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Bible verses about Halakah
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 18:20

The word translated “walk” is halakhah in Hebrew. Israel had to walk "in the way."

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Volume 2, reads under "Judaism":

The authoritative Jewish way of life as expressed in moral law and ritual precept. It embraces the whole body of Jewish teaching, legislation, and practices that proceeded from interpretation and reinterpretation of the laws of the Bible. . . . Although legalistic in content, the Halakhah is designed to bring all human occupations into relationship to the service of God and to establish the supremacy of the divine will as the measure of all directions and strivings of human life.

On the surface, this sounds good; we should search and meditate as to how the Scriptures apply to every aspect of life. However, these interpretations were merely human opinions. Some of them were right on, but others were grossly off the mark. The Halakhah was not the Word of God.

Over the centuries, the Jews first gradually elevated these interpretations to be equal with Scripture, and then to be more important than Scripture. Mark 7:3 describes such a tradition that did not come from God's law but from Halakhah. Jesus says that they rejected the commandments of God so that they might keep their own tradition (verse 7). He also said their traditions destroyed the effect of God's Word (Mark 7:13). Halakhah was their tradition—the Jewish way of life.

In addition, not only were they zealous in collecting these interpretations and putting them into books, but in their zeal, they encouraged each other to live rigidly according to these interpretations. They were also zealous in proselytizing. Jesus says in Matthew 23 that they would encompass land and sea in order to gain one proselyte, and then they would make him a child of hell.

It became a major problem for Jesus and the church when the Jews did not have the humility to admit that many of their interpretations were wrong. They did not agree with God's Word, and they viewed Jesus, and then the church, as enemies to be obliterated.

Halakhah, the Jewish way of life that Paul called "the traditions of my fathers" in Galatians 1:14, had been his religion. It was in question in the book of Galatians, not the law of God. It was the Jewish way of life, the Halakhah, with ascetic, demon-driven Gnosticism added to it. This was the yoke of bondage that could not be borne.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)


 

Acts 8:9-13

Here is the earliest indication of Gnosticism as a religion—or at least a philosophy, a way of life that eventually became a religion—having an impact on the Christian church. Gnosticism was mystical and charismatic, not rational. Rational means "relating to, based upon, or agreeable to reason." Mystical means "having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence." Gnosticism was ascetic and exclusivist, and it relied heavily on magic.

When these elements are combined with Jewish zeal, a religion was created that undoubtedly appealed to a large segment of the Christian church. Paul goes on to show in the book of Galatians that the primary racial group in the foreground of the book of Galatians are not Gentiles. They were Jews who were practicing Halakah, but who had been heavily influenced by Gnosticism, having made it part of their worship routine, that is, a part of their lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Acts 26:5

The Pharisees were strict, but wrong in their interpretation of the Scriptures. They were wrong primarily because their strictness was in the area of ritual purity and morality than true spirituality and ethics. Both by Jesus' and Paul's testimony, they were not living according to God's commandments as a way of life. Paul states clearly: "For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh" (Galatians 6:13).

A number of years earlier, Jesus said virtually the same thing, recorded in a couple of places:

"And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men - the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do. (Mark 7:7-8)

Mark 7:1 verifies that He was speaking to the Pharisees. They were zealously and religiously adhering to Halakah, which was an interpretation of both the written law, given at Mt. Sinai, and a collection of verbal or oral laws that had been passed from one generation to the next for centuries. This law they elevated to divine status. In so doing, they rejected the commandments of God.

When some in the Jewish faith merged their zealous practice of Halakah with Gnostic concepts, they became a persuasive and persistent enemy of the church. Gnosticism played a significant, background role in what Paul wrote in the book of Galatians.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Galatians 2:11-14

Paul cites an example of the kind of conduct that was either directly part of halakha or what it produced. It connects to Peter's experience in Acts 10:28:

And [Peter] said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

The first part of verse 28 has a direct tie to halakha. God had given Peter a vision, recorded earlier in the chapter, in order to instruct him that his perception, his interpretation, was wrong. He was not supposed to call any man common or unclean simply because he had been born to some other racial group or ethnic family other than Jewish.

God's law commanded Israelites to do no such thing as refuse to eat with the Gentiles or even keep company with them. This is a practice derived from Judaism. Even though Peter knew this, he still became carried away into gross hypocrisy when the conditions were right, thus giving us an opportunity to learn that, when Paul is condemning law in the book of Galatians, he is not condemning God's law, but laws men added, thinking they were doing God service.

Here is what happened. Peter came to Antioch for some unstated reason. The church in the town of Antioch was predominately a Gentile church, and while he was there, he circulated freely with the Gentiles. A bit later, though, some Jews arrived, claiming they were from James. Their presence, and possibly their arguments, influenced Peter to withdraw from the Gentiles. So strong was this influence that even Barnabas, Paul's traveling companion on so many of his journeys, was affected so that he withdrew too.

What these Jews—and the apostles caught in it—were doing was effectively driving the church apart! Their teachings and actions were erecting a wall between Jew and Gentile. They were influencing Jews to think they were better than Gentiles, and the Gentiles, that they were inferior unless they submitted to the Jews' standard. The Gentiles wanted to do the right thing, and in their childish ignorance, they began to be led astray. All this was dividing the church.

The standard these Jews taught came neither from God's law nor from the gospel, and the fruit it was producing was class distinction and respect of persons. It came from halakha, part of the Oral Law that frequently had nothing in harmony with God's law.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)


 

Galatians 3:5-11

Paul approaches the faith and works question from yet another angle. This time, he uses Abraham as the model by which all his "children in the faith" also become "children of God." He begins by posing a question, which can be paraphrased as, "Do miracles come by ritual?" There is in this a veiled illusion to magic. Do miracles come by incantation? Do they come by knowing certain formulas that may include even such things as cutting the flesh or going through long periods of fasting or sufferings to get God's attention? Will God respond with a miracle out of pity once we show Him how humble and righteous we are? No, it does not work that way. Miracles come by a living God, who is actively working in our lives because He called us and we have faith in Him.

With that foundation, Paul begins what turns into the preamble for a very controversial section of Galatians. He proceeds to state that it was through faith that Abraham was justified. It is good to remember that Abraham not only believed who God is, but he also believed what God said. This is what set him apart from everybody else. His faith was not merely an intellectual agreement, but he also lived His faith.

Abraham's works did not win him acceptance by God, but they did prove to God that Abraham really did believe Him. So Paul says in verses 10-11 that those who rely on their works to justify them are under the curse of the law. What is "the curse of the law"? The death penalty! When one sins, he brings on himself the curse of the law he broke, which is death. In effect, he says that those who seek justifcation through works are still under the curse because justification by this means is impossible.

So powerful is the curse of the law that, when our sins were laid on the sinless Jesus Christ, the law claimed its due. Jesus died! Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 to counteract those who were troubling the church, because they were saying that their asceticism, magic, and similar things (like keeping Halakah, the oral law and traditions of Judaism) could justify.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

 




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