Keeping Kosher

Eating Lobster Moral Law
Ceremonial Law Universal Law
Sabbath Keeping The Talmud
Law of Love Kiss the Son

  • “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
  • (Colossians 2:16-17).

LogoEating Lobster

Atheists advance the argument against Christianity, 'But you eat lobster.' Christians, you see, do not keep kosher, a circumstance which is to atheists an insoluble conundrum. Why not, when the Bible so commands? This will come up, for example, when a Christian quotes the stark Old Testament commands against homosexuality; this argument even made it onto the TV show, 'The West Wing.' The looked-for outcome of this argument is a bewildered look on the face of the Christian disputant. That never happens, of course, when this party is Bible-literate, rather, he starts rattling off Bible verses explaining why Christians do not keep kosher. This is not the response the atheist seeks, so he turns away. But this very conflict occupies a central place in the Book of Acts. The New Testament is remarkably transparent about a serious difference of opinion which nearly blew the church apart almost before it got started.

Thriceholy Radio

LogoWhy don't Christians keep kosher? During Jesus' earthy ministry, He only rarely encountered Gentiles; He said, "But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 15:24). Although He had taught His disciples, "And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?" (Mark 7:18-19), they had not yet made the connection that that had anything to do with keeping kosher. Some people deny that Jesus can have said this, the proof being that the disciples had not drawn this conclusion:

"But it is very unlikely that Jesus said this. We know that whether or not Christians were to observe kosher food regulations was a major controversy for at least a few decades after Jesus's life. If Jesus had made a statement like this, it is difficult to imagine that the controversy would have lasted so long or, at least, why this saying of Jesus was not cited in the context of the controversy." (Marcus J. Borg, 'Jesus,' p. 73).

But Jesus did say that; He was however 'heard' within a lengthy interpretative tradition of passages like Isaiah 1:14: "Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them," or Micah 6:7-8: "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" On their face these prophetic sayings de-emphasize, if they do not discourage, observance of the purity code and the temple cult, but no one understood them that way. Judaism has always emphasized orthopraxy, right practice, which takes the place in that religion of Christian 'orthodoxy,' i.e., right doctrine. Though the prophets had long been in the habit of suggesting that God is not all that interested in the purity code, they were not 'heard' when they said these things, and neither was Jesus, not until Peter visited Cornelius the Gentile. Upon Jesus' resurrection from the dead, He commanded His disciples, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:19). The command to teach "all nations" includes Gentiles; in fact the word 'Gentile' comes from the Latin Vulgate, from 'gens,' meaning 'nation' or 'people.'

This issue came to the fore when Peter was invited to the home of Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile. He was reluctant to go, but God sent Him a vision:

  • “The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
  • “But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
  • “And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”
  • (Acts 10:9-15).

LogoIt is God the Holy Spirit who cleansed the unclean foods, not the will of man! But this viewpoint was not universally accepted within the church; rather, some insisted the Gentile converts to Christianity must not only keep kosher, but the males must be circumcised in accordance with the law of Moses: "And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." (Acts 15:1).

So what did the church do? They leaped into action and did what churches do: they called a meeting! This precedent is, in fact, why Baptists call meetings and vote on matters in dispute. The church is an 'assembly,' an 'ekklesia.' Although the Roman empire was an autocracy at the top, at the local level, the people still retained the power of self-government; an 'ekklesia' is any democratically self-governing body. For churches which have graduated from the stage of a missionary plantation, where local leadership has had time to emerge, this is the normal form of church government. Asking a Spirit-filled congregation to vote is like polling the Holy Spirit. In the case before us, the church, after examining all the evidence and hearing from both sides, decided that Gentile converts to Christianity do not need to keep kosher:

  • “The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.
  • “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment— it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.
  • “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
  • (Acts 15:23-29).

