Chris Wright on Old Testament Law and Today

Chris Wright on Old Testament Law and Today July 25, 2013

From CT:

But just as well, we should never say, “Oh, we don’t bother with those things because they are just Old Testament rules.” There are principled reasons why Christians not only need but also should not observe certain Old Testament laws simply as written. And regarding two kinds of law, the New Testament itself provides those reasons.

The sacrificial laws: The New Testament makes it clear that the religious system of temple, altar, animal sacrifices, priesthood, and the Day of Atonement has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ through the Cross and Resurrection. He has accomplished once and for all what that great system pointed toward. The Book of Hebrews stresses that, whether we are Jewish or Gentile believers, we must not go back to that system, because we already have all that it represented through Christ’s sacrificial death and ascended life in the presence of the Father.

The food laws: The distinction between clean and unclean animals and foods was symbolic of the distinction between Israel as God’s holy people and the Gentile nations (Lev. 20:25–26). In the New Testament, that separation is abolished in Christ, as Paul says in Ephesians 2. Through the Cross, God has made the two cultures one new humanity. And as Peter discovered through his vision in Acts 10, before going to the home of the Gentile Cornelius, what God has called clean should no longer be called unclean. Today some Messianic Jewish believers choose freely to observe the kashrutregulations as a mark of their Jewish community and cultural identity. But in their unity, believers are free from food laws.

But just because we no longer keep these laws literally does not mean they can’t teach us anything. We are called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice in the service of God. We are called to offer the sacrifice of praise. We are called to cleanness of life in a corrupt world. In fact, if we are tempted to mock Jewish fastidiousness over kosher food in the kitchen, we might ask if we have any sustained commitment to the moral and spiritual distinctiveness that the New Testament upholds.

We can find principles even in Israel’s civil laws to apply today. The urban Christians in Corinth did not see oxen grinding corn in their city houses. But when Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he took an Old Testament law about allowing working oxen to be fed from the product of their labors (Deut. 25:4) and applied it to Christian workers in Corinth. He sees a principle in the case law—originally meant for the benefit of animals—and applies it to working humans. The principle: Work deserves reward. Later he applies another commandment about how manna was to be collected (totally irrelevant to Corinth, you might think), and applies it to the principle of equality between Christians (1 Cor. 9:8–10; 2 Cor. 8:13–15). These are biblical examples of creative application of biblical laws in nonliteral, but very appropriate, ways.

In Blue Parakeet, I advocated that we learn to read Moses’ laws as God’s ways in Moses’ days, and it seems Chris Wright gets close to this view by advocating a hermeneutic of questions that then get re-asked in our day:

The best way to derive principles from the Old Testament law is to ask questions. All laws in all human societies are made for a purpose. Laws happen because people want to change society, to achieve some social goal, to foster certain interests, or to prevent some social evil. So when we look at any particular law or group of biblical laws, we can ask, “What could be the purpose behind this law?” To be more specific:

● What kind of situation was this law intended to promote or to prevent?

● What change in society would this law achieve if it were followed?

● What kind of situation made this law necessary or desirable?

● What kind of person would benefit from this law, by assistance or protection?

● What kind of person would be restrained or restricted by this law, and why?

● What values are given priority in this law? Whose needs or rights are upheld?

● In what way does this law reflect what we know from elsewhere in the Bible about the character of God and his plans for human life?

● What principle or principles does this law embody or instantiate?

Now we won’t always be able to answer these questions with much detail or insight. Some laws are just plain puzzling. But asking questions like these leads us to a much broader and deeper grasp of what Old Testament laws were all about: forming the kind of society God wanted to create.

Then, having done that homework as best we can, we step out of the Old Testament world and back into our own. Ask the same kind of questions about the society we live in and the kind of people we need to be, and the kind of personal and societal objectives we need to aim for in order to be in any sense “biblical.”

In this way, biblical law can function sharply as a paradigm or model for our personal and social ethics in all kinds of areas: economic, familial, political, judicial, sexual, and so on. We are not “keeping it” in a literalist way like a list of rules. But more important, we are not ignoring it in defiance of what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16–17. We are studying and using it as guidance, light for the path, in the joyful way of Psalms 1, 19, and 119.

