I have heard arguments in the basis of" Well it was for the nation of Israel for a special period of time. Is that the case though? Why dont we follow both the New Testament and the Old? It is because the context of it sounds to us not logical because all of the “uneasy” laws it has?
In Sunday School I was taught Peter’s vision of what Christians are now allowed to eat:
My teachers said that this applied to all such laws found in the Old Testament. After all, bacon is heavenly.
I don’t think it’s just because of a few uneasy laws here and there – it’s the whole heart of it. The people needed to sacrifice animals for their sins, but when Jesus died the temple curtain was torn in two – that’s a pretty massive reorienting of our relationship to God. The NT indicates that the law was diagnostic – it’s how we become aware of sin.
I am afflicted with bird brainitus. I meant to answer here but wondered off.
We obey the whole 9 yards when we love. That was God’s original plan/hope/goal/intention/desire for mankind. OT didn’t work too well. All along the OT pointed to the NT, to grace, to unmerited favor through Christ, so we would get it: Love all, always, everywhere and you’ve completed the entire law.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
That sounds like Dispensationalism.
But we do, when we do what Jesus teaches are the greatest commandments: love God and love others (even our enemies–now THAT is a tough one). And when we follow Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets just as He said, we are obeying the Law of God.
Historical context is incredibly important for understanding several Old Testament laws, actually.
Follow Jesus, and you are following God.
Take care now! I hope you’re well.
(You may find John Walton’s book “The Lost World of the Torah” helpful.)
I find two points to be helpful when thinking through the issue of OT law:
First, the Bible is not a rulebook; it’s a story. The laws in Exodus-Deuteronomy are there for narrative purposes, not to tell you how to live. They are a selection from the agreement Yahweh made with the people of Israel. Their relevance to us is inextricably tied to their role in the narrative. They should not be separated from that narrative, any more than the rules about “not using magic in the halls” should be separated from the narrative of Harry Potter.
Second, Jesus talks about “loving God and neighbor” as summing up the law. The “uneasy laws” are “uneasy” for one simple reason: we are not Bronze-age pastoralists/farmers. The laws in the Torah are examples of “love God and neighbor” worked out for a particular people in a particular place at a particular time. Modern laws about stop signs and speed limits are (in a sense) ultimately about loving our neighbors (by not running into them), but they would make no sense 500 years ago, and may very well not make sense 500 years from now, but the basic principle is the same. If we want to “follow the laws” the way Jesus saw them, we should look for ways to love our own neighbors in our own place, in our own time.
A great question, Nick. You may find my answer unsatisfactory but I would encourage you to reread Galatians and Hebrews.
They will make the arguments and lay out the evidence far better than I ever could.
I think a lot of the laws of the OT were things which that particular people could benefit from. It is the story of what happened (even as a result of God giving them such laws) which we can all benefit from.
Indeed! What Jesus said in Matthew 22 tells us that regardless of whether or not we can benefit from laws given to those people at that particular time, it was really all about love – helping them to love each other and love what is good. That is what loving God is all about as well even now. How do I know? Read the first chapter of Isaiah.
The old covenant with its laws is only binding upon the house of Israel. We still, however, have to take the Hebrew Scriptures seriously.
It’s amazing that Peter needed that vision and that there were such fierce debates on dietary issues in the early church for Gentiles granted that according to Mark, Jesus settled the issue from the beginning for everyone. Imagine Jesus dispensing with something so fundamental and declaring something so scandalous and outrageous at the time to his disciples and no one in the early church, besides Mark seems to have gotten the memo.
Mark 7:19 (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
Given that some Christians do a poor job of obeying the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus to begin with, it’s a little odd these same Christians will be concerned with whether or not the OT still applies. Like, do we really need more rules that we won’t listen to?
In agreeance with the majority of replies here, I also think the law of the OT served more as a guide to prepare humanity for Christ. I think the laws helped mankind stay civilized and their minds occupied with forming a relationship with God in which they would understand coming from the region of that time. That’s why I don’t think science was a big thing yet because it wouldn’t be culturally relevant. God works in ways we can understand so the message would be most effective and relevant. I’m no theologian so I am open to corrections, just giving a thought. People desire meaning even if it it’s simply a ritual, which can form a bond with God that works for that culture.
I legit lol’d at that!
Yeah lol, very funny. But seriously…
Just because we don’t do a terrific job at keeping them doesn’t mean that we don’t listen to them or try to keep them. That is why it is important to consider exactly what standard we are trying to live to up to.
Yes, I’m well aware of this. Me finding something amusing does not negate this, friend.
The standard is one that we cannot meet, but must strive to meet every day anyway. That standard is Jesus and nothing less. He says that all the Law and Prophets are summed up by the two greatest commandments, which He gave–love God and love others (even enemies). No small task, but one we must pursue nevertheless.
Aquinas explained it best.
Many Christians, perhaps most, view biblical law as akin to the U.S. and state criminal codes: a comprehensive attempt to define and categorize every important wrong one can commit against others or the state. Yet, if we assume that is the case, we immediately run into problems. Where was the law prior to Moses? What was the law outside of ancient Israel? Why were there no prohibitions against slavery or polygamy? And what about all the weird ones? These questions may seem quite challenging, but the answer is simpler than you think. For that we should begin with how the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas explained the matter.
Aquinas divided law into four categories. The first, Eternal Law , reflects the mind and desire of God concerning the behavior of humankind and the universe. The universe, of course, obeys. Humanity, not so much. Eternal Law is what all believers should aspire to obey but is beyond our apprehension.
The second, Natural Law , is the will of God imprinted upon the minds of all people in all places in all times. It is manifested in a universal God-consciousness, the universality of conscience and the general consistency of moral principles across most human civilizations. As history attests, Natural Law can easily be resisted, suppressed or ignored.
