Jesus and Halakah: Going His Way

Professor Gary Rendsburg in his lectures in The Great Courses on THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS mentions that the Hebrew word “Halakah” which is usually translated into English as “law”  (as in the 613 halakah/laws of the Torah) comes from a root verb whose meaning is “go”.  Rendsburg says, “as if to say every path that one follows in life is governed by Halakah.”

This brought to my mind John 14:1-7 (highlights in red are mine and not in the original text):

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?   And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.   If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.”

It made me wonder whether in this passage, behind Jesus’s words about going and the way, is the idea of Halakah.   Jesus goes (halakah) to prepare a place for us; He fulfills the Torah.  We know where He is going because we know the Halakah which he fulfills.

But the disciple Thomas admits his uncertainty about Jesus’ relationship to Halakah.  “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus then declares Himself to be the Way, the true Halakah.  He fulfills and thus replaces Torah, and thus our path to God’s Kingdom is through Christ rather than through Torah.

Christianity very early in its history came to see Jesus as fulfilling the Law, and thus bringing it to completion of its purpose.  Thus Christ becomes the Way now for all to come to God.