Aleksandr Ivanov, Christ Appearing to the People

LogoThus ends the story, which is neither irrational, arbitrary nor unknown. In truth the status of the Mosaic law in Christian thought is complex. Some large Christian bodies, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, take a contrarian view to the rest of the household of faith. Moses' law, not a universal law laid down for all people at all times and in all places, was part of a covenant between God and the people of Israel. On the one hand this law was nailed to the cross: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross..." (Colossians 2:14). On the other hand the law is holy: "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." (Romans 7:12). The moral law remains an invaluable guide to the mind of God, while the ceremonial law has achieved the goal toward which it was designed to point, namely the sacrifice of the lamb on the cross. Jesus said that not a jot nor tittle would pass from the law until all was fulfilled:

"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:18).

What was fulfilled on the cross was the end, not by abrogation, but by completion and achievement of its goal, of the ceremonial aspect of the law: the temple sacrifices and priesthood. On the cross, Jesus announced that His work was finished: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19:30).

It stands to reason that, inasmuch as the infant church displayed confusion and disunity on these matters, as the Book of Acts testifies, Jesus' teaching that it is not food that defiles was not clearly understood at the time He gave it. Knowing that the Messianic era was upon them, some thought the dietary laws still applicable, others demurred. Thus, considerable latitude was left for individual liberty in interpreting these requirements: "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him." (Romans 14:3).

William Jennings Bryan Home

LogoThe Moral Law

The moral law, forbidding murder, stealing, and the like, Christ does not annul but establishes: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law." (Romans 3:31).

What about issues like 'gay marriage'? Does Moses have anything to contribute to this contemporary discussion?:

LogoThe moral law, as to its general principles, has not nor ever will go out of favor. It is universally applicable, binding upon all. . .though I must admit I was taken aback in paging through the end-notes of a book I was perusing, to discover there is an essay called 'The Theory That the World Exists because it Should.'

LogoThe Ceremonial Law

One of the things modern people cannot abide is the concept of blood sacrifice:

"Today a deity who should require bleeding sacrifices to placate him would be too sanguinary to be taken seriously. Even if powerful historical credentials were put forward in his favor, we would not look at them." (William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, Lecture XIV, Kindle location 4519).

Why is animal sacrifice required in the law? Who, or what, ultimately is the sacrifice offered?

With regard to the ceremonial and sacrificial law, truly the saying of Romans 10:4 sums things up, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Christ is the 'end:' the fulfillment, the goal, of the law. These laws pointed to Christ, describing His atoning death beforehand.

What about the law of sacrifices? After the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., no animal sacrifice has been offered by either synagogue or church. The synagogue shrugs, the Rabbis say, 'So what?' The Church points to the cross. Have these statutes already met their fulfillment in Christ's sacrifice upon the cross, to which they mutely pointed?:

"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22).

When the reality to which the sign mutely pointed is at hand, the purpose of its proclamation is accomplished: "It was of the nature of a type that God should appoint the earthly emblem with which He would connect the spiritual reality. . .In Christ all such types have ceased, because the reality to which they pointed has come." (Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History: Old Testament: Books One Through Four (The Works of Alfred Edersheim Book 4) (Kindle Location 6062-6066).

The realities to which these things mutely pointed having arrived, the church celebrates the fulfillment in its noon-day brightness and clarity, over the long-ago, distant promise still enshrouded in mist: "If you ask, then, why we keep the passover, it is because Christ was then sacrificed for us. If you ask why we do not retain the Jewish ceremonies, it is because they prefigured future realities which we commemorate as past; and the difference between the future and the past is seen in the different words we use for them." (Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XXXII, Chapter 12, The Complete Works of Saint Augustine, Kindle location 184564). . .not because the promise has been lost or discarded, but because the promise is recapitulated in its fulfillment:

"The Mosaic sacrifices had not only ceremonial and symbolical, but also spiritual and typical significance. They were of a prophetical character, and represented the gospel in the law. They were designed to prefigure the vicarious sufferings of Jesus Christ and His atoning death. The connection between them and Christ is already indicated in the Old Testament. In Psalm 40: 6-8 the Messiah is introduced as saying: “Sacrifice and offering thou hast no delight in: Mine eyes hast thou opened; burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come; in the roll of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will O my God, yea thy law is within my heart.” In these words the Messiah Himself substitutes His own great sacrifice for those of the Old Testament. The shadows pass away when the reality, which they adumbrated, arrives, Heb. 10: 5-9."

(Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 7595-7601). GLH Publishing.)

Washed from our Sins Passover Lamb
Purchase Price Without Shedding of Blood
Cur Deus Homo Haemophobia
Abel's Sacrifice One Sin One Time
God's Wrath Paganism

LogoUniversal Law

Moses' law on theft is stated in terms of oxen and sheep:

"If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep." (Exodus 22:1).

If the Bible student did not already know that the Israelites were a pastoral people, it might be possible to guess! Had the law been delivered to an Inuit fishing village on the coast of Greenland, where the land, covered by glaciers, affords no grazing for oxen or sheep, would the law have been so stated? Might it not have been more helpfully stated in terms of the theft of valuable fishing equipment, or some other familiar theft-bait, rather than a form of property unknown to the people?

Where is the maritime law in the law of Moses: the law which specifies who has the right to salvage derelict vessels abandoned at sea, who is at fault in collisions, and the like? It is not there, not because God hates mariners, but because the Jews were not a sea-going people. Had the law been delivered to Carthage, a sea-going power, these matters would have been addressed in detail. Different nations differ in their habitual occupations, situation and circumstance. There is no reason to think God expects all human beings to tend herds of sheep. In some places the terrain is unfavorable; it is not God who is ignorant that circumstances differ, but men, and not even all of those.

You will not find, as a rule, either Jewish or Christian Bible expositors who consider the law of Moses, considered as the legislation binding upon a civil polity, to be a universal law, mandatory for all peoples at all times in all places. One singular exception are the 'theonomists' of the present day. There are a number of reasons for the reticence on this point of the earlier commentators. First of all, the law itself delimits its own authority in phrases like,

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” (Leviticus 23:10-11).

So when and where is this law applicable, according to the most meticulous and punctilious literalism: at all times and in all places, or "when you come into the land," just like it says? The impulse to theonomy begins with sincere admiration for the law: "Justice, only justice, must we follow, and it is not of man, but from the Lord and in His law, not man's." (Rousas John Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume 2, 121. Justice and the Rule of Law, Kindle location 10421). This law is assumed to be unchanging, indeed unchangeable, because God does not change: "God's laws can no more be repealed than God can be. They are a part of the constitution of things." (Rousas J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume 2, Kindle location 13671, Section 158. The Tree of Life.)

Moses' theocratic polity lacked a legislative branch, and therefore, they contend, it is blasphemy for man to attempt to legislate: "A fact concerning biblical law which is seldom realized is that God made no provision for a lawmaking body, because He did not intend that there be one. We cannot understand the biblical order if we fail to grasp the fact that God alone is the lawmaker. Men cannot make laws without sinning, nor can judges add or subtract from the law." (Rousas J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume 2, Kindle location 13312, Section 154, The Exercise of Discretion). A closer study of exactly what the law says would have pointed to difficulties with the concept that the law which came down at Mount Sinai was ever intended to be universally applicable.

