Nazarene Space

Is there Profit in Circumcision? Light from Hillel's Sixth Rule


Is there Profit in Circumcision?
Light from Hillel's Sixth Rule
By
James Scott Trimm




The Sixth Rule of Hillel unlocks the true meaning of Galatians 5:2.  In arguing against circumcision many will cite Gal. 5:2. Interestingly there is an apparent contradiction between Gal. 5:2 and Rom. 3:1-2:

Behold, I Paul say to you, that if you be circumcised,
Christ shall profit you nothing.
(Gal. 5:2 KJV)

What advantage then hath the Jew?
or what profit is there of circumcision?
Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them
were committed the oracles of God.
(Rom. 3:1-2 KJV)

So what is the profit in circumcision? Is it “nothing” as we read in Gal. 5:2 or “much every way” as we read in Romans 3:1-2?

In order to answer this question, we shall make use of the sixth of Hillel’s seven rules.

The Seven Rules of Hillel

The Seven Rules of Hillel are a list of hermeneutic rules compiled by Hillel (60 BCE – 20 CE?).   Hillel and Shamai were competitive leading figures in Judaism during the days of Yeshua’s youth. Hillel was known for teaching the Spirit of the Law and Shamai was known for teaching the letter of the Law. Yeshua’s teaching largely followed that of the School of Hillel rather than that of the School of Shamai (an exception being Yeshua agreeing with Shamai regarding divorce in Matthew 19:9).

For example, Yeshua’s famous “golden rule”: Whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even to them, for this is the Torah and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

This reads very closely with Hillel’s famous statement: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor that is the whole Torah … (b.Shabbat 31a)

Upon Hillel’s death the mantle of the School of Hillel was passed to his son Simeon. Upon Simon’s death the mantle of the school of Hillel passed to Gamliel. This Gamilel spoke in defense of the early Nazarenes (Acts 5:34-39). He was the teacher of Shaul/Paul (Acts 22:3).

In 2 Tim. 2:15, Paul speaks of “rightly dividing the word of truth.” What did Paul mean by this? Was he saying that there were right and wrong ways to interpret the scriptures? Did Paul believe there were actual rules to be followed when interpreting (understanding) the Scriptures? Was Paul speaking of the Seven Rules of Hillel?

Paul was certainly taught these rules in the School of Hillel by Hillel’s own grandson Gamliel. When we examine Paul’s writings we will see that they are filled with usages of Hillel’s Seven Rules (several examples appear below). It would appear then that the Seven Rules of Hillel are at least part of what Paul was speaking of when he spoke of “rightly dividing the Word of truth.”

The Sixth Rule of Hillel

The Sixth Rule reads:  Kayotze bo mimekom akhar (Analogy made from another passage)

This rule means that two passages may seem to conflict until compared with a third, which has points of general though not necessarily verbal similarity.

The following are some examples of this rule applied to understanding the Tanak:

Leviticus 1:1 “out of the tent of meeting” and Exodus 25:22 “from above the ark of the covenant between the chrubim” seem to disagree until we examine Num. 7:89 where we learn that Moses entered the tent of meeting to hear YHWH speaking from between the cherubim.

1 Chronicles 27:1 explained the numerical disagreement between 2 Samuel 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5.

Exodus 19:20 “YHWH came down upon Mount Sinai” seems to disagree with Deuteronomy 4:36, “Out of Heaven He let you hear His voice.” Exodus 20:19 (20:22 in some editions) reconciles the two by telling us that Elohim brought the heavens down to the mount and spoke. (m.Sifra 1:7)

An example from Romans: Paul shows that the following Tenach passages SEEM to conflict:

The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17 = Habakkuk 2:4) with There is none righteous, no, not one … (Romans 3:10 = Psalms 14:1-3= Psalms 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20). Paul does the same here: [G-d] will render to each one according to his deeds. (Romans 2:6 = Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12) with Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man whom YHWH shall not impute sin. (Romans 4:7-8 = Psalms 32:1-2)

Paul resolves the apparent conflict by citing Genesis 15:6 (in Romans 4:3, 22): Abraham believed G-d, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Thus Paul resolves the apparent conflict by showing that under certain circumstances, belief/faith/trust (same word in Hebrew) can act as a substitute for righteousness/being just (same word in Hebrew).

