Was the Law “Nailed to the Cross”?

A common notion is that the “Law”—or the “Law of Moses” more properly known as the Torah—was “nailed to the cross” when The Messiah was crucified, and what is generally cited when making this claim is Colossians/Qolasim 2:13-14, which reads, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having blotted out that which is written by hand against us—by the dogmas—which stood against us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the stake.” (TS 2009). Often used in conjunction or separately is Colossians/Qolasim 2:16, which reads, “Let no one judge you therefore in eating or drinking, or in respect of a new festival, new moon, or Sabbaths…” (TS 2009) to imply that we are to pay no heed to those “judging” on not following the Torah, for the belief is that according to vv.13-14 before this, it was stated that the Torah is abolished. However, is the abolishment of the Torah truly the meaning of these statements? A more thorough study of the chapter these verses are contained in, along with comparisons to other writings in the Scriptures, shows that the Torah was not what was nailed to the cross (or stake or beam) and that Paul was not telling us to ignore those telling us to follow Torah commands. As for Paul’s writing style, it takes a long time for him to make one point clear, often requiring the whole chapter to be analyzed, so generally one cannot take a few verses of his (nor any author) and isolate them from the rest of the writing, and use them as doctrine or teaching, for with something as crucial as whether the Torah is to be observed or not, one should not confirm either teaching with a few diverse selections removed from context and brought into isolation from the other Scriptures, being shortened to one or a few verses that seem to prove such a point solely within them.
Let’s consider the context of verses 13-14 and 16 of Colossians/ Qolasim 2 within the whole chapter (TS 2009):

1For I wish you to know what a great struggle I have for you and those in Laodikeia, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2in order that their hearts might be encouraged, being knit together in love, and to all riches of the entire confirmation of understanding, to a true knowledge of the secret of Aluhayim, and of the Father, and of the Messiah, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4And this I say to you, so that no one deceives you with enticing words. 5For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your belief in Messiah. 6Therefore, as you accepted Messiah Yahushua the Master, walk in Him, 7having been rooted up and built in Him, and established in the belief, as you were taught, overflowing in it with thanksgiving. 8See to it that no one makes a prey of you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary matters of the world, and not according to Messiah. 9Because in Him dwells all the completeness of Aluhayim -ness bodily, 10and you have been made complete in Him, who is head of all principality and authority. 11In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah, 12having been buried with Him in immersion, in which you also were raised with Him through the belief in the working of Aluhayim, who raised Him from the dead. 13And you, being dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having blotted out that which is written by hand against us—by the dogmas—which stood against us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the stake. 15Having stripped the principalities and authorities, He made a public display of them, having prevailed over them in it. 16Let no one therefore judge you in eating or drinking, or in respect of a festival or new moon or Sabbaths17which are a shadow of what is to come—but the body of Messiah. 18Let no one deprive you of the prize, one who takes delight in false humility and worship of messengers, taking his stand on what he has not seen, puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the Body—nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments—grows with the growth of Aluhayim. 20If, then, you died with Messiah from the elementary matters of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourself to such dogmas: 21‘Do not touch, do not taste, to not handle’—22which are all to perish with use—according to the commands of men? 23These indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed worship, humiliation, and harsh treatment of the body—of no value at all, only for the satisfaction of the flesh.

In the first seven verses of this letter we read a greeting from Paul, but we also read a description of what the subject of this letter is: to stay strong in The true knowledge of YHWH (Aluhayim /God) given through the Messiah, and not to be deceived with “enticing words”.  Verse 8 begins this primary focus of this letter by warning the addressed assembly not to be made prey of by philosophy or deceptions according to the traditions of men, or the elementary matters of the world, and understanding the situation of the assembly that is addressed (including period and location) will make this verse fundamental to the rest of the chapter, including vv. 13-14 and v.16 which are cited as proof texts for the abolition of the Torah. The location of the assembly is Colossae, which is in modern-day Turkey, on the Asian side across the Bosphorus strait, during the first century, which was a place of heavy pagan tradition, especially Greek, which would therefore be surrounding the assembly with pagan theology, philosophy and culture that would be not only contrary but the complete opposite to the teachings of Yahushua (Jesus) The Messiah. With philosophy being an especially revered tradition of ancient Greece, it could also be especially corruptive. Philosophy comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία, or “philosphia”, meaning “love of wisdom”, and this tradition of philosophy in ancient Greece would have been considered by The Messiah and the Hebrews wo followed Him to be “of men” because it was not of YHWH (God), and would be rooted in the “elementary matters of the world” rather than rooted in YHWH’s fundamental Word, which is the Writings of the Torah and the Prophets. Here we can see this expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians as he discusses two types of wisdom:

4And my word and my preaching were not with persuasive words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5in order that your belief should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the wisdom of Aluhayim [God]. Yet we speak wisdom among those who are perfect, and not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age that are being brought to naught. But we speak the wisdom of Aluhayim, which was hidden in a secret, and which Aluhayim ordained before the ages for our esteem, which no one of the rulers of this age knew, for if they had known, they would not have impaled the Master of esteem.” (1 Corinthians/Qorintiyim Aleph 2:4-8)

All of the instances of the word “wisdom” in bold are from the Greek word σοφία,
sophia”,  which means “wisdom, whether higher or lower; spiritual or worldly”. The distinction between the two kinds of wisdom is if they are of man, or of Aluhayim. Additionally, the word for “persuasive” in 1 Cor. 2:4 is πειθόςpeithos”, meaning, “persuasive, or enticing”. This returns to Colossians/Qolasim 2, where Paul warns of such empty deceit twice within the first eight verses. In v. 4, where he speaks specifically of “enticing words”, the word used is πιθανολογία, “pithanologia” which literally means, “enticing or deceptive words or speech”. We see this written again in v.8, speaking of “philosophy and empty deceit”, which in 1 Corinthians 2:4-8 was contrasted as man’s deceptive wisdom against Aluhayim’s true wisdom.

Paul continues in vv.9-12 to inform that what knowledge, understanding and completion  they received was from the Messiah, and that they should cling to that, for He is the one that immersed them and raised them in His death and resurrection as new beings putting away the sins of the flesh. It should be understood that the assembly he is addressing is of pagan converts of Colossae—people who once were of pagan culture and religious practice, and have now adopted the ways of the Messiah and Y’shral (Israel) and the True Al YHWH, rejecting their pagan gods and traditions. This is why Paul is so earnest to address this assembly, reminding them of the true power of the knowledge they received from the Spirit through the Messiah—how the knowledge of YHWH is real power and truth that makes one reborn, and that the knowledge they had previously was the vanities of a pagan culture. He is so earnest because these recent converts from paganism to Y’shral are a minority still completely surrounded by pagans, living in a completely pagan society.
And here is where we reach the first selection of verses that are used as proof text for the doctrine of an abolished Torah: vv.13-14.

. 13And you, being dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having blotted out that which is written by hand against us—by the dogmas—which stood against us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the stake.

The cultural, religious, and philosophic practices of the pagans that this assembly was freed from (vv.9-12) are what are the “trespasses and uncircumcision of the flesh” are that are described in v.13, and when they of the assembly abandoned their pagan ways and turned to the truth of YHWH Aluhayim through the immersion (baptism) into Messiah, partaking in His death and resurrection, they were made alive by Him and the true way of YHWH, their old ways of sin being forgiven and, (in v.14), being forsaken as well. What was “blotted out that was written by hand against us” the “dogmas which stood against us” are the sinful traditions of man described in vv.8-11 of Colossians/ Qolasim 2, and 1 Corinthians 2:4-8, which are not the wisdom of YHWH which leads to life, but the wisdom of man which is vanity, and is of the flesh, and so is against us to death. The wisdom revealed and taught by the Messiah is the true word of YHWH and not any doctrine of man. In the Messiah and following the true wisdom of YHWH that he brings to us, he takes out of the way the old worldly philosophies that are pagan, and are vain deceits, and philosophies of worldly matters, physical, emotional, intellectual, or pseudo-spiritual—in regards to things not having to do with the nature of YHWH—which were all such topics of ancient Greek philosophy, and continue to be the subjects of modern philosophy and ideology, whether secular or religious.

