Monday, October 25, 2010

Law of Moses - Law of God

It would appear that a post that specifically addresses the Law of Moses is past due. And it looks like this is going to have to be a two-part post. Even in two parts, I cannot possibly discuss every nuance of this subject. What I will have to do is narrow my focus. There are a lot of options for phrases that we could look at in this study. Believe me, you don't want me to do that here. This would be a 15-part series in no time just from listing the verses where certain phrases exist. For the sake of time and space, we've picked the two most controversial: "Law of God", and "Law of Moses".

Even though he didn't come up with the idea, Herbert Armstrong taught that the "Law of Moses" only included the sections of the Old Covenant law that were, in his words, "ceremonial, ritualistic, or sacrificial laws" (eg. animal sacrifice, cleanliness rituals). He taught that these were removed at Christ's death. ["Nailed to the cross," so to speak.] He also taught that a cherry-picked list of "moral" portions of the Old Covenant law (eg. Ten Commandments, Holy Days, tithing, foods laws) fell under a completely different category which he called the "Law of God." To this very day, this is one of the most oft-repeated arguments for law-keeping in Armstrongism. It often appears somewhat like this, "Only the Law of Moses was removed. The Ten Commandments are the Law of God, and they were not removed." I want to investigate this and see if we can distinguish fact from fiction.

Were the "ceremonial" and "practical" sections of the law called the "Law of Moses"? Yes.
Were the "moral" sections of the law called the "Law of God"? Yes.
Both of these statements are completely, 100% true! That's not tongue-in-cheek. (ABD may be a polemics blog, but it isn't dedicated to claiming Herbert Armstrong was wrong in everything he did. We want the truth. We'll tell you when he's right! We just rarely find that happening is all.) These really are true statements!
But (you knew this was coming) the converse is also true:
Were the "ceremonial" and "practical" sections of the law called the "Law of God"? Yes.
Were the "moral" sections of the law called the "Law of Moses"? Yes.
Just to be circumspect, I should mention that it is also called, plainly, "the Law."


The phrase "Law of God" only appears in the KJV Old Testament four times in two books (JOS. 24: 26; NEH. 8: 8, 18; 10: 28). That's it. If you expect it to appear in the New Testament more often, think again. In the KJV New Testament, the phrase "Law of God" only appears three times in one book (HEB. 7: 22, 25; 8: 7). That's a grand total of seven. Not what you expected, was it? If all of the "moral" law (which is supposedly still binding) falls under the Law of God, you would think this phrase would appear more often than just this.
Let's look at one of those verses:

(NEH 10: 28-29) 28 Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding— 29 these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes

God's Law was given by Moses? That's not supposed to be there. God's Law includes commands, ordinances, and statutes? That's odd. That's the same wording used for the Law of Moses (eg. I KIN. 2: 3; MAL. 4: 4). That's exactly what we were always told should not be there. But, that can only mean.... that the Law of God includes the entire law, and not just "moral law."

Someone might say, "But wait! It says 'Law of God' then lists commandments, ordinances and statutes separately!" (That is to say, commandments are different from ordinances are different from statutes.) The Bible lists them separately quite often. Do a search for the word 'statutes' and see how it's usually listed on its own. You will even see phrases like "statutes and laws" and "statutes and judgments". I Kings 17: 37 even says, "And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment". If we are going to make a big deal about how they are listed separately, then commandments aren't laws, and therefore not the Law of God. See how this argument doesn't work? They might be different from each other but that doesn't change how they were all listed as "God's Law" right there in Nehemiah 10.

Already this study should be finished. We've shown its most basic assumption to be false. But I sense more is needed to convince certain ones. Let's move ahead and look at more. Much more.


The phrase "Law of Moses" appears in the KJV Old Testament fifteen times across nine books (JOS. 8: 31, 32; 23: 6; JUD. 4: 11; I KIN. 2: 3; II KIN. 14: 6; 23: 25; II CHR. 23: 18; 30: 16; EZR. 3: 2; 7: 6; NEH. 8: 1; DAN. 9: 11, 13; MAL. 4: 4). In the KJV New Testament, the phrase "Law of Moses" appears seven times in four books (LUK. 2: 22; 24: 44; JON. 7: 23; ACT. 13: 39; 15: 5; 28: 23; I COR. 9: 9).

(ACT. 15: 5) But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

Those bothersome legalists "of the circumcision" said the Law of Moses was necessary for salvation (ACT. 15: 1). But the Law of Moses is not pleasing to God (at least where the Gentiles are concerned); it is something that tests God (ACT. 15: 10). It is not something the Apostles taught the Gentiles to observe (ACT. 15: 24; 21: 25). Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, they were shown to be unnecessary (ACT. 15: 28). And this is why Herbert Armstrong had to distance himself from it, and substitute "Law of God" in order to justify continued law-keeping. But just what do you mean, "Law of Moses"?
The Free Dictionary will tell us what the Law of Moses is:
Law of Moses
1. (Christian Religious Writings / Bible) the first five books of the Old Testament; Pentateuch
2. (Non-Christian Religions / Judaism) Judaism a law or body of laws derived from the Torah in accordance with interpretations (the Oral Law) traditionally believed to have been given to Moses on Mount Sinai together with the Written Law
Don't believe the dictionary, eh? I understand. What would they know about definitions of words and phrases anyway. Let's look in the Bible instead.
Joshua says a mouthful!

