July 3, 2007 ©Homer
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Commentary — From the Margins
The Imprecise Linguistic Referent: The Law of Moses
But some men came
is the law of Moses? Many Christian theologians have created arguments to
“prove” that disciples of Christ Jesus are not under the law of Moses, but none of these
arguments identify the substance of, or location of this allegedly abolished
law. Rather, the arguments are usually against the Sinai covenant, made on the
third day of the third month of the year in which
The law of Moses is a vague linguistic phrase that
refers to everything Moses wrote. It can be nothing else; thus, it is the Torah,
five books that represent the testimony of Moses. And within the Torah, Moses
is the mediator of three covenants between God and
The Theos of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Logos who, in the beginning, was with God [Theon] and who was God [Theos] (John 1:1-2). This Theos came as His Son, His only (John 3:16), to be born as the man Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:14). He became the Son of the Father [Theos] when the divine Breath of the Father [Pneuma ’Agion] descended upon Him as a dove (Matt 3:16-17) and gave the man Jesus a second birth, and this only Son of Theos came to reveal the Father to those whom the Father has made spiritually alive through receipt of His divine Breath after the pattern through which Jesus fulfilled all righteousness (Matt 3:15) … the world does not know the Father (John 17:25), whom Jesus has revealed to the firstfruits in an age quickly drawing to a close. Nor does the world know Christ Jesus, the beginning and the end (Rev 22:13) that was concealed by the creation (Eccl 3:11). But those whom the Father has raised from the dead—they were spiritually dead even though they were physically living (John 5:21) —know Him because the man Jesus made the Father known to His first disciples who, by their testimonies coupled to the testimonies of Moses and the Prophets, reveal what could not be known through observation or measurement.
In the beginning were two who functioned as one as if married: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Gen 1:26); “So God created man in his own image … male and female he created them” (v. 27); “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). These two who were in the beginning are disclosed in the Hebrew linguistic icons used for God: Elohim and the Tetragrammaton YHWH. In Hebrew, the word or linguistic icon for /God/ is El as in El Shaddai or “God Almighty” (from Gen 17:1). Elohim, now, is the regular plural [the “im” ending] of Eloah, the linguistically singular noun, and Eloah deconstructs to /El/+ /ah/, with the /ah/ radical representing “breath,” either vocalized or aspirated. Thus, Elohim is /El/+/ah/ + /El/+/ah/ an undetermined number of times. But the Tetragrammaton gives the multiple: two. For YHWH deconstructs to /YH/ or Yah (see Ps 146:1a; 148:1a; 149:1a in Heb.) and /WH/, with the /H/ again linguistically representing “Breath.” So what is grammatically seen is that the Logos who was Theos, with His Breath or Spirit, is Yah, whom Moses and the seventy saw (Ex 24:9-11); for no human being has seen the Father or Theon (John 1:18) at any time. And what the creation or eternity [Heb: olam] has concealed (again, Eccl 3:11) is that in the beginning was a marriage that ended with the death of Theos, the Helpmate to Theon, and in the end will be the marriage of the glorified Son to glorified disciples, who will be in the position of “helpmate” to the One who was Theos. The narrative of Scripture begins with marriage and ends with marriage. And the basis for this narrative is found in the law of Moses.
Circumcision comes from Genesis chapter 17: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord [YHWH] appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly’” (vv. 1-2). Circumcision was the sign of this covenant (vv. 10-14), its ratification confirmed in the droplets of blood coming when the foreskin is cut away. It is a covenant made in the flesh (v. 13) and with the flesh. Its terms call for the circumcised person to walk blamelessly before God, meaning that circumcision causes the man to appear before God covered only by his obedience to God … obedience functions as a spiritual garment that conceals a man’s nakedness as the foreskin of the penis physically concealed the head of his penis and hence, his nakedness.
