Examining the Hebrew Roots Movement: Two Series at Once

I’m going to start a new series of articles addressing the Hebrew Roots Movement, focused specifically on the concept of required Torah observance. These terms will be defined as we go, of course. Previously, I have done an exegetical series on Matthew 5:17-20, a favorite passage for Hebrew Roots believers. I’ve also posted some videos responding to one particular Hebrew Roots YouTube channel I had tangential contact with.

This is going to be much more of an undertaking. In this series, and in a similar companion video series, I will be digging into the text of Scripture in a much more comprehensive way, coming at this subject matter in a way that will present both the positive, Scriptural case for the Christian ethic, as well as answering the arguments of those who hold that we are still expected to obey the Law given to Moses.

When I’m finished, I expect to have offered a clear case for how Christians are expected to act, and how to know it from Scripture, as well as a clear refutation of the arguments given by Torah observers. This should then be a resource that you can point someone to when they seek to impose the Old Covenant Law on you or your congregation. Not only will it answer those things people say to promote Torah observance, but also provide the clear, biblical case in such a way that mere citation of passages where Jesus or Paul say nice things about the Law won’t do to bring down that biblical case. In other words, it will provide questions you can ask them that they really need to be able to answer in order to keep believing as they do.

This is a topic that requires more than just cursory study to handle rightly, so posting of articles will not be on a particular schedule. So if you haven’t already, please follow the blog, subscribe to the YouTube channel and sign up for email updates to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Some Housekeeping

In this first article, I want to make sure I am clear about a few things. I want to define some terms I will be using as well as the main point of the series. Also, I want to make a comment about the tone you should expect to read and hear. Every movement has its nice, reasonable people and its loud, obnoxious, and downright nasty people. The Hebrew Roots movement is no exception to this. And just like everyone else, the ones who are online making the case tend toward the nastier end of the spectrum. So, if you find that I seem to come across a bit short, that’s because that’s who I’m writing and speaking to and about. Rest assured, I will not be unjust. I will not pass judgment on people’s motives or condemn people to hell for minor disagreements. However. I will not pull punches. There is a lot of unbiblical nonsense being promoted in this movement and it will be shown to be nonsense. For instance…

One thing I’ve learned about the people in this movement is that, when it comes to the names of things, or what we call things (which, believe it or not, are different things to some) there is literally no term that is accepted as valid or that even has an accepted definition across the board. In fact, to some, I’ve blundered already by calling this a “movement”. Not everyone likes that. So you will find a dozen or so ways to pronounce God’s name, Jesus’ name and all the rest, as well as a much larger and uncountable number of terms people use to refer to themselves, both as individuals and as a group or groups. And these pronunciations are so important that many will actually break fellowship over this. This is a handy tool for the weak-minded, since they feel, for some mysterious reason, as if they don’t have to listen to criticism from someone who says “Yeshua” a different way than they do.

For myself, I’m not going to be distracted by such unbiblical silliness. So I will define my own terms here, and if new concepts come up, I’ll let you know how I define those as well. Since the chances are almost 100% that I will choose labels that are not liked by those who disagree with me, I won’t even be trying to make that work. So let’s start with the first item.

  • Torah Observant/Hebrew Roots – adj. describes a position or person, which holds to the position that the Law given to Moses at Mt. Sinai is still in effect today for all people.

Let me say just a few things about the definition first. I’ve stated this about as strongly as I can on purpose. If you think it doesn’t apply to everyone, but only to believers, ok. That’s fine. As you will see, my argument is against you, too.

What I also want to say about my defining of terms is that I’m working with concepts, primarily. This is another word for definition. In other words, if my definition generally applies to you, then I’m talking to you, whatever term you want to plug into that definition. Want me to call you Torah Observant? In the Hebrew Roots? A Messianic Jew? A Messianic Christian? A Hebrew Israelite? Well, I won’t cater to you all, but it doesn’t matter. If you think that you should trust in Jesus (or insert your preferred spelling/pronunciation here) as Messiah, and also keep the Laws given by God (or insert…you know what I mean) to Moses, then I’m talking to you, whatever term you use or have made up as the “original” term that you know for sure is “correct”, thousands of years after the ancient form of that language has ceased being spoken by regular people.

I can’t stop you from ignoring the Bible just because you don’t like my choice of words, but if you do, you are being very silly, and not the least bit biblical, since the Bible is not shy about calling the same thing by different names in different languages. No one in the Bible does what you do.

To continue, let me state exactly what I will be proving from Scripture. I will be showing that the New Covenant has completely supplanted the Old Covenant (given to Moses at Sinai), as well as the other covenants God made before Christ, by means of fulfilling them and completing their purpose. Because of this no commands of any kind are still binding on the conscience from the Law of Moses, simply because they are found in that Law. The New Covenant has moral commands as well, and we are expected to obey those, and it utilizes shorthand to refer back to those moral standards found in the Law of Moses that still apply today. So “sexual immorality” in the New Testament is defined in Leviticus, but it isn’t wrong because it’s in Leviticus. It’s wrong because that’s how God made the world and it was always wrong, before and after Leviticus was written.

This does not imply that a person who wants to do things that accord with the Mosaic Law is doing anything wrong. There is nothing wrong with resting on the 7th day, observing feasts, or eating kosher. What is wrong is a belief that there is still any binding command to do these things on any person today. There isn’t.

So, getting back to words, I will refer to the New Testament and Old Testament as such, because these are the only biblical names to give these bodies of Scripture. “Testament” in Greek is the same word as “Covenant”. Scripture refers to the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant”. It does not, however, refer to the Scriptures themselves as the “Tanakh”, the “Hebrew Scriptures”, the “Nevi’im”, and “ketuvim”. It does not refer to the “apostolic Scriptures” or “apostolics”. Now, I have no problem with any of these terms, but you are not being more biblical to use them. They aren’t in there. I checked.

I will talk about some of this in more detail later. Scripture calls them “the Scriptures”, “the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings”, or shortens this to “The Law and the Prophets”, or sometimes just “the Law”. I’m aware it doesn’t refer to the actual Scriptures as the “Old Covenant” and “New Covenant”, either. but since the Scriptures were revealed in relation to these Covenants, it is simplest to just use the biblical term for the covenants to refer to the Scriptures that contain them. So Old Testament and New Testament it is.

I do hope I’ve stepped on a few toes at this point. If you are part of the Hebrew Roots movement, whatever you want to call it, I hope I’ve made you annoyed enough with me to want desperately to see me fail at making a good argument. That way you will read the argument and be rescued from your error. To play on words intentionally, I will be going to the root of the issue, which is to say, what Scripture actually teaches about the relationships between the Covenants of God, the laws and commandments that are related to some of those covenants, and how believers living under those covenants are expected to relate to all of it. You won’t be able to just say, “but Jesus said He didn’t come to abolish the law”. I will have carefully shown exactly how Jesus’ statements, all of them, fit in with all the rest of Scripture, and it doesn’t come out the other end with everyone being expected to do everything Moses said.

Except it does, in a way. You’ll have to follow along to see what I mean by that.

And no, it won’t always come with this much snark. Error mixed with ridiculous rules brings that out in me. For the most part, expect a careful, unspeculative walk through the text of Scripture, leaving as few stones unturned as possible.