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  • Norman

    There was an obvious schism going on even in the first century between early Christians and Jews regarding the adherence to food laws. Paul’s writings are not the only evidence of such conflicts, as the first century epistle of Barnabas which was popular among early Christians for the first 2 or 3 centuries bears out. The Barnabas epistle author ridicules Jewish ideas whom it implies they simply did not understand the metaphorical implication of the food laws regarding clean and unclean handed down by Moses. So this debate is not a new one but indeed an old one that goes to the heart of the inception of Christianity and its divergence from forms of Judaism it considered misguided.

    Notice below how the midrash (hermeneutic) of Barnabas interprets Moses spiritually as a first century Christian, explaining that God has provided them guidance of insight on these matters.

    Barnabas Chp 10

    “Now, wherefore did Moses say, “Thou shalt not eat the
    swine, nor the eagle, nor the hawk, nor the raven, nor any fish which is not
    possessed of scales?” He embraced three doctrines in his mind [in doing
    so]. Moreover, the Lord saith to them in Deuteronomy, “And I will
    establish my ordinances among this people.” Is there then not a command of
    God they should not eat [these things]? There is, but Moses spoke with a
    spiritual reference. For this reason he named the swine, as much as to say,
    “Thou shalt not join thyself to men who resemble swine.” For when
    they live in pleasure, they forget their Lord; but when they come to want, they
    acknowledge the Lord. …

    Take a full and firm grasp of this spiritual knowledge. But
    Moses says still further, “Ye shall eat every animal that is cloven-footed
    and ruminant.” What does he mean? … Well spake [Moses], having respect to
    the commandment. What, then, does he mean? That we ought to join ourselves to
    those that fear the Lord, those who meditate in their heart on the commandment
    which they have received, those who both utter the judgments of the Lord and
    observe them, those who know that meditation is a work of gladness, and who
    ruminate upon the word of the Lord. But what means the cloven-footed? That the
    righteous man also walks in this world, yet looks forward to the holy state [to
    come]. Behold how well Moses legislated. But how was it possible for them to
    understand or comprehend these things? We then, rightly understanding his
    commandments, explain them as the Lord intended. For this purpose He
    circumcised our ears and our hearts, that we might understand these things.” End

    I highly recommend those interested in how early Christians justified their OT understandings carefully examine a modern easy to read version of Barnabas for an insight that was contemporary with their times.

  • Bill Sahlman

    I appreciate this. So, looking forward then, we see we need to do the same to the NT. ask questions. look for the narrative arc. not spend our years, and volumes of books trying to make square Pauline laws fit a round 21st century world. rather, where are we going? and how do we retell the story? the story of many… like Saul, who had an experience, and it changed his views.. of everything! He then had to re-interpret the OT Torah he knew so well with this narrative arc toward a new “age” where there are no divisions. (his whole religious/political/social world was built on divisions) this was radical. if we stop and try to live out Paul, I think we get what we have often today.
    ask questions. retell the story. we are, I think, in some ways way beyond the moves Paul was making as he tried to live out this new “gospel”… this ‘evangelia’ that would be for… ALL people.

  • Dan

    I don’t mean to imply that these questions are simple, but the most obvious guidance seems to get little attention in the push by some progressives to find a way to justify certain sexual behaviors. Chris Wright does point to those.

    The laws relating to temple sacrifice are explicitly set aside in the New Testament because Christ is the fulfillment of those regulations as the perfect once-for-all sacrifice. We have specific guidance there.

    The dietary laws are set aside explicitly in the New Testament as well, most explicitly in the incident with Peter and Cornelius.

    We do not live in a theocracy and some of the civil laws do not make sense to try to apply directly. He is probably correct in that some of the civil laws carry principles that are helpful if not absolutely binding. Oddly, those who suggest some of the founding principles of our form of government came from those principles are usually dismissed as conservative cranks.

    But a number of moral laws are specifically affirmed and restated in the New Testament. Don’t steal. Don’t murder. Don’t cheat on your wife. Don’t engage in same-sex activities. Be honest in business. Pay your hired help fairly. Etc.

    Seems to me if we focused on what the New Testament affirms and what the New Testament sets aside, there isn’t as much need for confusion, allegorizing and pondering cultural differences.

