The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Christians and the Law of Moses


There are (if I’ve got the number right) 612 commandments in the law of Moses. I wonder how many of these commandments the folks you’re looking at choose of those 612? Because they don’t observe them all. I’ll guarantee you they wouldn’t put their sons or daughters to death by stoning if they mouthed off repeatedly. And it’s unlikely they’d blame a girl for being raped and not screaming loudly enough, or put an adulteress to death along with her partner (not that the Jews EVER put the second half of that one into practice.) Do they excommunicate a married couple who have sexual relations during the woman’s menstrual cycle? Do they condemn a house with leprosy and reduce it to a pile of rubble? If a woman tries to rescue her husband from a man who’s beating him up, and grabs the oppressor by his private parts, do they cut her hand off?

The law of Moses was probably a good thing in its time – better and more equitable than its contemporary law codes – but it’s not good enough for today, and many of its edicts aren’t even applicable to our society. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. Huh?! (Had to do with pagan fertility rites.) You must not plant mixed seed in your field nor wear garments made of mixed fibers . . . that would be a tough one, wouldn’t it? And it kind of rules out complimentary gardening practices, too. And those ladies who buy a bag of mixed wildflower seeds to sow in their flower beds? Excommunication awaits those evil women. Really, this means what it means symbolically, which at least in part, is to not mix true worship with the unclean practices of this world.

The law of Moses is a good thing to know about because there’s a lot of enlightening symbolism there. But if you choose today not to eat pork? Do it because no creature deserves to be treated the way agribusiness treats pigs in factory “farms.” And while you’re at it, you might have to give up chicken too, on those same grounds.

I think that focusing on obeying the law of Moses only distracts us from obeying the law of Christ: “Love one another as I have loved you.” And let’s not forget: “Love your enemies too.” Or “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” THOSE are the expressions of the law we need to work on. God does not care if we wear a cotton/lycra blend t-shirt, and it doesn’t bother Him in the least if we have shellfish for dinner. If we truly love, we will automatically fulfill the spirit of the law. Anything else is mere legalism.

If a person wants to keep the Jewish feast days and obey certain parts of the law for the sake of solidarity with our brothers and sisters of Semitic origin, or just because it’s a fun and inspirational way to understand more about the history of our faith, then great. I think it’s a wonderful learning tool. There’s a lot of deep symbolism implicit in the feasts and the law and when we study it, we learn more about who our Father is. If a person is a cultural and/or ethnic Jew and chooses to keep the law (to the extent that anyone keeps it) for the sake of continuing to identify with their people, then that’s exactly what they SHOULD do. The thing is, God requires love. He does not require a slavish adherence to the law of Moses. It IS Moses’ law – Jesus Himself said so. It is not the law of God. The law of God is to love.

I think to the degree someone chooses to submit themselves to such rules and regulations to that degree they are welcome to do so. However, IF doing so became that which validated their existence then that “to me” would seem a sorry state of affairs.


I have a lot of respect for both One Law and Two Law Messianic Jews. I suppose I would be a one-and-a-half-er: if someone is keeping the Law out of love, that’s a good thing, and good for the person and for other people around the person, and Gentiles ought to be brought to that, but provision should be made for Gentiles, too. In that sense, some people are specially called to live the Torah as examples to others; the Amish and Mennonites, and Catholic monastics, exemplify much the same discipline – so long as the example is an example of loving God and our fellow creature.

Love fulfilling justice will know how far to take the Law without setting aside respect for the Law; which is why legal provisions were set up, upon which modern Western justice systems like in the United States were founded, to regard people as innocent legally until they are proven guilty – and then, in Jewish legal stringency, making it almost impossible to prove them guilty!

I definitely think that the whole issue is a very complex one. Like for instance, how does the law work today? Many of those 613 (I think) laws had to do with the Levitical priesthood anyway so those wouldn’t be applicable to anyone other than them (even back in Moses’ time). Some apply only to women, some only to men etc. I understand the backlash against observing the Law of Moses. I myself felt quite abrasive to the idea when I first heard it, and I still have reservations.

I think around 278 laws of Moses applied to rituals related to the Temple which doesn’t exist since 70AD. As for the rest of the laws there are moral laws and ritual laws, and the moral laws are applicable since they reflect God’s character whereas the ritual laws are extinct since Jesus fulfilled them IMHO.
A ritual law can be reversed and still function but a moral law can’t be reversed and function so this may be a way to distinguish them.


Well, in some cases the relatively modern innovations are still meant to respect the Torah; so wearing a yarmaluke is a reminder to be praying without ceasing, and even to live one’s life as a prayer to God.

The ‘must’ can be troubling but only if it’s being approached in a way of ‘do this or you are in persistent rebellion and so cannot be saved.’ If you’re looking to join a congregation which exemplifies its witness of loving God and loving creatures by living the Torah, then obviously it would be mutually exclusive to say you’re trying to join that congregation and yet not live by its discipline. And that same principle would apply even moreso if you’re looking to become a Jewish rather than Gentile Christian.

If the congregation is not looking to bless and help other people by living the Torah, though, then they’re the ones misusing the Torah and you should look instead for another congregation.


From a technical standpoint it’s interesting to see how they deal with St. Paul, though. :slight_smile:

I think Cindy nailed it.

