With the release of my book, Torahism: Are Christians Required to Keep the Law of Moses?, the most common question I’ve heard is probably pretty obvious: What is Torahism? The full answer is covered in chapter three of the book, but I wanted to share the basics here.
It all began with a series of Facebook posts that an old friend of mine, whom I’ll call Bob, published just after Thanksgiving. Bob had taken a dogmatic tone and was aggressively taking Christians to task for celebrating the pagan holiday of Christmas. This struck me as odd because I’d always known Bob and his wife, whom I’ll call Sue, to be devout Christians. While I’ve debated with plenty of atheists over the alleged pagan roots of Christmas, I’d never heard this charge leveled by a fellow Christian. I decided to chime in on Bob’s posts and soon discovered that I had stumbled into a mystery of, well…biblical proportions.
Over the following months, I was exposed to a belief system I was unfamiliar with that I have come to refer to as Torahism. This is an insidious religious movement in which believers in Jesus are denouncing Christianity as a corrupt religion and returning to practicing the Torah as outlined in the first five books of the Bible. They claim that Christians are required to keep the Jewish feasts, observe the Old Testament dietary restrictions, observe Sabbath on Saturday, and all the rest of the Mosaic commandments. I also discovered that, like Bob and Sue, many Torahists aggressively proselytize their view with the zeal of multi-level marketers, openly criticizing Christians who don’t follow them out of what they believe to be a corrupted religion.
Many who hold this belief simply call themselves “believers.” But the term believer is not very useful since every adherent of every belief system is a believer. So I eventually coined the term “Torahism” because this is a movement that is centered on the return to—and keeping of—the Torah. (And I would hasten to add that the term Torahism is no way intended in a derogatory sense. It’s merely a convention for describing a belief system and its adherents. When I refer to someone as a Torahist, it is no different than referring to someone as a Jew, Christian, or Muslim.)
There are many religious groups that hold to the ideology of Torahism, including the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), which was founded in 1933 by Herbert W. Armstrong. The WCG later abandoned its Torahistic positions as heresy and changed its name to Grace Communion International. However, some of its members wanted to hold to their original beliefs, so they founded the United Church of God in 1995. Many other sects have arisen over the past 100+ years including the Seed of Abraham Fellowship, The Hebrew Roots Movement, the Hebraic Roots of Christianity Global Network, First Fruits of Zion, Sacred Name Movement, the Olive Branch Fellowship, and more.
Torahism teaches that we are still required to observe the Saturday Sabbath, obey the kosher dietary restrictions, keep the biblical feasts prescribed in the Torah, and so on. If you think Torahism sounds strikingly similar to Judaism, you’re right. Observant Jews still keep the Law of Moses. However, Torahists do not claim to practice Judaism. Instead, they preach a return to the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. The primary difference between Judaism and Torahism is that Torahism recognizes Yeshua as HaMashiach (the Messiah) promised in the Hebrew Bible and Judaism does not. Torahism is a sort of middle position between Judaism and Christianity:
However, it’s not a middle position that arose historically or in chronological order. It’s not as if Judaism evolved into Torahism, which then evolved into Christianity. Rather Torahism claims to be a newer revelation among Christians. In fact, every Torahist I’ve come across is a former Christian who came to believe that we should not have left the Law of Moses behind when Yeshua arrived. They are trying to correct course and return to keeping the Mosaic Law. Because there is a wide range of beliefs across the continuum shown above, and the differences between them are not always easy to identify, I believe a generous portion of grace should be extended as we engage with our Torahist friends.
There is one critical area that defines Torahism, which is the view held of Yeshua. Consider the following spectrum of beliefs about Him:
A number of people I’ve engaged with hold to Position 1 on the continuum above. They left Christianity in order to keep the Law of Moses, but they didn’t stop there. They now reject the divinity of Christ, deny His role as the Messiah, and even deny the authority of the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament). They have, in essence, if not in name, converted to Judaism. While they hold many beliefs in common with Torahism, engaging with Position 1 believers is essentially a discussion of Judaism versus Christianity.
On the other end, Position 3 believes that Yeshua is both God and Mashiach, and that salvation comes through faith in Him. This position is held by orthodox Christianity and Messianic Judaism (Jews who have come to faith in Yeshua). Messianic Jews are a part of the covenant people of God, enjoying the riches of continuing in their Jewish heritage along with the joy and freedom of life in Christ. There is a lot that Christians can learn about the Jewish roots of our faith and our Savior from our Messianic Jewish friends.
The focus of my book is on Position 2, the belief system I call Torahism. The majority of Torahists are Gentiles who believe that Yeshua was the Jewish Messiah foretold of in the Old Testament, but He was not divine. Instead, they claim that Yeshua’s divinity was a man-made addition that grew out of the historical Roman corruption of Christian theology. Therefore, they conclude, worshipping Yeshua, a mere man, is idolatry and a flagrant sin. And since Yeshua was not divine, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is rejected as well. (I deal with all these claims in the book.)
