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Scroll to Scroll:
Today’s Parsha: Aharei Mot (#29)
1) Meaning of this week’s Torah portion and summary of contents:
“Aharei Mot” means “after the death”, referring to the demise of Aaron’s sons Nadab
and Abihu who offered fire in a way not sanctioned by Abba YHWH. The portion
begins with the purification measures that Aaron and his remaining sons need to go
through to rectify the evil that was done in Abba YHWH’s sight. Once done,
additional purity regulations are given on how native Israelites are to slaughter and
handle blood. Abba YHWH then opens the last chapter in this portion by reminding
Israel that they are not to do the practices of the peoples either from where they came
from (Egypt) or where they are going (Canaan) but must remain a Set-Apart people.
In order to do this, the portion closes with additional regulations of proper and
improper sexual conduct.
Read Parsha (English-Leviticus 16:1-18:30). This week, we will read entire portion.
2) “Play by Play commentary” where appropriate.
3) Point out key Hebrew words/terms. “Color Commentary”:
VAYEDABER YAHWEH EL-MOSHE ACHAREY MOT SHNEY BENEY
AHARON (16:1) = and spoke Yahweh to Moshe after the death of Aaron’s two sons.
The deaths happened in Leviticus 10 and yet it is only now, in chapter 16, that the
narrative resumes forward from that point. This is because the death of Aaron’s sons,
though tragic, was also a key “teaching moment” for Israel, and Abba YHWH took
that opportunity to proclaim additional purity regulations for everyone so as to drive
the point home on what the price of disobedience actually is.
AZAZEL (16:2) = as a proper name, may indicate a fallen angel who personifies sin.
As a term, “scapegoat”, refers to the goat sent into the wilderness taking our sins with
him. I think but can’t prove there is relationship between “Azazel” and AZAL L’EL
(go towards Elohim). In the first three Gospels, Y’shua literally sends leprosy away.
In John he commands a leper to wash in a place where the waters are called
SHILOAM, also to send away. But by calling them to righteousness and having them
do Torah (go show yourselves to the priests) Y’shua is sending the afflicted to
VEHIKRIV AHARON ET-PAR HACHATAT (16:6) = Aaron will present his own
bull sin offering. Because Leviticus 16 begins with talking about Yom Kippur
regulations, some rabbis think the death of Aaron’s sons was on Yom Kippur.
However, the instructions for Yom Kippur obviously must precede the observance of
the feast, and as we saw earlier, Aaron’s sons really died 8 Abib, the week before
Pesach. Therefore, the most logical chronology is simply that Aaron has been in
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mourning for his two eldest sons for the past 6 months and after the purity regulations
have been given in Leviticus 11-15, we are now picking up the narrative at either just
prior to Yom Kippur, or that the Yom Kippur instructions are being given sometime
in the spring for full implementation in the fall.
PAROKET (16:12) = curtain or veil. I kind of like that the word is derived from
PARAKU, a verb meaning “to habitually shut off” thus reminding us that the default
position of these sacred objects is shut off from us but through righteousness unto
Abba YHWH we can have access to them and, by extension, to Him.
SERAPH (16:14) = “burns” can be personified into a being that burns with righteous
passion for Abba YHWH—a SERAPH or kind of angel (Isaiah 6:2). But SERAPHS
can also be evil and just as passionate for the dark side (Isaiah 14:29) because that
“burning” is related to how serpent’s poison burns in the body, so passion alone
doesn’t dictate righteousness. We can “burn” for the right or wrong cause. This idea
again brings us back to Aaron’s dead sons who offered the wrong kind of “burning”.
VECHIPER AL HA-KODESH MITUM’OT BENEY YISRAEL UMIPISH’EYHEM
LE-CHOL-CHATOTAM VE-CHEN YA’ASEH LE-OHEL MOED HA-SHOCHEN
ITAM BE-TOCH TUM’OTAM (16:16) = he will then perform the exact same (thing)
in the Tent of Meeting which remains with them (the Israelites) even when they are
unclean. This is a critical point. There is atonement for Israelites, even when they
are ritually unclean. Therefore ritual defilement is not a moral failing but merely a
cause to be isolated or quarantined, depending on the defilement. It also may be a
hint that since they are away from the Ark, that there can be atonement in the Second
Temple even without the Ark.
ANAH (16:29) = humble or afflict or fast.(Saadia; Targum Yonathan; cf. Yoma 77a).
Not fasting alone, ‘afflicting yourselves, also refers to avoiding washing, anointing,
wearing shoes and sex (Yad, Shevithath Assur 1:5); others say that these are forbidden
only by rabbinic law (Tosafoth, Yoma 7b).
B’CHODESH HA-SHEVI’I BE’ASOR (16:29) = 10th day of the 7th month”. The
original biblical calendar counts two ways, either from Fall to Fall or Spring to
Spring. If the former, the 10th day of Abib is when the lamb is set aside for Pesach. If
the latter, it’s Yom Kippur. Either “10th day of 7th month” is special! (10 and 7 are
CHUKAT OLAM (16:31) = eternal statute…chukat also carries the sense of a
“prescription” or “requirement” and the OLAM (eternal) means it doesn’t matter if
the Temple is standing or not!
