Torah in the Book of the ACTS of the Apostles – Chapters 1-5

Book-of-ActsThe book of Acts is purported to have been written by a gentile (possibly Luke the Physician) who traveled with Paul on many of his missionary journeys.  It is thought that the book was written for the edification of the gentile believers to whom Paul had ministered. 

The author consistently uses terms and phrases that would ordinarily be considered “Jewish,” indicating that even as a gentile believer, his new faith involved much of what might these days be considered as “Jewish.” This should immediately tip us off that our modern Christianity may be lacking in some areas, for there is little if anything “Jewish” about modern Christianity.

Acts 3

The first Torah-related verse we run across in Acts appears in Chapter 3:

Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. Acts 3:1

jewish watchIt was customary for devout Jews who lived in Jerusalem to go to the Temple three times daily for corporate prayer. [1] The second gathering of the day was at the afternoon sacrifice in “the ninth hour” (3-4 pm), as commanded in Torah.

Peter and John are still attending the temple worship service and participating in the Torah-ordained ninth hour sacrificial offering. This occurs well after Y’shua’s resurrection, which was apparently the point at which Y’shua explained to His disciples the meaning of His death and resurrection, and the point at which He would have told them (if the doctrine of the ‘passing’ of Torah were true) that they were no longer ‘bound’ by Torah and sacrifices were no longer necessary. [2]

Yet these men, leaders of the new assembly of believers, are active participants in the Torah-ordained sacrificial worship.  No doubt the afternoon sacrifice held special meaning for them, for it was at the ninth hour that the Lamb of God gave up His earthly life in our behalf.  (Matt 27:46)

Peter-on-the-roofEven when Peter was away from Jerusalem, we know that he continued to observe the customary hours of prayer: In Acts 10 we find him in prayer on the roof of his home in Joppa at “the sixth hour,” corresponding to the lunch hour. In Jerusalem, it was at this time that the lamb intended for the evening sacrifice was brought in and tied to the altar. This, too, was a designated time of prayer and worship.

Some will argue that in Acts 3, Peter and John went to the Temple solely for the purpose of preaching, but, if so, their behavior was out of character for these devout men.  Despite all that had happened, the Temple was still the House of YHVH.  They would have rendered it honor and would not have disrupted the service, just as modern believers would not disrupt a Catholic church service in order to teach Protestant doctrine, or vice versa.

If Peter and John wanted only to preach and to demonstrate a belief in the passing of the Torah-ordained Temple sacrifices, they would more properly (and more characteristically) have stationed themselves just outside the Temple courts in order to catch people before they entered. The surrounding verses indicate that this was not the case, but rather that they went into the temple. There is no mention of preaching at this time, though they did minister to a disabled man who called out to them. They went into the Temple in order to participate in the service.

Acts, Chapter 5

Later on, however, we find them being divinely instructed to teach within the Temple precincts:

But the angel of the Master by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.  Acts 5:19

It was the Father’s House, and the Father had instructed them to teach within it.  Now they had to lay aside their polite behavior and obey.

Getting into a Hebraic Mindset

At this point it becomes appropriate to consider the reception that Peter and John received from their Jewish audience, which we are told was so enthusiastic that the religious leaders felt threatened to the point that they had the apostles arrested!

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the people to whom Peter and John preached and look at the situation from a Hebraic perspective.  How would we  have received these preachers?

sadduceesSetting the stage: We are part of a huge crowd of at least hundreds and possibly thousands of Jews in the Temple grounds. This place is incredibly holy to us. Whenever possible, we reverently come here three times a day to pray. We cherish our Temple. It was originally built by our own ancestors, and we are determined to protect both it and the Torah-ordained activities going on within it. It exists because of the Torah commands that Moshe conveyed to us from YHVH Himself. Torah is YHVH’s own Word, spoken to us, His chosen people. Torah sets us apart from every other nation in the world! Torah brings us untold blessing. Torah unites us as a people. Torah is our greatest national and personal treasure! [3]

Our ancestors made the long trek back from Babylon and faced every privation and hardship for their faith in YHVH and their obedience to His commands. They taught us the lesson they learned in the school of hard knocks: that if we do not obey YHVH’s commands, both we and generations of our descendants will suffer terribly. At all costs, we are prepared to defend our faith, which is inextricably tied up in the faithful observance of YHVH’s Torah commands. The Pharisees tell us that the ‘Oral Torah’ is an important part of this.

