An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


A Hebrew noun coming from the verb “to teach.” It has the basic meaning of teaching or instruction, but it is usually translated law. Although in the OT it can refer to teaching, it most commonly indicates that which comes from God. It first seems to have been used for a single commandment (e.g., Ex 13:9). Gradually it was extended to larger collections, such as the Book of Deuteronomy (e.g., Dt. 1:5). Finally, in the period of the Second Temple it was extended to the entire Pentateuch (Ps. 119). The Torah came to be the most important part of the biblical canon for the Jews. In Jewish tradition the term usually refers to the Pentateuch. In the NT the expression “the law and the prophets” almost certainly refers to the first two sections of the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e., the Torah/Pentateuch and the prophets. At times Paul means the Pentateuch when he refers to the law (Greek, nomos), e.g., Rom 2:15. However, the term has a number of other meanings for him, depending on its context.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.