  • Bill Sahlman

    Dan: regarding your comment on focusing on what the NT affirms:
    I think— to see Paul’s reinterpretation as the end-all is not the point. Paul saw from his context… and it was radical for the time. Going forward, it seems we should be renegotiating that grand vision of “all ONE in Christ”… and retelling the OT AND NT narratives as they inspire and move us toward this new … [kingdom] age. thoughts?

  • Norman

    I think you are correct to an extent. It seems the difficulty is removing the fluff of ancient or even modern moral applications in order to get to the basics. It seems Christ boiled it down to what He thought were the 2 essentials and that was to Love God (the Creator) and our fellow man.

  • Rory Tyer

    I appreciated Wright’s contribution to this discussion at CT (this was one of three articles ‘packaged’ together) but wished he had taken the principles he laid down and applied them more specifically to what the other two articles were discussing, namely the issue of violence in the OT. I found this article helpful but left reading it wanting him to say more on that subject.

  • Daniel Fiester

    There are three basic approaches to the OT Law.

    1) A law still applies if it is affirmed in the NT.

    2) A law still applies if the NT doesn’t revoke it.

    3) The whole law still applies but it must be read in light of Christ.

    It sounds like you’re taking more of the first approach. I think that Wright argues more for the third approach.

    After all, even when the NT “sets aside” a law (i.e. circumcision), the NT sees the OT Law as foreshadowing the NT realities (circumcision of the heart).

  • Dan

    Do 1 or 2 negate 3? Does the “light of Christ” have relation to 1 and 2? Not mutually exclusive.

  • Dan

    I would want to hold to the faith once delivered. I don’t think Paul’s context should overshadow Paul’s text. Nor should ours.

  • Darren Huckey

    Wow… I’m really a little dumbfounded at Chris’ shallow exegesis of Acts 10 and Peter’s vision and his encounter with Cornelius. Does anyone ask the text questions anymore? We should be asking questions such as:

    1) If the meaning of the vision is so obvious, why doesn’t Peter automatically understand it?

    2) Does God routinely tell his people to break His own laws?

    3) Are dreams and visions generally interpreted literally in the Bible? Or do they have deeper meanings?

    4) How does Peter interpret his own vision? (See vs. 28)

    5) When does Peter explain his vision to mean a literal cancellation of the food laws?

    6) Do we not recognize there are distinctions between Jews and non-Jews and that God’s eternal covenant with the Jews still stands?

    Totally blown away by how easily we will read our own theology into a passage that has absolutely nothing to do with what we want it to say.

  • Daniel Fiester

    Matthew 5:17-20 is a key text for this third approach. Jesus says that He is the fulfillment of the Law. He didn’t come to abolish the Law. So, all of the Law must have an abiding significance to the church. All of the Law applies to me today. It just doesn’t apply to me in the same way that it applied to Israel. But the Law is our story and it continues to be God’s Word to us.

    Jesus provides us the interpretative grid to understand how the Law applies to us today. Jesus’ ministry, his death, and his resurrection are climactic events in redemptive history. Therefore, we must now read the Law and interpret it in the light of these events.

  • Daniel Fiester

    In Lev. 20:24-26, the rationale given for the food laws is God’s election of Israel. God selected Israel out of all the nations on earth. Therefore, Israel was to select clean foods out of all the foods on earth. The food laws symbolized God’s selection of Israel.

    In Mark 7:19, Jesus declares all foods to be clean. His next move is to head into Gentile territory (Mark 7:24-30). Jesus’ revision of the food laws corresponds with the inclusion of the Gentiles into Israel as the covenant people of God.

  • Darren Huckey

    Daniel – You still didn’t address a single question I listed.

  • Daniel Fiester

    True enough, but you didn’t address my objections either.

    The meaning of Peter’s vision is explained in Acts 11:17-18. God has given the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles and He has granted them repentance. The symbolism of the dream is the inclusion of the Gentiles.

    In the dream, the Voice tells Peter not to call something unclean that God has called clean. In the context of the dream, this refers to unclean food. In the interpretation of the dream, this refers to the Gentiles. The distinction between clean and unclean food corresponds to the distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles.