But what blows theonomy sky-high is the Sermon on the Mount. When a theft takes place, to them, it is critical the community prosecutes to the fullest extent of the law; that is what God wants, in fact it's almost all He ever wants. So why is that not Jesus' instruction? Well, they guess. . .because Judaea was under military occupation; it's an anomaly, a temporary aberration! According to Rushdoony, the instruction to turn the other cheek was a temporary expedient only applicable to a situation comparable to the Roman military occupation of Judaea, where resistance was essentially futile:

"What Jesus advocates is for Christians to bribe the offending official. A bribe is a gift over and above what is legally required or asked for—a gift which will encourage the offending party to leave the Christian and the church in peace. . .In other words, the bribe pacifies the receiver, just as Solomon said it does. The ethic of the Sermon on the Mount is grounded on the principle that a godly bribe (of goods or services) is sometimes the best way for Christians to buy temporary peace and freedom for themselves and the church, assuming the enemies of God have overwhelming temporal power. Such a bribe must be given in good conscience in order to achieve a righteous end. . . Nevertheless, this one fact should be apparent: turning the other cheek is a bribe." (Rushdoony, R. J., The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 1 (The Institutes of Biblical Law Series) (pp. 1185-1186). Chalcedon Foundation. Kindle Edition.)

One is hard pressed to imagine a more preposterous instance of scripture-twisting. It accomplishes Rushdoony's object, which is that turning the other cheek, as Jesus commanded, was admittedly obligatory for them, but not for us. It gets erased. They are as far as the East is from the West from being 'Red-Letter Christians.' Moses brought down legislation from the mount, and so did Jesus. Gospel authors like Matthew stress the parallels between Moses and Jesus, but in this scheme, there is no parallel, because unlike Moses, Jesus is not free to legislate. He can only repeat what Moses already said. Tossing out the Lord's commands is not an option, but that is just what they do.

Turn the Other Cheek
God of Love
Universal Law
General Equity
What Happens in Vegas
Woman Taken in Adultery
Stare Decisis
Wall of Separation
Father's Wife

LogoSome of the Christians who lean toward theonomy say, that you cannot condemn a Christian for wrong-doing unless that wrong action is explicitly condemned in scripture. Here is where they go to town; what looked like it might chafe and bind as a legalistic strait-jacket becomes instead an open doorway to antinomianism. In many jurisdictions in the United States it is illegal to record a phone call without notification and consent of the other party. But Apologia Church of Tempe, Arizona records phone calls, and does so quite unapologetically. I can almost hear them asking, where in the Bible does it say you can't record a phone call? Needless to say it doesn't say so; there is no mention of telephones or tape recorders at all.

Neither does it say that Christians must stop their vehicles at stop signs. So far as I know, no archaeologist has ever dug up an ancient stop sign; they didn't have them. Of course, vehicles were slower back then. Modern laws address modern circumstances, and every citizen in a democratic country is a law-giver, at least in the sense of casting a vote for or against candidates who advertise their preferences on pending laws. Christian scoff-laws cannot make the Bible their excuse. The Bible does not present itself as an entirely closed system: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." (Philippians 4:8). Information can be brought in from outside, and Biblical principles applied to the new situation, for instance, the Golden Rule. Do you want your phone conversations recorded without your knowledge?

In Romans Chapter 13, the apostle Paul specifically acknowledges the legitimacy of civil government, including the power to levy taxes. However Rushdoony and his followers specifically deny any authority to legislate to the government, because Moses has pre-empted that ground, "Because man is a creature, moreover, the only law which can legitimately govern his being is God's law. Church law, state law, or any other law must be grounded unswervingly on God's law." (Rousas J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume 2, Kindle location 11071, Section 128, Coercion.) Thus they refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the property taxes which most American municipalities levy to fund their services, because Moses' law did not include a real estate tax. This is a matter of simply not following the instructions in Romans 13.

There are men spoken of with favor in the Old Testament, who lived, struggled, and died prior to the revelation of the law on Mount Sinai, such as Abraham, the friend of God, and righteous Noah. These men cannot have been justified before God by keeping Moses' law, because that law had not yet been promulgated. So how to understand the status of these men?

“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Romans 4:1-4).

