The Importance of Knowing the Scriptures
We have been having classes about the Hebrew Roots of the New Testament and it is always good to remember that the New Testament did not exist until much later in the history of the church. When we read the New Testament, it should be clear that almost every mention of the Scriptures is actually referring to the Old Testament. The apostle Paul was a Pharisee, with great knowledge about the Hebrew Scriptures, and is his letter to Timothy he warns about false teachers and deceivers, and he emphasizes the importance of continuing in the teaching of the Scriptures, the Tanakh, which includes the Torah (teaching), the Prophets, and the Psalms (writings).
“But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:13–17).
Even when we read about Jesus referring to the Scriptures, we must remember that he was a Jewish Rabbi, a teacher of the Hebrew Scriptures. “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete” (Matthew 5:17, CJB). Unfortunately, some translations may tend to move you away from the Hebrew Scriptures, when we can’t find Jesus and his disciples and apostles ever doing that. For instance, let’s compare two different translations of Romans 10:4.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4, NASB95)
“For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts.” (Romans 10:4, CJB)
Two words that make a big difference, Torah would be better translated as “teaching”, and the Greek word “telos”, would be better translated as “purpose, intent, goal” instead of the “end”.
One of the main heresies that influenced the Early Church is called Marcionism, and it promoted the distancing and letting go of the Hebrew Scriptures. Again, Paul was already warning Timothy that heretics would come to deceive, and one of the ways that false teaching came into the church was by not obeying the warning of Jesus and the apostles and writers of the New Testament.
““Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah—not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:17–20, CJB)