THE STUMBLING BLOCK OF GALATIONS
While I was in
I spoke some of the church leadership made the comment about my
visit, "You can't invite him to speak, he wants Galations out of the
Apparently in this person's mind, the book of Galations
against believing in Yeshua as the Messiah and following Torah. Since
I was coming to speak on the subject of how believers in Yeshua as
the Messiah need to embrace our Hebraic roots and follow Torah, this
person apparently concluded that I somehow wished that Galations
wasn't in the Bible to validate the Hebraic roots message that I came
In truth, Galations does NOT contradict that
believers in Yeshua
as the Messiah need to express their faith by following Torah (John
14:!5). The problem has been OUR UNDERSTANDING and INTERPRETATION of
the book of Galations based upon our dispensational theology.
One of the greatest hinderances to people in
Christianity to embracing their Hebraic roots is a lack of
understanding and misinterpretation of the book of Galations. One of
the greatest stumbling blocks to understanding the book of Galations
is confustion over the meaning of the term "works of the law".
Traditional Christianity usually interprets this to mean "following
Torah". However, the article below comes from an analysis of
discoveries found in the dead sea scrolls which clearly reveals that
the phrase "works of the law" refers to the ORAL law (Talmud) and
various MAN-MADE rulings regarding how we should follow the Torah
which are NOT in the WRITTEN TORAH. As the article points out, these
MAN-MADE rules of code and conduct can also be present in TODAY'S
While I was in
a teaching at an Orthodox Jewish synogogue on "Christianity and the
Dead Sea Scrolls" where I became aware of the connection between the
dead sea scrolls and the phrase "works of the law".
I pray that this article will be a blessing to you and your
Hebraic Heritage Ministries Int'l
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS AND THE "Works of the Law"
Millions of people have wondered what the expression,
"works of the law" means as used by the apostle Paul.
What are they?
Are "works of law" the Ten Commandments? Are
they the "Law of Moses"? Or something else? Paul said
"a man is not justified by the works of the law," and
that "by the works of the law shall no flesh be
justified" (Gal.2:16). What did he mean? What is
the Christian's relationship to "works of the law"?
William F Dankenbring
In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul makes it plain
that a true Christian is not "justified" by "works of the law," or
made righteous in God's sight by them. Paul declared, "He therefore
that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you,
doeth he it by the WORKS OF THE LAW, or by the hearing of faith?"
Paul went on, "For as many as are of the
works of the law
are under the CURSE: for it is written, Cursed is every one that
continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law
to do them" (Gal.3:10). What are these "works of the law"?
In his translation, Ferrar Fenton refers to them
"rituals of the law." Most Christians, Protestants and others, think
they refer to the "deeds" of the law of Moses -- the entire Law of
God given to
statutes, judgments, and
But is this assumption true?
The title of an obscure Dead Sea Scroll is MMT, which
stands for Miqsat Ma'ase Ha-Torah. This phrase was originally
translated "Some of the Precepts of the Torah," by Dead Sea Scholars
Strugnell and Qimron. However, the word miqsat does not just mean
"some." The same word is used in Genesis 47:2 where Joseph presents
five of his brothers before Pharaoh -- where the word could be
translated as most important, select, or choice brothers.
More importantly, however, is the rest of the phrase --
ma-ase ha-Torah. Strugnell and Qimron translated this as
"precepts of Torah." However, the most common GREEK word for ma-ase
is ergon -- which in the New Testament is usually translated "works."
The Hebrew word Torah is usually translated as nomos, which in the
New Testament is generally translated "law." Thus the expression
ma-ase ha-Torah then simply means "works of the law." This would be a
very excellent translation. The Septuagint version of the Old
Testament leaves no doubt -- it translated the Hebrew expression
ma-ase ha-Torah by the Greek ergon nomou. This Greek expression is
commonly translated in the New Testament as "works of the law." This
expression is found in Romans ,28, and Galatians , and 3:2,5,
Interestingly, when the British Bible Society translated
the New Testament into modern Hebrew in 1976, when the
text of the MMT Dead Sea Scroll was known only to a few
scholars, they translated the Greek ergon nomou (works of
the law) as ma-ase ha-Torah.
