Are we obliged to follow the law of Moses?

I am a convert to Karaite Judaism, but I like bacon, mussels, sausages, I shave my beard and I don’t believe in stoning women to death for premarital sex. My argument is that these laws are common laws found throughout the ANE, and thus are likely the result of the times, rather than divine intervention. This, combined with the fact that the Noachide laws explicitly allow humans to eat ALL animals (presumably including those which the Mosaic law designates as unclean) makes me think that the law of Moses was intended as God;s law for Israel only. Since I am not ethnically Jewish, I don’t see this as applying to me.

What do you think?

I have often wondered how modern Jews determine which laws to follow and which not to. Obviously “kosher” is still a big deal for many, yet I don’t know of any animal sacrifices still going on.

From a Christian perspective, many teachers have divided the Mosaic law into the “ceremonial” law and the “moral” law, arguing that the ceremonial law (sacrifices, etc.) doesn’t apply to us anymore, but the moral law does (ten commandments, etc.). But I’m not sure exactly where the line is drawn, or whether it’s always that simple (is wearing mixed fabrics moral? etc.).

The cynic in me suspects that the line is drawn between those laws we [some of us] still want to enforce in church life today, and those we have culturally left behind. But it is part of the response, for example, when conservatives are confronted by sexual freedom culture warriors with this argument: “yeah – but doesn’t the same law that condemned xyz sexual practices also condemn wearing mixed fabrics or eating any of these unclean animals?”

To which I’ve heard the reply … “there is civil [ceremonial] law and then there is moral law” … ostensibly meaning that this can be a means of separating out what we should still feel obliged to attend to and what we can “let go” as a historically particular relic. While that categorization may have some merit in terms of accuracy, I don’t find it a compelling response to the question of the OP. But it is how some people have parsed this out.

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@Reggie_O_Donoghue Didn’t one Rabbi one say that he could pronounce the whole law by standing on one foot? He said quickly, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. that was actually from the Jewish commentary or something like that, not just New Testament I think. interestingly there are Protestants who think that we should still follow the Old Testament rules if we are Jewish. They are called Ultra dispensationalist. Because my mother’s maiden name sounded Jewish, one suggested that I should follow the Old Testament rules as well. I was not thrilled with the idea either. I like sausage.

I guess a lot of my question about this stems from why you chose Torah as your rule book. I agree and I think I understand your position that we need an ultimate rule Giver, higher than ourselves. However, does a scripture need to be present for that? I agree with your Insight that there are rules that are appropriate for various time periods and communities. I think that @Mervin_Bitikofer"s point about moral law is great.

Attributed to -

There were two major Jewish interpretive schools around year 0, have you read too much about Hillel’s school vs. Shammai @Reggie_O_Donoghue :

Jesus was clearly on the Hillel side and some of his disagreements with some of the religious leaders were in the same pattern as many Hillel/Shammai debates.

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Otherwise you will just be making things up.

I consider most of Genesis, as well as wisdom literature to be my main guide to how I live my life. In particular the notion that all mankind is in the image of God.

The Noachide laws condemn murder, as does the Story of Cain. Proverbs warns us to avoid the adulterous woman, to not lie, and not to gain wealth through ill means, Psalm 62:10 says not to steal.

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How I live my life, with the Bible but without the Mosaic law:

  1. Do not murder – Genesis 9:6
  2. Do not steal – Psalm 62:10
  3. Do not commit adultery – Proverbs 6:32
  4. Do not lie – Proverbs 12:22
  5. Worship God – Ecclesiastes 12:3
  6. Do not worship idols – Psalm 101:3
  7. Do not commit fraud – Proverbs 20:17
  8. Do not eat meat from a living animal – Genesis 9:4
  9. Do not treat animals cruelly – Numbers 22:32
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Thanks. So many pieces fall into place with this!

Here is an analogy that occurred to me to help illuminate the paradoxical relationship between law and freedom … and hopefully will circle back around to commentary on your list above.

While being “bound by law” and being free seem like opposite situations, quite the opposite is actually true if we consider a car driver. The roads and regulations that restrict where a driver can go and what they can do actually ensure that the driver continues to have freedom (and a working car!) to go lots of places. If a driver chafed at being “imprisoned” by roadways and decided they should be able to go off-roading wherever they want, they will not long have an operating car, and will lose altogether the “freedom” they were aiming for.

Now; the details of driving regulations are locale-specific. If you are in some nations, you drive on the left side. Others have you driving on the right. This would be analogous to the civil and ceremonial specifics of a given culture at a given time. But there is a larger law (closer to being “the spirit” behind the specific local customs) that drives the entire set of laws in any auto-driving culture anywhere: safe navigation of roadways for everybody (“All the law and the prophets hang on these one or two commands.”) And because of that overall spirit, there will be some things that must remain common to all open roadways; such as: people must be prevented from driving the wrong way down a lane or road that is designated for only a certain direction of travel. (this is like “do not murder”, or many of the other 10 commandments that get close enough to the guiding spirit of things that they will not easily, if at all, get altered over time or geography).

