Matthew 5:17-18 and Ephesians 2:14-15

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Matthew 5:17-18
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. [./quote]

Ephesians 2:14-15
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,

These passages appear to contradict each other, but I don't think they really do. I am having trouble stating the difference
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Comments

  • I'm going to scatter-gun here.

    The first refers to what we usually call the moral law--the commands of God that are binding on all humanity, and that almost all people have an instinctive understanding of (more or less hazy, but there). Lewis calls it the Tao. Christ fulfilled that in his own life on our behalf, but it isn't going away--not until everything is accomplished, the whole creation healed, and all redeemed humanity lives it so naturally and thoughtlessly (if you know what I mean) that there is no longer any need for it to be preached. This situation:
    Hebrews 8:10-12

    10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
    "I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
    11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
    for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
    12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

    Until that wonderful day, the moral law remains and confronts us daily with our own failures as well as pointing us toward what we were meant to be. It stands as a warning to those fools who imagine that Christ is a license for sin--that because he has died and risen for us, therefore we can do whatever damn stupid evil things we want.

    I take the other passage to be talking about the non-moral law (not going to call it the ceremonial law, as there are aspects to it that shouldn't be brushed off with such a light term). The non-moral law would include things like circumcision, rules about intermarriage, rules of diet and cleanness and uncleanness, and all the other markers of Jewish culture that put a clear marker between the Jews and the Gentiles, believers though they might be. Those things had their role to play back when Israel (as the carrier of God's message) was in danger of being swallowed up by the surrounding cultures, but there is no longer any need to worry about that--Christ has come, has established his church, and has invited both Jews and Gentiles into it on an equal basis. Now those rules and rituals are either quaint reminders of the past (which is fine, no problem) or they become (God forbid) a source of conflict between the two groups---with some insisting that all Christians must obey them (the Judaizers) and others not only trumpeting their own freedom but attempting to prevent ethnic Jews from carrying on as they choose with what has become their own culture. Ideally believers in Christ can look at these things together and say, "Jesus has fulfilled them in himself, they are no longer binding on anybody whether Jew or Gentile, but if anybody wishes to go on keeping kosher (or what have you) because it's your heritage and what you grew up with and you enjoy it, you do you, we're all good with that."

  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    edited July 19
    Jesus accomplished things on the cross and said so before he died.

    I see no confict.
  • In Ephesians Paul is quite explicit that to the extent that the law divides people it has been broken down. Like @Lamb Chopped I'd include most of the 'ceremonial laws' in the category of law that divides. The extent to which it includes other aspects of the law beyond that is a difficult question.

    There's also the question of what is 'ceremonial law' and 'moral law'. I expect that 1st century Jews, potentially including Jesus certainly the first disciples, wouldn't have seen them as different categories, there would have just been the Law. I can't imagine the people first hearing Jesus say "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law" would have even thought there might be some laws (eg: on diet) that would be abolished.

    The interpretive get-out-of-jail-free card is the final phrase of Jesus', "until all is accomplished". If the Cross accomplished the Law & Prophets then the Law in it's fullness was unchanged until those nails went into His wrists (or, maybe until He died a few hours later), but after that it was all accomplished and there was an entirely new covenant in which the old laws have no place.
  • What trips me up there is "until heaven and earth pass away," which would seem to indicate a date later than the crucifixion.

    As for this:
    I can't imagine the people first hearing Jesus say "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law" would have even thought there might be some laws (eg: on diet) that would be abolished.

    ... I'm sure you're right. At that point, pre-death and resurrection, I'm sure everybody listening expected the laws of diet, circumcision, etc. to go on forever, if they had stopped to consider that specific question. But I don't think that their understanding at that time is normative for our understanding of what Jesus was saying. There are plenty of other places where it wasn't.

    What I mean is that Jesus had a habit of saying things that looked considerably different after his death and resurrection--and that intentionally, I believe. A great deal of what he said went Whoooosh! right over people's heads at the time, and he seemed to be largely okay with this, at least up to a point--saying to the disciples for instance, "Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand" (John 13:37) and "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:25-26). Running a search on "understand" in Biblegateway.com yields some interesting results.

    But we can come at it a different way. If we take Jesus to be speaking not prophetically but completely to the understanding of the people there before him that day, then we are forced to the conclusion that Jesus expected and intended us all to live according to Jewish dietary, clothing, holiday, etc. law, and in spite of this the entire Christian church has gone badly astray from the earliest apostolic times. That Peter's revelation concerning the Gentiles and their admission to the church, coupled with the Jerusalem Council's decision not to impose the whole dietary law etc. on the new Gentile believers--that all of this was just plain wrong with a capital W, and God sat back and whistled as the early Christians entirely fucked up the church. I can't wrap my head around that.

  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    There are several awkward passages in the gospels and they persuade me that the gospels are genuine. There does not appear to have been an attempt by the church to clean them up.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    The pivot is 'It is finished'.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Of course, we can talk about whether Paul wrote Ephesians.

    Now that you mention it. It does seem that if Paul did not write Ephesians himself it may have been penned by a first-generation disciple of Paul who was very close to him. Unlike the writer of the Pastorals who may have been second, or third generation.

    Forgive me, I got into a debate with someone this past weekend about who wrote Ephesians.

    Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Letter to the Ephesians were probably written between 80-90AD (Assuming you accept the theory Ephesians was written by a disciple of Paul) Consequently, it could very well be that neither writer knew what the other had written, thus the apparent contradiction.

    I can live with apparent contradcitons.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    The pivot is 'It is finished'.

    Why not "until heaven and earth pass away". Which they, erm, haven't yet?

    The problem with the Matthew passage is not that it contradicts Ephesians. It's that it contradicts the practice of the Christian church for two thousand years. Not to mention Paul's somewhat intemperate rants against Judaising practices in the Church (isn't there a bit (Galatians?) where referring to circumcising Christian converts he suggests they might as well go the whole hog and nip their tassles off completely?)

    It also apparently contradicts Jesus' own words in Mark 7:19 where (at least in Mark's commentary on Jesus' words) he declares all foods to be clean.



  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited July 22
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Martin54 wrote: »
    The pivot is 'It is finished'.

    Why not "until heaven and earth pass away". Which they, erm, haven't yet?

    The problem with the Matthew passage is not that it contradicts Ephesians. It's that it contradicts the practice of the Christian church for two thousand years. Not to mention Paul's somewhat intemperate rants against Judaising practices in the Church (isn't there a bit (Galatians?) where referring to circumcising Christian converts he suggests they might as well go the whole hog and nip their tassles off completely?)

    It also apparently contradicts Jesus' own words in Mark 7:19 where (at least in Mark's commentary on Jesus' words) he declares all foods to be clean.
    For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

    The second until qualifies the first. All was accomplished when He said 'It is finished'. Typical Jesuist hyperbole.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Of course, we can talk about whether Paul wrote Ephesians.

    Now that you mention it. It does seem that if Paul did not write Ephesians himself it may have been penned by a first-generation disciple of Paul who was very close to him. Unlike the writer of the Pastorals who may have been second, or third generation.

    Forgive me, I got into a debate with someone this past weekend about who wrote Ephesians.

    Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Letter to the Ephesians were probably written between 80-90AD (Assuming you accept the theory Ephesians was written by a disciple of Paul) Consequently, it could very well be that neither writer knew what the other had written, thus the apparent contradiction.

    I can live with apparent contradcitons.

    The letter starts with Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,. I therefore accept that he wrote it untill it can be proved otherwise.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    edited July 22
    Telford wrote: »

    The letter starts with Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,. I therefore accept that he wrote it untill it can be proved otherwise.

    From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God: You are wrong. ;)
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    edited July 22
    tclune wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »

    The letter starts with Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,. I therefore accept that he wrote it untill it can be proved otherwise.

    From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God: You are wrong. ;)

    Not according to the NIV. and other popular versions

  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    Any 'from' has to be implicit (possibly by the noun ending or sentence structure).
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    I do not want to hijack the theme of the thread about the authorship of Ephesians but there are three reasons why some scholars wonder if a first-generation disciple wrote the letter. There is a difference in syntax, the terminology used, and eschatology. I note that the writer indicates the temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed and a new, living temple is now being built. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE. Paul died around 64-68.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    I do not want to hijack the theme of the thread about the authorship of Ephesians but there are three reasons why some scholars wonder if a first-generation disciple wrote the letter. There is a difference in syntax, the terminology used, and eschatology. I note that the writer indicates the temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed and a new, living temple is now being built. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE. Paul died around 64-68.

    What's the chapter and verse for this ?
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited July 26
    Telford wrote: »
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    I do not want to hijack the theme of the thread about the authorship of Ephesians but there are three reasons why some scholars wonder if a first-generation disciple wrote the letter. There is a difference in syntax, the terminology used, and eschatology. I note that the writer indicates the temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed and a new, living temple is now being built. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE. Paul died around 64-68.

    What's the chapter and verse for this ?
    Eph 2

    11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

    14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

    19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

    While the writer acknowledges there was a division between those who were circumcised and those who were not, to me, when he relates to the dividing wall of hostility, he is referring to the partition between the Court of the Gentiles and the rest of the Temple Precinct being torn down, especially when he later shares that we are being joined together to become a (new) holy temple in the Lord.
  • I don't see that needing the Temple to have been destroyed, just that (for Christians) the physical Temple in Jerusalem has no importance in their faith. The Temple in Jerusalem has been superseded by the spiritual Temple of which all believers are a part and in which all can approach the Lord for the Spirit lives within this living Temple. The existence of the new Temple doesn't require the old one to be destroyed, just that the old is now just a building with no spiritual significance for those in Christ. Maybe an analogy can follow to the Law (which is what we were discussing) - the Law & Prophets haven't been abolished, but for those in Christ they're not binding in the same way.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    I don't see that needing the Temple to have been destroyed, just that (for Christians) the physical Temple in Jerusalem has no importance in their faith. The Temple in Jerusalem has been superseded by the spiritual Temple of which all believers are a part and in which all can approach the Lord for the Spirit lives within this living Temple. The existence of the new Temple doesn't require the old one to be destroyed, just that the old is now just a building with no spiritual significance for those in Christ. Maybe an analogy can follow to the Law (which is what we were discussing) - the Law & Prophets haven't been abolished, but for those in Christ they're not binding in the same way.