The third, Divine Law , can also be called the Revealed Law , and we will refer to it as such. The Revealed Law, as found in the Old Testament, expresses Eternal Law (the mind of God) and codifies Natural Law, but with some major caveats. Importantly, Mosaic Law included much that was clearly of ceremonial or civil intent pertaining to the worship and governance of ancient Israel. Those elements did not overlap with Natural Law, and merely expressed Eternal Law as it applied to the nation of Israel.
The fourth category of Aquinas, Human Law , would consist of ordinances created by human agents. Theologically, we predict that it would reflect the existence of Natural Law, which in fact it does.
If one imagines the Mosaic Law as a comprehensive code, it had significant shortcomings. The Old Testament never specifically proscribed prostitution* or slavery, but every time they are mentioned, it is in a disapproving way. Is that not sufficient to know they are wrong? The Old Testament never explicitly proscribed premarital sexual intercourse. If it happened, the law simply demanded that the man must pay the bride-price and marry her (Exodus 22:16). Mosaic Law never proscribed polygamy. Adultery was a one-way street: if a married woman slept with another man, it was adultery. If a married man slept with another women, it was permitted if she were not married or betrothed to another, though he would still have to marry her. These examples demonstrate that the Mosaic Law was never intended to be comprehensive; not that such things were acceptable because they were not prohibited.
Christians are privileged to receive clarification on the Mosaic Law through the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. When Jesus spoke of the Mosaic Law, He judged the Pharisees not for their lack of conformity to the Mosaic Law, but to Eternal Law. Hence, on the one hand He could judge them for being too literal in its interpretation (their rules on the Sabbath or divorce), and on the other for thinking mere outward compliance was good enough (declaring lust as equivalent to adultery). At the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15, the apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, ruled that Gentile converts were not subject to the Mosaic Law, but:
“Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood” (Acts 15:30, NIV 1984).
Without an understanding of Natural Law, this appears to make no sense. Other than refraining from sexual immorality (funny how that keeps popping up) and three dietary restrictions (probably to maintain peace between Jews and Gentile converts), the entire Mosaic Law was just abolished? Of course not. While Christians were no longer under the Mosaic Law, they remained bound by Eternal Law and Natural Law. Lest there be any uncertainty concerning those obligations, the New Testament reaffirms and elaborates on the demands of Eternal Law through the commandments of Jesus and the instruction of the apostles (establishing a new Revealed Law for future generations). Many believe the Ten Commandments remained in effect. This approach, however, is not without its problems. According to the Westminster Larger Catechism, the Jesus Film would be in flagrant violation of the Second Commandment, and any sort of recreation on Sunday violates the Fourth Commandment (questions 109 and 119).
When we understand the preeminence of Eternal Law, it makes complete sense to declare that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10b, NIV 1984), without the ludicrous inference that love is the only law.
Christian moral principles are based upon the Eternal Law of God as understood through Natural Law and explicitly affirmed by Jesus and the apostles. The Mosaic Law is not relevant to this discussion, and the Christian apologist should not rely on it in evidence. While this may seem controversial, it is consistent with the historic teaching of most major Christian traditions. We are not “throwing out” the Old Testament, as some might charge. Old Testament wisdom and historical narrative, as well as prophecy and Psalms, remain an integral part of Christian theology and experience. The crucial moral elements of Mosaic Law are subsumed under Natural Law and the Revealed Law of the New Testament.
The moral revolution of our culture, gave us relativism, where values and principles are considered to be mere expressions of the desires and interests of a given group of people at a given time in history. We repeatedly hear that there are no absolutes in our world today - no laws (except when you jump off a building a physical law applies even in a relativistic world.
We are New Testament Christians, and if we look at things in biblical categories, we see that the Bible is divided into different testaments. A testament is a covenant. We speak of the old covenant and the new covenant, the Old Testament and the New Testament. But we must take that a bit further. What is the essence of a covenant? In its simplest terms, a covenant is an agreement or contract between two or more persons. Every covenant contains within it certain benefits and promises, and every covenant includes legal requirements or laws. Even the new covenant, the New Testament, is a covenant with laws. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Yes, the curse of the law has been satisfied in Christ. We have been redeemed from it, but that doesn’t mean that now, as Christians, we are free from all obligations to our God. There are laws in the New Testament just as there are laws in the Old Testament.
There is a certain body of moral legislation that God gives to all, and it is that body of law that we are concerned with under the rubric of the covenant of creation - eg marriage.
Some OT laws were only for Israel - eg: food laws temple laws goats, animals etc
But Jesus affirms and enhances, “You have read, but I say” - moral laws are guides today. The problem some moral laws are mixed throught out the OT. It can be confusing.
What about the Sabbath? It’s a creation ordinance - but the disciples worship on a Sunday and our Sabbath is in Christ.
The standard for a law is not eternal truth, or eternal principle, or the character of God, but the wishes and desires of the most powerful or most vocal majority
Our rest is in Christ, certainly, but I’m not sure scripture says that exactly, when referring to the celebration of the day. In fact, I’m sure it doesn’t.
I would submit that all ten of the Ten Commandments constitute moral law, ‘laws of love’, or at least that Christians should consider them so.
The eternal law, principle, essence, logos, substance, attribute of God is love. Eternal, infinite creation, natural and transcendent, is grounded in, predicated on love. So, what is ludicrous to man is true. Love is the only law for being, for relationship.
The OT law has often been considered to be all of the decrees taught by Moses to Israel. We now know that a great deal of this has been ritual and introduced by Moses to teach Israel how to leave behind pagan ways and worship God.
The Law delivered by God to Moses is the 10 commandments and these are summarized in the OT as love God and our neighbor. Christ shows us how He perfected the Law and thus we do not need the rituals of Moses.