The juxtaposition of a physical skin covering
equating to a spiritual covering of obedience has been poorly understood by all
The tent of flesh into which a son of God is born was before birth-from-above a son of disobedience (Eph 2:2-3), consigned to disobedience (Rom 11:32) and not free to keep the law of God (Rom 8:7). Being born again or born of Spirit sets the mind and heart free from disobedience, but until the tent of flesh is liberated from the indwelling law of sin and death (Rom 7:21-25), the mind and the heart which “delight in the law of God” (v. 22) are at war with the law of sin that dwells in the flesh … the new creature is light in a jar of clay, and the jar will not enter heaven for it is of this world that is passing away (1 John 2:17). It, too, will pass away before the coming of the new heavens and new earth.
Words are linguistic icons that are either visibly inscribed or orally heard … the first disciples heard the words of the man Jesus with their ears as did the scribes and Pharisees. These words were controlled modulations of air: they were moving air, pneuma, the Greek linguistic icon borrowed by English speakers as a root for common words such as “pneumatic tools” and “pneumonia.” To a 1st-Century Greek speaker, pneuma was either deep breath or wind or an invisible force.
The Greek modifier hagios/hagion [Greek uses linguistic gender with the os case ending employed for masculine singular nouns in nominative case, and the on case ending employed for neuter singular nouns] would translate as the English icon “holy.” In Greek, an apostrophe before the first vowel if a capital or above if lower case indicates rough breathing; thus /ha/ would be written as /'/.
The Greek icon phrase /pneuma hagion/, written in Roman characters as Pneuma ’Agion, would be neuter singular from the on case ending (which would agree with Theon) and would translate as Breath Holy or Wind Holy or Spirit Holy. All would be valid translations. This Breath or Wind or Spirit is not that of Theos, the Logos [again there is case ending agreement: both Theos & Logos are masculine singular in John 1:1-2] … in inscription the Breath of Theos which would be written as /pneuma hagios/, but in Scripture this Breath is only seen after the man Jesus had His former glory returned to Him (John 17:5), and it is seen in the icon phrase as /pneuma Christos/, translated as the “Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9). And this Breath of Christ has to, by context, be different from the Breath of the Father seen in the icon phrase translated as the “Spirit of the (One) raising Jesus from (the) dead” (Rom 8:11). So the Apostle Paul writes of two Spirits or Breaths, one that belongs to Jesus (v. 9) and one that belongs to the Father, who resurrected Jesus from the dead (v. 11). Paul consistently addresses the Father and the Son in his epistles, while never sending greetings to the saints from a third personage—and Paul separates the Spirit of Christ from the Spirit of the Father, which is the Spirit by which the Father raises the dead (again, John 5:21). So for Paul, the Holy Spirit [Pneuma ’Agion] does not have personhood but is a force in the heavenly realm that equates to physical breath or wind in this physical realm.
To every word in whatever language, meaning must be assigned to the word by the auditor [the one hearing the oral icon or reading the inscribed icon], and this meaning will be assignment by a community or a collective of hearers and readers. Concerning Scripture, this community is all those who hear the voice of Jesus (John 10:3-5 – read the entire chapter). It is not the world; nor is it those who are hostile to God … the Apostle Paul gives the only “test” to determine whether a person has truly been born of Spirit: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:7-8). Thus, those human beings who do not have the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of the Father dwelling in them (who have not been born of Spirit) have their minds set on the flesh and do not submit to God’s law. So the person who claims to be born of Spirit but who cannot submit to God’s law is a liar and a member of the synagogue of Satan, for the person remains a son of disobedience (Eph 2:2-3) and remains in bondage to disobedience (Rom 11:32). Sin still has dominion over this person, whereas sin has no dominion over those who have been born of Spirit (Rom 6:14).
The person who actually has been born of Spirit and who does not submit to God’s law is a hypocrite. This person knows to keep the law of God and is thereby condemned by Moses (John 5:45; Deu 31:26). This person’s righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, and this person will never enter heaven (Matt 5:20).
