Talmudic Insights into Paul’s letter to the Romans

Paul was a Pharisee, he therefore wrote like a Pharisee. Pharisees wrote in a very unique style which is preserved in their later writings, the Talmud, which is a commentary on every verse of The Bible and how it is applicable to our daily lives. When one is familiar with that style, they see that Paul’s letter to the Roman’s is a Talmudic commentary.

First let’s read some Talmudic writing to become familiar with the writing style of the Pharisees:

7 Rabbi Yoḥanan noted that according to the way the word crown is written in the Torah (Exodus 25:11), without vowels, it should be pronounced zar, meaning strange, but according to the traditional vocalization we read it as zeir, meaning crown. These two ways of understanding the word appear to contradict each other. Rabbi Yoḥanan explains: The two understandings apply to two different situations: If one finds grace by works of faith, it becomes a crown [zeir] for him; but if one has no grace because his faith has not resulted in works, the Word will be a stranger [zara] to him and he will fall from grace.
9 The verse states concerning the Ark: “From within and from without you shall cover it” (Exodus 25:11). Rava said: This alludes to the idea that anyone whose inside is not like his outside, whose works of righteousness does not come from sincere faith, does not find grace and is not following the Word. 10 Abaye said, and some say it was Rabba bar Ulla who said: Not only has such a person not found grace, but he is called loathsome, as it is stated: “What then of one loathsome and foul, man who drinks sin like water” (Job 15:16). Although he drinks the Law like water, since he sins, his Law is considered sin and this makes him loathsome and foul.
11 Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, as he has no heart?” (Proverbs 17:16)? This expresses the following sentiment: Woe to them who immerse themselves in the Law and have no fear of Heaven. They are fools; they try to acquire wisdom, but since they have no fear of Heaven in their hearts they lack the ability to do so.
13 Rava said to the Sages in the study hall: I beg of you, do not inherit Gehenna twice. By studying the Law without the accompanying fear of Heaven, not only are you undeserving of the World-to-Come, but even in this world you experience Gehenna, as you spend all your time in study and fail to benefit from it.
14 Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And this is the Law which Moses put [sam] before the children of Israel” (Deuteronomy 4:44)? The word sam is written with the letter sin and means put; it is phonetically similar to the word sam written with the letter samekh, meaning a drug. This use of this word therefore alludes to the following: The Law becomes an elixir [sam] of life for him who has grace (favour with God by studying the Word with love, being not only outwardly righteous in works, but inwardly righteous with faith as well), but If a person does not have grace (if they are only righteous externally in works, but inside they have not faith, because they have not love, and they hate their fellow man), the Law becomes a poison [sam] of death for him. And this idea is what Rava said: For one who studies the Word of the Law and immerses himself in it with faith and love, it is a elixir of life; but for one who does not study it with faith and love, it is a poison of death.
15 Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan noted: It was written: “The precepts of the Lord are upright, gladdening the heart” (Psalms 19:9), but it is also written: “The word of the Lord is refining” (Psalms 18:31), which implies that the study of Torah can be a distressing process by which a person is refined like metal smelted in a smith’s fire. He reconciles these verses as follows: For one who follows it, the Word gladdens him; for one who is not following it, it refines him. Reish Lakish said: This lesson emerges from that second verse itself: For one who is following it, the Law refines him for life; for one who is not following it, it refines him for death.

Talmud section Yoma 72b, verses 7,9-11,13-15

Now some of that should have sounded familiar to what Paul said in Romans. Romans 2:25-29 is Paul’s Talmudic Commentary on Deuteronomy 30. First let’s read some of Deuteronomy 30 so we know what Paul is talking about:

6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Deuteronomy 30:6

11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. 15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Deuteronomy 30:11-20

And Paul’s commentary is:

25 For circumcision benefits you if you observe the law, but if you are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if an uncircumcised man keeps the law’s requirements, will his uncircumcision not be counted as circumcision? 27 A man who is physically uncircumcised, but who fulfils the law, will judge you who are a lawbreaker in spite of having the letter of the law and circumcision. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. 29 On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart—by the Spirit, not the letter. That man’s praise is not from men but from God.

Romans 2:25-29

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of wrong desires. For apart from the law, sin is dead. 9 And I was once alive apart from the law, but with the coming of the commandment, sin became alive 10 and I died. So I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death! 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.

Romans 7:7-12

So from the Talmudic writings above, it becomes clear that Paul was saying that he used to follow the Law in a hypocritical way, only doing works of righteousness externally while inside being perverse and full of hate, thinking that external the works alone could save him and thusly following the Law of Death, but that now Paul, having found Grace by following The Law both internally in faith and love as well as externally proving his faith by works, no longer being a hypocrite and now fulfilling the Law out of faith and love, he now follows the Law of Life.

Once one understands Paul, they see that he was not preaching that we should do away with the Law, but that we shall uphold it.

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Certainly not! Instead, we uphold the law.

Romans 3:31

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