Archive for December 9th, 2011


1. Identifying Old Testament Law

a. Definition

i. Commandments grounded in Old Testament Covenant.

b. Elements

i. Within a Covenantal Framework

Specifically, the Mosaic Covenant.

ii. Imperative verbs

Commands and prohibition, in the second person (singular or plural).

c. Where is Old Testament Laws found

i. Old Testament Laws are the genre found in the following Books

1. Exodus

2. Leviticus

3. Numbers

4. Deuteronomy

ii. They are “body of material that begins at Exodus 20 and goes through the end of Deuteronomy.”[1]

d. Importance of theology of law: One’s theology will determine one’s hermeneutic of the Law

This is a case in point of the inter-relational aspect of Christian theology and hermeneutics.  One’s theology concerning the Law will impact also one’s view of the application of the law today.

i. Purpose of the Law

1. There are legitimate and illegitimate purpose of the Law

a. Legitimate use exists: “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully…”(1 Timothy 1:8)

i. For Example: “…realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching…” (1Timothy 1:9-10)

b. Illegitimate use of the exists: “For some men straying from these things have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matter about which they make confident assertions.”(1 Timothy 1:6-7)

i. For Example: (Putting confidence in the flesh) “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:2-3)

2. The function of the Law

a. To shows that God is Holy

“So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12)

b. To set Israel apart from Gentiles (Leviticus 19:1)

c. To give knowledge of sin

“Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

d. To reveal our addiction to sin (Romans 7:7-13)

e. To check on wickedness (1st Timothy 1:9)

Note: This shows God’s Justice and Holiness

f. To point us the need for Christ as Savior (Galatians 3:23-24)

g. To symbolically shadow what is to come (Colossians :2:16-17)

The priesthood, sacrifices, Sabbath are also symbolic types pointing to Jesus Christ (see Hebrews)

ii. Are there distinctions between the Law?

1. Jesus taught there are laws which are weightier than others

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

2. Jesus made a distinction between laws of tithe and that of moral laws (laws of “justice”, “mercy” and “faithfulness” of Matthew 23:23)

3. The Old Testament makes a distinction of importance between sacrifices and obedience to other commandments (1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6).

4. There are distinctions between various laws just from observing what are and are not their functions.

a. For example, leprosy laws (Leviticus 13) do not give knowledge of sins.

b. Ceremonial cleansing is symbolic of the reality to come but is not functioning to check on wickedness.

iii. Theological difficulties concerning application of Laws today

1. View #1:Laws that are applicable today are those renewed in the New Testament

a. Operating Assumption: “The Old Testament represents an old covenant, which is one we are no longer obligated to keep.  Therefore we can hardly begin by assuming that the Old Covenant should automatically be binding upon us.  We have to assume, in fact, that none of its stipulations (laws) are binding upon us unless they are renewed in the New Covenant.  That is, unless an Old Testament law somehow restated or reinforced in the New Testament, it is no longer directly binding on God’s people (cf. Rom. 6:14-15).”[2]

b. Further Consideration: Laws operate within the framework of a Covenant, and since Christians are not under the Mosaic Covenant, Old Testament Laws are thus categorically not applicable today for Christians.

2. View #2:Laws that are applicable today are those that are not stated as ‘expired’ in the New Testament

a. Operating Assumption: “Unless Scripture itself shows us some changes with respect to God’s law or our obedience to it, the principle which governs our attitude and behavior should be the same as the Bible’s categorical assumption—namely, that our instruction in righteous behavior is found in every Old Testament Scripture (1 Timothy 3:16-17), every point of the law (James 2:10), even the least commandment (Matthew 5:19; 23:23), every word (Matthew 4:4), and every letter (Matthew 5:18)…Given these agreed-upon points, we have no reason to expect that the New Testament would categorically or silently release the believer from his moral duty to God’s laws.”[3]

