H8451: The Lost Legacy
I know that many of you were expecting a continuation of my series on Israel, and trust me there is more coming, but for today I got inspired by a word, and I felt the need to share it with you. This is not meant to be a definitive statement, but rather an opening for discussion. Please read this and share your thoughts with me.
Most of you are familiar with the word H8451. It is the Hebrew word “Torah.” Do you know what the Torah is? The Torah is a collection of the Five books of Moses; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy.
The word Torah in Hebrew actually means The Teaching or Instruction. This is funny, because it has become common practice in the English language Bibles for the H8451 to be translated “Law.” Why is this? How did “Teaching” become “law?” How did learning become about rules?
When you go to school, you learn, you are taught, and you are instructed. Not simply to teach you a set of rules, but to teach you how to live. Teaching is designed to show you how to be. You go to college to learn a trade or a skill or some occupation. This doesn’t mean you are learning laws, because laws are rules and regulations that are consequential. Instead, you are learning how to produce, how to become an active member of society who can contribute to over all life. Yes in school you will learn certain rules, regulations, and laws. However these are not the focus of our schools. Teaching in School is designed to make you a productive person who adds to society, whether you become a doctor, a businessman, a musician, or an artist. The goal is to teach you to contribute to society, to live long and prosper if you will.
So, how did “teaching” become “Law?” How did H8451 go from something that enables you to become a better more productive person who is more useful to Humanity and God, to being a set of rules that are so focused on getting it right so you don’t die that you fail to be a productive member of society.
I believe that it goes back to the days of King James. He commissioned the most widely known version of the Bible in the English Speaking world. In 2011 we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication of that translation.
In the 1611 KJV which has been used in the church for 400 years, the word was translated “Law” but why? Why did they choose that specific word in their translation?
Lets take a look at the culture surrounding the end of the 1500’s and the start of the 1600’s. Life was very different at that time than in any other time in history. The church was different at that time than it is now. Christianity as a whole was different.
In these days, the Catholic Church was the primary church around the world, but had become a corrupt system in need of change. You will probably remember Martin Luther and his Thesis paper that he nailed to the church door. [I want to mention at this point that I am not bashing the Catholic Church of today, I am simply taking an honest look at how things were back then and how it differs from today.]
The Catholic Church had become a rule based, behaviour based system. When you go to confess your sins before the priest, you were given penance. Perhaps you might have to say 50 Rosaries, or 10 Hail Maries, or 100 Our Fathers. If you wanted to ensure your family member’s entrance into heaven you had better give a good offering, because you needed to buy their spot. Now we know these aren’t true. There is only one thing that can wipe away your sins and ensure you a place in heaven. Romans 10:9 ESV; “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
But putting aside the mistakes of the past, it paints a picture of the religious culture of the day. It was a hard driven law system. Where God was a fear-mongering King who ruled with a tight fist ready to smite you and doom you to hell at a moments notice. When King James left the Catholic Church to start the Church of England or Anglican Church as it is more commonly known, it wasn’t because he had a deeper revelation of the Word of God, but it was because he wanted to be able to divorce and remarry, which the Catholic Church did not allow. It was in this culture that the King James Bible, the first widely used English translation was forged.
If we look at it from this perspective, it makes much more sense that the word Law would be used in place of teaching or instruction. Now, 400 years later, the KJV has become the standard by which Bibles are held. If this is a good thing is not for me to say, but when we translate new versions, our biases on which words to use go back to what we were taught as a child. If you were always taught that Torah means “Law.” It seems logical that you would end up using that word.
However, I believe that it is time for a paradigm shift; its time to change how we view the word of God; how we view God in general. You might not realize it, but that view of God I mentioned earlier, “Where God was a fear-mongering King who ruled with a tight fist ready to smite you and doom you to hell at a moments notice.” Is still a common view of God today. People often see God like this, or they see him as a judge who is going to weigh your good against your bad, and if the good weighs out to more then you get into the gates of heaven.
It is time to change our thinking. It’s time to re-imagine the word H8451. Let’s shift from a “law” based God of punishment, to a “Instructional” God of Love. The purpose of the Torah has always been God trying to teach us how to live, and how to live well! Imagine if you because to look at the Torah of God as instruction to make your life better, instructions to strengthen your relationship with God. What would that look like? It is time for a shift in our mindset and a change in our living.
What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts, because this is not ‘Gospel’ of ‘Scripture.’ Its merely my musings concerning the way we view God and his word.