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“… out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Yerushalayim.”
(Isaiah 2:3)

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Please read the Introductory Notes to this commentary.

For a glossary of unfamiliar terms, CLICK HERE. For assistance in
pronouncing Hebrew terms, a pronunciation guide is located HERE.

My short comments on the text are notated in “maroon pop-up text tipsMy comment is displayed like this.” which are accessed by “hovering” your mouse over the text or tapping your touch screen. [A few short comments look like this.] Longer comments are included in footnotes or links to other pages. Sometimes my paraphrase provides all the commentary needed to clarify the passage. I have added emphasis to some phrases simply to call them to your attention. Explanations of Greek and Hebrew words are from the NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries Copyright © 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved In order to get the most from these pages, please follow all the hyperlinks, nearly all of which will open in a new tab or window.

Sections of the Apostolic Writings
The Gospels and Acts • The “Pauline” Letters • General Letters • End Times

Important “Pauline” Vocabulary

As the “Emissary to the Gentiles,” most Christian churches place greater emphasis on Rav Sha'ul’s teaching than they do on the teaching of Yeshua and the other Emissaries (Apostles). Rav Sha'ul, an extremely well-educated and erudite theologian, is at times difficult for most people to understand. In fact, Kefa said, “[His letters] contain some things that are hard to understand, things which the uninstructed and unstable distort, to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2Pet 3:16). As a result, most non-Jewish (and some Jewish) Bible commentators have great difficulty correctly interpreting the theology of Rav Sha'ul, often leading to a serious and “unstable, distorted” misunderstanding of his letters, and this leads to some terribly flawed teaching from the pulpit.

He has been accused of being anti-women, anti-Torah, and sometimes even anti-Jewish, none of which is true. The difficulty lies primarily in the misconception that he “converted” to Christianity (which did not even exist until the fourth century) and is therefore writing from a Greek Christian’s, rather than Hebrew Pharisee’s, perspective. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Near the end of his life he is quoted saying “I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisee, …” (Acts 23:6) not “I was a Pharisee.

The second cause for the mistaken interpretation of his letters is simple laziness on the part of the interpreter. Correct interpretation of his letters is difficult and takes much time and patience. As Kefa says, “[His letters] contain some things that are hard to understand …”

The third cause is the limitation of the written language; some concepts that are easily stated on one language simply do not translate well into another language because the vocabulary does not exist.[1] The following are some technical terms used by Sha'ul in this and other letters, or that are not strictly his, but are necessary for a correct understanding of his writing.

 • Torah, law, legalism: of particular difficulty in all of Rav Sha'ul’s letters in specific and in the entire Apostolic Writings in general. I personally believe (feel free to disagree) that all of the Apostolic Writings were originally penned in the primary language of their writers, Hebrew.[2] (See “Were the Apostolic Scriptures Written in Hebrew” for a lengthy discussion.) Unfortunately, the Greek language has no direct equivalent of the Hebrew word תּוֹרָה, Torah, or “divine instruction,” which in it’s narrowest and most technical use refers to the instruction contained in the five Books of Moses. The closest Greek word is νόμως, nomos, any law whatsoever. Likewise, there is no Greek word for either “takanot” (Rabbinical rules outside of the Torah of Moses) or “legalism.” To this difficulty is added the long-standing Jewish tradition of including the takanot (as now recorded in the Talmud) within the general use of the word “Torah,” that is, the entire body of Jewish jurisprudence. So when referring to “legalism,” the legalistic application of the intent of Torah, he was forced to use the closest Greek term, nomos. Thus, to the interpreter comes the task of determining from the context (as read with Jewish eyes and mind) to which of these senses the word “nomos” is being used.

 • God-Fearer: an ethnically non-Jewish person who serves the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in a Jewish manner, following Jewish customs of worship and observance, but who has not formally converted to Judaism.

 • Greek: Sha'ul generally uses the word “Greek” as a term to include all Greek-speaking Gentiles, whether or not from the nation of Greece. From his frame of reference there were the Jews who spoke Hebrew, the Romans who spoke Latin, those from all other countries who spoke Greek, and the Barbarians (Rom 1:14), who spoke neither Hebrew, Latin, nor Greek.

 • Circumcised/Circumcision: a metaphor for Jewishness, the Jewish people, whether by birth or by conversion.

 • Uncircumcised/Uncircumcision: a metaphor for those who are not Jewish by either birth or conversion.

 • Proselyte: a non-Jewish person who has completed a formal process of conversion to the Jewish religion. The process typically requires

(a) renouncing all previous religious affiliation and beliefs and

(b) acceptance of the tenets of Jewish faith,

(c) making a commitment to live a Jewish life style,

(d) adopting a Jewish name,

(e) circumcision for men,

(f) ritual immersion under supervision of some Jewish authority and, in the days when the Temple was standing,

(g) a sacrifice offered in the Temple.

 • Marks of Circumcision: those matters of Torah which define Jewish identity; the external signs by which Jewishness is identified: circumcision, the Sabbath, the calendar, the Holy Days, the dietary laws.[2]

 • Tradition, or Customs of the Fathers (or Elders): the takanot, oral tradition, or so-called “Oral Torah;” those customs, traditions, and rules of conduct set by the Rabbis and that are in addition to, or in place of, the commandments of the Torah.


  1. When we were on tour in Israel our guide was fluent in 7 languages. One of the members of our group asked him to explain a particular Herbew term. He replied that there is no eqivalent English term, and if she could speak French. She couldn’t. He asked the same question of a few other languages, none of which the woman could speak. Then he sold her, “I’m sorry that I cannot interpret the term you asked about, because you have no frame of reference in which to understand it.” [RETURN]

 2. Sometimes the Greek versions of the Apostolic letters are accused of being very poor Greek, but this generally is true when Hebrew concepts or idioms are translated literally into Greek. For example, an American reader understands that if I say, “I'm just pulling your leg” I mean that I am only kidding. But if that phrase were to be translated literally into French, the reader in Paris would think that we were engaged in some physical altercation. Those who hold to Hebrew originals do not necessarily mean that the author would first write the Hebrew version and then go through the process of actually translating those letters word-by-word into Greek, but rather that the letters would be rewritten thought-by-thought in Greek. If the letters were translated from Hebrew to Greek by some third party, this might result in some of the “poor Greek” or some of the unusual sentence construction of the Greek text. It may also explain many of the textual variations found in the manuscripts, as one translator may render the thought differently than another would. [RETURN]

Originally posted Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Page last updated on Wednesday, 01 June 2022 12:43 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

Anxiously awaiting Mashiach’s return

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