The "Letter Killeth," but
II Corinthians 3 (3) Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Messiah ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living Elohim; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. (4) And such trust have we through Messiah toward YAHWEH: (5) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of YAHWEH; (6) WHO also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the *letter, but of the Spirit: for the *letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.
*G1121. gramma, gram'-mah; from G1125; a writing, i.e. a letter, note, epistle, book, etc.; plur. learning:--bill, learning, letter, scripture, writing, written.
Let us start with the "written … not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart." What was written in tables of stone? Let us use the account that Moses gave before his death.
Deuteronomy 4 (I) Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes [enactments] and unto the judgments [verdicts & verdicts of the enactments], which I [Moses] teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which YAHWEH, Elohim of your fathers giveth you. (2) Ye shall not add unto the word which I [Moses] command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of YAHWEH your Elohim which I [Moses] command you. … (12) And YAHWEH spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words [i.e. the Ten Commandments], but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. (13) And HE declared unto you HIS Covenant, which HE commanded you to perform, even [Even was added.] Ten Commandments; and HE wrote them [the Ten Commandments] upon two tables of stone. (14) And YAHWEH commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments [enactments & verdicts], that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.
As we read Deuteronomy 5:1-22 (also Exodus 20:1-17), we notice which commandments YAHWEH gave to Israel in person before HE wrote them on the two tables of stone. All the other statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) were given by YAHWEH through Moses to be taught to them. (Because they were given through Moses, they were sometimes referred to as the "Law" and the "Law of Moses" in the New Covenant writings.)
Deuteronomy 5 (I) And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments [enactments & verdicts of the enactments] which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. (2) YAHWEH our Elohim made a covenant with us in Horeb. (3) YAHWEH made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. (4) YAHWEH talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, (5) (I stood between YAHWEH and you at that time, to show you the word of YAHWEH: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying, (6) "I am YAHWEH thy Elohim, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (7) Thou shalt have none other elohim before ME. (8) Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: (9) Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I YAHWEH thy Elohim am a jealous El, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate ME, (10) And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love ME and keep MY Commandments. (11) Thou shalt not take the name of YAHWEH thy Elohim in vain: for YAHWEH will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (12) Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as YAHWEH thy Elohim hath commanded thee. (13) Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: (14) But the seventh day is the Sabbath of YAHWEH thy Elohim: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. (15) And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that YAHWEH thy Elohim brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore YAHWEH thy Elohim commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day. (16) Honour thy father and thy mother, as YAHWEH thy Elohim hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which YAHWEH thy Elohim giveth thee. (17) Thou shalt not kill. (18) Neither shalt thou commit adultery. (19) Neither shalt thou steal. (20) Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour. (21) Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's." (22) These words YAHWEH spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and HE added no more. And HE wrote them [the Ten Commandments] in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.
Those two tables of stone were called the "Tables of the Testimony" and the "Tables of the Covenant."
Exodus (15) And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two Tables of the Testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. (16) And the tables were the work of [YAHWEH] Elohim, and the writing was the writing of [YAHWEH] Elohim, graven upon the tables.
Deuteronomy 9 (9) When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even [Even was added.] the Tables of the Covenant which YAHWEH made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water: (10) And YAHWEH delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of [YAHWEH] Elohim; and on them was written according to all the words [i.e. the Ten Commandments], which YAHWEH spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. (11) And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that YAHWEH gave me the two tables of stone, even [Even was added.] the Tables of the Covenant.
Those Ten Commandments are the blueprints that we must follow to love YAHWEH by loving YAHWEH our Elohim with all our heart, might and mind and instruct us on how to love our neighbor as ourselves. The first four commandments show how to love YAHWEH by having no other Elohim before HIM, by not making any images (nor bowing down to worship them), by not taking HIS name in vain, and by not polluting HIS hallowed Sabbath. The last six show how to love thy neighbor as thy self by honoring one's parents, by not killing one's neighbor, by not committing adultery with the spouse of one's neighbor, by not stealing, by not coveting anything that belongs to them, and by not bearing false witness against them. These last six commandments protect one's neighbor from one's self the same as they protect one's self from one's neighbor. Therefore, they benefit the whole human race!
Now, why were those two tables of stone with the Ten Commandments written on them called the Tables of the Covenant? It seems that they were called the Tables of the Covenant, because they were the very laws that were the center piece of the First Covenant with Israel. As an example, each one of those statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) that YAHWEH gave through Moses in the First Covenant did at least one or more of the following things.
I Those statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) were physical reminders to keep those Ten Commandments.