    This is as I see it and this is why I asked. I just couldn't find anything about the destruction of Herod's temple
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Telford wrote: »
    I don't see that needing the Temple to have been destroyed, just that (for Christians) the physical Temple in Jerusalem has no importance in their faith. The Temple in Jerusalem has been superseded by the spiritual Temple of which all believers are a part and in which all can approach the Lord for the Spirit lives within this living Temple. The existence of the new Temple doesn't require the old one to be destroyed, just that the old is now just a building with no spiritual significance for those in Christ. Maybe an analogy can follow to the Law (which is what we were discussing) - the Law & Prophets haven't been abolished, but for those in Christ they're not binding in the same way.

    This is as I see it and this is why I asked. I just couldn't find anything about the destruction of Herod's temple

    Perhaps, but the image of God tearing down the wall separating Jew from Gentile is clearly more poignant after the destruction of the Temple, and kind of weirdly counterfactual before.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Telford wrote: »
    I don't see that needing the Temple to have been destroyed, just that (for Christians) the physical Temple in Jerusalem has no importance in their faith. The Temple in Jerusalem has been superseded by the spiritual Temple of which all believers are a part and in which all can approach the Lord for the Spirit lives within this living Temple. The existence of the new Temple doesn't require the old one to be destroyed, just that the old is now just a building with no spiritual significance for those in Christ. Maybe an analogy can follow to the Law (which is what we were discussing) - the Law & Prophets haven't been abolished, but for those in Christ they're not binding in the same way.

    This is as I see it and this is why I asked. I just couldn't find anything about the destruction of Herod's temple

    As I said, it depends on whether you are open to a first-generation disciple of Paul writing Ephesians or not. I think the only reason why the writer would be talking about a new temple being built with the apostles and prophets being the foundation with Christ being the cornerstone is that the old Temple has been destroyed.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    The first refers to what we usually call the moral law--the commands of God that are binding on all humanity, and that almost all people have an instinctive understanding of (more or less hazy, but there). Lewis calls it the Tao. Christ fulfilled that in his own life on our behalf, but it isn't going away--not until everything is accomplished, the whole creation healed, and all redeemed humanity lives it so naturally and thoughtlessly (if you know what I mean) that there is no longer any need for it to be preached.

    <snip>

    I take the other passage to be talking about the non-moral law (not going to call it the ceremonial law, as there are aspects to it that shouldn't be brushed off with such a light term). The non-moral law would include things like circumcision, rules about intermarriage, rules of diet and cleanness and uncleanness, and all the other markers of Jewish culture that put a clear marker between the Jews and the Gentiles, believers though they might be.
    There's also the question of what is 'ceremonial law' and 'moral law'. I expect that 1st century Jews, potentially including Jesus certainly the first disciples, wouldn't have seen them as different categories, there would have just been the Law.

    Indeed. There is no distinction between "moral law" and "ceremonial/non-moral (amoral?) law" in the First Testament as written, nor is such a distinction spelled out retroactively in the Second Testament. @Alan Cresswell is right that such a distinction would have been have been alien to first century Jews. It's mostly an invention of later Christians who desire a framework where they can pick and choose which First Testament laws are "moral" (capital punishment for homosexuals, bans on sibling incest, forbidding impertinence, etc.) and which are "non-moral/ceremonial/whatever" (stuff about mestruation, mixed fiber fabrics, rules for slaves, etc.) The big problem is that this distinction is extra-Biblical and often arbitrarily based on whatever the distinguisher considers "moral" (or "ceremonial") in the view of their own culture. Essentially it's an effort to retcon the Bible.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    The first refers to what we usually call the moral law--the commands of God that are binding on all humanity, and that almost all people have an instinctive understanding of (more or less hazy, but there). Lewis calls it the Tao. Christ fulfilled that in his own life on our behalf, but it isn't going away--not until everything is accomplished, the whole creation healed, and all redeemed humanity lives it so naturally and thoughtlessly (if you know what I mean) that there is no longer any need for it to be preached.

    <snip>

    I take the other passage to be talking about the non-moral law (not going to call it the ceremonial law, as there are aspects to it that shouldn't be brushed off with such a light term). The non-moral law would include things like circumcision, rules about intermarriage, rules of diet and cleanness and uncleanness, and all the other markers of Jewish culture that put a clear marker between the Jews and the Gentiles, believers though they might be.
    There's also the question of what is 'ceremonial law' and 'moral law'. I expect that 1st century Jews, potentially including Jesus certainly the first disciples, wouldn't have seen them as different categories, there would have just been the Law.

    Indeed. There is no distinction between "moral law" and "ceremonial/non-moral (amoral?) law" in the First Testament as written, nor is such a distinction spelled out retroactively in the Second Testament @Alan Cresswell is right that such a distinction would have been have been alien to first century Jews.

    Not really. The Noahic Covenant was apparently commonly recognized as a basis for some sort of fellowship between Jews and Gentiles at least as far back as the time of Christ. My own sense is that the Jerusalem Council simply codified that understanding into a more rigorous inclusion of Gentiles into the fold. As always, YMMV.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Indeed. There is no distinction between "moral law" and "ceremonial/non-moral (amoral?) law" in the First Testament as written, nor is such a distinction spelled out retroactively in the Second Testament @Alan Cresswell is right that such a distinction would have been have been alien to first century Jews.
    Not really. The Noahic Covenant was apparently commonly recognized as a basis for some sort of fellowship between Jews and Gentiles at least as far back as the time of Christ.