The Law was a gift that had a strange work to do: good in itself, and never to be despised, yet it not only uncovers what is in a person’s heart, Paul said that it actually ‘stimulated’ or ‘stirred up’ the sinful nature.
What it could NOT do, God Himself did, according to Paul, through Jesus Christ.

Really, the Torah question is a magnificent illustration of the principle:
" We regard the Scriptures as the records of God’s successive revelations to mankind, and particularly of the last and most perfect revelation of his will by Jesus Christ. Whatever doctrines seem to us to be clearly taught in the Scriptures; we receive without reserve or exception. We do not, however, attach equal importance to all the books in this collection. Our religion, we believe, lies chiefly in the New Testament. The dispensation of Moses, compared with that of Jesus, we consider as adapted to the childhood of the human race, a preparation for a nobler system, and chiefly useful now as serving to confirm and illustrate the Christian Scriptures. Jesus Christ is the only master of Christians, and whatever he taught, either during his personal ministry, or by his inspired Apostles, we regard as of divine authority, and profess to make the rule of our lives." (Channing, of course)

To understand Torah, we have to understand the New Testament, it seems.

On the other hand, He did say (despite being about to heavily criticize the Pharisees) whatever the Pharisees teach you, do and keep.

So… Jesus’ own attitude toward Torah, and even the oral tradition, wasn’t always clear-cut. He even agreed that the Pharisees (in the same final denunciation) were doing right to tithe their mints and spices – just that they had put that on par with love and justice, the weightier matters of the Torah, and even worse were neglecting the weightier matters.

On the other hand…No…there is no other hand! :slight_smile:


Speaking of “fiddles”, is the parlor guitar finished yet?

Love the quote from Channing. He sums this topic up well for me.


Parlor guitar is almost there - I have for various reasons been thwarted from working on it for a few weeks. Thwarted!! :smiley:
I’m finishing up the plans for the next one.

Are you going to post a picture of the guitar?

So I’m thankful for that, but I also find myself in a bad spot because when people start saying that I must keep the Sabbath, wear tzit tzit, observe the feasts and new moons, and the dietary laws, I feel like I might be in willful disobedience to God and under condemnation from Him. And that’s scary.

IMO it’s not obligatory to observe the Sabbath although you can if you feel moved to do it. Jesus not only healed on the Sabbath he “did good.” In Matthew 13 he said “therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Doing good is lawful on any day. In John 5 he said he and his Father work every day (including the Sabbath.) He also said the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around.
Lastly Paul in Col 2.16 said not to let any man judge you on Holidays and Sabbaths which is very different then the Law of Moses.

Relatedly, we should probably take a sabbath each week, but not necessarily the same day as everyone else, so that people can always be in a position to serve other people on their sabbath days. But to do so merely for personal gain in getting an edge on other people would be a sin. (There is a possibly legitimate extra-canonical saying from Jesus along this line, too.)

Catholic practice in this regard can work out nicely, as for religious purposes they regard the sabbath to start Saturday evening, allowing two possible ‘civic’ sabbaths, Saturday or Sunday: take the Mass Saturday night, Saturday is your Sabbath, take it Sunday morning, Sunday is your Sabbath.

Considering how much of a work-burden Church has become for people, it’s interesting that this concept has developed (in the US at least??) into what are effectively two Sabbaths: the original Saturday day-of-rest (when God Himself rests after His labors) and the new Sunday Sabbath when we celebrate the Resurrection.



This translation is taken from volume 1 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

Justin Martyr was a Christian who lived in the first half of the second century. In a discussion with Trypho and a number of other Jews, he had the following to say (titles mine):

Why God Commanded the Jews to Observe the Sabbath
God enjoined you to keep the Sabbath, and imposed on you other precepts for a sign, on account of your unrighteousness, and that of your fathers…(Ch.21)

For we too would observe the fleshly circumcision and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know the reason they were enjoined to you — namely on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts. (Ch.18)

God Is Ever the Same
But if we do not admit this, we shall be liable to fall into foolish opinions, as if it were not the same God who existed in the times of Enoch and all the rest, who neither were circumcised after the flesh, nor observed Sabbaths, nor any other rites… or that God has not wished each race of mankind to perform the same righteous actions, to admit which, seems ridiculous and absurd. (Ch24)

Before Moses the Righteous Did Not Sabbatize
Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned [Abel, Enoch, Noah], though they kept no sabbaths were pleasing to God. (Ch19)

Surely Such Observances Are Unnecessary Now
Remain as you were born. For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observances of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices before Moses, no more need is there of them now. (Ch23)

Nature Does Not Keep the Sabbath
Do you not see that the elements are not idle, and keep no Sabbaths? (Ch23)

God Does Not Keep the Sabbath
Be not offended at, or reproach us with, the bodily circumcision with which God created us; and think it not strange that we drink hot water on the Sabbaths, since God directs the government of the universe on this day equally as on all others. (Ch 29)

Fire would have been necessary to heat the water. This was expressly forbidden on the Sabbath day.

How to Keep the Sabbath Under the New Covenant
The new law requires you to keep perpetual Sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious! … The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances. If there is any perjured person or a thief among you, let him cease to be so, if any adulterer, let him repent. Then he has kept the sweet and true Sabbaths of God!

Justin doubtless got this teaching about the true Sabbath from Hebrews chapters 3 and 4.

So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God; for whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his own labours as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9,10 RSV)