According to Jesus, to be “great” in the kingdom of heaven a person will keep the commandments and teach others to do likewise; for whoever relaxes one of the least of the commandments that Jesus fulfilled and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:19). And the person who teaches Israel to break the commandments, regardless of the mighty works the person has done in the name of Jesus, will be denied when judgments are revealed, and will be cast into condemnation (Matt 7:21-23). So the person who teaches others will either (1) keep the commandments and so teach others, or will (2) relax the commandments and so teach other, or will (3) teach against the law [anomia]. In the first case, Jesus says the person will be great. In the second case, Jesus said the person will be called least in the kingdom. And in the third case, Jesus said the person will not be in the kingdom. Therefore, men who say that Christians are not to keep the law have already been condemned by Jesus. Their arguments, such as dispensationalism [that the law is only for physical Jews and that after Calvary Christians are not under the law but under grace], are the millstones by which they have condemned themselves. For the law that was written on two stones tablets is the same law that is now written on two tablets of flesh, the heart and the mind of the person who has been born of Spirit—what happened at Calvary was the ending of a covenant made in the flesh and with flesh, a covenant that was a shadow of a heavenly covenant, and implementation of the heavenly covenant that is the shadow’s spiritual reality.
To understand what happened at Calvary, an
Israelite born of Spirit [by the divine Breath of the Father] and circumcised
of heart by Spirit [by the divine Breath of Christ] must first understand the
house that is Moses (again, Heb 3:3-4) … Jesus has been counted worthy of
more glory than Moses who initially mediated the covenant to which better
promises have been added (better promises are not added to a covenant that has
been abolished, nor does the mediator change for an abolished covenant). The
writer of Hebrews said of Jesus, “Although he was a son, he learned
obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to
all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of
Melchizedek” (Heb 5:8-9 emphasis added). Moses did not lead all of humankind out
The Apostle Paul wrote, “In him [Christ Jesus] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11) … the circumcision of Moses is the circumcision of the flesh, the cutting away of foreskins, but the circumcision of Christ is circumcision of the heart by Spirit, not by the letter of the law (Rom 2:29). This circumcision is from God. And the juxtaposition of hand to heart is also that of the first Adam, a man of mud, to the last Adam, a life-giving spirit (1 Co 15:45).
The law of Moses covers not just the covenants Moses mediated between God and Israel, but covenants between God and Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, some ratified by the shedding of blood, some by better sacrifices. The law of Moses serves as a house that covers or shelters the flesh in a manner that foreshadows the mantle of Christ Jesus’ righteousness.
Jesus said, “‘If on the Sabbath a man
receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you
angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body
well?’” (John 7:23). So Jesus used the linguistic phrase law of Moses as a covering that included
circumcision, a “cutting” that made a portion of the body well,
with the importance of this cutting exceeding the importance of ceasing work on
the Sabbath. The command to circumcise precedes the giving of the Decalogue [the ten living words of God] as does the giving of the Passover covenant
made on the day when God took
The prophet Jeremiah wrote,
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of
Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I
took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that
they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the
covenant that I will make with the house of
When all “know the Lord” the least of Israel is not the physically or
materially poor of Judea, but those who relax the least of the commandments,
while the greatest of Israel is the
one who keeps the commandments and teaches others to do likewise … note: when this new covenant is made
with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, this new covenant is only made
with the house of Israel. There will no longer be two physical houses, but one
spiritual house comprised of all who have circumcised hearts; for this new
covenant is not a covenant like that made with the fathers of the house of
Also note, going to Exodus chapters 12 and 13: On
the day when the Lord [YHWH] took the
fathers of the house of
On the same night that God struck down the firstborns of Egypt, Pharaoh rose up in the night and summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “‘Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also’” (Ex 12:29-32).
On what night did God strike down the firstborns of
Luke writes, “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it’” (22:7-8).
Secular sources, most of whom deny that Jesus was three days and three nights in the grave as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, the only sign Jesus gave of His divinity, have lambs only being slaughtered after the evening sacrifice on the 14th, which would make Jesus’ crucifixion the reality of all Passover lambs previously sacrificed, a reasonable supposition considering that the lambs were “a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:17). But Luke is a very careful historian.