Note on 16:34: Bible.ort.org puts in parentheses that Aaron (did later) what was
commanded. This supports my contention that the instructions are given well before
they are carried out on Yom Kippur itself. Leviticus 16 is not recording a Yom
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Kippur event; it is simply saying what must be done when Yom Kippur comes around
SAIR (17:7) = “goat demon”, very similar to the Greek word SATYR, describing a
demi-god that is half man and half goat. Also proves that Paul is thinking of Torah
when he says sacrificing to other gods is bowing down to demons (Deuteronomy
32:7, 1 Corinthians 10:20-21)!
ZANIM (17:7) =literally, “prostituted yourselves” or “played the harlot”. This proves
that Abba YHWH compares Himself to a husband and unfaithfulness to Him as
adultery. It also means YHWH does NOT tolerate plural marriage!
VENATATI PANEY (17:10) = I will set my face. This is a general idiom meaning
“to decide”. A “face” is usually turned to someone in favor or turned away in anger.
Y’shua uses this idiom when he says, “I will set my face towards Jerusalem”,
meaning “I have made up my mind to go there.”
NEVEILAH (17:15) = died on its own, meaning not ritually slaughtered with the
blood drained. This is also referred to in Acts as “strangled meat”. When an animal
is slaughtered in a kosher manner, touching the carcass to do so will NOT defile the
butcher. It is only when the carcass is encountered after the animal died on its own
and is subsequently touched that defilement comes.
Note on 18:19- The command to not expose the woman’s menstrual flow by having
sex with her during her period is a separate commandment from the NIDDAH rules
given in the previous Torah portions. Those NIDDAH rules may be relaxed now
because the reason given for them was “so that they might not defile my Tabernacle
which is in their midst.” However, this command, given in a completely different
place, is not attached to that series, so even if the other NIDDAH don’t apply because
there is no Temple or Tabernacle now, this commandment is independent and does
KHALAL (18:21) = profane. From Theological Workbook of the Old Testament:
Unhallowed, profaned, dishonored. This adjective occurs four times. In each case the
emphasis is on real or symbolic breaking of the sexual laws. In Lev (Leviticus 21:7,
14) it is used of women associated with (perhaps synonymous with) women who are
harlots. In the list of persons a Levite may not marry it follows a widow or divorcee
(here also possibly synonyms). It similarly describes Israel as the “unhallowed,
wicked one” (RSV; cf. KJV “profoundly dishonored one”; RV “deadly wounded”.
Other meanings include CHOLI (sick, leprous) which is sometimes used to describe
the Suffering Messiah. But also from a root that means “to untie”, as in loosen
through impurity. It reminds me also as the opposite of HALEL = praise El. When we
profane Him we make His covenant common but when we obey Him we give Him
praise that is acceptable unto Him!
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Torah Question of the Week:
How does this Torah portion relate to the real reason Yochanan the Immerser was
END PART 1
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PART 2: THE HAFTORAH
Torah Question of the Week:
How does this Torah portion relate to the real reason Yochanan the Immerser was
In this Torah portion, we saw the direct prohibition against marrying the wife of a brother
while that brother still lives. This was the sin of Herod Antipas who took the wife of his
brother Phillip, a lady of royal blood named Herodias. It was this sin that drew the fire of
Yochanan the Immerser and the Gospels are clear that Antipas did not want to execute
him but was provoked by his wife.
Her motivation though for doing this was not just because she was embarrassed by
Yochanan’s preaching. The real reason was because if Antipas did the right thing and
sent her packing, Torah said Phillip, her first husband, could not take her back! As a
result, she would have been ruined not just socially but financially as well. And so she
decided to lend her daughter Salome out for a bit of exotic dancing…
However Josephus tells us that Herodias ended up being Antipas’ downfall anyway, or at
least the cause of great hardship:
250 Now Gaius greeted Herod, for he first met with him, and then looked upon the
letters which Agrippa had sent him, and which were written in order to accuse
Herod; wherein he accused him, that he had been in confederacy with Sejanus,
against Tiberius’ government and that he was now confederate with Artabanus,
the king of Parthia, in opposition to the government of Gaius; 251
demonstration of which, he alleged that he had armour sufficient for seventy
thousand men, ready in his armoury. Gaius was moved at this information, and
asked Herod whether what was said about the armour was true; 252 and when he
confessed there was such armour there, for he could not deny the same, the truth
of it being too notorious, Gaius took that to be a sufficient proof of the accusation
that he intended to revolt.