    The Jewish people are free in Christ to continue to observe the food laws as a symbol of their special role in redemptive history. However, it’s wrong to force Gentiles to follow these laws to be included with the people of God.

  • Thomas Renz

    In answer to your questions, Darren, here is my take:

    1) The meaning of the vision was not obvious at first

    2) because God does not routinely set aside his own laws but seems to be doing so here,

    3) and because dreams may well have a deeper meaning, especially here, as one might expect there to be a reason for the setting aside of the dietary laws.

    4) Peter came to understand that the suspension of dietary laws was for the purposes of broadened communion, the dietary laws having inhibited fellowship with Gentiles.

    5) Peter understood that the full implications where not only for him to pay a one-off visit to a Gentile home but “not to make a distinction between them and us.” The dietary laws had been means to make such a distinction.

    6) “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,” says Peter. He gives no indication that he thought “fearing God and doing what is right” still looks differently for different people depending on their ethnicity.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Mark’s statement there is a clear interpolation of the author. Jesus never declared “all foods clean” . . if he had there wouldn’t have been 40+ years of arguing about keeping kosher within the early Christian community. There is solid evidence Jesus broke Jewish law and custom regarding cleanliness . . .there’s zero evidence he ever did not keep kosher.

    And regarding Peter’s dream in Acts, the subsequent Council of Jerusalem shows that neither Peter nor the other early Christian leaders ever believed the food laws to have been voided, as one of the requirements for Gentiles was to refrain from eating non-kosher meat. There is nowhere in the Bible where that dictation is voided.

    I don’t personally believe Christians need to keep kosher, but let’s be honest about why historically the Gentile dominated Church (post Jewish War) preached that the food laws had been voided . it’s not because of “biblical teachings’. .it’s because even though they had converted to Christianity, they still loved their bacon and sausage like the rest of us.

  • Josh

    One thing to note is how the early church (c.e. 160-250) understood the Jewish – Christian (Jew/Gentile) understanding of the Jewish laws. Take Justin Martyr and Ireneaus for example. Both quote Ezekiel 20.25-26. I verse I find no one quotes these days.

    [3] Thus says the LORD God, …
    [25] Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life, [26] and I defiled them through their very gifts in their offering up all their firstborn, that I might devastate them. I did it that they might know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 20:25-26 ESV)

    Justin Martyr


    Both hold the view that there were laws given to the Jews that were given specifically because they were a sinful people. Ireneaus says the law was a form of slavery. This is one of the reasons why they both say (Gentile) Christians are not justified by these Jewish works, quoting Gen 15.6 and echoing Paul in a few ways.

  • Daniel Fiester

    There is a difference between eating pork and eating pork offered to idols.

  • ao

    Those 3 points are a great summary. Similarly, I’ve noticed a common approach to the OT from a different angle. It goes:

    There are 3 types of laws in the OT:
    1. Ceremonial laws
    2. Civic laws
    3. Moral laws

    This layout is usually followed by the argument that 1 is null because of Jesus’ atonement, 2 is null because we’re not in a theocracy anymore, and 3 is still in effect.

    Am I wrong to think that Wright seems to be doing something like that here? I find this line of argument contrived and unconvincing.

  • I humbly suggest the meaning of Peter’s vision is recorded by Peter himself in Acts 10:28 “God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean”.

    As far as your statement “it’s wrong to force Gentiles to follow these laws to be included with the people of God.” are your referring to salvation? If so, I heartily agree! Works before salvation is the cart before the horse and results in an erroneous “works-based salvation”.

    But works after salvation is exactly what we were created for: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).

  • Phil Miller

    The list given in Acts 15 is not a comprehensive in defining what Kosher or Kashrut food laws entail, though. So a Gentile believer could keep all those requirements and still not be considered to be keeping Kosher. It seems like the requirements listed in Acts 15 are more of a way to prevent Gentile converts from engaging in the most egregious acts when it comes to non-Kosher eating, but not all of them.

    As far as why the church eventually gave them up, I’d say it’s because they realized that they were free to do so. After all, the Apostle Paul was pretty clear regarding believers’ freedom in these issues. The entire law is fulfilled in one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you are around people who are bothered by your eating meat sacrificed to idols – don’t do it. But if you aren’t, than what does it matter?