Torahism’s General Beliefs
It should be noted that Torahism is not a monolithic belief system. It does not have a central church body or set of doctrines. (Though some theologians believe that, left unchecked, it could eventually evolve into its own separate religion.) Torahism is a religious view made up of various smaller sects and the beliefs can vary between those groups. A lack of central doctrine means that each time we engage with a Torahist, we’re likely to hear something a little different.
Therefore, in my book I assembled a collection of their general beliefs—which includes some direct quotes from various Torahists—and created a “creed” for Torahism, so to speak. It was assembled from multiple sources, so every Torahist may not agree with every point. But it’s a solid starting point.
It’s worth noting that there is a sense in which Torahism can be viewed as a noble cause undertaken by brave people. It’s not easy to walk away from the beliefs you grew up with and once held dear. Especially when your friends and family still hold to those beliefs. The commitment Torahists demonstrate toward their newfound convictions is admirable. But of course, the wisdom of any commitment is ultimately measured by the truthfulness of the convictions behind it. And this is where we find Torahism running into a great deal of trouble.
The Dangers of Torahism
A question I’ve been asked many times in various ways is, “Why does it matter?” Why do I feel the need to write a book that “bashes” someone else’s belief system, especially when they believe in the same God and read the same Bible that I do? Shouldn’t we all just get along? These are fair questions.
Engaging with Torahism is important because matters of salvation are at stake. I genuinely believe souls hang in the balance. Torahism is a dangerous heresy for believers in Yeshua because it undermines the work and deity of Christ, which are the very bedrock of Christianity. The core message of the Gospel is that we are sinners in need of saving and God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14), He lived a perfect life, and “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2) to save us from our sin. If Christ was not divine, then His work on the cross cannot save us; it was a meaningless sacrifice. Torahism denies the Gospel of Christ, therefore, to embrace Torahism is to deny Christ. And there are more alarming implications that flow from the teachings of Torahism which I examine in the book.
There is a second issue to consider, as well. For future or potential believers in Yeshua, Torahism presents a false stumbling block because it asks them to commit to keeping the 613 mitzvot (commandments) spelled out in the Torah. Yet those mitzvot are not required of Christ-followers! In a post-Christian world, the last thing we need to do is pile up unnecessary requirements between truth-seekers and Christ. Salvation requires nothing more and nothing less than faith in Yeshua; it’s Christ plus nothing else.
The Difficulties of Engaging with Torahism
Two issues make the heresy of Torahism difficult to identify and challenge. First, rather than sitting in outright opposition to Christianity, Torahism often varies from it by a matter of degrees. While there are some positions held by Torahism that are diametrically opposed to orthodox Christianity and easy to recognize—e.g., the belief that Yeshua should not be worshipped—a lot of what they teach is accurate and aligns with the Bible.
Where the difficulty arises is in the many small inaccuracies. These seemingly minor false teachings are much more challenging to spot. And they are insidious because they start out with a small error and before you know it they’ve grown into full-blown heresy. As any marksman can tell you, if the barrel of your gun is off by a fraction of an inch while aiming, your bullet can miss your intended target downrange by several feet. And that’s what happens with the theology of Torahism. What seems at first glance to be a valid point often ends up missing the mark by a mile when worked out to its logical conclusion.
The second difficulty is that the average Torahist loves God, knows their Bible, and is well-versed in theology. This makes sense when we consider the typical path into Torahism. Every single Torahist I have engaged with began as a Christian who wanted to worship God in truth. They studied Scripture and were attentive enough to understand and discuss doctrine. At some point along the way, they were introduced to errant theological and historical ideas that they deemed credible enough to consider. (Many of which are looked at in the book.) These are ideas that would have to be pondered somewhat carefully before one could be convinced to leave Christianity. It’s a big step to walk away from the faith traditions that you grew up in, especially when they are still observed by your friends and family.
So by the time a person decides to leave Christianity and embrace Torahism, they have typically given it a lot of thought. They’ve found that the teachings of Torahism ring more true than what they understand the doctrines of Christianity to be. Their new position is based on passages in the same Bible, which they now see in a new light, thanks to the “clarity” that Torahism has given them. Through this process, they’ve become convinced that Christianity is a corrupt theology that their church has been feeding to them. They now believe they see the “true” story of Scripture, as set in its proper Jewish context.
This means that, as Christians, we need to know our stuff! Any serious discussion with our Torahist friends will eventually end up at the level of theological and historical facts and concepts. At any given time, we may find ourselves quoting and interpreting Scripture, debating doctrine, contesting church councils, and tackling many “ologies,” from soteriology to eschatology to replacement theology. It’s my hope and prayer that Torahism, the book, will serve as a useful tool in helping to navigate those discussions.
Don’t Miss This
It’s important to note that the book isn’t about winning an argument. Rather, it’s about clearing away untruths, errors, and misconceptions in an attempt to see God and His Word more clearly. Let’s not make our theological differences a test of fellowship. As we endeavor to determine whether or not Christians are required to keep the Law of Moses, I urge my readers to remember that our fight is not with people, but with ideas!
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.Corinthians 10:3-5
 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:18-19, 2:22; 1 John 3:5.
 John 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Hebrews 9:28.