So he took away from him his tetrarchy, and gave it by way of addition to
Agrippa’s kingdom; he also gave Herod’s money to Agrippa, and, by way of
punishment, awarded him a perpetual banishment, and appointed Lyons, a city of
Gaul, to be his place of habitation. 253 But when he was informed that Herodias
was Agrippa’s sister, he made her a present of what money was her own, and told
her that it was her brother who prevented her being put under the same calamity
with her husband.
254 But she made this reply:–“You, indeed, O emperor! do act after a
magnificent manner, and as becomes yourself in what you do offer me; but the
kindness which I have for my husband hinders me from partaking of the favour of
your gift: for it is not just that I, who have been made a partner in his prosperity,
should forsake him in his misfortunes.”
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255 Hereupon Gaius was angry at her, and sent her with Herod into banishment,
and gave her estate to Agrippa. And thus did God punish Herodias for her envy at
her brother, and Herod also for giving ear to the vain discourses of a woman.
ANSWERS TO STUDY QUESTIONS FROM PREVIOUS PORTION (Metzora)
1) I have heard in the past some teachers equate the leper or menstruating woman’s bed
that makes all who lay on it unclean to the “bed” of Jezebel in Revelation 2:22. Why
is this wrong?
Because in Aramaic the original word was ARSA did not mean “bed” in this instance.
AENT footnote explains:
14) Peshitto and Crawford Revelation reads, “Behold, I am throwing her into a bed,
and the ones committing adultery with her into great affliction, unless they repent of
the works of her” (Rev_2:22 The Greek-English Interlinear New Testament, UBS 4th
Edition, Nestle-Aland 26th Edition). Shaliach John is rebuking the congregation for
allowing this woman Jezabel to seduce righteous men who were previously above
reproach. In addition, this woman also made false claims of prophetic utterances and
went so far as to eat meat sacrificed to idols. It’s rather pitiful, but when John is
finally alone with Jezebel, because her lovers are gone, Greek suggests he just
“throws her onto a bed”? Considering this lady’s history, this hardly seems like
punishment, but business as usual! In order to avoid such a salacious reading, Greek
translators have added a word that does not appear in the text: “Behold I will throw
her onto a bed of sickness and those who commit adultery with her into great
tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds” (Rev_2:22 NASB). The use of italics in
the NASB is a way of bolstering bad readings arising from Greek. The editors of
NASB, while saying that italicized words are “implied” are really on very thin ice
from a scholarly perspective. There is no fact, hint or evidence that “bed of sickness”
is meant here. Greek simply puts “bed” and “bed” alone here. Once again Aramaic
comes to the rescue: “Behold I will throw her in to a coffin, and those who commit
adultery with her into a great affliction, unless they repent of their deeds”
The Aramaic word arsa means both “bed” and “coffin,” with the latter meaning
obviously making far more sense! Furthermore, notice the use of the B proclitic at
the beginning of the word. As we saw earlier, beyt can mean on as in “on to a bed” or
into as in “into a coffin.” The Greek redactor saw this word with its B proclitic in
Aramaic and picked the wrong meanings for both of them when translating the text.
But here is where things get rather odd: this reading is identical in both the Peshitto
Revelation and the Crawford Manuscript. In the case of the former, we know it was a
translation from Greek, yet this reading becomes very puzzling if Crawford was a
translation from Greek. Crawford as well, while looking “translational” in many
areas, nevertheless is holding on to the kind of Aramaic primacy that almost never
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comes into a text from translation. So if both Crawford and Peshitto Revelation were
from Greek sources, the only logical conclusion is to assert that all three versions had
to come from a lost Hebrew/Aramaic original. The surviving texts are clearly not that
original, but they nevertheless testify, like the Septuagint, to that original’s existence.
2) In a broader sense, who do these lepers signify in our modern times?
I believe the lepers described in the Torah portion are meant to symbolize outcasts
in society, but not necessarily bad people or criminals, but rather people who are
isolated for being against social norms in other ways.
In this case, the lepers are not judged to be morally inferior but only ritually
unclean, and even the high priest can also become unclean for a time, so he
shouldn’t be judging those who need treatment, isolation and the ancient
equivalent of frequent checkups with health insurance!
3) We saw the word RAQAQ discussed as “spit” and used that way by Y’shua. But
this word in Aramaic has another interesting meaning that might also fit. What is
In Matthew 5:22, the word RACA is used as “I spit on you” but it can also mean
“to be a fool”, or literally “empty headed”.
4) We saw the measured barley (SEORA) mentioned in this portion…but this word
has another interesting meaning that relates to something else we cut seasonally
(most of us). What is it and how does it lead to deeper meanings for us?
This same word can mean HAIRY, and it was applied to barley because it was
known as “the bearded/hairy grain”. This reminds me of Esau and also that his
territory is in MOUNT SEIR—same word and he is called hairy as well.
SEORIM is also the name of a priest in 1 Chronicles.