    The Jews certainly had laws that they only applied to themselves, as the special recipients of God's covenant. One could make a comparison to the Roman idea of ius gentium (laws applicable to everyone) and ius civilis (laws applicable to Roman citizens). But that's different than distinguishing between "moral" and "ceremonial/non-moral" law. In other words it's a distinction of jurisdiction, not content.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I don't see that needing the Temple to have been destroyed, just that (for Christians) the physical Temple in Jerusalem has no importance in their faith. The Temple in Jerusalem has been superseded by the spiritual Temple of which all believers are a part and in which all can approach the Lord for the Spirit lives within this living Temple. The existence of the new Temple doesn't require the old one to be destroyed, just that the old is now just a building with no spiritual significance for those in Christ. Maybe an analogy can follow to the Law (which is what we were discussing) - the Law & Prophets haven't been abolished, but for those in Christ they're not binding in the same way.

    This is as I see it and this is why I asked. I just couldn't find anything about the destruction of Herod's temple

    As I said, it depends on whether you are open to a first-generation disciple of Paul writing Ephesians or not. I think the only reason why the writer would be talking about a new temple being built with the apostles and prophets being the foundation with Christ being the cornerstone is that the old Temple has been destroyed.

    The bottom line is that there is nothing in Ephesians about the actual destruction of Herods Temple in AD70
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    tclune wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Indeed. There is no distinction between "moral law" and "ceremonial/non-moral (amoral?) law" in the First Testament as written, nor is such a distinction spelled out retroactively in the Second Testament @Alan Cresswell is right that such a distinction would have been have been alien to first century Jews.
    Not really. The Noahic Covenant was apparently commonly recognized as a basis for some sort of fellowship between Jews and Gentiles at least as far back as the time of Christ.

    The Jews certainly had laws that they only applied to themselves, as the special recipients of God's covenant. One could make a comparison to the Roman idea of ius gentium (laws applicable to everyone) and ius civilis (laws applicable to Roman citizens). But that's different than distinguishing between "moral" and "ceremonial/non-moral" law. In other words it's a distinction of jurisdiction, not content.

    But the question set before the Jerusalem Council was, "What does a Gentile have to do to become a (Christian) Jew? It was not about creating a two-tiered system, but overcoming one.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I don't see that needing the Temple to have been destroyed, just that (for Christians) the physical Temple in Jerusalem has no importance in their faith. The Temple in Jerusalem has been superseded by the spiritual Temple of which all believers are a part and in which all can approach the Lord for the Spirit lives within this living Temple. The existence of the new Temple doesn't require the old one to be destroyed, just that the old is now just a building with no spiritual significance for those in Christ. Maybe an analogy can follow to the Law (which is what we were discussing) - the Law & Prophets haven't been abolished, but for those in Christ they're not binding in the same way.

    This is as I see it and this is why I asked. I just couldn't find anything about the destruction of Herod's temple

    As I said, it depends on whether you are open to a first-generation disciple of Paul writing Ephesians or not. I think the only reason why the writer would be talking about a new temple being built with the apostles and prophets being the foundation with Christ being the cornerstone is that the old Temple has been destroyed.

    Perhaps because there is no need for a new Temple - Revelations 21:

    22. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    The Jews certainly had laws that they only applied to themselves, as the special recipients of God's covenant. One could make a comparison to the Roman idea of ius gentium (laws applicable to everyone) and ius civilis (laws applicable to Roman citizens). But that's different than distinguishing between "moral" and "ceremonial/non-moral" law. In other words it's a distinction of jurisdiction, not content.
    But the question set before the Jerusalem Council was, "What does a Gentile have to do to become a (Christian) Jew? It was not about creating a two-tiered system, but overcoming one.

    Is that the case? Christians at the Council of Jerusalem were assuming that the rules they were setting out were valid for non-Christians as well? Unlike the scholars of the First Testament who assumed that those under God's covenant had to follow rules that didn't apply to those outside it? That would certainly explain a lot of subsequent history.

    I think it's more accurate to say that Gentile converts to Christianity and their descendants (which make up most of the world's Christians) want to argue that they are also under a covenant with God, just that it's rules and parameters are different and more favorable than the God's original covenant.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    tclune wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    The Jews certainly had laws that they only applied to themselves, as the special recipients of God's covenant. One could make a comparison to the Roman idea of ius gentium (laws applicable to everyone) and ius civilis (laws applicable to Roman citizens). But that's different than distinguishing between "moral" and "ceremonial/non-moral" law. In other words it's a distinction of jurisdiction, not content.
    But the question set before the Jerusalem Council was, "What does a Gentile have to do to become a (Christian) Jew? It was not about creating a two-tiered system, but overcoming one.

    Is that the case? Christians at the Council of Jerusalem were assuming that the rules they were setting out were valid for non-Christians as well? Unlike the scholars of the First Testament who assumed that those under God's covenant had to follow rules that didn't apply to those outside it? That would certainly explain a lot of subsequent history.

    I think it's more accurate to say that Gentile converts to Christianity and their descendants (which make up most of the world's Christians) want to argue that they are also under a covenant with God, just that it's rules and parameters are different and more favorable than the God's original covenant.

