The Division of Old Testament Law

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James K's picture

This is so bad on so many levels.  If he worked as hard at understanding Scripture as he does trying to defend the reformed pharisaical lawkeeping, he would be a really good teacher.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Don't hold back, tell us what you really think!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Andrew K's picture

Excellent. The "Old Testament" section in particular strikes me as incontrovertible. The Scriptures themselves render remarkably plain that the Decalogue holds a place of particular prominence beyond the rest of the law. Where we go from that fact will probably differ based on our hermeneutic. Smile

Ed Vasicek's picture

I think the 10 Commandments hold a special place within the Torah, but Jesus summarized the Law (and our directive for life) as the two great commandments, loving God and loving others, neither of which are part of the 10 but part of the other 613 mitzvot.  To me, that simple point trashes his argument.

I am open to the idea that New Covenant believers might be regulated, in some way, by the Torah.   But I have yet to see an objective criteria for this.

Additionally, the author made some typical Covenant Theology missteps.  For example, quoting Romans 2:22-24, the context is Romans 2:17, directed to the Jew.  The verses about the Law of God upon the hearts of gentiles is a different context.  To apply Paul's consistency argument given to the Jews as one and the same set of laws given to the gentiles is a stretch.

I doubt very much that gentiles who were not exposed to the Torah  --  but had the Law of God upon their hearts (either by conscience or regeneration, however you understand the phrase ) -- were very unlikely to rest on the 7th day or even know about the Sabbath.  BTW, many Jews (esp. of Shammai) held that the Sabbath was ONLY to be observed by the Jews.  The command was considered an act of grace and mercy specially directed toward Israel.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The question isn't really all that decisive, because even if there is a distinct chunk of Mosaic law that is "the moral law," it would have to be the part engraved in stone, i.e., the 10 commandments.

... which Paul specifically identifies as a feature of the "ministry of death" that has passed.

2 Co 3:7–8 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?

Andrew K's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

I think the 10 Commandments hold a special place within the Torah, but Jesus summarized the Law (and our directive for life) as the two great commandments, loving God and loving others, neither of which are part of the 10 but part of the other 613 mitzvot.  To me, that simple point trashes his argument.

I am open to the idea that New Covenant believers might be regulated, in some way, by the Torah.   But I have yet to see an objective criteria for this.

Additionally, the author made some typical Covenant Theology missteps.  For example, quoting Romans 2:22-24, the context is Romans 2:17, directed to the Jew.  The verses about the Law of God upon the hearts of gentiles is a different context.  To apply Paul's consistency argument given to the Jews as one and the same set of laws given to the gentiles is a stretch.

I doubt very much that gentiles who were not exposed to the Torah  --  but had the Law of God upon their hearts (either by conscience or regeneration, however you understand the phrase ) -- were very unlikely to rest on the 7th day or even know about the Sabbath.  BTW, many Jews (esp. of Shammai) held that the Sabbath was ONLY to be observed by the Jews.  The command was considered an act of grace and mercy specially directed toward Israel.

 

My understanding is that the Decalogue is not, strictly speaking, the Moral Law in all its totality, but is rather an expression of it (negatively so); which is then further summarized by Christ. Its "ministry" has indeed past, but its principles continue to be in force, as an expression of the moral reality of the universe God created.

Regarding the Sabbath, while it is true that not many peoples of the ancient world took Saturday off, the Sabbath principle does find expression in the fact that most ancient peoples of the world had a work week: "The seven-day week seems to have been adopted (independently) by the Persian Empire, in Judaism and in Hellenistic astrology, and (via Greek transmission) in Gupta India and Tang China." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Week). Furthermore some have expressed that the various festivals and feasts of the ancient peoples of the world reflect the Sabbath as well; i.e., that people have universal religious feelings that they "owed" their gods certain days of the year for worship and taking a respite from labor.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron wrote:

The question isn't really all that decisive, because even if there is a distinct chunk of Mosaic law that is "the moral law," it would have to be the part engraved in stone, i.e., the 10 commandments.

... which Paul specifically identifies as a feature of the "ministry of death" that has passed.

2 Co 3:7–8 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?

You have basically eliminated the major thrust of his argument, which is not the importance of the 10 Commandments but rather its exclusion from the 613.  Although they might be the most promnent of the 613, they are one unit.  So, after reading the author's argument, we are back to square one.

The relationship of the Torah to the New Covenant believer, in my opinion, is a very complex matter.  I am still waiting for that elusive objective rubric.

"The Midrash Detective"

Andrew K's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Aaron wrote:

The question isn't really all that decisive, because even if there is a distinct chunk of Mosaic law that is "the moral law," it would have to be the part engraved in stone, i.e., the 10 commandments.

... which Paul specifically identifies as a feature of the "ministry of death" that has passed.

2 Co 3:7–8 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?

You have basically eliminated the major thrust of his argument, which is not the importance of the 10 Commandments but rather its exclusion from the 613.  Although they might be the most promnent of the 613, they are one unit.  So, after reading the author's argument, we are back to square one.

The relationship of the Torah to the New Covenant believer, in my opinion, is a very complex matter.  I am still waiting for that elusive objective rubric.

But if they are simply "one unit" and not in some sense divisible, how do you make sense of Romans 2:14-15? "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them."

When the Gentiles are said by Paul to "do what the law requires," are we meant to think that Paul is thinking of the Gentiles not mixing fabrics, or scrupulously avoiding the neighborhood pork roast? I think Paul's argument presupposes some kind of division.

James K's picture

How much of the law did Jesus fail to fulfill?  None of it passes away until it is all fulfilled.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Ed Vasicek's picture

This passage is more challenging than most commentators acknowledge.  Is the law of God on the heart the conscience, or is it regeneration?  We know in other contexts, it seems to refer to regeneration (as in Jeremiah 31:33  or the idea of "circumcision of the heart" in Deuteronomy 30:6).

Some take this to refer to imparting the New Nature at the point of New Birth, a predisposition toward God.  IMO, what is meant here has not been hashed out in a way that satisfies me, personally.

My best guess is that the “law” referred to here is the rules of the Covenant of Noah which the Jews in Paul’s day — and perhaps reflected by the Jerusalem council's ruling  in Acts 15 — understood to be the minimal law for a God-fearing gentile. I could go on about this in more detail, but I don't want to digress.

The Covenant of Noah in Genesis 9 was understood to imply the following commands:  ““God speaks to Noah and his children as they exit the ark: ‘Behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you’ (Genesis 9:9).” 

Although rabbinic texts preserve various traditions about the details of this covenant, the Talmud reports the following:

“The children of Noah were commanded with seven commandments: [to establish] laws, and [to prohibit] cursing God, idolatry, illicit sexuality, bloodshed, robbery, and eating flesh from a living animal (Sanhedrin 56a; cf. Tosefta Avodah Zarah 8:4 and Genesis Rabbah 34:8).” — myjewishlearning.com

The Pentateuch contains more than the Law given at the time of Moses, the Mosaic Law.  God's Law -- given to Noah and perhaps repeeated to the Patriarchs, Job, Jethro, Melchizedek, etc. -- is probably what is meant.  This was centuries before Sinai.

"The Midrash Detective"

Paul Henebury's picture

Adam, the first Gentile?  Really?  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.