5) What are these images of clean and unclean meant to teach us about the spiritual
Basically ritual cleanliness or uncleanness comes from circumstances in life that
in many cases are unavoidable. But MORAL cleanliness or uncleanness comes
from CHOOSING to obey or disobey His instructions. That one becomes unclean
is not the problem…it only becomes a problem when the rules to get clean again
1) Haftorah portion (English- Ezekiel 22:1-19) and discuss common themes with the
Vayehi devar-YAHWEH elay lemor.
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Ve’atah ven-adam hatishpot hatishpot et-ir hadamim vehodatah et kolto’avoteyha.
Ve’amarta koh amar YAHWEH Elohim ir shofechet dam betochah
lavo itah ve’astah gilulim aleyha letom’ah.
2) Our linguistic commentary…
LE’SIGIM (22:19) = dross, waste products removed from metal in the refining
process. SIG/SOG also means FENCE, and is the Aramaic term for fences in the
Talmud. But Y’shua says in his Aramaic dialect—as does Paul in Galatians—that
he is the DOOR to open the fences and leave those fences aside. This is the sense
of Matthew 23, “Woe to you Pharisees, for you hold the keys to knowledge of the
kingdom and you do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow others to enter.” The
hindrance is clearly the Oral Law.
3) Renewed Covenant portion: (English) Acts 15:1-21 (all the way through with
165) This is the teaching of those who later became known as the Ebionites, or
“Messianic Pharisees” (see footnote on Tit_3:9). Also note that the “life” being
mentioned by these proto-Ebionites is, in fact, Eternal Life; hence a very serious
allegation! “Torah” is often confused with the religion of Judaism or the Pharisees or
Orthodox Jews yet throughout Y’shua’s ministry he showed how Torah is being grossly
misinterpreted. Y’shua teaches, “Why also do you transgress against the
Commandments of Elohim because of your traditions?” Distinctly oral law, the Talmud,
and the religious traditions of the Pharisees is making the Torah void. Just before
Stephen was stoned to death he cried out, “You have received Torah by way of the
command of Messengers and you have not kept it!” (Act_7:53) Apostle Paul teaches
both Jews and Christians, “Do, we then nullify Torah by faith? May it never be! On the
contrary, we establish Torah.” (Rom_3:31). It is vitally important that we do not view
Torah through the religious eyes of Judaism or Christianity, but through Mashiyach.
166) “Guard” in this case refers to putting up of fences (Pirkei Avot 1:1) around Torah,
not simply obeying the written Word. Part of this “fence” known as religious halakha,
minhagim or tradition, requires a person to be circumcised before learning about having a
relationship with YHWH, and why Torah must be applied to our lives. This tradition
overturns the peshat (plain) meaning of many Torah requirements. The context is clearly
shown earlier in the passage where it reads, “those who believed from the teachings of the
Pharisees,” as opposed to the teachings of Torah. In other cases, however, “guarding” is
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considered a noble endeavor, provided it neither contradicts, adds, nor takes away from
Torah in favor of man made traditions.
167) This yoke is clearly referring to the Oral Law, not the Written Torah of Moshe. The
Oral Torah (Talmud) has put many additional burdens on Jews, and greatly limited the
ability of Gentiles to join with Israel. See Judaizers in Appendix.
168) That which is “sacrificed” unto other gods according to YHWH’s Word in
D’varim/Deu_32:17 is sacrificed unto devils. Vayikra/Lev_17:12-16 commands that Jew
and Ger (foreigner) NOT eat blood, or any animals that die of themselves. The
prohibition against fornication is wide spectrum, against all manner of physical
perversion and spiritual whoredom. These Torah directives are eternally binding on all
who follow Y’shua Mashiyach and who seek the Malchut (Kingdom) of Elohim. Also,
Khabouris has an isolated qoph here, between the words “we” and “send.”
169) A very clear fulfillment of Isa_56:1-9. Gentile converts are observing Shabbat and
learning Torah as one body along with Jews. Shortly thereafter, Marcion, whom
Polycarp referred to as “the firstborn of the devil” built the first all-Gentile church to
promote Christo-Paganism. Marcion held his services on Sunday which blended with
Zeus (the sun god) culture and projected a hybrid Je-Zeus identity in opposition to the
Jewish Mashiyach. The modern theologies of Je-zeus Christos are based more on
Hellenism than on original fundamental Hebraic values. Marcion coined the words “Old
– New Testament” and did his very best to warn Gentiles away from Torah and “the God
of the Old Testament.” Marcion invented theologies known as replacement,
dispensational, supercessionism, etc., which are very popular among Christianity today.
See Y’shua to Zeus in Appendix.
4) Highlight common themes in Aramaic: These are addressed in extensive
footnotes. We will actually read footnotes that are a little before and after the
portion (#137-144, AENT p. 349-351)
5) Apply these themes/issues to modern issues in the Netzari faith. (What was
binding then is binding now!)
6) Relate to all or part of an Appendix portion of AENT or footnotes from a portion
(“Circumcision” p. 753-756).