    Perhaps I expressed myself poorly. The two tiers were within the Christian sect of Judaism, which is the only place that James and the Jerusalem council would have had authority. I think we're basically in agreement here.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    Perhaps I expressed myself poorly. The two tiers were within the Christian sect of Judaism, which is the only place that James and the Jerusalem council would have had authority. I think we're basically in agreement here.

    Still not sure how that maps onto the "moral/non-moral" law distinction @Lamb Chopped and others have advocated.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    tclune wrote: »
    Perhaps I expressed myself poorly. The two tiers were within the Christian sect of Judaism, which is the only place that James and the Jerusalem council would have had authority. I think we're basically in agreement here.

    Still not sure how that maps onto the "moral/non-moral" law distinction @Lamb Chopped and others have advocated.
    I would agree with you that distinctions among laws are often used and abused by “Christians who desire a framework where they can pick and choose which First Testament laws are ‘moral’ . . . and which are ‘non-moral/ceremonial/whatever,’” but I’m not convinced that distinction in and of itself, as opposed to application of the distinction, can be said to be “mostly an invention” of those Christians who arbitrarily pick and choose based on their own cultures.

    At least according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the distinction has been noted in Judaism, albeit perhaps drawing on existing Christian understanding, since perhaps the 10th Century CE:
    The Rabbis distinguish between mishpaṭim, moral laws—which are dictated by reason and common sense, such as laws concerning justice, incestuous marriages, and the like—and ḥuḳḳim, those divine statutes to which the "Yeẓer ha-Ra'" (the evil inclination) and the heathen object, such as the prohibition of pork or of wearing garments woven of wool and linen (Sifra, Aḥare Mot, xiii. on Lev. xviii. 5; Yoma 67b). . . .

    The Prophets laid the greatest stress upon the moral laws, while condemning mere ceremonialism (see Hosea vi. 6; Amos v. 21-24; Micah vi. 6-8; Isa. i. 13-17). The Psalmist (see Ps. xv.), and especially the Book of Wisdom, do not even refer to the ceremonial law. Whenever Judaism entered into relations with other nations and religions, the moral laws were accentuated, and the ceremonial laws were put into the background. Hellenistic Judaism, therefore (for Pseudo-Phocylides see Bernays, "Gesammelte Schriften," i. 227), Philo, and the entire propaganda literature to which the Didache belongs, take the same attitude toward the ceremonial laws. And, again, when the Jew came into contact with Arabic culture, this view of the ceremonial laws prevailed as being dictated by reason and common sense. . . .

    The discrimination between "laws based upon reason" and "laws demanding obedience to God's will" was adopted by Saadia ("Emunot we-De'ot," iii. 12; compare Ibn Ezra to Ex. xxi. and "Yesod Moreh," v.), and, with direct reference to the rabbinical passages quoted, by Maimonides ("Moreh Nebukim," iii. 2b; "Shemonah Peraḳim," vi.). Joseph Albo ("Iḳḳarim," iii. 25), if not Simon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran (see Zunz, "G. S." ii. 194), is the first who divides the Biblical laws into ceremonial, juridical, and moral laws. He admits, however, that he adopted this classification from a Christian controversialist; and, as a matter of fact, he forced himself in consequence to declare, with Maimonides (l.c. iii. 46), the sacrifices of the Mosaic law to be a concession to the pagan propensities of the people, and (in accordance with Sifre to Deut. xi. 13) prayer to be the true "service of the Lord"—a standpoint hardly to be reconciled with the belief in supernatural revelation and the permanence of the Mosaic law.
    I have no idea to what extent, if any, these Jewish views might have influenced Thomas Aquinas, who also divided the Law in moral, ceremonial and juridical.

  • The other problem with declaring that ancient Jews saw no difference between the moral and the ceremonial law is that you therefore imply that someone else did--a Gentile, apparently, who managed to have this really-pretty-standard-and-basic insight into the law that none of the ancient Jews managed. And that gets to sounding rather condescending.

    It would perhaps be well if we got out of our heads the idea that "ceremonial" (yes, I'll cave and use that term now) does not mean "unimportant." The ancient Jews would not have called any part of the law unimportant. Ceremonial vs moral, yeah, I think so.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    It would perhaps be well if we got out of our heads the idea that "ceremonial" (yes, I'll cave and use that term now) does not mean "unimportant." The ancient Jews would not have called any part of the law unimportant. Ceremonial vs moral, yeah, I think so.

    Again, I'm unconvinced by your claim that a first century Jew would not have viewed keeping the "ceremonial" parts of the law as a "moral" duty, or that breaking the "ceremonial" law was "immoral".

    Take, for example, misusing the name of the Lord (or taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain for those who want the old school translation). How you invoke God's name (or, more accurately, shouldn't invoke God's name) would seem to fall within the "ceremonial" classification, yet most ancient Jews (and quite a few modern ones) felt that breaking this commandment is inherently immoral. I'm not convinced the line is as clean as you pretend.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Take, for example, misusing the name of the Lord (or taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain for those who want the old school translation). How you invoke God's name (or, more accurately, shouldn't invoke God's name) would seem to fall within the "ceremonial" classification . . . .
    I don’t think it would seem so. I would have assumed any of the 10 Commandments would fall under the moral law, especially when it is related to one of the Noahide laws (“Do not blaspheme”), which were clearly understood as moral laws. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that treats any of the 10 Commandments as ceremonial law; most Christian sources I can recall treat them is the quintessential moral law.

