Why Not Hebraic Roots?

The False Teachings of the Hebraic Roots Movement

The burden I feel to write this article comes from a very personal journey that my wife and I have traveled, and actually, are still navigating. Having grown up in the mainstream evangelical church, I was thoroughly indoctrinated in its most common teachings and traditions. My wife, being reared in Roman Catholicism, was taught from a different perspective; but while much of the “works-based” beliefs that had been instilled in her were diametrically opposed to the “works-less” teachings of evangelicalism, there were still several similarities in general understandings and traditions.

My door into recognizing the multitudes of error that are embraced by most of what calls itself the “church” came through the simple tradition of the “Christ-mass.” Obviously, like most of the rest of the civilized world, this seemingly harmless family-oriented holiday was always a special time of the year for me, until, several years ago, something led me to dig a little into its origins and meanings, and the eventual illumination of the truth actually startled me at first. If what I had been taught about this was not true, then what else did I believe that wasn't so? It turned out that there were many such things. But, it wasn't until several years later that my wife started realizing the same things, and walked through that door, joining me on this journey.

Once we were united in the understanding that we weren't being given the whole truth from the “church,” we started searching for other like-minded believers from whom we could learn and with whom we could fellowship. I did some initial internet searching, and found a movement that proclaimed, quite loudly, the pagan error of Christ-mass and Easter, and also taught the importance of YHWH's Sabbaths (weekly and feast days), so we were immediately drawn to them. We also found some folks in our area who seemed to understand the same truths, so we all started meeting together. On the internet, we were drawn to the teachings of organizations like Passion for Truth Ministries and 119 Ministries (also known as testeverything.net).

Ultimately, after thoroughly examining the most-touted tenets of these HRM groups, we found them to be spreading gross error, and preaching a “different gospel.” I often find myself in conversations with some of their adherents on social media websites, and the brainwashing that has resulted from slick ad campaigns and catchy marketing slogans is not only immediately apparent with their followers, their false teachings appear to be spreading rampantly, and misleading many people.

During a particularly long online dialog, I began to feel an incredible burden for these folks, as there is obviously much confusion over the differences in their teachings and the Word, and it has become apparent that at least some of these people have placed their eternal security in the wrong things—and are not even familiar with that which is the basis of salvation.

This article is an effort to expose some of the methods of deception, and the most common false teachings of what has become known as the “Hebraic Roots Movement” (HRM).

Misinterpretation/Misapplication of Scripture

One of the most prevalent deceptive practices of the HRM is to misinterpret scripture deliberately, or to apply scripture in a way that distorts its real meaning. For example, as discussed here and here, the New Testament is clear that we are no longer under the dietary regulations that were part of the ceremonial laws of the old covenant; however, because that doesn't jibe with the HRM main teachings (that believers are still under the law), they purposely misinterpret several scriptures, and one of their blatant misapplications pertains to the vision the Apostle Peter received from YHWH in Acts 10 and 11.

As we know, Peter's vision was of many animals that had been classified as “unclean” for the Jews to eat under the ceremonial laws, and, in the vision, YHWH specifically told Peter to kill and eat. Peter protested, explaining that he had never eaten anything that the law called unclean, but YHWH told him not to call unclean that which He had made clean. In fact, because of Peter's disbelief, YHWH showed him the vision three times!

Of course, Peter later recounted the vision for others and stated that it meant that, even though he was a Jew, he was no longer to regard Gentiles as “off limits,” which is what the ceremonial laws had previously forced him to do.

Those in the HRM perform some incredible mental gymnastics with this one by contending that, after Peter realized the full meaning of the vision, he then somehow understood that YHWH was only kidding about His command to “kill and eat.” They state that the vision was only used as a metaphor, and that Peter knew that YHWH didn't mean for him to do what he was told to do. The most amazing aspect of their teaching on this is that there are people who actually believe their nonsense.

The message of the vision was clear to Peter—that the laws that had kept Jews and Gentiles separate had been removed. If there were no longer any legal prohibition against Jews mingling with Gentiles, then the laws forcing their separation could no longer be applied. The ceremonial laws, or that which determined clean vs. unclean, were spiritual in nature. That the law made certain foods “unclean” for Jews to eat didn't mean that the food was not fit for human consumption, but that disobedience defiled a person (or made him “unclean”). Once those laws were no longer, there was no such thing as “unclean” food. Those laws being abolished through Christ is the subject of Ephesians 2. To further demonstrate that being unclean (defiled) had nothing to do with the food itself, read Ezra 2:62, where “unclean” applied to a priest's lack of genealogical records. If “unclean, meant “unhealthy,” then that verse would be absurd. It was wholly a spiritual construct.