In other words, whatever kind of list(s) get distilled down to being of present importance to somebody, it is the underlying spirit that is of greater importance. And the nature of that spirit always reminds us that the codes we follow are always in relationship. They are there to help you relate better with community. Even if you neighbor doesn’t adhere to quite the same list in the same ways, the lists that you both have cannot remain (despite our best efforts!) only a personal manifestation that we keep to ourselves any more than we could presume that automobile regulations are only there for me and because of me. They are there precisely because all the roads out there are not for me alone.

That’s my two cents. I like your list, BTW, even though I’m not a vegetarian myself. Another thing I would add, though, is that a weekly sabbath rest on one day or another is important (not as a legalistic law, but as a governing principle). People are learning the hard way today that our bodies will get their sabbath one way or another. It will either be taken joyfully, restfully, and deliberately woven into your work week. Or it will be granted to your body painfully, expensively, maybe from a hospital bed or psychiatrist’s couch, or even a casket. But your body will eventually enjoy its lost sabbaths, just like the exploited land (and planet?) will too. Israel learned this the hard way, and we will learn it too.

[with edits]

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I’m not either

Ahhh – and so I notice the qualification on your rule # 8 (or in the referenced verse, rather). I wasn’t trying to make anything of it. I just casually thought “vegetarianism” without having looked up the verse.

I would like to add that Incest/rape is forbidden by Genesis 9:25, and Environmental destruction is theoretically forbidden due to Genesis 1’s cosmic temple imagery.

What is your covenant with God?

If you have accepted the Mosaic Covenant, then you have accepted the Mosaic law.

I see the Noachide covenant as my covenant, not the Mosaic covenant. Though I have my disagreements with mainstream Jewish theology (largely on what counts as scripture) I agree wholeheartedly that a gentile only ought to follow the Noachide laws (and a few others) to be seen as virtuous.

But you’re not really Jewish. To be a Jew you have to be born of a Jewish mother or convert to Judaism.


So… along the lines of what @beaglelady mentioned… have you formally converted?

Is there actually an experienced Karaite helping you modify your life choices? Or are you doing it the American DYI way?

Not ‘formally’

It’s an interesting subject. Jesus definitely favored the Hillel school, but not always. This comes to the fore in the controversy over the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias. Hillel generally interpreted the Torah loosely, while Shammai was more literal. The difference is highlighted in their interpretations of Deut. 24.1. (If a man marries a woman and she does not please him because he has found something offensive in her, then he may draw up a divorce document, give it to her, and evict her from his house.)

Hillel issued a ruling on divorce that interpreted “something indecent” in Deut. 24:1 not as “immoral,” which was Shammai’s view, but as virtually anything that displeased the husband. A man could give his wife a writ of divorce for a poorly cooked meal, if he so desired. Understandably, Hillel’s interpretation was the more popular among men, but the antics of Herod Antipas created an international incident because of it. On the way to visit Rome, Antipas stayed for a time with his half-brother, Herod II, and fell in love with his brother’s wife, Herodias. Antipas and Herodias both divorced their spouses so that they could marry one another, but Antipas’s first wife happened to be the daughter of a neighboring Arabian king, who viewed the affair as bringing unjustified shame upon his daughter and his kingdom. The ensuing controversy cost John the Baptist his life for speaking out against the marriage and, within the decade, precipitated a war that Antipas lost, forcing him to appeal to the emperor to intervene.

Because Hillel had so relaxed the rules on divorce, it actually was common in the first century, and a divorced woman with children would find it difficult just to survive. Several times in the gospels, Jesus is asked his opinion on divorce. The reason it comes up so often is that it was the current religious and political controversy of the time, and in this case, Jesus comes down on the side of Shammai. We don’t realize it these days, but “tightening” the rules on divorce actually was a protection for women and children and a restriction on men. As men of their time, the disciples realized this right away and complained about it. (The disciples said to him, “If this is the case of a husband with a wife, it is better not to marry!” Matt. 19.10).

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Very interesting, Jay! That makes sense. And can you then go on to make sense of what Jesus goes on to say immediately following the disciple’s ‘observation’?

starting at verse 11:

But he said to them, "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.

That’s a nice example. It is interesting to see then the recorded words of Jesus more in their historical context. Do you have any resources that do this well or is this your original research/writing? I haven’t come across but simplistic statements made by non-scholars on the topic.

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