The Middle Wall of Separation - The Enmity Contained in Ordinances Ephesians 2:14-15
Updated: Nov 15, 2022
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”. Notice that the Apostle Paul does not say “that which is written”. (Please see my teaching - That Which Is Written Or That Which Is Spoken.
The Apostle states that there is a law (torah) of commandments in ordinances (dogma) 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, Jew or Non-Jew, 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 is a classic example of why a person must be careful with what translation they use. I love and compare many translations but I know where to draw the line. 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 they speak of the Torah they are 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. Paul gives us clues if we can only learn to speak the “language” of his day. I am literally saying that if we are wise enough with our “Pharisaic Judaism” understanding then we can understand his clue words. This is why it is important for us to study the culture and for us to study and read ancient Jewish literature. More about this in a little bit. 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 Sadduceean priests and scribes would not even enter the court of the Gentile rulers or they would be unclean to celebrate Passover. Non-Jews knew how they were perceived by the Jews of first century. Several stories can be read in the New Testament that attest to this (like the woman who stated, “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Masters table”). At the time of Paul and Yeshua, the oral torah had not been written down. It was passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. Today it is written down in the Mishnah. 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.
Now, let's examine “that which is written” to “that which is spoken”. Please read my blog for more clarity.
In Colossians 2:14 we read: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”
In this particular verse the WRITTEN TORAH of YHVH is being spoken about. How do I know? Because of the clue that the Apostle Paul gives us – he clearly says “hand written” ordinances (and this is what the Greek word states, I am not making it up).In the case of this scripture the “curses” of the Torah given by YHVH in Deuteronomy chapter 28 were upon all of us because we broke the WRITTEN WORD OF GOD. However, Yeshua took our curses, our sin, upon Himself on the cross. He paid our debt. Here, Paul is indeed talking about the WRITTEN Torah. However, in our chosen scripture of Ephesians 2:14-15 he makes no claim that the “ordinances against” were written. No where does the Torah state that Non-Jews cannot be accepted by God (under His terms like Jews). The Ephesian scriptures are talking about “that which was spoken” or the oral torah (traditions) of the Jews. It was these oral traditions that separated the “two”, just like the “wall of separation” in the Temple. God never instructed a “wall” to be placed in the Tabernacle or Temple to keep Non-Jews out. God has always accepted anyone who comes to Him on His terms. Abraham was accepted and he wasn't a Jew or an Israelite. He was a Hebrew, but He wasn't a Jew or an Israelite. Israel (Jacob) had not been born at that time and neither had Judah. Noah, Adam, Seth – none of them were Jews/Israelites. When God spoke at Mount Sinai He was speaking to all who were standing there, including the Egyptians and people of other nations who came out of Egypt with the Israelites. In fact, the Israelites were commanded to take the WRITTEN TORAH to the entire world and teach them YHVH's ways, but they failed in this regard. Hence, Yeshua will carry out this mission (Micah 4, Isaiah 2). It is also recorded in Jewish literature that at Mount Sinai YHVH spoke HIS WORDS in the seventy languages known to mankind. It is said that each person heard Him speak in their own language. (Just like Acts chapter 2 – coincidence? – NOT!)
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.
Please refer to my teaching, "One New Man", for more teaching on this topic.