Furthermore, their teaching in this is easily shown to be false by Paul's rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2:11-21, for Peter had acted on the message of his vision, and had started eating with Gentiles in their homes (which was previously forbidden by the ceremonial laws) until some Jews, who had not yet properly apportioned Christ's work on Calvary, started condemning Peter's actions, and he withdrew from the Gentiles. Paul said that Peter had condemned himself because of his hypocrisy. That alone (even if there weren't other New Testament passages teaching this truth) thoroughly debunks this HRM tenet to be heresy, for if those laws had still applied, Paul would not have rebuked Peter for his hypocrisy, but for his breaking of the ceremonial laws.

Of course, those in the HRM have a difficult time with the Apostle Paul, as his teachings are contrary to their beliefs. Their attitudes about Paul range from an assertion that they are the only ones who truly understand him (even though it was the Jews of Paul's day, who had lived under the law of the old covenant, who had the most difficulty grasping the truths that Paul taught), to those who reject Paul's teachings as fraudulent—some going so far as to claim that Paul was “Satan in the flesh.” Not fully embracing the entirety of Paul's writings is an immediate indication that one embraces false teachings.

Changing the Very Words of Scripture

One of the most common marketing slogans of the HRM is the false teaching that the Messiah is the “Living Torah.” The reason this deception is effective is that, since the HRM seeks to keep people bound to the written law contained in what is known as the “Torah” (first five books of the Bible), equating that section of scripture with Christ essentially suggests that, if one rejects the notion that we are under that law, then he also rejects Christ to some degree.

But, by what method do they make this claim? They literally change a word in scripture itself. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with YHWH, and the Word was YHWH.” John is speaking here of Christ (see: Revelation 19:13). So, the Word being Christ, the HRM asserts that the Torah is the earliest section of the scriptures, and the scriptures are referred to as the “Word,” so we can simply substitute “Word” with “Torah.” The problem is, that completely changes the actual word that is used in the verse. If the verse were talking about the written word, then “torah” could be an acceptable Hebrew word, and “rhema” would be its Greek equivalent.

However, the word John uses doesn't focus on the written word, or the subject of words at all, but on the speaker of the words. In the Greek, the word used is “logos,” and its Hebrew equivalent is “dabar.” So, to make their claim, they actually change scripture itself to fit their false teaching. This is discussed in greater depth here, but one additional fact that debunks their claims about Christ being the “Living Torah,” is their accompanying claim that He never broke the written law contained in the Torah. That assertion is demonstrably false, and so is their teaching on this.

Additionally, while I do not own a copy of their “Hebraic Roots Bible (copyright 1998),” I have had some who have tried to bolster their false claims by copying and pasting passages from that version on a few instances. In my recollection of the few passages that have been shared with me, I believe there was deception and error in every one of them.

Romans 6:14 states, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.” But, since not being under the law negates the whole “religion” of the HRM, their bible adds a parenthetical remark to muddle what is clearly said. It has, “. . . for you are not under the (penalty of breaking the) law.” They have to make sure that their adherents believe they are still under the law, even though that contradicts what Paul plainly teaches.

In Hebrews 10:16, we are told “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” In the Hebraic Roots Bible, “laws” is replaced by “Torah,” even though there is nothing in the text that refers to the first five books of the Bible. The verse is speaking of the Holy Spirit, and it tells how YHWH will make His will known to His children. By using the Hebrew word “torah,” one could understand it as His “instructions,” which would certainly not be unfaithful to the original text. However, capitalizing the word makes it a clear deception, as YHWH is not telling us that He will write the first five books of the Bible on our hearts and minds. This is a blatant perversion of YHWH's Word, but one that is used to try to keep people bound to that from which Christ has freed them.

I can only assume, based on the mountains of propaganda I've seen on the internet, and these examples, that there are probably many instances where the scriptural texts have been changed by their deliberate misuse of “Torah,” deceptively inserting it in place of the actual words that were used.

Revelation 22:14-15 describes two groups of people—those who have access to the New Jerusalem, which is the heavenly temple within the kingdom of heaven, and those who do not have access to it. A detailed explanation of these two groups can be found here, but for our purposes, understand that what is described in these two verses occurs within the kingdom of heaven, and delineates those who have access to the temple, and those who must remain outside the gates of the temple—but they are all in heaven, as the devil, his demons, and the unbelievers have all been cast into the lake of fire by this point in Revelation.

Now, here's what we're told in those two verses: (14) Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. (15) Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

But, in the Hebraic Roots Bible, they have replaced the word “Outside” with “And not there.” So, they have completely changed what the verse states, and have taken those who scripture says will be in heaven, and have placed them elsewhere (or “not there”). Let me clarify it this way: if one speaks of those who are standing inside his house, and those who are standing outside his house, could those standing outside his house properly be defined as “not there”? This is just a deceptive little twisting that attempts to support their false teaching that one must “obey the Torah” to see heaven. That's not what scripture teaches.

