Torah תורה: Fathered by God
Updated: Mar 16
Torah is another beautiful Hebrew word that cannot be properly translated into English.
See also: Chesed
While it is certainly understandable why the Torah was first called nomos in Greek and then "law" in English, sadly there is an unintentional game of "phone tag" going on. "Law" is a good translation of the word nomos but NOT a good translation of the word Torah.
Before we study the meaning of the Hebrew word Torah, let's take a quick look at the word the ancient Rabbis used in the Septuagint: nomos.
Why the Septuagint Uses Nomos
In Greek Philosophy, nomos was an idealized standard, a law of nature. It can also be social or community standards. Plato used it to describe the ways of the cosmos, the blueprints that all nature follows.
Plato... asserted that nomos was, or at least could be, based upon a process of reasoning whereby immutable standards of moral conduct could be discovered, which could then be expressed in specific laws. Britannica
In other words, mankind figures out how the universe works and creates moral laws to reflect the already established Natural Laws.
Like the Rabbis, we know that Yahweh is the Author of the Torah, not man. But I can see why they chose this word!
It is true that Torah is nomos, an unalterable natural law, the foundation of Creation itself. Yahweh did not just speak it from Sinai--He revealed it. All of Creation follows this Torah. It is not arbitrary made-up rules. The Torah is true.
The Rabbis wanted to make sure that everyone respected the Torah as THE Law of the Universe and as long as the universe still existed, so did its nomos.
Accuracy vs Tradition
There's just one problem: nomos is an excellent word to describe Torah, but it is not an accurate one. If the Rabbis had the wisdom to see how their decision to use the word nomos would lead to the huge misunderstanding we struggle with today, they never would have used it.
But if it's not accurate, why do we still use it? Tradition mostly. And it's not technically a bad translation. It is technically true and fits with the traditional interpretation of scripture--which sadly takes priority over true accuracy sometimes.
Biased personal interpretation of the scriptures (and inherited anti-semite thinking!) can affect whether these facts are a big deal or not. Until now, no one has seen it as a very big deal. I greatly disagree.
Yarah, Moreh, and Torah
Hold on, this will all make sense! I was shocked when I first discovered this!
Yarah is the root word of both Torah and Moreh. The meanings of these three words are closely connected.
Yarah means to "throw" or "point." It is the picture of a man pointing (or throwing) a finger in a certain direction.
Similarly, Moreh means "'one who throws from the hand.' This can be the 'archer' who throws the arrow, or a 'teacher' who throws the finger in the way the student is to go," (Ancient Hebrew Research Center). Moreh is the Hebrew word for parent or teacher.
Makes sense so far? Here's the really exciting part:
Torah means "what is thrown by the Moreh (parent)." In other words, it is the teachings and instructions given from father to son that lead him to maturity. A father understands when his son makes mistakes and gives him lots of room to try again and grow.
Yahweh is our Heavenly Father who guides us and instructs us in the way we should go. This is why Yeshua sent his Holy Spirit--the Counselor, Teacher, Guide--who will remind us of His Torah.
More Than Just a Law
In Pilgrim's Progress, the man called "Law" beat up Christian and left him for dead. When Christian cried out "Mercy! Mercy!" the man called Law said, "I know not how to show mercy."
This is the image many people have when they think of the Torah. While Torah is an Unchanging Law, it is so much more than that. True, no one can escape its judgment because no one is perfect, but that's not the full story.
Torah is also a Person--Yahweh's Word made flesh. His name is Yeshua. He fulfilled the Torah perfectly because he IS the Torah. We are to look at Yeshua, learn from him, and be like him.
Unlike Torah, law is a set of rules from a government and binding on a community. Violation of the rules require punishment. With this type of law, there is no room for teaching, either the law was broken with the penalty of punishment or it was not broken. God, as our heavenly Father, gives his children his Torah in the same manner as parents give their Torah to their children, not in the manner as a government does to its citizens. Ancient Hebrew Research Center
The full meaning of Torah involves a personal relationship--like one between father and son. God loves us so much! This picture is fulfilled in Yeshua coming as the exact representation of the Father.