(JOSH. 8: 30-35) 30 Now Joshua built an altar to the LORD God of Israel in Mount Ebal, 31 as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law [torah] of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law [torah] of Moses, which he had written. 33 Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law [torah], the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law [torah]. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.

What is the Book of the Law of Moses which Joshua references? None other than the Torah. Moses is credited with writing the core of the first five books of the Bible. They are all referred to as the "Book of the Law" or the "Book of the Law of Moses". The Book of the Law is the Torah - the Pentateuch; the first five books of the Bible - and the Law of Moses is every law written therein. Now, when Joshua read the Book of the Law of Moses, every word that Moses commanded, do you suppose that included the Ten Commandments? If he read every word, it had to! That must be hard to accept.

Some say Moses did not live to write every word of the Torah. That makes it worse. That would mean laws added later are not the law of Moses at all. What that means is the Ten Commandments are even more likely to be the Law of Moses.
Even if someone doesn't accept that the Book of the Law of Moses is the first five books of the Bible, and the Law of Moses is every law in them, at the very least one must accept that this Book includes Deuteronomy, since Joshua quotes directly from there. Joshua referenced Deuteronomy 27: 5-6 specifically. Does Deuteronomy include the Ten Commandments? Of course it does! Deuteronomy chapters 4 and 5, especially 5, go over the Ten Commandments quite a bit. So, the Ten Commandments are in the Book of Law of Moses. (It's a book, after all, not the "Cherry-picked Collection of the Ceremonial-Law Only of Moses".) It would be difficult to explain that away.

Now, what do you suppose Joshua wrote on the stones of the alter in verse 32? Do you suppose it was the law concerning sacrifice? I'm guessing not. The ceremonial law of tassels and headgear? Probably not. It would most likely be what each of us naturally thinks it was - the Ten Commandments. And even if Joshua didn't have only the Ten Commandments chiseled or painted on the stones, perhaps it was the whole Law of Moses that was put there, that still includes the Ten Commandments.
Are we to believe that Joshua thought the ceremonial and practical portions of the law to be so important he would write them on stone near an altar at the entrance to Israel, but he would leave the Spiritual and supposedly "eternal" portions of the law off? Chew on that a bit.

So we've seen that the Law of God is all the law that was given through Moses, and now we've seen that the Law of Moses definitely includes the Ten Commandments. This confusion should be solved for you. Seriously, this should be a slam-dunk here. This teaching is busted.
But let's look at even more evidence.


Still not ready to rethink your base assumptions? Still think "commandments" means Ten Commandments, and they aren't in the Law of Moses? What did David charge Solomon to do?

(I KIN. 2: 3) And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses...

It states the matter quite clearly right there - the commandments are in the Law of Moses. That's straight from David's mouth. Do you still insist that "commandments" can only mean "Ten Commandments"? Then you've dug a hole for yourself.
Let me ask you something. Do you know the three divisions of the Old Testament writings? Jesus knew them:

(LUK. 24: 44) 44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

Jesus has referenced the three divisions of the Old Testament: the law (torah), the prophets, and the psalms (writings). This is another way of saying "the whole thing." Only, instead of saying "Law [Torah] of Moses," as we would find in the Old Testament Hebrew, Jesus said "Law [Nomos] of Moses" in New Testament Greek. So, according to the Author, the Torah is the Law of Moses.
Practically the same thing happens in Acts 28: 23.

(ACT. 28: 23b) ...persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.

These aren't some made-up divisions like when Herbert Armstrong invented "physical sin" versus "spiritual sin." These are real divisions which Jesus Himself recognized. The Law of Moses is the first five books of the Bible.
The Ten Commandments are laws, are they not? Of course they are. Well, through whom did the law come?

(JON. 1: 17a) For the law was given through Moses...

Interesting, no? Any exceptions listed there? Any qualifications? No. It just says "law." It was given through Moses. Moses was the mediator of that Covenant, after all. Let's see what the rest of this verse says:

(JON. 1: 17b) ...but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

This isn't a verse we went over in Armstrongism very often. The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. I find that to be very interesting indeed.

I think we can safely put this idea to rest that "The Ten Commandments are not the Law of Moses," as well as its follow-up claim, "therefore they are still in effect." The Ten Commandments are included in the Law of Moses. Does that mean they are not the Law of God? No. They were also referred to as the Law of God. "Law of God" and "Law of Moses" are just labels. They are both the same thing. It was all given by God through Moses. There are many verses that we could point to to prove this out.

Next time we're going to look at one selection in particular that I think is really going to drive this point home.
You can find the next post in this series here.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ;-)
Acts 17:11

1 comment:

Micah said...

Awesome and concise analysis!! I'm currently having a discussion with someone involving this very claim, and I personally feel its the main support column of the Adventist/Armstrongism doctrine. Thank you for doing this study, it helped me, and is sure to help others!