Monday, February 11, 2019

Spiritual Formation and The Law (pt. 3 The Old Testament's view of The Law)

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For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, Romans 2:25).

So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left (Ibid. Deuteronomy 5:32).

            It should come as no surprise just how complicated the relationship between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant is.  In fact, as was mentioned in the last blog, the early church had to have a Council and debate Old Testament commands in the light of New Covenant theology (Acts 15).  Since the majority of the Jerusalem Council leadership was most likely made up of 1st century Jews, it is likely that we get a historically accurate 1st century Jewish understanding of the Law.  Although circumcision can be understood as the crux of the issue, notice that the sect of Christian Pharisees argue that gentile converts need not only be circumcised, but also instructed to follow the Law of Moses (15:5).  Therefore, it seems these 1st century Jews did not think of the Law of Moses as something which one could segment and pick and choose from.

            This mindset is also seen in the Old Testament and specifically in the Law itself.[1]  A few examples will suffice, “… do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left…” (Ibid Deuteronomy 28:14). The Law promised penalties against the Israelites and it must be noted what would bring about those penalties, “But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments” (Ibid. Leviticus 26:14).  Hence, the Law does not allow for picking and choosing.

            There are examples in the Old Testament where people attempted to disregard some laws and follow others.  King Jeroboam, amongst other changes, installed priests who were not from the tribe of Levi (1 Kings 12:31).  The Law indicated that only Levites could be priests (Deuteronomy 18:1-8, Exodus 29:9).  Ezra records that after the deportation, he was upset at some of the exiles, because they had been taking wives from non-Israelite nations (10:10-43), which was against the Law (Exodus 34:15-16, Deuteronomy 7:3).  Then, it seems that the Old Testament did not have a segmented view of the Law, but that violating one part was breaking the whole.  It also seems that that perspective was handed down in second Temple Judaism, which is why the Pharisaic party in Acts 15 believed this.

So far, it does not seem that Paul or the Old Testament support a segmenting view of the Law, next week we’ll return to the New Testament as we continue to ask, “What is a Christian’s relationship to the Old Testament Law?” (Click Part 4)

Written by Pastor Ozzy

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Works Cited

1995. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation.

[1] This work assumes Mosaic authorship and thus rejects the documentary hypothesis.

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