On the civil front, we grieve that YHVH has seen fit to punish us by allowing the Romans to conquer us. We deeply resent the fact that, in defiance of scriptural commands, the Romans have placed an unauthorized ruler over us (one not of the House of David), and we are nervously conscious that an unauthorized man holds the office of High Priest (one not of the line of Zadok). We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our promised Messiah, who will restore YHVH’s order to our world and show us how to live Torah properly, as the prophets foretold. (Isa 42:21, etc)

First possible scene:

Peter PreachingSome fellow Jews enter our afternoon prayer service and begin telling us that the recently crucified Y’shua of Nazareth is the promised Messiah and the perfect sacrifice on our behalf!  They give us all sorts of proofs from Scripture as well as things they saw and heard with their own eyes. They remind us of our place as the Chosen People of YHVH and call us to repentance of our sins – our transgressions against Torah. (1John 3:4) Our hearts burn with conviction! (We already know that we must have done something wrong as a nation, because YHVH has sent the pagan Romans to rule us!)

The preachers remind us of what a precious treasure we have in Torah, and that we should never add to it or take away from it, as the Pharisees have done.  They prove to us from Joshua (Joshua 8:35) that all the Torah of Moshe has been written down for us in the Book of Deuteronomy.  They tell us that Y’shua said we don’t have to obey all the hundreds of extra rules and regulations placed upon us by the scribes and Pharisees – they tell us that the only Torah we need to follow is the Torah given to us by Moshe in the scriptures!  They say that those foolish men who made up all those extra rules should be ashamed of themselves for tinkering with the Holy Word of God! We know in our hearts that they are speaking truth. [4]

We gladly believe this wonderful news! Messiah has come! His Kingdom is available to those who place their trust in Him, and He will return shortly to officially rule and reign in Israel! We are released from the complex and confusing regulations our religious leaders have placed on us!  Our hearts are greatly encouraged!  It begins to dawn on us how we have been used and abused by the false teaching of our leaders.

Those same leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, are not happy about our attitude – they know that Y’shua vehemently opposed them, and they are determined that He and His disciples will not remove them from power. They kick the preachers out of the Temple and have them arrested!

If anything, this only encourages us to believe in Y’shua all the more, because we know how arrogant our religious leaders can be. We are determined to learn more about what these preachers are telling us. Before long, we make contact with members of the new sect called “The Way” or “the Nazarenes,” and we, too, have found joy and peace with our Messiah and His people.

This is the same response that is being given all over the world today, as this message is shared with our Jewish brethren. Thousands upon thousands of believing Jews are establishing Messianic (Torah-observant) fellowships all around the world. In fact, more Jews have come to faith in Y’shua since 1967 than in all the previous 2000 years!! And everywhere, they are violently opposed by their rabbinic leaders, the spiritual descendants of the Pharisees, just as they were in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.

Alternative scene:

Now imagine this alternative scene in the Temple.

We (devout and carefully Torah-observant) Jews are faced by some preachers who tell us about a certain Son of David, Y’shua of Nazareth, who they claim is Messiah. We are initially very excited to hear what they have to say about Messiah’s arrival. This is great news! They tell us that we must love God and each other, and we heartily agree.

But then they begin telling us that this so-called Messiah has come to rescue us from Torah! They say that this Messiah has ‘fulfilled the Law’ for us, so now we are no longer under obligation to follow Torah commands in any way, shape or form – and they seem to think this is a wonderful thing!