Understanding Galatians 5:2

Now let us apply this rule to the apparent contradiction between Gal. 5:2 and Rom. 3:1-2:

Behold, I Paul say to you, that if you be circumcised,
Christ shall profit you nothing.
(Gal. 5:2 KJV)

What advantage then hath the Jew?
or what profit is there of circumcision?
Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them
were committed the oracles of God.
(Rom. 3:1-2 KJV)

The key is in understanding Galations 5:2 in context. At first glance one might think after reading this verse that this one verse disproves the entire case made throughout this article. But the key is that we must take the verse in context. One basic rule of hermeneutics is to ask yourself “who is speaking?” and “who is being spoken to?” Now we know that Paul is the speaker, but who is the “you” in Gal. 5:2? Is it the Galatians in general? Is it all mankind? Is it the modern reader? The answer to all of these quertions is “no”. If we look up just a little bit in Paul’s letter here we will see that Gal. 5:2 is the summary of an argument that he initiates in Gal. 4:21 and which he illustrates in Gal. 4:22-31.

Gal. 4:21 tells us exactly who the “you” in 5:2 is. He writes:

Tell me, you that desire to be under the law,
do you not hear the law?
Gal. 4:21

Note that “you” is defined in 4:21 as “you that desire to be under the law” Thus Gal. 5:2 should be understood to mean:

Behold, I Paul say
to you, [that desire to be under the law]
that if you be circumcised,
Christ shall profit you nothing

Now the phrase “under the law” does not refer to the Torah itself but to a false teaching that was never true. This phrase may best be understood from its usage in Rom. 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace.” Paul, therefore, sees “under grace” and “under the law” as diametrically opposed, one cannot be both. The truth is that since we have always been under grace (see Gen. 6:8; Ex. 33:12, 17; Judges 6:17f; Jer. 31:2) we have never been “under the law”. This is because the Torah was created for man, man was not created for the Torah (see Mk. 2:27). “Under the law” then, is not an obsolete Old Testament system, but a false teaching, which was never true.

So Paul is telling these people who are ready to apostatize and seek salvation through the false “under the law” doctrine, that their circumcisions will profit them nothing. Following the context then the rest of Gal. 5 is addressed to the “you that desire to be under the law” of 4:21.

Now let us examine the midrash Paul gives in Gal. 4:22-31. Remember now, we know from Gal. 4:21 that Paul is going to be illustrating a contrast between the Torah and the “under the law” teaching. The parable may be illustrated in a chart as follows:



The Torah is freedom. False teachings such as the “under the law” teaching brings only bondage.

Galatians 5:2 (and this is echoed through the rest of Galatians) tells apostates that their circumcision will not profit them anything, but Romans 3:1-2 tells believers that circumcision profits “much every way”.


EMERGENCY ALERT

Is this work worthy of your support? What other ministry provides this kind of teaching?

We are in a budget shortfall for April, now is the time to chip in.  We must raise $500 by April 20th!

 

What other ministry is reaching the Jewish people with Messiah and the world with Torah like this ministry is?

Now is time to step up to the plate!

You can donate by going to the pay-pal counter at http://www.nazarenespace.com or donations can be sent by paypal to donations@wnae.org.

Donations can also be made out to “Nazarene Judaism” and sent to:

Nazarene Judaism
PO Box 471
Hurst, TX 76053

Views: 374

Comment

You need to be a member of Nazarene Space to add comments!

Join Nazarene Space

 

 

 

















 

LINKS

 

 

 

 

Badge

Loading…

© 2019   Created by James Trimm.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service