Thus the Christian view: the patriarchs were saved by faith, not by law-keeping. Now of course that is one view, there are others: the rabbis felt rather than Abraham and Noah were justified, not by faith, but by keeping a law-code not spelled out in scripture, but which may be summarized as,

  1. Do not worship idols;
  2. Do not blaspheme the name of God;
  3. Establish courts of justice;
  4. Do not kill;
  5. Do not commit adultery;
  6. Do not rob;
  7. Do not eat flesh cut from a living animal.

See, for instance, Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, 56a: "Our Rabbis taught: seven precepts were the sons of Noah commanded: social laws; to refrain from blasphemy, idolatry; adultery; bloodshed; robbery; and eating flesh cut from a living animal." A human invention perhaps, but the fact is undeniable: there are some men saved outside of the law brought down by Moses from Mount Sinai. So for sound textual reasons, there really is no one who thinks the law of Moses is applicable in its entirety to all men at all times; even the Seventh Day Adventists, even the most rigorous Christian theonomist, does not believe the temple animal sacrifices have any function today, after the final sacrifices to which they testified has been accomplished. There remains room for disagreement, over which category pertains to a given law: is it part of the moral law, and thus still serviceable for insight into God's mind, or part of the ceremonial or national law and thus not applicable universally? There are misfires, unfortunately, people who put the pieces of the puzzle together wrong, so that the sail-boat is sailing across the sky, and the trees grow underground:

Logo  Thus far with commentators who have actually read the text, and made some effort to understand it. So now we come to the atheists, who blunder through scripture in the most amazing way:

  • “My main purpose here has not been to show that we shouldn't get our morals from scripture (although that is my opinion). My purpose has been to demonstrate that we (and that includes most religious people) as a matter of fact don't get our morals from scripture. If we did, we would strictly observe the sabbath and think it just and proper to execute anybody who chose not to. We would stone to death any new bride who couldn't prove she was a virgin, if her husband pronounced himself unsatisfied with her. We would execute disobedient children.”
  • (The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, p. 283).

LogoSo what is this author's opinion of Paul's saying, that the law has been nailed to the cross?: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross..." (Colossians 2:14). These people know nothing about it, nor anything else for that matter. If you, Dear Reader, think it is best to inform yourself on a topic before expressing an opinion upon it, then you are not cut out to be an atheist.

Looking for more 'Bible Difficulties'?:


LogoSabbath Keeping

A major Christian group, the Seventh Day Adventists, as well as various atheists, Deists, liberals, etc., complain that 'the Catholic Church' or the Emperor Constantine or somebody 'changed the day' of the Sabbath, from Saturday to Sunday:

"The very institution of the Sabbath was in itself arbitrary, otherwise it would not have been changed from the last to the first day of the week. For those ordinances which are predicated on the reason and fitness of things can never change: as that which is once morally fit, always remains so, and is immutable, nor could the same crime, in justice, deserve death in Moses's time (as in the instance of the Israelite's gathering sticks), and but a pecuniary find in ours; as in the instance of the breach of Sabbath in these times." (Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man, Chapter VII, Section II).

After all, it is undeniable that the vast majority of Christians today meet for worship on Sunday, and those Christian 'Sabbatarians' who insist upon Sabbath observance in accord with Moses' law say Sunday is the day.

What's up with that? Did somebody 'change the day' of the Sabbath? Or maybe sanctify the first day of the week by doing something unusual on it, like rising from the dead?:

LogoThe opinions which have been offered on the relationship between the Christian gospel and the Old Testament range from Marcion's rejection of the God of the Jews to the modern theonomist's insistence that the law of Moses is universally applicable. There is a boomlet in the publishing industry nowadays aiming to rehabilitate Marcion and his colleagues. But are all these ideas equally plausible?:

Richard Dawkins Thomas Paine
The Unchanging God Marcion
Issues Apion
A Different Perspective

LogoThe Talmud

From the time the synagogue expelled its Christian members, the church and the synagogue have gone their separate ways. The Rabbis of the early Christian centuries whose views are codified in the Talmud put their shoulders to the work of erecting a hedge around the law,

"Moses received the Torah from Sinai, and he delivered it to Jehoshua, and Jehoshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets delivered it to the men of the Great Synagogue. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment; and raise up many disciples; and make a fence to the Torah." (Pirke Aboth, Book 1, Chapter 1).