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STUDY QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED NEXT WEEK:
1) How is one part of the Yom Kippur ritual as described in Leviticus 16 turn out to also
be a clue in recovering what for most folks is a lost part of the life of Peter?
2) Why is the scape goat said to be for Azazel? Who or what does the term Azazel refer
3) How is the term Azazel in another sense used to compare and contrast good and evil?
4) What part of the sacrificial rules given in this parsha would probably be very much
approved of by at least some animal rights activists?
5) Name one prohibition in Leviticus 18 that appears to have been allowed in earlier
Torah Thought for the Week:
The Missing Message of Acts 15
It’s that time of year again! With Pesach hitting next week, all manner of doctrinal and
calendar debate issues are of course swirling in the air right now. I know because that
bunch of air is often very hot and headed for my email box.
There are also many questions about the nature of Mashiyach and how to describe
Godhead, but that’s something I will tackle also next week with the 2017 Pesach Special,
so not the focus for right now.
But in this case this week, our Renewed Covenant reading is Acts 15:1-21, so surely this
Torah Thought for the Week must be about circumcision right? Actually, the answer is,
not necessarily, or at least, not in the way this topic is usually done.
As important as understanding the fact that the Acts 15 Council was only saying that
Gentiles not be required to circumcision as a direct condition of salvation but that
Gentiles should nonetheless learn about the need to do it through Torah learning and
follow up on it accordingly, that’s not the main point of the chapter.
And as important as it is to note that Abraham comes up so often in this debate because
he was born Gentile and became a Hebrew through belief and practice, that’s not the
main focus either, though it is more on point than the first topic.
Other scholars have pointed out that Acts 15 is a kind of nexus point that will determine
ultimately how popular the new faith called the Way will actually become. Does it stay
totally within Torah and keep itself concerned primarily with Jews or does it go
international by making certain shifts in emphasis that are more Gentile friendly? Again
the answer is no. That very choice I outlined here is I believe a false dichotomy to begin
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What then is the main focus of our look at the first half of Acts 15? My answer could be
something neither the church nor folks in this faith walk have actively considered before,
and it is also something that I believe has been overlooked for far too long. The heart of
Acts 15 is not really about circumcision at all. Rather circumcision is the weapon that is
used in a wider conflict to destroy faith in Y’shua Ha-Mashiyach from within the ranks of
the apostles themselves! Let’s take a look and see why.
Now men came down from Yehud teaching the brothers that unless you are
circumcised in the manner of Torah, you are not able to live. (Acts 15:1-AENT)
Circumcision may be the catalyst, but the wider issue is this is a power grab! There are a
group of leaders who have proclaimed themselves followers of Y’shua but who are trying
to wrest interpretation of the truth away from the apostles. Who are these upstarts?
Around 200 CE, the Church Father Origen wrote the following about this shadowy
The first book of our answer to the treatise of Celsus, entitled A True Discourse,
which concluded with the representation of the Jew addressing Y’shua, having
now extended to a sufficient length, we intend the present part as a reply to the
charges brought by him against those who have been converted from Judaism to
And we call attention, in the first place, to this special question, viz., why Celsus,
when he had once resolved upon the introduction of individuals upon the
stage of his book, did not represent the Jew as addressing the converts from
heathenism rather than those from Judaism, seeing that his discourse, if
directed to us, would have appeared more likely to produce an impression.
But probably this claimant to universal knowledge does not know what is
appropriate in the matter of such representations; and therefore let us proceed to
consider what he has to say to the converts from Judaism. He asserts that “they
have forsaken the Torah of their fathers, in consequence of their minds being
led captive by Y’shua; that they have been most ridiculously deceived, and
that they have become deserters to another name and to another mode of
Here he has not observed that the Jewish converts have not deserted the Torah of
their fathers, inasmuch as they live according to its prescriptions, receiving their
very name from the poverty of the law, according to the literal acceptation of the
word; for Ebion signifies “poor” among the Jews, and those Jews who have
received Y’shua as Messiah are called by the name of Ebionites.
No, Peter himself seems to have observed for a considerable time the Jewish
observances enjoined by the Torah of Moses, not having yet learned from Y’shua
to ascend from the law that is regulated according to the letter, to that which is
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interpreted according to the spirit,—a fact which we learn from the Acts of the
For on the day after the Messenger of Elohim appeared to Cornelius, suggesting
to him “to send to Joppa, to Simon surnamed Peter,” Peter “went up into the
upper room to pray about the sixth hour. And he became very hungry, and would
have eaten: but while they made ready he fell into a trance, and saw heaven
opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit
at the four corners, and let down to the earth; wherein were all manner of fourfooted
beasts, and creeping things of the earth, and fowls of the air. And there
came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I
have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.
And the voice spoke to him again the second time, What Elohim has cleansed,
that you will not call common.” Now observe how, by this instance, Peter is
represented as still observing the Jewish customs respecting clean and
unclean animals. And from the narrative that follows, it is manifest that he, as
being yet a Jew, and living according to their traditions, and despising those who
were beyond the pale of Judaism, stood in need of a vision to lead him to
communicate to Cornelius (who was not an Israelite according to the flesh), and
to those who were with him, the word of faith.