II Those statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) defined every thing that was in violation of those Ten Commandments.
III Those statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) gave a swiftly administered penalty for the violation of those Ten Commandments without an opportunity to repent and receive mercy. (Most of those violations required death by stoning.)
IV Those statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) physically portrayed the plan of salvation for all mankind. (This plan depended upon the supreme sacrifice of YAHshua, the Passover Lamb of YAHWEH, to atone for mankind's sins by paying the penalty for the violations of those Ten Commandments.)
V Those statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) that YAHWEH gave to Israel through Moses were intertwined with the Ten Commandments as they constantly monitored a strict enforcement of those Ten Commandments. They were all a part of the terms of the First Covenant which Israel agreed to at Mount Sinai.
Exodus 21 (I) Now these are the judgments [verdicts of the enactments] which thou shalt set before them. … 24 (4) And Moses wrote all the words [these words included the Ten Commandments which the enactments & verdicts of the enactments were built around] of YAHWEH and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. (5) And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto YAHWEH. (6) And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. (7) And he took the Book of the Covenant [all the words of YAHWEH that Moses had just written] and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that YAHWEH hath said will we do, and be obedient.
Therefore, the Written Book of the Covenant constantly reminded a stiff-necked stony-hearted Israel to keep all of those Ten Commandments; it constantly defined every thing that was in violation of those Ten Commandments; it constantly gave a swiftly administered penalty for the violation of those Ten Commandments; it constantly monitored a strict enforcement of those Ten Commandments; and it constantly portrayed the plan of salvation for all mankind because mankind has constantly violated those Ten Commandments. That is why those statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments i.e. laws-torah) were added to the Ten Commandments " till the seed [Messiah] should come."
Galatians 3 (19) Wherefore then serveth the law [Torah-Old Covenant with its enactments & verdicts of the enactments]? It was added because of transgressions [of YAHWEH'S Basic Law (Torah), the Ten Commandments], till the seed [Messiah] should come to Whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
With the above background, let us read II Corinthians 3:3-18 in its context as I think that it should be translated. (All words that are added by me to make the text clear are in pink italic letters.
II Corinthians 3 (3) Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Messiah ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living Elohim; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. (4) And such trust have we through Messiah toward YAHWEH: (5) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of YAHWEH; (6) WHO also hath made us able ministers of the New Covenant; not of the writing in the Book of the Covenant under the Old Covenant, but in the writing in the fleshly hearts of the New Covenant by the Spirit: for the ministration of the writing in the Book of the Covenant and engraved in stones [Deu. 27:4-8 & Joshua 8:29-32] under the Old Covenant killeth, but the ministration of the writing in the fleshly hearts under the New Covenant by the Spirit giveth life. (7) But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones as was done at Mount Ebal [Deu. 27:4-8 & Joshua 8:29-32], was glorious (so glorious that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance) which ministration of death or ministration of condemnation under the Old Covenant was to be done away, (8) how shall not the ministration of the Spirit under the New Covenant be rather more glorious? (9) For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. (10) For even that ministration of death or ministration of condemnation under the Old Covenant which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory of the ministration of righteousness under the New Covenant that excelleth. (11) For if that which is done away, i.e. the ministration of death or ministration of condemnation under the Old Covenant, was glorious, much more that which remaineth the ministration of righteousness by the Spirit under the New Covenant is more glorious. (12) Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: (13) And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished i.e. ministration of death or ministration of condemnation under the Old Covenant: (14) But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Covenant; which Covenant is done away in Messiah. (15) But even unto this day, when the law of Moses or Old Covenant is read, the veil is upon their stony heart. (16) Nevertheless when Israel shall turn to YAHWEH, the veil shall be taken away. (17) Now the Sovereign has that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Sovereign is, there is *freedom from the ministration of death or the ministration condemnation written in the Book of the Covenant and engraved in stones [Deu. 27:4-8 & Joshua 8:29-32] under the Old Covenant. (18) But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Sovereign, are changed into the same image from the glory of the old to the glory of the new, as by the Spirit of the Sovereign.
*The freedom referred to is the freedom from the harshness of the torah written in the Book of the Covenant that constantly reminded a stiff-necked stony-hearted Israel to keep those Ten Commandments, that constantly defined every thing that was in violation of those Ten Commandments, that constantly gave a swiftly administered penalty for the violation of those Ten Commandments, that constantly monitored a strict enforcement of those Ten Commandments, and that constantly portrayed the plan of salvation for all mankind because mankind has constantly violated those Ten Commandments. Those Ten Commandments that are written by YAHWEH'S Spirit in the fleshly hearts are tempered with YAHWEH'S Grace and surely with HIS Mercy through YAHshua Messiah.