  • Crœsos wrote: »
    It would perhaps be well if we got out of our heads the idea that "ceremonial" (yes, I'll cave and use that term now) does not mean "unimportant." The ancient Jews would not have called any part of the law unimportant. Ceremonial vs moral, yeah, I think so.

    Again, I'm unconvinced by your claim that a first century Jew would not have viewed keeping the "ceremonial" parts of the law as a "moral" duty, or that breaking the "ceremonial" law was "immoral".

    Take, for example, misusing the name of the Lord (or taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain for those who want the old school translation). How you invoke God's name (or, more accurately, shouldn't invoke God's name) would seem to fall within the "ceremonial" classification, yet most ancient Jews (and quite a few modern ones) felt that breaking this commandment is inherently immoral. I'm not convinced the line is as clean as you pretend.

    Who's pretending? I think you're reading stuff into ... I don't know what, my posts?

    As for misusing the name of God, my understanding of it is primarily "Don't swear a false oath in the name of God, wrapping your own evil in God's holiness." Hard to think of anything more moral than that.
  • Crœsos wrote: »
    It would perhaps be well if we got out of our heads the idea that "ceremonial" (yes, I'll cave and use that term now) does not mean "unimportant." The ancient Jews would not have called any part of the law unimportant. Ceremonial vs moral, yeah, I think so.

    Again, I'm unconvinced by your claim that a first century Jew would not have viewed keeping the "ceremonial" parts of the law as a "moral" duty, or that breaking the "ceremonial" law was "immoral"
    .

    As for them considering keeping the cermonial law a moral duty and breaking it as immoral, well, duh--because they are Jews, and sworn to the covenant, which for them includes the ceremonial law--which means that for them (not for everybody), keeping the ceremonial law becomes a moral concern. It is moral, not in itself, but because they've made a commitment to keep it. The Gentiles have done no such thing.

    Look, whether or not I eat spaghetti is inherently adiaphora. Nobody thinks God gives a shit one way or the other. It is not a moral issue--in itself, that is.

    But if for some reason I make a solemn commitment and undertaking NOT to ever eat spaghetti again, suddenly this becomes a moral issue. Because it has to do with commitment, and faithfulness, and doing what I've said I would. The thing-in-itself is morally neutral, but now that I've made this commitment, it's picked up a moral/immoral meaning.

    And that is where the ancient Jews were with regards to the ceremonial law. They held themselves to be committed to a covenant with God where their part of the covenant involved a number of things including the ceremonial law. Breaking that law meant breaking the covenant. And commitment breaking is inherently immoral. Everyone admits that--thus the proliferation of excuses every time someone breaks a promise or fails to fulfill an agreed-upon expectation.

    The difference between the Jews and the Gentiles was that the Jews had this commitment binding them; the Gentiles did not. And the Jews, AFAIK, never expected the Gentiles to live as if they were under that commitment. They did however expect them to keep the moral law--do not murder, do not swear falsely to bullshit in court, and so forth.

  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I don’t think it would seem so. I would have assumed any of the 10 Commandments would fall under the moral law, especially when it is related to one of the Noahide laws (“Do not blaspheme”), which were clearly understood as moral laws. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that treats any of the 10 Commandments as ceremonial law; most Christian sources I can recall treat them is the quintessential moral law.

    In what sense are worship practices (no graven images) or holy days (keep the sabbath) not "ceremonial" in the commonly understood meaning of the term? Things which deal with styles and modes of worship would seem to fall on the "ceremonial" side of the divide. It seems like very fine hairsplitting to argue that the prohibiting working on the sabbath is "moral" but the prohibition on wearing mixed fiber fabric is "ceremonial". If we go by @Lamb Chopped's system that classifies any law that Jews did not expect non-Jews to follow as "ceremonial" then the first four commandments (using the Talmudic numbering system) are "ceremonial".
    As for them considering keeping the cermonial law a moral duty and breaking it as immoral, well, duh--because they are Jews, and sworn to the covenant, which for them includes the ceremonial law--which means that for them (not for everybody), keeping the ceremonial law becomes a moral concern. It is moral, not in itself, but because they've made a commitment to keep it. The Gentiles have done no such thing.

    Look, whether or not I eat spaghetti is inherently adiaphora. Nobody thinks God gives a shit one way or the other. It is not a moral issue--in itself, that is.

    But if for some reason I make a solemn commitment and undertaking NOT to ever eat spaghetti again, suddenly this becomes a moral issue. Because it has to do with commitment, and faithfulness, and doing what I've said I would. The thing-in-itself is morally neutral, but now that I've made this commitment, it's picked up a moral/immoral meaning.

    If that's the case then all the law counts as "moral" law, at least from the perspective of insiders, which contradicts your assertion that the distinction between "moral" and "cermonial/amoral" law is a clear and easy one to make.
  • I think you are reading posts from a parallel universe. When did I say the distinction is "clear and easy"? And for that matter, when did this distinction (which is a very old one, just read up the thread) become "Lamb Chopped's system"?
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    I think you are reading posts from a parallel universe. When did I say the distinction is "clear and easy"?