3. Adopted view:Laws that are applicable today are those that are not stated as ‘expired’ in the New Testament (view 2).

a. Jesus taught that He did not come to abrogate the Law (Matthew 5:17), and warns of breaking the Law as least in the Kingdom (Matthew 5:19)

b. It is wrong for a father to marry his daughter and for anyone to commit bestiality, yet there is no New Testament specific prohibition of these sins, but these prohibition is found rather in the Old Testament.[4]

c. Paul assume the validity of the legitimacy of Civil Law in Acts 25:11.[5]

d. Old Testament Laws are validly quoted by Paul (Ephesians 6:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:18) and Peter (1 Peter 1:16).

i. If the laws are somehow categorically invalid, why are the Apostles appealing to expired laws?  That would make their case invalid.

ii. Illustration: An officer can not appeal to Italian Renaissance Law to arrest you for murder since it is longer valid; but he can arrest you for murder on the basis of laws that you are currently bounded by.

e. Forms of Old Testament Laws

i. Apodictic and Cauistic Laws

1. Apodictic Laws

a. Direct commands, generally application of what to do and not do.[6]

b. “Unconditionally and categorically assert right and wrong”[7]

2. Cauistic Law

a. Case by case law, based on a possible condition of a situation at a given time (Example: Deuteronomy 15:12-17).[8]

b. “Laws that define specific cases and prescribed legal consequences.”[9]

ii. Three-fold distinction[10]

1. Moral

a. Absolute eternal commands that are grounded in God’s character and His will

b. Example:

i. Command to tell the truth, because God is a God of truth

ii. Commands to love, because God is Love

iii. Marital faithfulness because God is faithful

iv. Prohibition of homosexuality because God’s will is for heterosexual marriage

2. Civil

a. God’s Law concerning the State and Society’s moral responsibility

b. Example:

i. Murderers should be executed

ii. Just punishment ratio should generally be an eye for an eye.

iii. Distinction between murder and manslaughter, and the proper God-honoring response.

3. Ceremonial

a. Purpose is to point towards Christ and an illustrative “shadow” of what is come, where the reality is Christ.

b. Example:

i. Sabbath

ii. Sacrifices

iii. Levitical High Priest

II. General principles in interpreting Old Testament Laws

a. Remember that the Old Testament Law was written for Israel originally.

b. Find what is the functions of the specific law

(There can be more than one)

i. Does it show that God is Holy?

ii. Is it to set Israel apart from Gentiles?

iii. Does it give knowledge of sin?

iv. Does it to reveal our addiction to sin?

v. Is it check on wickedness?

vi. Does it point us the need for Christ as Savior?

vii. Does it symbolically shadow what is to come

c. Identify whether it is a ceremonial, moral or civil Law.

i. The above questions for the principle of identifying the function of the specific law can help.

ii. This is important for what does and does not apply today, using principle “vi” in the section above.

d. Identify whether it is an Apodictic and Cauistic Law.

e. Compare laws in the biblical text with another.[11]

i. For similar laws, are there more details that can illuminate the specific law you are looking at?

ii. Illumination of Apodictic and Cauistic laws

1. If it is a case law, it illustrates general laws in specific situation.

2. If it is a general law, are their specific case laws that discuss the finer details?

f. Find if anywhere else in Scripture limits the application of the specific Law for today?

i. In light of Progressive Revelation, does Scripture elsewhere state that such laws no longer apply?

ii. For example: Dietary laws are no longer applicable (Acts 10:15), Sabbath (Colossians 2:16-17), and the sacrificial system (Hebrews 9)

g. Remember that the law never saves us from our sins, and that grace is needed for the Christian life.

[1] Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart., How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 150.

[2] Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart., How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 151-152.

[3] Greg Bahnsen, By This Standard, (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics), 152.

[4] Ibid, 349-350.

[5] Ibid, 267.

[6] Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart., How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 155.

[7] Richard E. Averbeck, “Law”, Cracking Old Testament Codes, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers), 120.

[8] Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart., How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 156-157.

[9] Richard E. Averbeck, “Law”, Cracking Old Testament Codes, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers), 120.

[10] For justification for the distinction within the Law, see the above.

[11] Richard E. Averbeck, “Law”, Cracking Old Testament Codes, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers), 131.


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