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

From: Pete Enns <>
Date: Wed Nov 04 2009 - 09:26:25 EST

Yes, Torah is definitely more than just law, even in the OT. It
includes the narratives and their value in "teaching" about God.

At the risk of alienating everyone on this list with my self-
promotion, I wrote a little article on this in Willem VanGemeren's New
International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, vol.
3, pp. 893-900.

All that being said, Judaism's view of the law is "interactive"
because it had to be, since the law was given in circumstances from
which the Israelites diverged (most notably in the exile and
subsequent diaspora). As I've been saying, the NT does this two. Both
faith's have to do some creative things with the law, including
narrative (look at Paul's re-reading of the Abraham narrative in Rom.
4--Abraham did not waiver.... oh really?). Both have to "interpret"
the law, which means bringing the past into a very different kind of


On Nov 4, 2009, at 8:59 AM, Ryan Rasmussen, P.E. wrote:

> I thought I would offer this up for consideration. Glenn had some
> very insightful arguments on the topic. He addresses the following
> issues:
> What IS torah, and its relationship to Law and to the Mosaic Covenant?
> Does 'eternal' mean 'unchangeable', when applied to various commands
> in the Law?
> What exactly was the content of the word 'olam' (eternal) in
> biblical and rabbinical writings?
> What did the rabbi's say about a change/annulment of Torah?
> How does the New Covenant of Jeremiah and Ezekiel fit in with the
> Mosaic Covenant (as far as our question goes)?
> As many people have pointed out, one of the first references that
> Glenn brings up is that Torah was more than just "Law".
> "What has handicapped our modern appreciation and usefulness of the
> Pentateuch more than anything else has been the incorrect, or at
> least overly restrictive, narrow and inadequate translation of the
> Hebrew word torah in the Greek Septuagint as nomos, "law." This in
> turn gave rise to the French rendering of loi, and the German
> Gesetz. The problem with all these translations of torah is that
> they continue to give credence to the notion that this portion of
> Scripture denotes merely formal regulations or rituals that the
> community could use to attain salvation….But this view is also
> incorrect because it fails to understand what torah means. Torah
> comes from the verb "to point [out the direction one should go]." It
> was intended to serve as guidance and direction for one's life, not
> as static requirements that supplied a rigid set of rules
> demarcating what was in bounds from that which was out of bounds.
> That is why the wisdom books refer so frequently to the contents of
> torah as being a "path" for one's lifestyle: it pointed the
> direction a person should go; it was guidance….The legal sections of
> the Torah are a relatively small part of the total Pentateuch. If
> one places all the material from Exodus 20-40, the entire 27
> chapters of Leviticus, and the first ten chapters of Numbers
> together, they form only 58 chapters out of a total of 187 chapters.
> In other words, there are 129 chapters in the first five books of
> the Bible that are not included in the legal portions of the total
> Torah. [sic: not sure how he counted Deut here…] And there is more.
> What laws do appear are fully integrated into the total story and
> text of the whole Pentateuch that trace the progress of God's word
> of promise to his people. Thus, to discuss one or more of these so-
> called laws (or to use a better word, directions) in abstraction,
> and apart from the context of the story setting in which they occur,
> is to do a disservice both to the so-called law and the context of
> the narrative itself." [OT:OTDATRR:182f]
> And to your point Pete, there were changes you speak of even before
> Christ.
> You know, every once in awhile I get confronted with and humbled by
> the enormity of my ignorance and the vast amount of knowledge
> available on so many different subjects. How in the world am I
> going to stuff it all between these ears?? A photographic memory
> sure would be nice...
> Ryan
> From: Pete Enns []
> Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2009 7:59 AM
> To: Ryan Rasmussen, P.E.
> Cc: Dehler, Bernie;
> Subject: Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)
> Ryan, I think you are partly right in highlighting where the NT and
> OT are on similar trajectories, but there are so many instances
> where the NT simply abrogates what the OT "teaches" that any
> "theory" of the NT/OT relationship that will prove convincing will
> have to address the data more comprehensively.
> I think it is very clear that there are many laws in the OT that are
> no longer valid, not because we live in a different time, but
> because Jesus came and said "don't that any more."
> Pete
> On Nov 3, 2009, at 2:51 PM, Ryan Rasmussen, P.E. wrote:
>> Bernie said:
>> I can understand morals changing or evolving, esp. with a ‘meme’
>> idea of cultural evolution. But thinking that God is the ultimate
>> sense of morals, then God changes the morals, poses a logic problem
>> for me. Why didn’t God just say the morals once, and have them
>> good for all time? Was it because humans weren’t evolved enough
>> culturally so they couldn’t handle it yet? Again, that feeds into
>> the ‘meme’ idea. The whole progressive attitude of morals which
>> you seem to suggest smacks to me of cultural evolution (and I think
>> you are right in seeing it that way).
>> I'm confused.
>> OT: Leviticus 19:18 (New International Version)
>> 18 " 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your
>> people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
>> NT: Matthew 7:12 (New International Version)
>> 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to
>> you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
>> I don't see where the changing and evolving is taking place?
>> Pete said : “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. ”
>> Bernie replied: "There’s not really that big of a difference.
>> Instead of a person making a judgment, it is a court (which is
>> hopefully more fair and unbiased). So I think it is still
>> interesting to see exactly what “eye for eye” meant (OT law
>> example), how it was applied, and how it compares/contrasts with
>> the NT."
>> On the personal level which you argued, I would say that Lev. 19:18
>> strictly prohibits revenge. I do believe it would be wrong (sin)
>> for the Jewish boy to have acted on his own in spirit a of
>> vindictiveness in your example. "Eye for eye", in my view, is more
>> about limiting punishment/restitution by a governing body on the
>> behalf of someone who was wronged to a "punishment/recompense that
>> fits the crime".
>> Or as Glenn highlighted in a reference: "According to the laws in
>> chaps. 17–26, two qualities are the girding pillars of a holy life,
>> i.e., justice and love. Justice means equity. This is stated
>> fundamentally in the principle of lex talionis, an eye for an eye,
>> a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life (24:20). This principle does
>> not imply that punishment was carried out by inflicting bodily
>> injury in kind, but that punishment for harm to a person is to be
>> commensurate with the harm done, not greater, as revenge dictates,
>> nor less, as indulgence desires. This principle was a great
>> advancement in law codes, for it raised personal injury from a
>> civil tort to criminal law, increasing the social worth of a
>> citizen. Throughout these laws the worth of each person is
>> affirmed. [WBC, Leviticus, Intro]
>> I think some of the confusion here is that you are looking at laws
>> that were established for a culture so different from our own and
>> assuming that they have the same value/societal implications as
>> ours. Would we ever stone a woman who lied and posed to be a
>> virgin in today's times? Does someone's virginity have the same
>> implications today as it did in the ANE?
>> I think the main contrast I see in the NT is that Jesus brings the
>> same unchanging morals to a focus in our inner world rather than
>> constraints on the outer world.
>> Ryan
>> CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This email may contain confidential and
>> privileged material for the sole use of the intended recipient(s).
>> Any review, use, distribution or disclosure by others is strictly
>> prohibited. If you have received this communication in error,
>> please notify the sender immediately by email and delete the
>> message and any file attachments from your computer. Thank you.
> CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This email may contain confidential and
> privileged material for the sole use of the intended recipient(s).
> Any review, use, distribution or disclosure by others is strictly
> prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please
> notify the sender immediately by email and delete the message and
> any file attachments from your computer. Thank you.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Wed Nov 4 09:26:59 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Nov 04 2009 - 09:26:59 EST