Moreover, in the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul states that Peter, still from fear of
the Jews, ceased upon the arrival of Ya’akov to eat with the Gentiles, and
“separated himself from them, fearing them that were of the circumcision;” and
the rest of the Jews, and Barnabas also, followed the same course. And certainly
it was quite consistent that those should not abstain from the observance of
Jewish usages who were sent to minister to the circumcision, when they who
“seemed to be pillars” gave the right hand of fellowship to Paul and
Barnabas, in order that, while devoting themselves to the circumcision, the latter
might preach to the Gentiles.
And why do I mention that they who preached to the circumcision withdrew and
separated themselves from the pagan, when even Paul himself “became as a Jew
to the Jews, that he might gain the Jews?” Wherefore also in the Acts of the
Apostles it is related that he even brought an offering to the altar, that he might
satisfy the Jews that he was no apostate from their Torah.
Now, if Celsus had been acquainted with all these circumstances, he would
not have represented the Jew holding such language as this to the converts
from Judaism: “What induced you, my fellow-citizens, to abandon the
Torah of your fathers, and to allow your minds to be led captive by him with
whom we have just conversed, and thus be most ridiculously deluded, so as to
become deserters from us to another name, and to the practices of another
life?”-Against Celsus, Book II, Chapter 1
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In other words, Torah observance was the norm among the apostles and they did not
depart from their beliefs about Y’shua because of Torah. The problem was, others called
Ebionites held a different view, and they are literally trying to replace the apostles with
their own beliefs and procedures, as we see here:
And there was a great commotion and a debate between (them and) Paul and BarNaba.
And it happened with them on account of this debate that Paul and
Bar-Naba and the others with them went up to the Shlichim and the elders
who were in Urishlim. (Acts 15:2-AENT)
The fight didn’t start in Jerusalem. It began outside of her in greater Judea. And for the
Ebionites, the problem was not so much that the apostles were saying to Gentiles to not
get circumcised. Rather, the problem from their view is that the apostles are having their
message about Y’shua trump the way they want to teach Gentiles about Torah and Oral
Law! In fact, if we just go back to Acts 14, we see clearly the inciting incident was a
successful mission of the apostles among Gentiles living in places like Syrian Antioch:
The disciples gathered around him and he rose up (and) entered the city. And on
another day, he departed from there with Bar-Naba and came to the city of Derbe.
And as they were preaching to the sons of that city they made many disciples.
And they returned (and) came to the city of Lostra and to Ieqanon and to Antioch.
After they had strengthened the souls of the disciples and had beseeched from
them to remain in the faith, and had said to them that, It is right by much
tribulation to enter into the Kingdom of Elohim. And they raised up elders in
every congregation for them after they had fasted and prayed with them and
they had committed them to our Master, he in whom they believed. And
while they traveled in the country of Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And after
they spoke the Instruction of Master YHWH in the city of Perge, they went
down to Attalia.
And from there they journeyed by sea and they came to Antioch, because from
there they committed the work that which they completed to the grace of Master
YHWH. And after they gathered all the congregation, they conveyed everything
that Elohim did among them. And that He opened the gate of faith to the
Gentiles. And they remained there much time with the disciples. (Acts 14:20-28-
It is only after seeing this level of success that Ebionites sought to control the progress of
Gentiles through the Y’shua movement and wrest power away from the apostles by
recruiting them to get circumcised under their own rabbinic leadership, or what Rav
Shaul called “boasting over their flesh” (Galatians 6:13). Galatians, like Acts 15, was
never about banning circumcision for Gentiles per se but about not using it as an excuse
to create man-made hierarchies between new believers who are learning Torah and the
Messiah they swore to serve. That’s where these next lines come into play:
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The congregation conducted (and) sent them. And they journeyed in all
Phonicia and also Samaria as they related about the reconciliation of the
Gentiles. And they caused great joy to all the Brothers.
And when they came to Urishlim, they were received by the congregation and by
the Shlichim and by the elders. And they narrated to them everything that Elohim
did among them.
Now some stood up, those who believed from the teaching of the Pharisees. And
they said that, It is necessary for you to circumcise them and you should
command them to guard the Torah of Moshe. The Shlichim and elders gathered
together to look into this matter. (Acts 15:3-6-AENT)
This rival group first sought to have their opinions prevail at this conference and win the
pillars like Keefa and Ya’akov over to their side. One can only suppose they probably
had particularly high hopes for the latter coming to their cause. If they could then get the
teaching of Paul and Bar-Naba out of the way, then maybe from there they could
infiltrate the higher leadership as well.
Again the circumcision issue was only a catalyst, a means to an end. The real goal was to
take control of the process that governed “the reconciliation of the Gentiles”! As Origen
just said also, the apostles were Torah observant, so this had to be about something else.