  • Justin Martyr and Ireneaus both essentially declared that the Jews were disinherited from the grace of God. Romans 11 makes it clear this is NOT true. If they were wrong on that point, it is possible they were wrong regarding the Ezekiel passage.

    Ezekiel 20:25-26 appears to say that God gave Israel statutes that were NOT good and yet Psalm 119, Nehemiah 9:13, Romans 7:12 and others say the Law is holy, righteous, and good. So we’re either left with a contradiction (as the non-believers claim) or we have the wrong interpretation of Ezekiel 20:25.

    I would suggest that the Law is INTRINSICALLY good because the God Who gave it is intrinsically good. It is SITUATIONALLY not good and they could not live by them because they (as individuals) were sinful and weren’t redeemed. Only the remnant was redeemed.

    I would also suggest that if the Law was NOT good then God would NOT promise to write that Law on the hearts of Israel in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31).

  • Darren Huckey

    Daniel – In order to help you understand Jesus’ halachic arguments (which is what is going on in Mark 7) I suggest you read The Sabbath Breaker by D. Thomas Lancaster. It reveals the proper way to understand these arguments in a way which upholds God’s Word and validates Jesus as the Messiah, rather than a law-breaker who would have been disqualified as Messiah according to the Torah. You can find it here:

  • Josh

    I think Justin Martyr and Ireneaus, like Jesus and the apostles believed the Jews were a mixed bag when it came to being faithful. Their methods of interpretation however are rightly questionable at times. I think it is important though to highlight a consensus of Christian opinion immediately following the apostles.

    The Ezekiel passage follows the Exodus and Numbers narratives reasonably well. These reveal Jewish sin. I seems to me that Justin and Ireneaus understood the passage well by saying the Jews were given these laws because of their sin. Paul says the same thing in Gal 3.19a. Likewise in the quote from Ireneaus he refers to the law as a form of bondage and slavery. To me he is echoing Gal 4.9-10. Combining Paul’s logic in these two Galatians passages, its not too much of a stretch to say God gave aspects of the law to the Jews as a form of slavery because of their transgressions.

    I guess the issue is regarding the interpretation of the other passages you’ve quoted is how we can maintain the analogy of faith. At a glance Eze 20 says there are laws which give life and some which are not good and do not give life. Ezekiel doesn’t give a clear definition on which laws do not give life other than the law regarding the firstborn (20.26) and perhaps the laws about various offerings (20.28). Jewish observance of the laws regarding sacrifices and offerings have a very checkered history through the OT. When we speak about the Jewish law we need to carefully nuance our positions on a case by case basis keeping the intention of the author and the historical context in mind.

    So from one point of view Wright is correct in saying these laws have something positive for us to keep in mind today. On the other hand, unlike Justin and possibly Ireneaus. Wright may not be in a context where there are Jews telling him he’s not being faithful to God because he doesn’t observe these laws and having to give a defense from the OT why he shouldn’t observe them.

  • Thomas Renz

    I think you’re wrong to attribute the famous threefold division to Chris Wright. He lists more than three types of law and stresses the continuing authority of all types. They are all God’s Word although this doesn’t mean that all these laws demand my compliance, as explained in the section How commands can function in relationships and communication. For my own take on the threefold division of the law, see which is very topical here in the UK this week, as it arose in a discussion of usury.

  • Thomas Renz

    Disregarding for a moment that this wasn’t all that Peter says by way of interpreting the vision, does Acts 10:28 not mean that God forbids Peter to do something that Torah does on a regular basis (e.g., Lev. 5.2; 11.24; 12:2; 13:3)?

    Do you agree that the Torah suggests that people who consistently disregarded purity and dietary laws were to be cut off from the people of God? And is that in your view still true for God’s people today?

  • Thomas Renz

    Yes, I think you are wrong. Wright does not advocate the threefold division of the law along the lines you suggest. He lists different types of law but he considers them all God’s Word and authoritative as such, even if not legally binding in the way they were in the past. His “Freeze! Put your hands behind your head!” example illustrates the distinction between being authoritative and demanding compliance.