But to our ears, they are saying that the blessing of Torah is actually a burden and a curse!  To our ears, these men are saying that this ‘Messiah’ wants us to be like the pagan nations around us!  He wants us to turn away from the very foundation of our national, religious and personal lives – away from the precious gift given to us by the One he claims is his Father!  As though we would have any use for a Messiah who ignores the righteous precepts of Torah!  May his name be blotted out!  After all, Scripture tells us that Messiah will uphold and magnify Torah!! [5]  And these preachers have the effrontery to tell us this stuff right on the holy ground of the Temple itself!! What arrogance! May their names be blotted out!

arrestedWith centuries of ingrained cultural training behind us and mindful of a lifetime of our own personal experience of the blessings of Torah, we cover our ears in absolute horror and shout for the guards to remove these blasphemers from the Temple grounds!! We will not even listen to these men, lest we be accused of blasphemy ourselves!  Lest we be seen as refusing the greatest gift that God has given any people – the revelation of His own righteous Nature as conveyed in Torah!! We gather as a righteously indignant group and take these rebellious men out to be stoned!

This second scene is what would have happened if the disciples had preached to Jews that Torah had been ‘done away with.’ This is what exactly what happened to Stephen, who was falsely accused of preaching against Torah. This is exactly the reception that such preaching gets today from devout Jews! [6]

We will need to keep this in mind as we consider more of what Acts relates to us in future segments.

THE BOOK OF ACTSIntroduction * Chapters 1-5 * Chapters 6-10 * Chapters 11-12 * Chapter 13 (Part 1) * Chapter 13 (Part 2)Chapters 14-15 * Chapter 16 * Chapters 17-18 * Chapters 19-20Chapters 21-26 * Chapters 27-28

By John and Sue Wyatt, lambs.servant@gmail.com


© John and Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, 2014.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Lamb’s Servant Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to John and Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


FOOTNOTES

[1]  These were Torah-commanded times of worship, based on the instructions regarding the daily sacrifices, and had become a treasured part of the fabric of the national life. They brought the faithful together in a bond of unity that overrode the many differences between the various sects.  The Temple gates opened for the corporate Shacharit (morning) prayer service at the start of the 3rd hour, which is about 9 am on our clock. According to the Mishnah (4:1), individual morning prayers could be recited until the ninth hour (noon). The ninth hour was the second hour of prayer, called Minchah (gift-offering); also called ‘the hour of confession,’ when the second lamb was sacrificed.  [Antiquities of the Jews 14 4.3 (14:65), Philo Special Laws I, XXXV (169)]   The final gathering was at 6 pm or sundown, whenever that might occur according to the season. (Jewish Time Divisions in the 1st Century AD, by Michael Hunt:  http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/jewishtimedivision.htm )

[2]  If Torah has indeed been done away with, then the sacrificial system it ordains has also been done away with, and its ultimate expression, Messiah’s sacrificial death, has become meaningless.

[3]  Many in the evangelical church have been taught that the Jews were greatly burdened by Torah and felt trapped by it. We picture them as unwilling slaves to an unending list of minutely detailed regulations, terrorized at every turn that they may have offended YHVH. Contemporary records reveal that this is a very inaccurate understanding of the real situation. There is abundant indication in the writings of the time (just one example is Josephus) that the Jews were fiercely proud and protective of their position as the divinely appointed custodians of Torah, seeing it as a huge honor coming directly from YHVH. They felt, with justification, that their Torah-directed way of life set them very much apart from the barbarity of the pagan world. Though it was a puzzle and a struggle to be obedient to the many additional commands that the scribes and Pharisees lay upon them, devout Jews accepted the challenge gladly and with gusto, seeing it as a way to show their devotion. Modern orthodox Jews maintain this same attitude of ethnic and religious pride in being the custodians of Torah, and are just as enthusiastic in obeying the most intricate and detailed rules the rabbis can come up with, despite the fact that they often find the rules puzzling and conflicting. An example of Israelite devotion to Torah is found in the Midrash: Rabbi Akiba, in defiance of the mandate of the Grecian authorities who prohibited the study of the Torah, was found by his friend, Prysus b[en] Judah, with a host of disciples, diligently pursuing his wonted research. ‘Knowest thou not,’ asked his friend, ‘the great danger thou art facing by thus defying the authorities? Take my advice and desist from thy studies.’ [New paragraph] ‘Your advice,’ returned Rabbi Akiba, ‘seems to me like the advice of the fox who on seeing fishes swimming in a river here and there, told them to come out, and he would show them a resting place in the rocks. “Are you the wise one amongst the beasts of the field?” retorted the fishes. “If in our own element we can find no rest and safety, how much worse will it be with us when we are out of it?” With us Jews the Torah is our very life (Prov. 4). In pursuing its study I may incur the risk of losing my earthly life; in relinquishing it I face the certainty of moral and spiritual death.’-Tanchum. Kee Sovou. From Y’shua’s perspective, the real problem was not so much that the rabbis were ‘burdening’ the people (though this was a concern), but that they were corrupting the Word of God, while leading the people into a life of works rather than a life of trust and love.

