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

From: Pete Enns <>
Date: Tue Nov 03 2009 - 12:44:57 EST


This seems like a very contrived scenario. Were you a rabbi in a
former life? Allowing you to state the problem as you do, yes the Xian
boy is sinning whereas the Jewish boy is not.

But, as I think others have already mentioned, you misstate and
misconstrue the problem.

Eye for an eye in the OT is a means of bringing official "legal"
restitution. It is not meant for making personal decisions. I likely
agree with Murray here, in our previous exchange. You may not be
picking a very good example to make your point.

But, much more importantly, and this is a more basic point, you seem
bothered that a Jew (with the OT, but without Jesus and the NT) would
have a different "code of conduct" than a Christians. As you say
toward the end "it just seems strange to me" and "they have the same
God but different moral directions." You are in a manner of speaking
articulating the opposition to Jesus and Paul in the NT: "Hey, you're
teaching something contrary to the law." Their answer: "Jesus fulfills
the law and in doing so he sometimes/often recasts it."

Why do you have a problem with this? Why do you require the law of
Israel to be valid in the post-resurrection world, when the NT itself

On Nov 2, 2009, at 1:33 PM, Dehler, Bernie wrote:

> Hi Pete-
> Thanks for your response. It was a good general response. But let
> me re-ask the question with more specifics, and is it possible to
> answer with a yes or no with small comments? (I understand your
> general response is that the NT rachets up the level of moral
> expectation on people from the OT.)
> Given what you wrote, let me give a precise question with more detail.
> Suppose a Christian boy is beat-up at school and his bike is
> destroyed by a bully. He says he wants to get even with the kid-
> eye for eye. He plans to destroy the other guys bike as well as
> hurt him physically. His Christian parents tell him it is wrong,
> per Jesus’ teaching, to pay back evil for evil. The boy does it
> anyway. Is that a sin? Is it immoral? You will likely say ‘yes’
> I’m guessing.
> Now re-work the same scenario with a Jewish family. Since they are
> following the OT, is it s sin? I can’t guess what you’d say. If
> yes, they are being held to an account above that which they have
> accepted from God in the OT. If you say no, then apparently there
> are different levels of morality from the same God?
> Maybe your answer will be that people are only accountable for what
> they know, and reject. It just seems strange to me that one can do
> ‘evil for evil’ as a command from God (OT) while another says that
> the practice of ‘evil for evil’ is evil (NT). Christians and Jews
> have the same God but different moral directions.
> So can you clarify using these two specific examples? Is the boy
> from the Christian family sinning because they have a higher
> standard, whereas the Jewish boy is not sinning?
> …Bernie
> From: Pete Enns []
> Sent: Monday, November 02, 2009 10:18 AM
> To: Dehler, Bernie
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)
> Bernie,
> If that is the case, I am glad you are out of your church and
> seminary. The manner in which the Gospel "goes one better" than the
> OT is a basic Christian teaching. It summarizes much of what is
> happening throughout the NT.
> So, let me put it briefly here. I will try to respond as I can in
> the next few days.
> Jesus is the new and improved Moses, and Christians follow his
> teaching and now read the Hebrew Bible under the authority of the
> risen Christ. Some things that were valid once now no longer are.
> That is why, even though "eye for an eye" is in the mosaic
> legislation (and reflects ancient moral conventions), with Jesus we
> have reached-and I say this without hesitation-- a new level of
> moral teaching, which Jesus, as the Son of God and soon to be risen
> Savior--has the authority to give.
> In other words, the authority of the OT--as serious as that is--is
> now subsumed under the authority of the risen Christ. Christians
> read their OTs with this in mind, front and center.
> I realize that this is not very much in line with a more
> fundamentalist, rationalist system of the nature of the Bible (which
> you apparently came out of), for here you have "one part of the
> Bible contradicting another." But, suspend that reaction if you can.
> The entire NT--and I am only exaggerating slightly, if at all--is
> about engaging the question of how this new people of God, made of
> up Jews and Gentiles--are to be connected to Israel's Scripture
> while also seeing how very clearly the empty tomb moves beyond,
> eclipses, even subverts that Scripture. "eye for an eye" is only one
> example. Others include: temple, sacrifice, land, dietary laws,
> Gentile inclusion, etc., etc., etc. The Sermon on the Mount is just
> one succinct example of what is happening throughout. (And, as for
> the Sermon on the Mount, is it not interesting that Jesus is on a
> MOUNTAIN giving LAW to the people, often times prefacing with "you
> have heard it said but I say to you...." What do you think is
> happening there, Bernie?)
> I am serious when I suggest that you can help yourself, if you want,
> by reading the NT from that point of view, with its over 300
> citations of the OT, and well over 1000 allusions to the OT, and see
> the case the NT writers are making. A rationalistic expectation that
> the Bible does not behave this way is, strictly speaking, hardly a
> biblical view of the Bible.
> Hopefully that wasn't a long-winded sermon.
> Pete Enns
> On Nov 2, 2009, at 12:18 PM, Dehler, Bernie wrote:
> Yes- these questions are serious. In 25 years of attending church
> and attending seminary, they have never been discussed, and I’m
> thinking of them now.
> If you could answer concisely I’d appreciate it. I’m afraid of
> getting a rambling sermon in response from some people.
> …Bernie
> From: Pete Enns []
> Sent: Monday, November 02, 2009 9:03 AM
> To: Dehler, Bernie
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)
> Bernie,
> Forgive me for chiming in. I have been resisting thus far.
> In all seriousness, are you serious?
> Do you mean to say that you really have no idea how this kind of
> situation--the differences between the testaments--is to be
> addressed? Is this ACTUALLY a theological problem for you (which is
> hard for me to imagine), or are you more being the contrarian here?
> Pete Enns
> On Nov 2, 2009, at 11:35 AM, Dehler, Bernie wrote:
> Since the OT says “eye for eye” but Jesus says in the NT NOT to do
> “eye for eye,” would it be immoral (a sin, “missing the mark”) for a
> Christian to insist on “eye for eye” justice since it is contrary to
> Jesus’ teaching? If yes, then is it also immoral for a Jew to
> insist on “eye for eye’’ justice as God told them (for a Jew, who
> rejects the NT but accepts the OT)? If no, then does that mean God
> has different morals for different people?
> Remember- ‘eye for eye’ comes from the Bible (OT) and is from God.
> This is related to the thread of the existence of absolute morals
> being an evidence for the existence of God, the giver of morals.
> One of my Christian friends says this is the best evidence, he
> thinks, for the existence of God (his favorite).

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Received on Tue Nov 3 12:45:39 2009

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