    Your very first post.
    I take the other passage to be talking about the non-moral law (not going to call it the ceremonial law, as there are aspects to it that shouldn't be brushed off with such a light term). The non-moral law would include things like circumcision, rules about intermarriage, rules of diet and cleanness and uncleanness, and all the other markers of Jewish culture that put a clear marker between the Jews and the Gentiles, believers though they might be. Those things had their role to play back when Israel (as the carrier of God's message) was in danger of being swallowed up by the surrounding cultures, but there is no longer any need to worry about that -- Christ has come, has established his church, and has invited both Jews and Gentiles into it on an equal basis.

    The distinction you set up between moral law and ceremonial/non-moral law is that the former is universally applicable and the latter is just for those in a covenant with God and that the distinction between the two is "clear". You went on to say that ceremonial/non-moral laws (a.k.a. all the specific things in Jewish religious practice that distinguished Jews from their neighbors, like circumcision, eschewing idols, and monotheism) were no longer relevant because Jesus.

    The problem with this kind of analysis is that it's essentially circular. The parts Christians want to ditch (e.g. restrictions against mixed fiber textiles) from Judaism are "ceremonial/non-moral" because Christians have abandoned the practice, and anything that's kept (seven day worship cycle, contempt for male homosexuals, etc.) is a "moral" rule because it was kept.
    And for that matter, when did this distinction (which is a very old one, just read up the thread) become "Lamb Chopped's system"?

    Since you were the first person to advocate for it on this thread. If you want to suggest some other originator, go ahead.
  • Oh give me a freaking break.
    Crœsos wrote: »
    I think you are reading posts from a parallel universe. When did I say the distinction is "clear and easy"?

    Your very first post.
    ... The non-moral law would include things like circumcision, rules about intermarriage, rules of diet and cleanness and uncleanness, and all the other markers of Jewish culture that put a clear marker between the Jews and the Gentiles, believers though they might be. ...

    Read for comprehension. I said "a clear marker between Jews and Gentiles." As in, "here are the earmarks that you could use, if for some odd reason you were so called, to divide a random group of people into two groups." Those markers are quite clear. One is either circumcised or one is not. One keeps kosher, or one does not. And so forth, and so on. The key point here is distinctiveness of two people groups--nothing at all about the law and its division (or not) into moral vs. ceremonial rules. Whether that other distinction is easy or not is a judgment call. My personal opinion (had you asked it) is "Eh, it depends." Witness the discussion about misusing God's name upthread, where a sane person could take either position and give reasons for it.
    Crœsos wrote: »
    You went on to say that ceremonial/non-moral laws (a.k.a. all the specific things in Jewish religious practice that distinguished Jews from their neighbors, like circumcision, eschewing idols, and monotheism) were no longer relevant because Jesus.

    This is essentially correct. After Jesus, any Jews who chose to stop keeping the ceremonial law were free to do so. The ordinary human quality of loving one's own culture means that most first generation Jewish Christians probably DID go on keeping the ceremonial law, because why not? And I would assume that some of this carried on for generations.
    Crœsos wrote: »
    The problem with this kind of analysis is that it's essentially circular. The parts Christians want to ditch (e.g. restrictions against mixed fiber textiles) from Judaism are "ceremonial/non-moral" because Christians have abandoned the practice, and anything that's kept (seven day worship cycle, contempt for male homosexuals, etc.) is a "moral" rule because it was kept.

    No, your argument is circular. You cannot (and the early Christians did not) simply ditch the bits of the law it is most convenient to you to ditch, and then call the resulting division "moral" vs. "ceremonial." That is acting in bad faith, as well as phenomenally stupid. (I'm ignoring your incitement, by the way)

    What the early Christians faced was the question: How much of the Jewish law applies to the new Gentile converts? Answers could include "all," "none," or "some" (see attached).

    "None" was clearly out. Nobody says that Christ has repealed the law against murder, for instance.

    "All" had some adherents, because prior to the coming of Christ people wishing to join the Jewish assembly (ecclesia, equivalent of the church, God's covenant people, etc.) were required to go whole hog, including circumcision. Some chose to go halfway (the "God-fearers"), and this was respected, but they were still shut out of certain privileges open only to full Jews. So "all" was a possible alternative, and remained on the discussion table for some years.

    The "all" position was argued back and forth for quite some time, judging from the Epistles. But it was essentially blown out of the water by Peter's Gentile Pentecost thing at Cornelius' house, followed by his report to Jerusalem and ending up with the decision of the Jerusalem Council.

    That is what set "some" as the standard. Acts 15 reports the process and its decision:
    28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

    And this was not the final definitive word, as we can see from Paul's letters. 1 Corinthians goes on to permit eating food sacrificed to idols under certain circumstances, and I am unaware of any further discussion on the two blood taboos, but they have certainly lapsed for many Christians by the 21st century. There is doubtless someone more knowledgeable on this thread.

    So now we've got "some" as the standard, but it's still evolving. After all, one could easily argue that the blood taboos and possibly the "sacrificed to idols" bit are ceremonial. The sexual immorality one is the only one likely to be called moral by most people.

    So now, if you choose, you can jump all over us for not keeping the Council's ruling. Yet I do not think the Council was making its judgment based on moral vs. ceremonial. I think they were going for "here are the most offensive things that Gentile believers might do not realizing just how much conflict that would cause in a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles. So don't do them, please." If they had been intending to lay down an eternal set of rules for use by Gentiles in all times and places, surely murder would have been included. As it is, I think they left it out (and other stuff, like robbery) because they didn't have to say that stuff--local Roman law took care of it already, as well as general human ethics, and they weren't setting up as the new Moses with a complete legal code, but rather trying to keep peace in the churches.