How to reconcile the two timelines [i.e., Matthew’s/Luke’s with John’s] has caused any number of problems among Sabbatarian disciples over the past few decades … if Jesus is slain on the 14th, the Preparation Day as Pharisees kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed (the Preparation Day) that Luke references is one day earlier than the Preparation Day that John references.
Using the timeline from John, Jesus eats the Passover on the dark portion of the 14th of the first month, is taken captive and questioned by the religious leaders while it is still dark, then when day comes He is turned over to Pilate and crucified about noon, dies about 3:00 pm, and is taken from the cross and hastily buried at dusk as the 14th ends and the 15th begins. The 15th is the high Sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread—and Jesus spends all of the 15th in the tomb. Likewise, He spends all of the 16th and the 17th, the weekly Sabbath, in the heart of the earth. Then He is resurrected in the dark portion of the 18th, and is gone from the tomb when Mary comes before daylight on the first day of the week. Therefore, the 14th is Wednesday, mid calendar week, and Jesus was resurrected on Sunday, the 18th, the mid day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a significant correspondence considering the reason for keeping the Sabbath under the Sinai covenant (Ex 20:11) as opposed to the reason for keeping the Sabbath under the Moab covenant (Deu 5:15). [Under the Sinai covenant, the Sabbath is kept as memorial to the physical creation, but under the Moab covenant, the Sabbath is kept as a remembrance of Israel’s liberation; thus, the Sabbath under the Sinai covenant points to the weekly time-cycle begun at creation whereas the Sabbath under the Moab covenant points to the Passover covenant and the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread.]
In John’s timeline, Jesus entered
Jesus did not die twice, and He did die midweek (too many prophecies have Him being cut off mid-week: in the middle of a seven year ministry as well as mid calendar week). Thus, reckoning Luke’s timeline with John’s, Luke calls the 13th the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed, which would then necessitate that the Passover would be eaten at the beginning of the 14th, during its dark portion, and not on the 15th, the high Sabbath under the Sinai covenant (Lev 23:6-8). And a person can see what the ensuing problems will be: two Passover lambs sacrificed, one at the end of the 13th and one at the end of the 14th. And across time, a person can hear the reverberations of Emperor Constantine’s argument against Passover observation: Jesus is not slain twice. But by tradition, Judaism keeps the Passover on two successive days.
The easy way out of the problem of two Passover sacrifices is to shout, “Scribal error!” But is that being honest with Scripture? It isn’t, for if there is scribal error in one place then there will be scribal error in many places, and Scripture cannot be believed. But meaning has to be assigned to words, and since many reader communities who do not hear the voice of Jesus will assign meaning to the same inspired icons, but meaning that comes from human reasoning and understanding. Thus, many false readings of Scripture will simultaneously exist. Therefore, hearing the voice of Jesus is essential for born of Spirit disciples if they are to comprehend Scripture—they cannot listen to the many false readings and teachers and still leave Scripture with the understanding they should have. They must test the spirit of the reader and reading (1 John 4:1), and if they find that the reader denies that Christ came in the flesh or that Christ was three days and threes in the heart of the earth, then the reader and the reading must be rejected.
The day on which the Passover lamb is eaten shall
be a memorial, kept as a feast to the Lord (Ex 12:14). For seven days
Clearly, Jesus ate the Passover on the 14th, and the Apostle Paul commands the saints at Corinth to eat the Passover on the same night that Jesus was betrayed, the 14th (1 Co 11:23-26).
Emperor Constantine’s argument against the Passover (that Christ was not
crucified on two days, but only once) begs for reconciliation of the
instructions given in the covenant made on the day when God led
[The above represents approximately one third of this Commentary that has grown too lengthy to be published as one piece; hence, the above will appear with the July 3rd date. The second installment will be dated July 5th, and the third installment will be dated July 7th. These three installments, however, will be e-published as one article at a latter date.]
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."