by putting it in different terms. So, let’s look at John 14:6 again and see if Jesus might have been putting a Scriptural lesson in another way so as to reach as many people as possible. What if Jesus had said this:
“I am the narrow path, and the true direction for that path and the salvation which comes through it; no one comes to the Father unless they follow Me.”
OK, let me drive this all home by sharing something else I learned during my studies of ancient Hebrew. When Christ said:
Matthew 5:17-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not [a]the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches [b]others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever [c]keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
There are two parts to this last point. First, I discovered a Hebrew idiom. To say one is “destroying the law” is to say one is breaking it, or teaching false doctrine. But when one “upholds the law,” one is obeying it or teaching it correctly. So, it is very likely that Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He was not destroying the law, but restoring it: teaching it as it was originally meant to be understood. Remember, if TORAH was not meant to mean doctrine but journey, then Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He had come to put people back on the correct, narrow path.
The second part of this is that Jesus was also telling us He — as God’s complete set of Laws — is eternal. He (God’s Laws, logos) will never change. The earth will pass away before God’s Law changes. He was also telling us that anyone who tries to change the directions for staying on the narrow path will be counted least in heaven, and those who try to teach the directions properly, and defends them, will be counted great in heaven. In other words, when someone tries to teach others that we do not have to follow God’s Law (Natural or Revealed), that person is counted least in heaven. But when a person tries to teach that there is only one correct path, and defends the directions for staying on it, that person is counted great. Finally, when Jesus told us that we have to be more righteous than the Pharisees, He was telling us that, unless we do not do a better job of staying on the narrow path, we will not see the Kingdom of Heaven. This is because the Pharisees were not evil as much as they had strayed far from the narrow path and were teaching others to follow them (men) and not the narrow path (God).
I understand this may be difficult. But, if you can understand it, I believe can become a powerful form of Spiritual armor. By thinking in terms of a narrow path and directions for staying on it, we change the way we understand sin. Sin is still disobedience and lawlessness, but by thinking of it as straying from the correct, narrow path, it might help us to better understand and direct our own lives. It might also help us to have more compassion for those who have strayed from that path (who are ‘lost’). And, when we have learned and understood the directions for staying on the narrow path, it will help us to spot those who are leading others off the narrow path by teaching others incorrect directions. At least, it is my hope that this is what the reader will take away from this post.
3 thoughts on “UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE: What Did ‘TORAH’ Originally Mean?”
Interesting! TORAH means “journey” and “staying on the narrow path” rather than doctrine. And Jesus came to put people back on the correct path!
I have always wondered why so many practicing Jews tend to only stick to the Torah, but ignore the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament? If more Jews today studied the prophets (especially Isaiah) they might recognize Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah!
Forgive me if I’m going off topic here but I found it fascinating that since the end of 6-Day War in 1967, tens of thousands of Jewish people suddenly accepted Yeshua as their Messiah!
Source: David Chernoff, Messianic Judaism: Questions and Answers (Havertown, PA: MMI Publishing Co., 1990), p. 8.
LOL, no, you are on the same track as I. In fact, I have Jewish friends, and when they give me an opening, I always ask them to read Isaiah (especially the passages that speak of the Father, His Son and His Spirit ALL being in Israel — AT THE SAME TIME! That usually leads to some “interesting” conversations 🙂
We will get back to these passages and the subject of the Jews/Christians coming together soon enough. Just stay with me 🙂