Ephesians 2:14, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Verse 15: Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;” (KJV)
Let's examine this in context of the first century and not by what modern scholars, far removed from the Jewish roots of Yeshua and His disciples, have taught us to believe.
Verse 14 - Literally the “middle wall of the boundary fence”. The Hebrew word for this wall is “m'chitzah”. This Hebrew word literally means “that which divides something in half”. This is referring to a literal, physical wall, or partition, that divides something. In many of the Synagogues of the first century the men were separated from the women by a “m'chitzah”.
There was another “m'chitzah” that divided in the Temple complex. This boundary fence was at the temple court. Surrounding the Temple was a wall with a sign which forbade any foreigner to go in, or they would face death. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 15:11:5; also compare Wars of the Jews 5:5:2, 6:2:4) This “m'chitzah” was to separate the Jews from the Gentiles. (There was also a wall separating the Court of the Women).
In Acts 21:27-32 we can read the incident where Paul was beaten and arrested because he was accused of bringing a Non-Jewish man, Trophimus, into the Temple. Here was the crime – they accused Paul of letting a Gentile cross beyond the “middle wall of separation”. So, it was a literal wall.
Now, in Ephesians 2:14 the Apostle Paul (Sha'ul) is making the point that Gentiles and Jews are now accepted by God, because of the blood of Yeshua, and that they “two” are “one flesh” in Messiah. Therefore, Paul argues that Messiah tore down this “m'chitzah”. This was not the only “partition” that Messiah tore down because as He hung on the cross the veil was torn in the Temple revealing the Holy Place, giving all access to the Most Holy God. (Of course, a person still must approach Him on His terms – not their individual terms. This is the key - God has always allowed any person to approach Him if they approached Him on His terms).
Now, Yeshua did not physically tear this wall down at the Temple. It would have stood there until its destruction in 70AD. This is spiritually speaking, for as Apostle Sha'ul states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Messiah has made us all obtain salvation in the same manner and that is through His blood atonement.
Now, let's examine verse 15 – Yeshua also abolished the “enmity, the law (Torah) of commandments in ordinances”.
The Apostle states that there is a law (torah) of commandments in ordinances that separates Jews from Gentiles. That was the topic of the point he was making. Just like the wall was a “separator” so these “laws of ordinances (dogma)” separated the Jews from the Gentiles also. What was He saying?
Well, here is a very good example of WHAT HE WAS NOT SAYING!
“He rendered the Law inoperative, along with its commandments and regulations, thus creating in himself one new humanity from the two, thereby making peace,”
This translation comes from the ISV and certainly sticks with what most Christians believe that Paul was saying. It is commonly believed, and I once also believed, that the Apostle was saying that Yeshua abolished the Torah with all of the commandments and teachings and he hung them on the cross. Therefore, we as followers of Yeshua are no longer required to obey anything from the old, worn out, and replaced OLD TESTAMENT. Yeshua Himself denied that He came to “abolish” the Torah, but stated that He came to fulfill (bring to correct level of understanding) the Torah.
This poor and biased translation (in this verse at least) is a classic example of why a person must be careful with what translation they use. I love and compare many translations but try to be careful. All Scripture must be analyzed through the lenses of the Jewishness of Messiah, His Jewish disciples that wrote the words, and the Jewish culture that they lived in when written or spoken.
So, what did Apostle Sha'ul mean? To an observant Jew the Torah included both the written and the oral Torah. When Paul refers to the Torah he is often referring to it as a whole, both the written and the oral. It is often difficult to understand which part of the torah is being referred to in the New Testament writings of Paul. This is why it is important for us to study the culture and for us to study and read ancient Jewish literature.
The oral Torah (traditions of the Jews) forbade Jews and Gentiles from mingling. Just as Non-Jews were forbidden from the Temple, they were considered unclean in any mingling situations. Jews could not enter the home of a Non-Jew or they would be unclean. On the night of Yeshua's arrest the Sadducean priests and scribes would not even enter the court of the Gentile rulers or they would be unclean to celebrate Passover. What Paul is saying is that just as Messiah spiritually tore down that “m'chizah”, He also abolished all of the “oral traditions” of the Jews which separated Jews from Non-Jews. This was the purpose of the “vision” that Peter had with the sheet. God was showing Peter that all men that God called to Himself were clean and to be accepted. Non- Jews, coming to faith in Messiah, were no longer to be considered an “unclean” thing by the followers of Yeshua.
In conclusion, Yeshua is making a “one new man” out of the two: Non-Jew and Jew. The Apostle Paul understands this mystery and knows that in order to do this Yeshua had to tear down the “walls and traditions” of the Jews that excluded the Non-Jews from the promises of Elohim and had alienated them from His covenants.
I hope this teaching has added light to the Jewishness of Messiah Yeshua, His first disciples and the New Testament writings.