Misunderstanding the Mosaic Law

Posted: March 28, 2012 in bible, israel, old testament, quotes, theology

Hallowed theological tradition suggests at this point that we distinguish among various laws [within the Mosaic Law] by allocating them to one of three categories: moral, ceremonial, and civil.  The “moral” commandments, it is assumed, are eternally binding in the form in which they were originally given, while the ceremonial and the civil ones, finding their fulfillment in Christ, cease to act as immediate guides to Christian behavior.  In fact, this distinction is vital to many approaches to the law in the New Testament; statements about the law’s continuity are regarded as statements about the moral law, while assertions of the law’s cessation are applied only to the civil and ceremonial law.  But this distinction does not hold up under close scrutiny.  The structure of the Mosaic law certainly suggests that the Decalogue holds pride of place, but it is not easy even within the Ten Commandments to distinguish clearly between what is “moral” – and therefore, it is assumed, eternal – and what is not. … Jews in Jesus’ and Paul’s day certainly did not divide up the law into categories; on the contrary, there was a strong insistence that the law was a unity and could not be obeyed in parts.

– Doug Moo, “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses: A Modified Lutheran View,” Five Views on Law and Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 336-337.

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