The Torah

In his book “When Jesus Became Christian,” Barrie Wilson reports that he moved from being Episcopalian to Judaism. This gave him great appreciation for the Torah which he identifies as the first five books of anyone’s Bible.

Barrie gives special status to the Torah. It reveals a God who mixed  justice with  mercy, and who rewarded faithful practitioners of the Torah with righteousness and blessings.  Other gods and goddesses demanded little of their followers and tempted Jews away from the strict God of the Torah.

According to Barrie, the fundamental premise of the Hebrew Bible is that God has made a deal with his people, Israel. This agreement is expressed in terms of contract law governing two parties. God and the people of Israel had  obligations to the other. In this bargain, God bound himself to Israel so long as they kept their side of the agreement. The details of the contract,  the laws and rules, were given to Jewish people and were ratified by the whole nation as perpetual.

The covenant gave Israel a choice.  They could choose to obey the rules and regulations set by God and live in the land God gave them, and  they and their children would enjoy a long life of health and happiness. Or the people could disobey the Torah, and thus choose the way of death and adversity.  If Israel followed the way of death, it would lose the land and the blessings. Moses gave the law and its regulations  and made the terms of the deal explicit.

The power to choose is the basic message of many biblical books.  Greek religion and philosophy stressed fate and determinism, the Torah described human freedom. It seems significant to Barrie that the reward for following the Torah was  real estate, not eternal life.

As we read Barrie, we must remember that his observations are biased by a Torah that gives some 613 commandments, laws, and rules covering all aspects of life.  He accurately notes that in Psalm 1Psalm 119 and in other scriptures The Torah is portrayed as a source of happiness.

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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