Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Mon Nov 02 2009 - 20:15:46 EST

Hi Pete,

I quite agree that the issue IS a great deal more messy and you're quite right to bring attention to the fact - indeed, I was very conscious that the broader question of "alignment" of the Gospel and the OT Scriptures remains, my comments on the Sermon on the Mount not withstanding.

That said, however, I would want to urge that we err when we introduce the Sermon on the Mount as part of that problem. People often speak as though the Sermon on the Mount is primarily a critique or abrogation of the Law (a "new law" or "new morality") when it is, as I understand it, directed not at the Law itself, but squarely at its misuse by the religious hierarchy in first century Judaism.

Further, I would argue that in offering this critique Jesus tells us a great deal about how NOT to go about the theory and practice of religious morality. At the very least it tells us that; (1) the people one might think are, morally, most "beyond the pale" are, in fact, the "blessed" by God's standards; (2) that one cannot, in fact, codify every aspect of appropriate moral behaviour; and (3) that the person you should most worry about in respects of obedience to the Law is yourself, not the "sinner" upon whom one presumes to sit in judgement.

And if one can see those three observations as valid, then I'd suggest that one is pretty close to understanding why the Sermon on the Mount is not an abrogation of the Law but a critique by Jesus of the interpretation and use of the Law by his religious contemporaries.

All of which is merely to explain why I took the particular tack I did. The problem is, indeed, messy, but it isn't made any tidier by making incorrect assumptions and, off the back of them, asking the wrong questions. To my mind questions like "how do you explain the contradiction between the Law and the Sermon on the Mount" fall into the same category as "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" i.e. to take them as they stand is to agree with a premise which one might consider to be questionable in the extreme.

Perhaps I should just add that, in my view, most of the "how do you resolve this contradiction" dilemmas which crop up presume a particular view of Scripture which is a very long way from my own position. Experience suggests when it comes to dealing with the Christian appropriation (or not!) of the OT Law, then one's views regarding the nature and purpose of Scripture are often the most influential, and lest considered, factors.


Pete Enns wrote:
> Murray, I appreciate your point in your final paragraph, but I think the
> matter may be a bit more messy, not only in the Sermon on the Mount but
> throughout the NT. The primary issue is how to "align" the Gospel and
> Israel's Scripture, not simply the centuries of postexilic accretions.
> Reading the Book of the Covenant and Deuteronomic Law (e.g., stone the
> rebellious son; virgin daughters are the father's property) side by side
> with the NT reveals a true theological problem Christians have been
> working through since the first Christian writers.

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Received on Mon Nov 2 20:16:23 2009

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