[4]  At this point in Jewish history, the rabbis were very influential, but they were still in the process of convincing people to follow their doctrines and traditions. Their rulings had not yet been generally accepted as “the Word of God” by the people. They were strongly opposed by the Sadducees, who followed only Torah, controlled the Temple worship, and had great influence over the people. It was not until after the fall of Jerusalem and the loss of the Temple in AD 70 (with the subsequent loss of influence by the Sadducees) that the Pharisees were able to come into their full power – from that point forward, their rituals and teachings became a ‘replacement’ for the Temple worship that had tragically vanished from Jewish life.

[5]  Isaiah 42:1, 21: Behold my Servant [Messiah] whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles … and the isles shall wait for his Torah…. YHVH is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he [Messiah] will magnify the Torah, and make it honourable.

[6]  In Israel, Christians and Messianic Jews are physically attacked on a fairly regular basis by orthodox Jews who profoundly object to ‘Jesus’ as the Messiah because of their understanding that “Jesus-followers” teach that Torah has been ‘done away with.’ They feel especially betrayed by Jews who have adopted what they see as blasphemous Christian teaching.  An example of this is an article entitled “Israel’s Messianic Jews Under Attack,” which may be viewed at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1812430,00.html. Similar news articles may be found by entering the following search terms into a search engine: attacked +Christians +Israel +orthodox.

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4 thoughts on “Torah in the Book of the ACTS of the Apostles – Chapters 1-5”

  1. A very nice start to this series! Your description of these two different scenes in the Temple puts things into perspective. When we get down to the meat of the matter as you have done, it makes no sense whatsoever that the apostles would proclaim something alien to the Torah message YHVH has consistently presented from the beginning. Thanks for making this effort to portray what really happened in Acts 5 and contrast that with the misperceptions what we’ve been taught all our lives!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Al – It has made such a huge difference for me to look at things through the eyes of the first believers. I am pretty basic and simple at heart, so it helps to just picture things in my mind – visual learner, you know! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on The Barking Fox and commented:
    Not long ago, while discussing the book of Acts with friends, one man in our circle remarked that it would be nice to have the text of the sermons Paul delivered in the synagogues where he spoke so we could know what evidence he presented to the Jews that Yeshua is Messiah. Well, we do have the texts Paul used. They are called the Torah and the Prophets. As Yeshua said,
    For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (John 5:46-47 NASB)
    All it takes is a little study of the Tanakh (Old Testament) to understand who Messiah is and what He is supposed to do. Moses, of course, provides the first clues:
    If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 13:1-6 NASB)
    The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.” The LORD said to me, “They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19 NASB)
    From this we see that any prophet sent by God will speak nothing that contradicts the things that God commanded, and that Messiah will confirm the commandments of the Lord. Then there’s the breathtaking prophecy of Isaiah 53 which explains Messiah’s mission of redemption as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. No wonder Yeshua said He had not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to teach their correct meaning. And no wonder Paul was commissioned as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Who else but the star pupil of the greatest Torah teacher of the age would be qualified to explain to Gentiles why they should believe on Yeshua, and how to live once they did?
    With that as an introduction, let me commend to your attention a new series by John and Sue Wyatt, Torah in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This is a straightforward investigation of the book of Acts from the perspective that Yeshua and His apostles remained Torah-observant all their lives, just as God commanded through Moses and the Prophets. The first post, covering Acts 1-5, is reblogged below. The most compelling portion of this post is the Wyatt’s comparison of the traditional Christian interpretation of Acts 5 with a Hebraic perspective. Did the Apostles preach something that contradicted what Moses and the Prophets taught, or did their proclamation of Yeshua’s Messianic claims uphold the Torah? The answer to that question helps us understand exactly what Paul preached in the synagogues of Asia and Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

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