There are two modern religions which survived the wreckage of the temple and Israel's national existence at the hands of pagan Rome: Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. It is sometimes assumed that Rabbinic Judaism is the 'elder brother' of Christianity, but it is really more accurately described as the younger sibling. The Rabbis were obliged to invent a Judaism which did not have, did not need, and perhaps did not even want, a temple, or any blood covering of sins. The process of building a hedge or fence which they themselves identified as their goal in Biblical interpretation involves a process of sharpening and elaboration, which tends to add to the sum total of observances.

The Rabbis' approach to the law ranges from obedience to nullification. In cases where obedience was deemed inconvenient to their core constituency, the Rabbis placed their thumb on the scales. What happens to Moses' social legislation is distinctly disappointing. This process of milding down goes as far back as Hillel, who very leniently interpreted the Sabbatical and Jubilee provisions. . .leniently for creditors, that is, not for debtors! Instead of forgiving debts at the Sabbatical as directed, they found inventive ways around. In addition, the definition of the people of God found in the Talmud is often disappointingly racialist, which is not Biblical but human invention:

LogoAs an example of the deformation process, Moses' permission for the children of Israel to takes slaves from amongst the heathen nations is made into a prohibition against emancipating a heathen slave: "The text above stated: Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel: Whoever emancipates his heathen slave breaks a positive precept, since it is written, They shall be your bondmen for ever." (The Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 38b.) Since there is no requirement to purchase any such slave, how can it become a "positive precept" not to emancipate one thus purchased? Circumcizing male slaves, with a view to their entering the covenant people, goes back to Abraham:

LogoThis policy, enlightened and progressive from one point of view, would later become a flash-point for controversy, as Christians and others objected to pressuring their fellows into apostasy. Mercifully, the majority view still allows these foreign slaves to become proselytes. Moses does not prohibit emancipation of one still enmeshed in heathen idolatry, only certain Rabbis do. The heathen slave sold by his people might have been purchased by a heathen master and ultimately emancipated, whether from friendship or some other motive of gratitude or benevolence; it is these Rabbis who make his purchase by an Israelite into a curse for him, because he must remain enslaved. And this is typical. Moses' commonwealth was not designed to be a layer-cake society like that of the Spartans and Helots; the covenant was for the hewers of wood as well as the lawyers:

"Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." (Deuteronomy 29:10-13).

But this blueprint for an ideal society is taken in a different direction by the Rabbis. These approaches diverge from the outset, taking each a different fork on the question, has the Messiah come? If we look to the intent of the dietary laws for instance, one demonstrable purpose is to keep Israel separate from the nations. But in the Messianic era, when the Gentiles come streaming into the kingdom, this goal is less of an imperative, if indeed continuing on that course might not even frustrate God's purposes. The point in dispute is not necessarily whether Moses' law continues in force during the Messianic era, because many of the Rabbis concede that it does not: "The world is to last six thousand years. Two thousand of these are termed the period of disorder, two thousand belong to the dispensation of the law, and two thousand are the days of the Messiah; but because of our iniquities a large fraction of the latter term is already passed and gone without the Messiah giving any sign of His appearing." (Sanhedrin, fol. 97, col. 1, Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala, Kindle location 3686). Notice that the period during which Moses' law holds sway does not include the Messianic era. But on the question of whether the Messiah, who incidentally came right on time and is not delayed, has yet come, the Rabbis, however, remain solid on futurism, meaning the pre-Messianic plan continues. So on this point the Talmud takes the opposite approach from the gospel, elaborating the dietary laws beyond anything imagined by Moses, presumably to build an even higher barrier between Israel and the nations than that constructed by the written law.