  • Acts 10 CAN’T mean that because that would mean (a) God changed his mind [impossible], (b) God is capricious (on “Tuesday” God is hammering the Israelites for violating the Torah and then on “Wednesday” He says “Never mind. That thing that was an abomination to Me yesterday is all fine and dandy today.”), (c) God told Israel that the test of a false prophet was that he would tell them not to obey the Torah (Deut 13), and (d) God’s Law is His Word. His Word is truth and it is eternal. For Acts 10 to mean what you are suggesting would require that some portion of the Word to no longer be true or eternal.

    I do not believe the Torah “suggests” they should be cut off… It “requires” it. But I think we should be clear about what that means. If I send my son out to a job site to act as my representative and he does something to dishonor the family name, I will ground him and no longer allow him to go out and act on my behalf. That doesn’t mean he is no longer my son… only that his actions have consequences. In a similar fashion, being “cut off” doesn’t mean you aren’t “saved”… just that you don’t get to play with the other kids because you screwed up. (By the way, I have a GREAT son. I just use him as a hypothetical example in my analogies. 🙂

  • Thomas Renz

    This is where things go wrong: We take verses out of
    context, build a theology around them, and then convince ourselves that other parts of Scripture simply cannot mean what pretty much everyone else throughout history thought they mean – and so , e.g., people convince themselves that the apostle Paul was really quite keen for all Christians, Jews and gentiles, to keep the Mosaic law. It would be more honest to argue that the apostle Paul (and the Gospel writer in Mark 7:19) got it wrong.

    Yes, it’s true, the LORD is not fickle like humans are in changing their minds; what his heart is set upon does not change. But the LORD does change his mind in the sense of changing plans, e.g., 1 Samuel 2:30, “Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD declares, ‘Far be it from Me– for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed.”

    Sometimes, in order to be single-minded, rather than fickle, plans have to be changed, and sometimes to pursue one’s ultimate ends the means must change as history unfolds. There was a time for excluding eunuchs from the assembly (Deut 23) but there came the time when this was no longer acceptable (Isa 56). There was a time for making a distinction between Jews and gentiles, not least by way of dietary and purity laws, but there came a time when this was
    no longer right, as Peter recognised.

    Deut. 13 speaks of rebellion against the LORD; it does not claim that once God has given a regulation for his people, even He cannot change it. To respond to circumstances by changing plans is not capricious, it is being responsive. To have different regulations for different people at different times, all in the pursuit of one overall plan, is not beyond the realm of possibilities for a God of truth.

    God has been known to move about in a tent (2 Sam 7:6-7) before taking a fixed house of cedar as His residence. This may have been his “dwelling forever” (1 Kings 8:13) but this did not prevent him leaving it (Ezek. 10) and having it destroyed. Once He had come to dwell among us in the incarnate Christ, the days of a temple of wood and stone on a specific mountain were numbered (John 4:21). In any case, what sort of God would that be who still wanted the Levitical sacrificial system to function and yet for 2000 years has not found a way to make it happen?

    The idea that any change in regulations threatens the
    reliability of God and His word is preposterous and indeed quite contrary to God’s Word written: “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” (Hebrews 7:12)

  • Thomas you wrote: “[They] simply cannot mean what pretty much everyone else throughout history thought they mean.”

    1) That is a logical fallacy called “an appeal to antiquity”.
    2) “Pretty much everyone else throughout history” thought the Church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people until 1948 and the rebirth of the nation. Clearly they were wrong on that, too. 🙂

    You wrote: “So people convince themselves that the apostle Paul was really quite keen for all Christians, Jews and gentiles, to keep the Mosaic law.”

    You mean, he wasn’t?!?

    Then what you are saying was Paul wasn’t keen for Christians to:
    – Love the LORD your God with all your heart (Deut 6:5)
    – Fear God (Deut 10:20)
    – Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18)
    – Honor your father and mother (Ex 21:17)

    Assuming what you are saying is true, then that means that Paul was OK with cross dressing (Deut 22:5), gay marriage (Lev 18:22), and sex with animals (Lev 18:23).

    Wow. Good luck with that.

    >>>Mark chapter 7?

    1) Is Jesus a prophet? Yes: Matt 13:57, 14:5, 21:46, etc.
    Did Jesus ever counsel disobedience against the commandments? No. If He did then He would be a FALSE prophet as per Deut 13 for counseling rebellion against the LORD. Ergo, that’s not what He said in Mark 7.

