Jewish scripture, also called the Torah, is in actuality the first five books of the Old Testament in the Bible. These books include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Literally translated it means â€œGods instruction to Israelâ€. The Torah is the great democratizing influence on Israelite society â€" all people must obey, especially the kings. This teaching was permanent, even if the covenant would be broken. The teaching of the Torah was an essential priestly function, but the greatest joy was to have God answer oneâ€™s prayers and teach it directly to the individual.
The book of Proverbs, which uses torah in the sense of providing parental guidance for a child, may provide the reason why this term was used in the religious sphere. The Israelites as Godâ€™s children is a well-known metaphor in the Bible. Thus, torah in the religious sense may have originally connoted the teachings imparted by God the parent to the child Israel. As such, the giving of the Torah is an act of supreme love. In later Judaism the Torah came to mean not only the Pentateuch (known as the written Torah) but also the Talmud (the oral Torah). All of Jewish tradition is referred to as Torah.
The heart of the Torah or Jewish law is the Mosaic Law, which is known as the Ten Commandments today. The purpose of the Mosaic Law is twofold: 1) to reveal the nature of sin; and 2) by manâ€™s inability to keep the law, he is brought to recognition of grace given through Christ. The nature of sin is revealed through the story of the first sin. Also, by giving the people the laws that are to be followed it gives them guidelines to follow and better outlines what would be sin for them. Man, on his own will, cannot keep the law. It is only through the grace of God and mans relationship with him that man is able to live holy and law abiding lives.
There is some controversy regarding the authorship of the Torah. The traditional view is that Moses wrote the Torah, based on the internal evidence of the text where specific passages state that Moses wrote the law. Later historical books such as Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah reflect this well-established tradition. The conservative date or the composition of these books indicates that this tradition of authorship was well settled by the 5th century B.C. In the New Testament the Pentateuch (the written Torah) is referred to as the work of Moses.
To dominant element in the Torah is the direction or guidance contained in it. Godâ€™s purpose in revealing the law was to provide direction and guidance for the worship and life of his covenant people. The law not only contains the details of right and wrong but it also gives instruction for worship, prayer and having a relationship with God. It was never intended to be a burden to be borne but an expression of divine grace and caring.
The Torah is provided to provide direction and guidance to the Jewish people. This includes the Ten Commandments as well as the entirety of the first five books of the Old Testament. This section of books, all written by Moses are referred to as the Mosaic writings or Mosaic Law. All of Jewish culture is required to obey the Torah. It was designed to reveal to the people their sin and where it was coming from and that the sin can be forgiven through the grace of Christ. In the end, salvation comes from God and not just the obedience of the law.
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