    If I am correct, the only takeaway from the Council decision for our current thread is "Not all of the law of Moses should be imposed on Gentiles." The details of what's in and what's out continued to evolve, IMHO under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but you need not think so.
    Crœsos wrote: »
    And for that matter, when did this distinction (which is a very old one, just read up the thread) become "Lamb Chopped's system"?

    Since you were the first person to advocate for it on this thread. If you want to suggest some other originator, go ahead.

    If you read any of the history mentioned upthread by various posters, you'd know that far wiser and more respected people than I had versions of this before either of us was a twinkle in our parents' eyes.

  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    In what sense are worship practices (no graven images) or holy days (keep the sabbath) not "ceremonial" in the commonly understood meaning of the term? Things which deal with styles and modes of worship would seem to fall on the "ceremonial" side of the divide. It seems like very fine hairsplitting to argue that the prohibiting working on the sabbath is "moral" but the prohibition on wearing mixed fiber fabric is "ceremonial".
    What you see as hairsplitting seems to me to be applying contemporary understandings to ancient and medieval understandings. Sure, “ceremonial” may not be the best word for modern audiences, but it’s the term that has been used for a long time—at least since Aquinas. And the understanding that the 10 Commandments are the fundamental moral laws has also been around a long, long time and is firmly embedded in Jewish and Christian theology.

    To the ancient mind, things like no graven images or proper use of God’s name weren’t mere “worship practices,” as though worshiping idols or misuse of God’s name might be acceptable alternatives. They were matters of fundamental right and wrong—things that would be viewed as wrong regardless of whether God commanded them. As already noted, the Noahide laws forbid worship of idols and blasphemy, and while a modern eye may see those prohibitions as just “ceremonial” or “worship practices,” according to the Talmud they are moral laws for all humanity.

  • Crœsos wrote: »
    The first refers to what we usually call the moral law--the commands of God that are binding on all humanity, and that almost all people have an instinctive understanding of (more or less hazy, but there). Lewis calls it the Tao. Christ fulfilled that in his own life on our behalf, but it isn't going away--not until everything is accomplished, the whole creation healed, and all redeemed humanity lives it so naturally and thoughtlessly (if you know what I mean) that there is no longer any need for it to be preached.

    <snip>

    I take the other passage to be talking about the non-moral law (not going to call it the ceremonial law, as there are aspects to it that shouldn't be brushed off with such a light term). The non-moral law would include things like circumcision, rules about intermarriage, rules of diet and cleanness and uncleanness, and all the other markers of Jewish culture that put a clear marker between the Jews and the Gentiles, believers though they might be.
    There's also the question of what is 'ceremonial law' and 'moral law'. I expect that 1st century Jews, potentially including Jesus certainly the first disciples, wouldn't have seen them as different categories, there would have just been the Law.

    Indeed. There is no distinction between "moral law" and "ceremonial/non-moral (amoral?) law" in the First Testament as written, nor is such a distinction spelled out retroactively in the Second Testament. @Alan Cresswell is right that such a distinction would have been have been alien to first century Jews. It's mostly an invention of later Christians who desire a framework where they can pick and choose which First Testament laws are "moral" (capital punishment for homosexuals, bans on sibling incest, forbidding impertinence, etc.) and which are "non-moral/ceremonial/whatever" (stuff about mestruation, mixed fiber fabrics, rules for slaves, etc.) The big problem is that this distinction is extra-Biblical and often arbitrarily based on whatever the distinguisher considers "moral" (or "ceremonial") in the view of their own culture. Essentially it's an effort to retcon the Bible.

    Quite agree. I have had ministers try to pull the trick of anachronistically dividing Torah into ceremonial and moral law as part of their proof-texting,
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Shipmate
    edited August 2
    Fulfilling Torah and Neviʾim. I grew up with the idea that that means obeying The Law and the prophets, but abbreviated to the Ten Commandments.

    But then I learned that in Jesus' time there was an expectation to be fulfilled that a prophet like Moses would arise, and Elijah would return before the Messiah came.

    Matthew constructs his Gospel to show that Jesus fulfills the expectation of the prophet like Moses.
    Matthew has Jesus giving five discourses just as Moses gave the five books of the Torah. (John the Baptist is the expected returned Elijah, if people will accept it. And up to John The Baptist it was The Law and The Prophets, but since (his death) it is the Kingdom of God/Heaven or God's Royal Reign.)

    The discourse of chapters 5-7 are given on a mountain as Moses was given the Ten Commandments (Expectations - thanks Mousethief). This discourse can be understood as the Torah of Jesus. And in 7:12 Jesus gives the summary "‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets."

    In the story of the transfiguration Peter James and John want to give equal honour to Moses (The Torah), Elijah (the Prophets) and Jesus. But after the dazzling light, reminiscent of how Moses had to hide his face because it was too bright for the people to see, God tells the disciples
    ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. - Implying that the teachings of Jesus are sufficient by themselves
    and repeating what God said about Jesus at Jesus' baptism.

    So for me, while the Tanakh is valuable for the progress of Jewish thinking and as a foil for Jesus' teaching in the various ways understood in the Gospels it is not vital for an understanding of how to live a Christian life.
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