    2) Did Jesus say that those who annuls the least of the commandments would be least in the kingdom? Yes: Matthew 5:19. If Jesus annulled the food laws then He will be least in the kingdom… except we know He is not. Ergo, that’s not what He said in Mark 7.

    3) Jesus enemies were seeking even FALSE testimony in order to put Him to death (Matt 25:69, Mark 14:55). If Jesus EVER “declared all foods are clean”, they wouldn’t have had to seek false testimony. They could have just used His own words to point out that He was a false prophet worthy of death and badabing, badaboom He’s dead. Except none of Jesus’ contemporaries ever charged Him with saying that… because that wasn’t what THEY understood Him to say. Ergo, that’s not what He said in Mark 7.

    Moving on…

    >>>1 Sam 2:30?

    God didn’t change… Saul didn’t keep up his end of the agreement. There are consequences to our actions. Awareness of that fact seems to be something sorely missing in our world today. 🙁


    Check out the Hebrew of Deut 23. Those who are “wounded in the member” cannot enter the leadership counsels of Israel. Why? Because we can’t tell if they are circumcised or not. Isaiah doesn’t mention anything about them entering the leadership counsel… just that they will be esteemed. Why? Because they kept God’s sabbaths and kept His covenant (v 4). But what you are saying is that we should NOT keep God’s sabbaths or keep His covenant because we are Christians now. I guess the Christian eunuchs are out of luck then.

    >>>God changed his mind?

    If I look at my house from the front it appears one way. If I look at my house from the back it appears completely different. WOW! My house changed!

    No. *I* moved.

    >>>Hebrews 7:12?
    “Change”? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. 🙂

    Check out the meaning of the Greek word μετατίθημι used in that verse. The “change” that happened was a correction of putting the right things in the right order… because humanity had screwed it up. Not because God changed his mind. 🙂

  • Thomas Renz

    The idea that you can be saved by faith in Christ but then should submit to the Torah in order to become a full member of God’s people seems to be precisely what the apostle Paul was arguing against in his letter to the Galatians.

    Brady, I do not appeal to antiquity as such but suggest that if your reading of Biblical texts goes against the consensus of the church past and present, it’s not enough to shout “it cannot mean that” on the basis of a few other references which is what I heard you doing. I am still not sure whether you want the second half of Mark 7:19 excised from our Bibles or how someone of your school of thought would read the whole letter to the Galatians (is there any commentary along these lines available?).

    Without denying that large parts of the church rejected Jews, and were wrong to do so, you are mistaken to believe that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 presents a problem for those who believe that there has always ever been only one olive tree (Rom 11). We are agreed that the fact that some branches were removed as a result of their unbelief, like Eli’s family from the priesthood, does not mean that God refuses to welcome believers of Jewish ethnicity.

    μετατίθημι is regularly used for a change of allegiance or for transfer from one location or person to another, e.g., in Antiquities 12, 387 of the transfer of the office of high priest to another person. I am not aware of any place where it means “putting the right things in the right order” in the sense you suggest. Hebrews 7 is clearly not about the restoration of the levitical priesthood to how things
    were prior to our rebellion. Hebrews tells us that the levitical priesthood was not able to achieve what the priesthood of Christ achieves and even uses ἀθέτησις for the setting aside of a former commandment (7:18).

    The phrase “the leadership counsels of Israel” seems to me misleading, as it may suggest a governing body from which some adult males were excluded. Was not eligibility for membership in the Assembly tantamount to eligibility for full citizenship? Do you mean to imply that Isa. 56 still denies eunuchs full citizenship among the people of God?

  • Thomas Renz

    In answer to my own question about a commentary on Galatians: — Scot McKnight would be well placed to review it.

  • Darren Huckey

    To all who have chimed in on this topic, here’s a video teaching by First Fruits of Zion explaining this in terms that are very clear and easy to understand:

  • Thomas, you wrote “The idea that you can be saved by faith in Christ but then should submit to the Torah in order to become a full member of God’s people seems to be precisely what the apostle Paul was arguing against in his letter to the Galatians.” I heartily concur! Did I say something to suggest otherwise? I thought I was clear in my earlier, original reply to Daniel in this thread but let me state it more exactly: There are no conditions on salvation.