Keefa begins to give us the answer:
And after a great debate occurred, Shimon arose and said to them, “Men, brothers,
you know that from prior days from my mouth (mine) Elohim chose that the
Gentiles would hear the words of the Good News and they would believe. (Acts
Okay so we need to stop here before going any further. This is the year of the
resurrection, so there are no “New Testament” writings to speak of. Therefore what is the
Gospel or Good News that Peter mentions?
“Grass shall wither, the flower shall fade, but the Word of our Elohim stands
forever.” You who bring good news (besorah, Gospel) to Tsiyon, get up into the
high mountain. You who bring good news to Yerushalayim, lift up your voice
with strength, lift it up, be not afraid. Say to the cities of Yehuḏah, “See your
Elohim!” (Isaiah 40:8-9, The Scriptures 1998)
In trying to piece together the extremely complex chain of oral and written transmission
for the New Testament, we must first appreciate what the “gospel” began as in a first
century Jewish context. At its most basic level, the besorah was the “good news” that the
Messiah, Y’shua of Nazareth, had finally arrived to save his people from their sins
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Additionally, in the prologues to all four Gospels we see this “Gospel” begin with the
preaching of John the Baptist who himself begins by quoting Isaiah 40. Therefore, as the
NT opens, it is Isaiah 40’s concept of “Gospel” or “good news” that is its organizing
principle, not church tradition from centuries later.
But what else is there to understand from the term besorah? Well, to begin with, we need
to see that in the NT “the Gospel” is always singular; there is no concept of “Gospels of”
because from the standpoint of the apostles there is only one besorah but many ways to
proclaim it based on location, language and audience.
In particular, the Aramaic NT traditions bear this concept out very well, because in their
earliest manuscripts they always talk about two related terms, evangelion and karazutha.
The first term is easy to recognize as a loan-word from the Greek and is the root from
which we get the term evangelist, literally one who proclaims the Gospel.
The other term however, karazutha is more rare and obscure. Roughly it translates to
“preaching” in English and hints strongly that said preaching is an oral endeavor that is
written down at some later time. For now however let’s look at what the NT itself says
about the different preaching modalities of the Gospel1
1) The Gospel of the Kingdom, which eventually becomes Matthew (Matthew 4:32,
9:35, 24:14) and which emphasizes Y’shua’s Jewish heritage and Davidic titles.
This term is only used once outside of Matthew, in Luke 16:16 where it is called
“the Gospel of the Kingdom of Elohim”, and even in that instance Luke is writing
a line verbatim that first appeared in Matthew!
2) The Gospel of the Messiah, which eventually becomes Mark and focuses on
Y’shua’s teaching as a universal message of redemption for the nations (Mark
1:1, 14-15, 13:10, 14:9, 16:15).
3) The Gospel of Elohim, which eventually becomes Luke and focusses on the power
of Elohim working through Y’shua (Luke 6:16, Acts 15:7, 16:10, 20:24, Romans
1:1,15:16, 2 Corinthians 11:7). Luke of course also wrote Acts and travelled with
Paul for many years.
4) The Gospel of the Eternal Word, which constitutes exclusively material from John
and is concerned with deep mystical teachings surrounding the Word of Elohim
who becomes flesh as Y’shua (John 1:1-14, 1 John 1:1-10, 2:5-14; Revelation
As we just read, all four accounts link “Gospel” or “Good News” to the preaching in
Isaiah 40 which is in turn brought to bear by the preaching of Yochanan the Immerser.
Now at first, the term besorah (Gospel, Good News) relates to the good news of the
1 These are overall trends that I have observed in the Gospels. I make no claim that a given term is only
linked to a particular Gospel 100% of the time or that other terms do not appear occasionally in other
writings. Rather, this list is meant a guide or rule of thumb.
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The message however begins to widen its focus in Luke 4 when Y’shua quotes Isaiah
61:1 where he “brings the besorah to the afflicted” without directly mentioning their
nationality. When Y’shua is questioned by the synagogue elders, he replies that only the
pagan Naaman was cured of leprosy by the prophet Elisha, which enrages them to the
point they try to throw Y’shua off of a cliff! The message is clear: The Good News is not
for Judah alone. In fact, in Isaiah 60, the chapter before the one Y’shua reads in Luke 4,
we see the opposite trend:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come! And the esteem of יהוה has risen upon you.
“For look, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness the peoples. But יהוה
arises over you, and His esteem is seen upon you. “And the gentiles shall
come to your light and sovereigns to the brightness of your rising.
“Lift up your eyes all around and see: all of them have gathered, they have come
to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are supported on the side.
“Then you shall see and be bright, and your heart shall throb and swell, for the
wealth of the sea is turned to you, the riches of the gentiles come to you.