Says Martin Abegg, author of an article entitled
'Works of the Law' and MMT," in the November-December 1994
Biblical Archaeological Review,
"In short, ma-ase ha-torah is equivalent to
know in English from Paul's letters as 'works of the law.'
The connection is emphasized by the fact that this
phrase appears nowhere in rabbinic literature of the
first and second centuries A.D. -- only in Paul and in MMT.
"The works of the law that the
obviously typified by the 20 or so religious precepts
(halakkah) detailed in the body of the text. For the
first time we can really understand what Paul is writing
about. Here is a document detailing works of the law"
(p.53, BAR, 11-12/94 issue).
Finally, then we can put to rest the question, just
what are the "works of the law" that Paul wrote about! Finally, an
argument which has raged for centuries, and still rages today, can be
settled by clear evidence from the first century!
Let's take a look at this mysterious document MMT, and
see what it is all about.
The MMT scroll records the remains of nearly two dozen
legal issues. Perhaps another dozen issues perished. The scroll
calls attention to the subject of boundaries between what was to be
considered pure and impure. The phrase rohorat haquodesh, "purity of
the holy," sums up the contents of the scroll and its purpose. Says Abegg,
this means, "Do not allow the holy to be profaned by what is
impure." The issues discussed, says Abegg, were:
"The issues include bringing Gentile corn into the
presentation of Gentile offerings, and the cooking of
sacrificial meat in unfit (impure) vessels. Other rulings
concern cleansing of lepers, admitting the blind and
the deaf into the Temple; and permitting intermarriage with
Ammonite and Moabite converts, long forbidden to enter the
congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3).
Other issues involve the transmission of impurity by a flow
of water (musaq), the intermixture of wool and linen (sha-atnez)
and perhaps the climax of the discussion: the intermarriage of
priests with the common people.
"Most of the rulings espoused by the author of MMT are based
directly upon Biblical law (for example, the prohibition against
plowing with unlike animals in Deuternomy ). A
few others are interpretations or amplifications of
Mosaic prescriptions (for example, bans on Gentile
offerings and dogs in the
conservative reaction against a relaxation of Torah precepts"
Notice! These "rulings" or "works of the law"
included "INTERPRETATIONS OR AMPLIFICATIONS OF
Talmud, which effectively built a fence around the Torah,
successive layers of which have become codified in the
rabbinic works of the Mishnah and the two Talmuds. The
Qumranites were the 'Bible only' group of their day" (page
Notice again! The "RABBINIC EXTENSIONS" reflected in the
Talmud, that corpus of Jewish religious and rabbinic literature
accumulated over the centuries, known as the Babylonian and Jerusalem
Talmuds, was spurned by the writers of the MMT Dead Sea Scroll. They
developed their own interpretations, expansions, and halakkah. But both
came under the over-all description of "works of the law" -- and
included various rabbinic interpretations, amplifications, and
extensions of the Law of Moses to Jewish life during the first century.
The expression miqsat ma-ase
ha-torah -- "pertinent works
of the law" -- nowhere appears in rabbinic literature. However,
clearly the Qumranites, like the apostle Paul, were against these
rabbinic "works of the law," though from a different point of view.
They were espousing their own version of the "works of the law."
Paul, very clearly, condemns in no uncertain terms these
"works of the law" in both Romans and Galatians!
"Looking at Galatians and Romans in the light of MMT, it
seems clear that Paul, using the same terminology, is
rebutting the theology of documents such as MMT. I do
not mean to suggest that Paul knew of MMT or of the
zealous members of the Qumran community, but simply
that Paul was reacting to the kind of theology espoused
by MMT, perhaps even by some Christian converts
who were committed to the kind of thinking reflecting in MMT."