    You are right that my reading of the text goes against the consensus of the church past and present but I am entirely comfortable with that. I am not aware of any point in history where the majority was right about matters of Scripture. 🙂 I don’t presume that I am entirely correct either. If I were then I would have nothing left to learn and that would be quite sad.

    I emphasized the word “can’t” and it becomes “shouting”?

    Wow. I THOUGHT you HAD to WRITE an ENTIRE sentence IN caps BEFORE it WAS considered SHOUTING. I will endeavor to provide additional clarity on that point. Thank you for your observation.

    You did not address ANY [emphasis, not shouting] of the problems I identified with your interpretation of that passage. I do have a related passage of Scripture that comes to mind with regard to your position, however: Mark 7:9. I am entirely comfortable with the whole counsel of God and want none of it removed but I do so greatly desire for it to be properly interpreted as Jewish literature.

    The entire book of Galatians was written to address a single problem: the erroneous first century Jewish teaching [held by the majority!] that a man had to be circumcised and become Jewish BEFORE [emphasis, not shouting] he was “saved”.

    I am entirely confused on your paragraph regarding Rom 11 and the one olive tree. I wasn’t aware that was part of our conversation but here goes…

    The Jewish people, Israel, the descendants of Jacob (pick your label) is the only nation that has a promised national salvation. It is only among the Jews that there is a “remnant”. There is no such thing as a remnant among the gentiles. Adherents to replacement theology essentially tried to erase God’s promise by saying “the church” replaced Israel so “the church” is the inheritor of that promise. Sounds a lot like Matthew 21:38 and the parable of the vineyard to me. “Those wretches will come to a wretched end” as the passage says.

    There is only a single “chosen people of God” and it is Israel. Not the Americans. Not the English. Not the Batswana. Not the Italians. “The church” is a much broader entity that includes Israelis and Americans and English and Batswana and Italians in terms of “those who are saved” but “those who are saved” does not equal “the chosen people of God”. “The church” consists of chosen “individuals”, true, but not a chosen “people-group”. The only “chosen “people-group”/nation is Israel alone. Paul refers to gentile believers as “the commonwealth of Israel” in Eph 2:12. A commonwealth is an assembly of peoples/nations with one at its head. Just like the commonwealth of England was a group of nations with England at their head, the commonwealth of Israel is a group of nations with Israel at their head. Not because Israel has done anything special, mind you. Just because God chose that nation for that purpose.

    That rabbit trail not withstanding and saving the rabbit trail of how to interpret Greek texts written by Hellenistic Jews versus Hebraic Jews for later, would you be so kind as to respond to the flaws I pointed out in your interpretation of Mark 7? Mark was written well before Hebrews. The former should inform our understanding of the latter, not vice versa.

  • Thomas Renz

    Is Jesus a prophet? Yes, and more than a prophet. He is now also the legitimate Davidic king whose priesthood brings a change in the law (cf. Heb. 7:12).

    Did he by implication declare all foods to be clean? Yes,
    I think Mark 7:19 tells us so, using καθαρίζω in the sense of “to declare clean” as, e.g., in Lev. 13:6, 23.

    Did his disciples, or anyone else for that matter, understand this straight away? No, I don’t think so, otherwise Peter would not have been as astounded as he was by the vision given to him.

    Did Jesus, prior to his death and resurrection, encourage
    anyone to break the dietary laws? No, because he was operating within the old system. Only his resurrection breaks in the new creation in which new rules apply.

    Jesus’ mission was not to abolish the Scriptures but to
    fulfil them, not to ignore or teach against them but to bring them to their culmination. To conclude from Mt 5:17 that there can be no sense in which Jesus “fulfilling” the Torah brings with it the setting aside of specific regulations would be like concluding from Mt 10:34 that there is no sense in which the coming of Jesus brought peace.

  • Thomas Renz

    Easy to understand maybe, and very well made certainly, but mistaken nevertheless. Contrary to the insinuations made here, the translation “declaring all foods clean” is unobjectionable on linguistic grounds; καθαρίζω is used in this sense in Leviticus.