“A stream of camels cover your land, the dromedaries of Miḏyan and Ěphah;
all those from Sheḇa come, bearing gold and incense, and proclaiming the
praises (besorah-Good News) of יהוה” .All the flocks of Qĕḏar are gathered to
you, the rams of Neḇayoth serve you; they come up for acceptance on My
altar, and I embellish My esteemed House. “Who are these who fly like a
cloud, and like doves to their windows? “Because the coastlands wait for Me, and
the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your sons from afar, their silver and their gold
with them, to the Name of יהוה your Elohim, and to the Set-apart One of Yisra’ĕl,
because He has adorned you. (Isaiah 60:1-9, The Scriptures 1998)
And it is this Good News, the Gentiles coming into Torah observance according to the
Written Torah and not the traditions of men, that is really driving the debate in Acts 15,
which causes Peter to in effect pull rank and set these detractors straight:
And Elohim who knows what is in the hearts testified concerning them and gave
to them the Ruach haKodesh as (he did) to us. And He differentiates nothing
between them and us because He cleansed their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:8-9-
In other words, if the Gentiles are doing Torah, they have clean hearts through their faith,
for as Father Yah says over and over again, it is He, not ritual, that sanctifies humanity.
Then Peter deftly pivots and makes a devastating counter-attack straight across the
proverbial bough of the Oral Law:
And now, why do you test Elohim so as to place a yoke upon the neck of the
disciples that which not even our forefathers nor us were able to carry? But
by the grace of our Master Y’shua the Mashiyach, we believe that we are
saved as are they.” And all the crowd became quiet and they were listening to
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Paul and to Bar-Naba as they were relating everything that Elohim did by their
hands – miracles and wonders among the Gentiles. (Acts 15:10-12-AENT)
The yoke neither our forefathers nor us were able to carry should have told the Ebionites
where this debate was going to come down. Keefa is talking directly about the Oral Law
and then contrasting it against the Written Torah that said all nations would be blessed
through Abraham. The same Elohim then liberated a mixed multitude out of Egypt
attached to Israel and saved 120,000 pagan Ninevites, much to the chagrin of Jonah. That
declaration essentially settled the argument, as the crowd becomes quiet and listens to the
victors, Paul and Bar-Naba, continue their testimony. Had the Ebionites though won this
debate, the miracles and great experiences with the Gentiles would be considered largely
irrelevant and moot.
However, one hope remained for the Ebionite cause. The head of the Jerusalem Rosh
Beit Din, Ya’akov ha-Tzadik, had yet to render his ruling. If he disagreed with Keefa,
even if Keefa outranked him, it could create a major schism in the movement that it could
certainly not afford. This was then the Ebionite Plan B: if you can’t take the majority,
divide the movement and live to fight another day. Fortunately for the rest of us though,
Ya’akov’s determination could not be clearer:
And after they became quiet, Ya’akov arose and said, “Men, brothers, listen to
me! Shimon related to you how Elohim began to choose from the Gentiles a
people for his name. And to this end the words of the prophets are fulfilled as
it is written: ‘That after these (things), I will return and raise up the
tabernacle of Dawid, that which fell. And I will build the thing that fell off
from it and I will raise it up. So that the remainder of mankind and all the
Gentiles will seek YHWH, those who My Name is called over them, said
Master YHWH who made all these things.’
The works of Elohim are known from eternity. Because of this (I) say that you
should not be oppressors to them from the Gentiles who are turning to Elohim.
But we will send (word) to them that they should abstain from uncleanness of
sacrifices (to idols) and from adultery and from things that are strangled and from
blood. For from ancient generations in all cities Moshe had preachers in the
synagogues that on every Shabbat they read him.” (Acts 15:13-21-AENT)
So after quoting Scripture, Ya’akov explains that it was always Father Yah’s plan to
bring the Gentiles into Torah through Mashiyach. Notice though the Gentiles are not
called to stay as they are but to call on Father Yah’s Name—another thing the Ebionites
present probably did not like at all—and that they should begin a process of re-education
to learn the Torah and see how it works also through belief in Y’shua.
And finally, the most cutting part of this whole affair is how Ya’akov basically says
without saying directly: Look you Ebionites! You are neither the true form of Pharisaic
Judaism nor are you the true form of the Way of Mashiyach as done through Torah
among us. We don’t need your hybridization of Oral Law and quasi-Messianic belief
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where you empty the Savior of his power. Thanks but no thanks. We’ll take it from here
and tell the Gentiles what they need to do in order to begin a course of study in OUR
Messianic synagogues and not some false institution you are trying to create here, thank
you very much!
And so this is the true import of Acts 15—almost the exact opposite of what many in the
church have taught over the centuries. The Council was never about protecting Gentiles
from circumcision but about allowing Gentiles the right to do Torah without interference
from man-made traditions that contradict the Torah of Moshe. The rest, as they say, is
I’m Andrew Gabriel Roth and that’s your Torah Thought for the Week! Next week is
Pesach so please watch our 2017 Pesach Special with bonus teachings! Study questions
will be answered during Kedoshim, the next parsha after the Feast concludes. Stay tuned!