What does this all mean? Clearly, even in Paul's day, the Jewish
scribes and Pharisees were building "fences" around the law of God,
and making it int a burden -- a "yoke of bondage" (Gal.5:1). Paul warned
of "false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy
out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring
us into BONDAGE" (Gal.2:4). He warned the Galatians that we are not
justified before God by "works of law" (Gal.2:16).
Paul was upset, disturbed, about the reports he had received concerning
them. He wrote, "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should
not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set
forth, crucified among you?" (Gal.3:1). He asked them, "This only
would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of law, or
by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the
Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal.3:2-3).
Paul urged the Galatians not to become entangled in the
"works of the law" -- the deeds and decisions and rulings
of rabbinic Judaism or its offshoots. He wrote, "Stand
fast therefore in the
us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of
Writes Martin Abegg in Biblical Archaeology Review:
"Some scholars have suggested that Paul misunderstood
the Jewish teaching of his day or, at the very least,
that he created a straw man to bolster his own teaching
regarding faith versus law. In the past, this view
was supported by the fact that the phrase 'works of the
law' nowhere appears in the foundational books of rabbinic
Judaism. MMT, however, provides the 'smoking gun' for
which students have been searching for generations, not from
the pages of rabbinic literature, but from the sectarian
not jousting with windmills, but was indeed squared
off in a dramatic duel -- not with mainstream Judaism
but with a sectarian theology -- that ultimately
defined Christianity. If I have understood rightly, the
importance of MMT for New Testament research is
nothing short of revolutionary" (ibid., p.55).
Clearly, in Romans and Galatians Paul taught against
"legalism" and the teaching that one could be saved and achieve
salvation through the Law of Moses -- which was the Jewish teaching
of the time. Rabbinic Judaism still teaches today that obedience to the
LAW is the way to salvation -- that the Torah is the key to eternal life.
Yet they reject the Messiah, and the atoning work of the Messiah, as
of no consequence and unnecessary for salvation.
They have seriously missed the boat. Paul makes that
issue crystal clear in Romans and Galatians. Clearly, there can be no
salvation, and no eternal life, apart from Jesus Christ our Lord! And in
following Christ, we should not become burdened by or under the bondage
of "the works of the law" of rabbinic halakkah and traditions, rulings,
precepts, and extensions of the Torah, as it is in the Scriptures.
On the other hand, we also need to be careful not to come
under the "bondage" to the "oral law" or "halakkah" of various
Christian-professing churches, who create their own rules,
regulations, prescriptions, and dogmas -- traditions of "men"
which Jesus clearly rejected -- which violate the written Word and
Law of God. It is interesting that those churches which seem to
object the strongest against the Jewish "oral law" themselves create
their own "oral law," although they do not call it that.
Historically, even the Sadducees, who rejected the "oral law"
preserved by the Pharisees, found it necessary to create their own
"halakkah" and "oral tradition," in order to expound the Scriptures.
However, any "tradition" or "church custom" which contradicts the
Word of God -- Torah, or divine Revelation of the Scriptures -- must
itself be rejected and avoided.
The bottom line, therefore, is that Christ Himself has
the last word -- He is the "second Moses," the Prophet like
unto Moses, who had FINAL AUTHORITY to "interpret" the
Mosaic Law -- and provide a new "halakkah" of true
interpretation and obedience (see Matthew 5-7). He came
to "fill full" the Law, and make it complete (Matt.5:17-19).
To really understand God's Law, therefore, and its
application to Christians, and the New Covenant, we need
to search the Scriptures, and the words of Christ. We
need to avoid all the "works of the law," or man-made
religious taboos and constraints, which men have added
from time to time, for one reason or another, to the
Scriptures, leading into a yoke of heavy-handed
authoritarian bondage and spiritual slavery.
The "works of the law" that Christ and Paul condemned
were the human additions to God's Law which made it a system of
bondage and misery. Neither of them were condemning the
keeping of God's commandments or referring to obedience to
God's Law as "works of the law" -- not at all!
Let's thank God for this precious truth and revelation --
and for the beauty of His Torah Law and Revelation!