The understanding that these converts in Colossae existed among pagans who lived lives that would be completely against the lives of the Colossian converts meant that not only were they susceptible to readopting those pagan ways, but that they were also misfits among the rest of society, and that they were likely to be criticized, taunted, and humiliated by the pagans for the way they lived, which brings clarity to vv.16-17 of Colossians/ Qolasim 2:

16Let no one therefore judge you in eating or drinking, or in respect of a festival or new moon or Sabbaths—17which are a shadow of what is to come—but the body of Messiah.

Though these verses are translated many different ways in various bibles (adding various punctuations, words, syntax, etc.) the above is the one of the most faithful and direct ways to translate what is in the Greek text. When one understands the context of Paul’s letter, who it is for, when the addressees lived, where they lived, and who they were among, it becomes clearer as to what this verse addresses: that the Colossian converts should not allow themselves to be judged by pagans for how they now live, which is in the ways of The Messiah, as people of Y’shral. The converts of Colossae would not be keeping any of the pagan festivals anymore—they would be keeping the feasts of YHWH written the Torah. They would not eat the way the pagans did, which would include all varieties of things that YHWH would deem abominable—they would now be eating according to the guidelines in YHWH’s Torah. The pagans’ sacred day was the first day of the week, which was the day that the sun was worshiped—the converts living in Colossae would be honoring the seventh day of the week as the set-apart day, or Sabbath, and not at all how the pagans would honor their sacred day. The new months would also be recognized differently. The new converts were not to allow themselves to accept any judgment from the pagans on how they lived according to the Messiah because, as Paul stated in the verses preceding these, that they have the wisdom of YHWH through Yahushua the Messiah, and that they should stay strong in him, and that the philosophies and ways of life not rooted in this knowledge that they have been given through Messiah are vanity and deceit, and are worthless to consider. However, as v. 17 states in the simplified translation of the two verses, there are those can judge on these things: the body of the Messiah. Seeing as how we are all supposed to be living under Him, if we are to reject ways that are understood to be the practices of those living under Yahusha the Messiah, then those of the body can judge the others on it. The root word for “judge” used in this verse is the Greek κρίνω, “krino”, which though it can mean judgment in the legal sense, and generally does, it can also mean “to have opinions of, or to determine or resolve, or call into question”. Therefore, those of the body of the Messiah can express their opinions on another’s keeping of feasts, Sabbaths, diet—or complete lack of regard to these things—in order for edification. These are the opinions that matter to those in the body: those who are also of the body. Those who are not of the body of the Messiah do not understand the life, the lifestyle and its significance, and so their scorn or mockery or advice against the body’s practices can be ignored. The advice of those within the body, however, should not be ignored.
Finally, the chapter concludes with vv. 18-23:

18Let no one deprive you of the prize, one who takes delight in false humility and worship of messengers, taking his stand on what he has not seen, puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the Body—nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments—grows with the growth of Aluhayim. 20If, then, you died with Messiah from the elementary matters of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourself to such dogmas: 21‘Do not touch, do not taste, to not handle’—22which are all to perish with use—according to the commands of men? 23These indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed worship, humiliation, and harsh treatment of the body—of no value at all, only for the satisfaction of the flesh.

Finally Paul concludes this chapter by reiterating his previous statements, once again asserting the dangers of vain pagan philosophies and religious practices. “Let no one deprive you of the prize” (v. 18) is from the Greek word καταβραβεύω, “katabrabeuo” meaning “beguile of the prize of victory”, and the way Paul uses it is as another way of saying “do not be beguiled of your salvation”, continuing with, “one who takes delight in false humility and worship of messengers, taking his stand on what he has not seen, puffed up by his fleshly mind,” (v.18). These are things that in ancient times would have been associated with pagan thinkers and spiritualists or cultists. The concept of “taking pleasure in false humility” is better understood as delighting in a contrived or forced humility, not necessarily based on meekness of spirit in obedience to YHWH, but rather more often centered around cruel physical treatments to one body and being, as is alluded to in v.23. The term “worship of messengers” in v. 18 is from the Greek θρεσκεία τῶν ἀγγέλωνthreskiea ton angelon” meaning “religion of angels”. Though this term could allude to the reverence of angels as gods by the pagans, which was common, this particular term therskiea refers to dogmatic, ceremonial, or ritualist practices often associated with cults, hence alluding to the idea of angel worshipping cults (the concept of “angels” was not unique to the Hebrews, though the various non-Hebraic cultures had different opinions as to what these beings were, many times associating them with gods). “Taking his stand on things he has not seen, puffed up by his fleshly mind” refers to vain and spiritually trivial intellectual philosophies, of those elementary matters of the world, which Paul described in Colossians/Qolasim 2:4,8 as well as in 1 Corinthians 2:4-8, as being vain, worthless, and deceptive [The phrase “taking his stance on things he has not seen” is also translated in some scriptures as “claiming access to a visionary realm” (CSB) or “that you seek out visions” (MSG) however the root word ὁράωhorao” used for “seen” in this verse is not also used for “spiritual visions” in any other areas of the Greek text of the New Testament, and is rather used for instances of seeing, perceiving, or understanding in the physical world, while the root word ὅραμα “horama”—which is not used in this case—is what is used elsewhere in the Greek N.T. texts to describe spiritual visions.]

