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From: 	 heb_roots_chr@mail.geocities.com
Sent: 	 Wednesday, June 11, 1997 1:13 AM
To: 	 Hebraic Heritage Newsgroup
Subject: Understanding Eph. 2:14-15

To:            jstrimm@swbell.net
From:          jstrimm@swbell.net (James Trimm)
Subject:       Understanding Eph. 2:14-15


Eph. 2:14-15 Are often misunderstood section of Scripture:

Eph. 2:14 from the Greek reads:

        For he himself is our peace, who has made both one,
        and has broken down the middle wall of division between us.

        The Aramaic reads:

        wash'ra s'yaga d'kamem h'va bam'tzata

        the word for "loosed" (broken down in most translations, but
literally "loosed") here is in the Aramaic "sh'ra"  This particular Aramaic
term was used in ancient Jewish literatutr as a technical theological term
relating to halacha.  To "bind" an activity means to prohibit it, while
"loosing" (sh'ra) an activity, meant that the activity was to be permitted.
Tis terminology appears throughout the Talmuds (j.Ber. 5b; 6c; j.San. 28a;
b. Ab.Zar. 37a; b.Ned. 62a; b.Yeb. 106a; b.Bets. 2b; 22a; b.Ber. 35a;
b.Hag. 3b)

        The word for "hedge" (middle wall in most translations) is "s'yaga"
this word means hedge (compare usage of Hebrew cognate in Song. 7:3).  This
is a technicasl term in Judaism found in the Mishna where we read "Make a
hedge (Hebrew cognate of s'yaga) about the Torah."  This precept meant to
establish a protective barrier around the Torah to protect the Torah from
trespasses.  The protective barrier consisted of commandments which were
more stringhent than those actually found in the Torah.  The purpose was to
make it unlikely to even accidently violate a real Torah command.
        Now seeing these two halachic terms connected together one should
immediately notice that the text should read "loosed the hedge" i.e. that
Yeshua permitted certain acts that another School of halacha had bound
        Now there were various schools of halacha in the first century.
One such precept did not allow Jews to enter the home of a Gentile (see
Acts 10:28). (the custom was probably of Essene origin.  Peter (Kefa) who
held to the custom, had been a student of John the Baptist who had been
closely associated with the Qumran community.  The Essenes were also
intolerant of outsiders)  Paul oppoesed this hedge and taught that Yeshua
had "loosed" this "hedge."


Recently, while working on a new English translation of the Peshitta
Aramaic N.T. I began to work on Eph. 2:15a.  At first the passage seemed
obscure, but then the meaning became clear.

     Ephesians 2:15a has long presented difficulties to Bible translators.
This can be seen by comparing the many ways in which this passage has been
translated in the many English translations.

     Most translations of Eph. 2:15a follow the lead of the KJV which reads:

     Having abolished in his flesh the enmity,
     [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances;

Some English paraphrases have become blatently anti-semitic in their
renderings.  The Living Bible, for example, reads:

     By his death he ended the angry resentment between us,
     caused by the Jewish laws which favored the Jews and
     excluded  the Gentiles, for he died to annul the whole
     system of Jewish laws.

The Messianic Jewish version of the Living Bible (The Living Scriptures;
Messianic Edition of the Living Bible; Tyndale; 1982) has edited out this
anti-Semitic phrase reading only:

     By his death he ended the angry resentment between us.

     One of the major problems with this verse is that of its apparant
conflict with Mt. 5:17 & Rom. 3:31, which state that Yeshua did not abolish
the Law.  In fact the Greek uses the same word for abolished (KATARGEHO
Strong's Gk. #2673) both in Rom. 3:31 and Eph. 2:15a.  The Aramaic also
uses the same word for "abolished" (BATEL Strong's Heb. #989) in both

     In his commentary on Eph. 2:15a David Stern addresses many of the
problems related to this verse (see Jewish New Testament Commentary; David
Stern; 1992; pp. 585-588) However Stern's paraphrase from the Greek, which

     By destroying in his own body the enmity
     occasioned by the Torah, with its commandments
     set forth in the form of ordinances.

has difficulties of its own.  To begin with the word "occasioned" is
inserted by Stern, there is no corresponding Greek word.  Secondly Stern's
rendering leaves a lengthy and rather off-the-subject phrase describing
what the Law is.

This is not meant to detract from Stern, who has done a great deal to
uncover the Semitic background of the N.T.

     Now the Aramaic Peshitta text reads in Eph. 2:15a as follows:

    wabeld'babuta b'bis'reh w'namosa d'pukade bpuk'danaw'hi batel

Now the traditional understanding of this verse has been:

     And enmity, by his flesh,
     and the Law of commandments, by his mandates
     are abolished

This understanding is reflected in Murdock's translation which reads:

     and the enmity, by his flesh;
     and by his prescriptions
     he hath abolished the law of ordinances;
     [The Syriac New Testament; James Murdock; 6th ed. 1893]

Lamsa concurs in this understanding, reading:

     And he has abolished by his precious body, the enmity
     between them, and he has abolished by his commandments,
     the ordinances of the law,
     [The New Testament according to the Eastern Text; George M. Lamsa; 1940]

     The traditional understanding has always understood the verb as active
(i.e. "[he] abolished") while understanding "enmity" and "law of
commandments" as direct objects.  This understanding, however, creates the
difficulties discussed previously.

     Now a fresh aproach to this text solves this problem entirely.  If we
take the verb to be passive ("is abolished") then we will notice that the
verb is singular and cannot have two subjects.  As a result only "enmity"
is abolished.  The phrase "and the Law" is meant to be conjuncted to "by
his flesh" giving the sence "by his flesh and also the Law."  The next
phrase is called a "dalet clause" and can be translated any number of ways.
The dalet clause can indicate "of," "that," "which," or "because."  Here
(as in Dan. 3:29; 4:9;
6:3, 23 & 7:11) the meaning is "because", giving us the meaning "because of
commandments in its mandates" rather than "of commandments by his

     This passage may, therefore, also be translated:

     By his flesh and also the Law,
     because of commandments in its mandates,
     enmity is abolished.

James Scott Trimm

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