John 1 (14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the FATHER,) full of grace and truth. (15) John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of Whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me. (16) And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. (17) For the law [Torah-the Old Covenant with its statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) that was written in the Book of the Covenant until the Seed (Messiah) should come] was given by [through] Moses, but grace and truth came by YAHshua Messiah.
That Book of the Covenant contained the statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) i.e. laws-torah which was our schoolmaster to bring us to Messiah. It is so elegantly stated in Galatians 3:23-25 that we are not still under the Schoolmaster Covenant.
Galatians 3 (22) But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of YAHshua Messiah might be given to them that believe. (23) But before faith came, we were kept under the law [Torah-the Old Covenant with its statutes and judgments (enactments & verdicts of the enactments) that were added because of transgression of the Ten Commandments], shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. (24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Messiah, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a Schoolmaster [Covenant].
Are we still to obey the Ten Commandments which were written on the Tables of the Covenant which is also called the Tables of Testimony?
Revelation 22 (14) Blessed are they that do HIS Commandments, that they may have right to the Tree of Life, and may enter in through the gates into the city [New Jerusalem]. (15) For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Do we still learn from the Torah? Certainly!
II Timothy 3 (15) And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Messiah YAHshua. (16) All scripture is given by inspiration of YAHWEH, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (17) That the man of YAHWEH may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
To understand how those things that were added to the Ten Commandments are "torah," let us check out the Hebrew word "Torah" from NASC, Strongs and Online Bible Hebrew Lexicon.
H8451. torah, [435d]; from H3384; *1stdirection, *2ndinstruction, *3rdlaw:-- custom(1), instruction(10), instructions- (1), law-(188), Law-(1), laws-(10), ruling-(1), teaching-(7), teachings-(1). NASC
H8451. towrah, to-raw'; or torah, to-raw'; from H3384; a *4thprecept or *5thstatute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch:--law. STRONGS
The word "Torah" does not mean Decalogue (ten commandments) or Pentateuch (five books of the Bible). The Jewish people call the Decalogue and Pentateuch the "Torah" because they contain laws, directions, instructions, precepts or statutes. Therefore, Strongs erroneously added them to the meaning of "Torah."
*1stdi·rec·tion (d¹-rµk"sh…n, dº-) n. 1. The act or function of directing. 2. Management, supervision, or guidance of an action or operation. 3. … 4. Music. ... 5. Often directions. An instruction or series of instructions for doing or finding something. 6. An authoritative indication; an order or a command.
*2ndin·struc·tion (¹n-str¾k"sh…n) n. Abbr. instr. 1. The act, practice, or profession of instructing. 2.a. Imparted knowledge. b. An imparted or acquired item of knowledge; a lesson. 3. Computer Science. … 4.a. Often instructions. An authoritative direction to be obeyed; an order: had instructions to be home by midnight. b. instructions. Detailed directions on procedure: read the instructions for assembly.
*3rdlaw (lô) n. 1. A rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority. 2.a. The body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by a political authority; a legal system: international law. b. The condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system: a breakdown of law and civilized behavior. 3. A set of rules or principles dealing with a specific area of a legal system: tax law; criminal law. …
*4thprecept (pr¶"sµpt") n. 1. A rule or principle prescribing a particular course of action or conduct. 2. Law. An authorized direction or order; a writ. [Middle English, from Old French, from Latin praeceptum, from neuter past participle of praecipere, to advise, teach : prae-, pre- + capere, to take; see kap- below.]
*5thstatute (st²ch"›t) n. Abbr. st., St., stat. 1. Law. A law enacted by a legislature. 2. A decree or an edict, as of a ruler. 3. An established law or rule, as of a corporation. [Middle English, from Old French estatut, from Late Latin stat¿tum, from neuter of Latin stat¿tus, past participle of statuere, to set up, from status, position. See st³- below.]
O8451hrwt towrah to-raw' or hrt torah to-raw' from 03384; TWOT-910d; n f AV-law 219; 219 (1) law, direction, instruction (1a) instruction, direction (human or divine) (1a1) body of prophetic teaching (1a2) instruction in Messianic age (1a3) body of priestly direction or instruction (1a4) body of legal directives (1b) law (1b1) law of the burnt offering (1b2) of special law, codes of law (1c) custom, manner (1d) the Deuteronomic or Mosaic Law ONLINE BIBLE HEBREW LEXICON