Paul then describes in vv.20-23 of Colossians/Qolasim 2 about the “false humility” written of earlier in v.18, which is describing a practice known as asceticism—which is an extreme and cruel form of fasting in which one deprives oneself of pleasures, nourishment, physical contact, and the like. This can be seen in spiritual practices today with Hinduism and Buddhism, in which people will starve themselves nearly to death as a form of self-humiliating affliction; or in Catholicism, where the clergy and convents of nuns and monks will abstain from sex by refusing to marry, therefore depriving themselves of the pleasure of it. These things, Paul describes, “have an appearance of self-imposed worship, humiliation, and harsh treatment of the body” (v.23) however, they sincerely do not have any value at all, but “only for satisfaction of the flesh.” (v.23)

The fear Paul was writing about to the assembly of Colossae was that they would readopt pagan practices which they had been freed from through Yahushua the Messiah, either blending these pagan practices into the true ways they had learned of through the Messiah Yahushua, or that they would abandon the true knowledge of YHWH given through the Messiah altogether, and return solely to pagan customs. Both paths are destructive, and will lead to “being deprived of the prize” of salvation, for while it is obvious that abandoning the Messiah altogether is certainly condemning, what is also true is that adopting foreign religious practices (or, the practices of the pagans, known better as Gentiles,) is also equally as condemning, and for a very specific reason: the Torah—YHWH the true Aluhayim’s instruction of life and worship for Him—severely forbids adopting pagan customs of man into His ordained way of worship that He gave us, and also forbids adding any methods of worship of our hearts own design and elevating them to the level of kodesh (sanctity or holiness) of His ordinances. Here we see a few examples of both of these written in the Torah:

30“Guard yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their mighty ones, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their mighty ones? And let me do so, too.’ 31Do not so to YHWH your Aluhayim, for every abomination which YHWH hates they have done to their mighty ones, for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their mighty ones. 32All the words I am commanding you, to guard to do it—do not add to it nor take away from it.”    (Deuteronomy/Debarim 12:30-32) (TS 2009)

9“When you come into the land which YHWH your Aluhayim is giving you, do not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.” (Deuteronomy/Debarim 18:9) (TS 2009)

2“Do not add to the Word which I command you, and do not take away from it, so as to guard the commands of YHWH your Aluhayim which I am commanding you.” (Deuteronomy/Debarim 4:2) (ISR 2009)

So from further study of Colossians/Qolasim 2, understanding the various aspects of the issue addressed in the letter, who the letter was being sent to, where the assembly lived and what issues they faced, it is clear that vv.13-14 and v.16 were not telling this assembly that the Torah was abolished by the death and resurrection of Yahushua the Messiah, nor were they to ignore people telling them to keep Torah mandates such as YHWH’s feasts, Sabbaths, and diet—to consider them judgmental or “Judaizers” or even heretics. In fact, it was quite the opposite. What Paul was telling them was to not readopt the ways of the pagans, seeing as how through The Messiah, and becoming people of Y’shral, that they should now know that these practices are abominations to YHWH the true Aluhayim, and should be avoided knowing the Torah’s condemnation of them, and that they should watch not to be deceived into practicing these ways again, for they are not the way to worship YHWH, and are in fact abominable to Him.