Clinging to the Symbols and Rejecting the Real Substance

While most people easily recognize much of the symbolism in the Bible, the HRM misses a big one, and in so doing, they create a belief system that contradicts the message of the entire Word of YHWH. It is easy to understand the symbolism of something like the lamb that is part of the Passover Seder, and that our redemption is not in that, but in what it symbolized—the Perfect Lamb of YHWH. The Apostle Paul teaches that earthly marriage is a symbol of the Messiah and His bride. In fact, the Ark of the Covenant, barley, the tabernacle, the temple, the priesthood, and even the ancient Jewish people, are all foreshadows, or symbols, of the bride. The HRM actually misses that last one, though, and they do not understand that the Jewish people only symbolized the bride, and the written law that was given to them symbolized the giving of the Holy Spirit to the bride.

This is, essentially, what Christ's Sermon on the Mount was about. The written law governed only the physical man in outward displays of relational living, regulated the system of animal sacrifice, and kept the Jews separated from the Gentiles. But, the point that Christ taught was that, through His work of redemption, the real substance of His commandments, or will, was the internal force of the Holy Spirit in the life of the bride. The real point of the law was not to govern the physical man (which is destined for death), but the spiritual man (which receives life from the Holy Spirit). Moreover, by removing the details, or perfection that was demanded by the written law (Colossians 2:14), the believer is free to live in the liberty of the Spirit without fear of not executing His will perfectly. YHWH desires His children to identify with Him, and it is the Holy Spirit that will teach the believer how to do that—not as a matter of following a list of written rules, but from a heart that desires to please Him.

Furthermore, in not grasping the rich symbolism YHWH utilized to teach the bride about His will for her, the HRM preaches the symbols while rejecting the real substance those symbols foreshadowed—often creating illogical defenses of their false teachings. When confronted with the inconsistency of claiming believers are under the written law of the old covenant, but are not required to obey the sacrificial laws, they claim that it is because there is no temple, and since those sacrifices were to be done there, then it is impossible to properly execute the requirements of those laws.

But, that ignores the real substance of what the animal sacrifices symbolize in the life of the bride, and completely misses what, or who, the temple actually is. Animal sacrifices were a “crucifixion” of flesh, and the temple was a picture of the bride. It's not that flesh sacrifices are no longer part of YHWH's will for us, it is that those sacrifices were symbolic of the bride (temple) sacrificing her flesh to purify herself, or to make herself holy (1 Peter 1:16).

And, the ceremonial laws that regulated “clean vs. unclean” kept Jews separated from Gentiles, which symbolized the bride keeping herself separate from the world. In teaching that those physical laws remain, the HRM not only directly contradicts what we're taught in Ephesians 2 (as well as several other passages), it perverts the true meaning of what those laws symbolized—keeping its adherents bound to written physical rules, when the whole application was supposed to be a spiritual one. YHWH's will for the bride has nothing to do with food or drink or clothing, for those were just pictures representing the true application, which is that He desires His children to keep themselves from being defiled by the world.

Their vast error in this has actually produced teachings that fully misrepresent who the House of Israel and the House of Judah are, and claim that prophecies concerning them refer to literal blood Jews, when they actually represent the bride and the rest of the wedding party (OT saints and Tribulation saints). The HRM makes the preposterous claim that those who are a part of the bride have Jewish blood somewhere in their lineage, and that they are part of the lost tribes of ancient Israel. To make this wild stretch, they must completely reject scriptural teachings such as “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Yahoshua the Messiah.” (Galatians 3:28)

It is a foolish embrace of shadows, rather than applying what those symbols actually represented. By doing that, they are not living in truth, they are not living in the life of the Spirit; they are living in a picture, and missing the life and peace that the real substance gives. They demand compliance to that from which Christ freed us, and condemn anyone who exposes their deception and misrepresentation.

Paul teaches in Galatians 2 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for YHWH. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of YHWH, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of YHWH, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

To embrace the false teachings of the HRM is to proclaim that Christ died for nothing. My desire in writing this article is to inform those who might be tempted to fall for their false teachings to flee from everything they promote and proclaim, for those who teach such heresies are to be rebuked, not embraced. And, for those who already find themselves bound to these false teachings to turn away from them to the truth of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit will never remain quiet over a true believer's dabbling in these clear spiritual errors. The Holy Spirit gives life, but the false teachings of the HRM give nothing but death and condemnation in a deceptive package of false spirituality.

The Holy Spirit is the one who confirms that someone is YHWH's child, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with the written law of the old covenant. Believing that one can be made pure through that written law doesn't promote holiness before YHWH, it promotes self-righteousness and a spirit of condemnation toward others—which is why the main message they preach far and wide typically focuses on some aspect of the “Torah.” That sounds a whole lot like the Pharisees of Christ's time, doesn't it? Well, it is.

Written by Dean Haskins, with additional insights from James Finnegan, for the Way of the Tabernacle. Reproductions with proper attribution are allowed and encouraged.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. . . Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ -Yahoshua Ha'Mashiac in Matthew 7

But now in Yahoshua Ha'Mashiach you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Mashiach. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to Elohim through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. Ephesians 2:13-16

The thief on the cross manifestly understood the path to salvation better than the highly educated pharisees.