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Romaiym 7 – What is Sha’ul actually saying? Part 1

Author Stephen Pidgeon - Thursday, March 26, 2015


We often wrestle with the words we find in the Greek Stephanus Textus Receptus, particularly when reviewing the writings in the epistles.  Sha’ul (Paul) can prove to be very difficult.  For instance, let’s take a walk through Romaiym 7.  In this chapter, we found ourselves wrestling with the word nomos.

The word νομος (nomos) (Strong’s 3551), stems from the primary root nemo, which means: to parcel out, especially food or grazing to animals.  That is kind of interesting. The word nomos, however, means law, or in the genitive case, regulation.  Figuratively, it can be construed as meaning a principle, but the failsafe is law.

In the Hebrew, the word that is most often translated as law is torah, which has so many meaning, but is construed by Strong’s as meaning a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch, generally interpreted as law.  Consider this passage in Bere’shiyth:

Bere’shiyth (Genesis) 26:5

Because that Avraham obeyed (shama) my voice, and did guard (shamar) my watch (mishmereth), my commandments (mitzvah) מִצְוָה, my statutes (xukah), and my Torah.

Although the word Torah – which means instruction – is often interpreted in English as law, the word mitzvah means that particular commandment.  In the plural, the word is mitsva’oth (the feminine plural), meaning commandments.

There is no Greek word for statute, but in Hebrew we have the word choq.  Therefore, where the word nomos is used in reference to a single law or command, the Hebrew equivalent would be either mitzvah (command) or choq (statute).

As we look at Romaiym 7, you will see how we handled this particular issue:

Romaiym (Romans) 7:1

Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the Torah,) how that the Torah has dominion over a man as long as he lives?

Let’s take this apart just a bit.  The word dominion in this passage is Kurieuo in the Greek, which is a derivative of a Kurios, the word interpreted as Lord in the New Testament. So another way of saying that the Torah has dominion, is to say it has lordship. And the phrase as long as he lives can also be registered as for all of the times of his life.

Even easier to understand in the English would be this phrasing:

Brother, do you not know (to those of you who know the Torah), that the Torah controls all of the times of your life?

Understood this way, is it possible that Sha’ul is talking not about the Torah, but rather, the Mishnah?  It is the Mishnah that controls all of the times of the life of man, not the Torah.  The Mishnah is the codification of the Oral Torah, which were those laws, statutes, precedents, and legal interpretations not set forth in the Torah itself.  The Mishnah is a self-confessed code of conduct, whereas the Torah is a broadly based system of instruction. The Mishnah directs the rituals, the worship practices, the parameters of the relations with God and with interpersonal relationships, dietary laws, Sabbath practices, marital relationships, agricultural practices, civil claims, damages, even the times of prayer and the washing of the hands. It is a comprehensive code of conduct capable of exercising dominion over all of the days of a person’s life.

In the Greek, we cannot tell, because the word nomos would apply to both the Torah and the Mishnah.  Remember, that Sha’ul was a Pharisee (Parashiym) by his own confession, which made him schooled in all of the Mishnah.  Given that the practice of the faith in those days did not segregate the written Torah from the Oral Torah, is it possible that Sha’ul when making reference to the nomos meant the combination of the both in all instances? Such a conclusion would give a new meaning to every instruction given by Sha’ul in reference to the nomos.

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