Is Messiah the End of the Law? (Rom. 10:4)
James Scott Trimm
Often when I share with Christians that the Torah is everlasting, for all generations, they respond by saying, “But Jesus was the end of the Law.” By this they allude to Romans 10:4 which reads in the KJV:
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness
to every one that believeth.
(Rom. 10:4 KJV)
But is this what does Romans 10:4 really mean?
This is a passage which is so misunderstood. It appears in the KJV to say that “Christ is the end of the law”. The Aramaic word used for “end” here is SAKA. Back in 1893 when James Murdock S.T.D. (A Christian) translated the Aramaic Peshitta into English for the first time, he translated this word as “aim”. He noted the original Aramaic word in the margin and further defined it “end, scope, summary”. This Aramaic word is used in the Rabbinic literature to mean “number” “sum” or “total”. In the Babylonian Talmud this word is used as follows “…the SUM of pupils for a teacher in the primary class is twenty five” (b.Bat. 21a) The root verb for this Aramaic noun means “to calculate, count, sum up” or “to look out for, to hope for”.
With this Aramaic word, Paul is saying, not that the Messiah is the TERMINATION of the Torah, but that Messiah is the aim, goal, scope, summary, number, total and sum of the Torah! Paul is saying that the Messiah *IS* the Torah. Messiah is the SUM of the Torah.
Rom 10:5 then continues with:
“For Moses thus wrote of the righteousness that is by the Torah that
`he who does these will live by them.’(Lev. 18:5)”
Remember now, Paul has just said that the Messiah is the sum of the Torah, and now he is quoting the Torah to prove that “life” comes from the Torah.
Then in Rom. 10:6-8 Paul continues:
“And of the righteousness that is by trust, he thus says: `Do not say
in your heart: who has ascended to heaven’ (Deut. 30:12) and brought
down the Messiah? `And who has descended’ to the depth of She’ol `and
brought up’ (Deut. 13:13) the Messiah from among the dead? But what
does it say? `The answer is near to you, to your mouth and to your
heart,’ (Deut. 30:14) which is the word of trust that we proclaim”
Now Christian commentators have taken Paul to be contrasting “the righteousness that is by the Torah” (Rom. 10:5) with “the righteousness that is by faith” (Rom. 10:6) to prove that Messiah is the “end”/”termination” of the Law as stated in Rom. 10:4.
There are several problems with this interpretation.
To begin with, we have already shown that Paul’s point in Rom. 10:4 is not that Messiah is the termination of the law, but that Messiah is the goal and sum of the Torah.
Secondly Rom. 10:5 and Rom 10:6f both quote passages from the Torah to prove their points.
Thirdly, these commentators totally mangle the point Paul is making in Rom. 10:6-8.
When Paul was teaching the Bereans in Acts 17, we are told that they checked “the Scriptures” to see if what Paul said could be found there, and Paul said they were more noble than others he had taught, for doing this. Now the only Scriptures they had at the time were those of the Tanak (“Old Testament”) so Paul would look to the passages he cites from the Tanak to see that we are applying his words accurately as they are in the Tanak.
So lets be good Bereans and look at the portion of Torah Paul actually quotes in Rom. 10:6-8, see what it actually says in context, and see how Paul is using it. Paul is quoting from Deut. 30:12-14. To get some context we will begin in verse 9 and take the quote through verse 16:
9 And YHWH your Elohim will make you over-abundant in all the work of
your hand, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle,
and in the fruit of your land, for good; for YHWH will again rejoice
over you for good, as He rejoiced over your fathers,
10 If you shall hearken to the voice of YHWH your Elohim, to keep His
commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the
Torah; if you turn unto HYWH your Elohim with all your heart, and with
all your soul.
11 For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too
hard for you, neither is it far off.
12 It is not in heaven, that you should say: `Who shall go up for us
to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may
13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should says: `Who shall go
over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it,
that we may do it?’
14 But the word if very near unto you, in your mouth, and in your
heart, that you may do it.
15 See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil,
16 In that I command you this day to love YHWH your Elohim, to walk in
His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statues and His
ordinances; then you shall live and multiply, and YHWH your Elohim
shall bless you in the land where you go in to possess it.
Now the first and most important point is that in Deut. 30:12-13 it is the Torah that we do not have to have brought down to us, but in Paul’s citations in Rom. 10:6-7 it is the “Messiah” who does not have to be brought down to us. Paul is applying his logic that Messiah is the sum of the Torah from Rom. 10:4 (thus reaffirming that we are
correct in our understanding of SAKA in Rom. 10:4).
Paul here is being influenced by the Apocryphal book of Baruch which paraphrases Deut. 30:12-13 saying:
29 Who has gone up into heaven, and taken her [wisdom]
and brought her down from the clouds?
30 Who has gone over the sea, and found her,
and will buy her for pure gold?
Then a few lines later Baruch writes:
37 Afterward she appeared upon earth and lived among men.
4:1 She is the book of the commandments of Elohim,
and the Torah that endures forever.
All who hold fast will live,
and those who forsake her fast will die.
In Baruch that which is brought down from heaven in Deut. 30:12-13 is personified Wisdom (compare 1Cor. 1:24 ) which is identified with an incarnation of the Torah itself having come down to earth to dwell with men.
Moreover, when Paul says “the answer is near to you, to your mouth, and to your heart, which is the word of trust that we proclaim” (Rom. 10:8) Deut. Says “But the WORD is very near unto you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deut. 30:14). So the “answer” and the “word of trust/faith” in Rom. 10:8 is the “word” in Deut. 30:14, but in Deut. 30:14 that “word” is CLEARLY the Torah! In other words Rom. 10:8 might be understood “the TORAH is near to you, to your mouth, and to your heart, which is the TORAH of trust/faith that we proclaim”.
Fourth, we find that Deut. 30:15-16 parallel the meaning of Lev. 18:5 so that we can see that Paul is citing these two passages together, not because he is contrasting them, but because they teach the same thing!
Finally if we look back to Rom. 10:6 which is quoting Deut. 30:12 and we look closely at the phrase Paul quotes “who shall go up for us to heaven” in the original Hebrew of Deut. 30:12, and if we take the first letter of each word to from a new word (this is a technique known as “Notarikon”) then we spell the Hebrew word MILAH (which can mean “word” or “circumcision”) and if we take the last letter of each word we find the name YHWH, so hidden and imbedded in this Hebrew phrase is the phrase “Word of YHWH”. Paul’s point is that both the Messiah and the Torah are the “Word of YHWH”.
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