Christians are sometimes accused of 'picking and choosing' which of Moses' ordinances they will observe; for example, the early Christian community dropped the kosher food requirements and circumcision, believing their usefulness outlived. Realize, though, that if the apostles were correct in their surmise that the Messiah had come, the sting of this accusation fades away. What is less often noted is that Rabbinic Judaism picks and chooses quite selectively in its own right. The reader of the Koran will recall Mohammed ibn Abdallah's perplexity that the Arabian Jews did not stone adulterers as Moses enjoined. In Arabia at the time there was no government above the level of the tribe, and so no jealous Gentile government, guarding its monopoly over lethal force, stood in the way. The lack of a sitting appellate court competent to hear death penalty appeals, once the Sanhedrin could no longer sit in the temple precincts, must have been a hindrance; but the gross dereliction of the law this failure, and others of a similar kind, represented, made Mohammed wonder if they even wanted to observe the law. The extent to which even 'Orthodox' Jews observe Moses' law is greatly exaggerated. They are not theonomists.

The most glaring omission, however, is blood atonement, provided in Christianity, but absent in modern Judaism, it having been discovered to be unnecessary: "R. Johanan b. Zakkai once went out of Jerusalem, followed by R. Joshua, and seeing the destroyed Temple, R. Joshua said 'Woe to us, that this is destroyed, the only place where the sins of the Israelites were atoned!' R. Johanan corrected him, saying: 'My son, do not grieve over it. We have other means of atonement as effective — namely, bestowal of favors, as it is written [Hosea, vi. 6]: 'For kindness I desired, and not sacrifice.'" (The Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Volume 9, Tract Aboth, Chapter I, Kindle location 37077). Rejoicing with people in their joy, and weeping with them in their sorrow is deemed an apt substitute for the blood. Or so they have decreed.

The Rabbis and the Christian apostles see the same material, the Old Testament, with distinctly different eyes. Christians have no reason to consider the Talmud divinely inspired; indeed this human and all-too-human committee project does not claim inspiration. Neither is it in the main a record of pre-Christian Judaism, though it incorporates some traditions which may be pre-Christian. Sometimes the Rabbis are enlightened and insightful, sometimes not so much:

On the One Hand Fear-Mongering
Equal Justice Underground Railroad
Equal Protection Who is my Neighbor?
Salvation Plan The Virgin Mary
Jesus in the Talmud Contamination
The Crux of the Matter Eighteen
Daniel's Vision Philo Judaeus
Country of Origin Et Tu

LogoLaw of Love

Leviticus admonishes us to love our neighbor:

  • “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”
  • (Leviticus 19:18).

LogoWhat are we to do with this information? Some people say we are not allowed to make use of it:

"But fundamentalist Christians must choose: They can either follow Mosaic Law by keeping kosher, being circumcised, never wearing clothes made of two types of thread and the life. Or they can accept that finding salvation in the Resurrection of Christ means that Leviticus is off the table."
(Kurt Eichenwald, The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin, December 23, 2014 Newsweek magazine).

But Leviticus here cannot be "off the table," and not only because it's reiterated several times in the New Testament. It's the word of God. The Mosaic law opens a window into God's heart, teaching what is right and wrong. The law is not self-enforcing; it commands, 'do this,' and 'don't do that,' without also giving the ability to measure up: "What the law demands from us, grace promises and performs for us. The law deals with what we ought to do — whether we are able to or not — and by appealing to motives of fear and love stirs us to do our utmost. But the law gives no added strength, and so only leads to failure and condemnation. Grace points to what we cannot do, but offers to do it for us and in us." (Andrew Murray, A Life of Obedience, p. 89). And so for this reason, the law written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit excels the law written on stone tablets; but not otherwise.


Kiss the Son

It is sometimes imagined that the Bible presents more than one salvation plan: the 'Dead Animal' plan in the Old Testament, and the 'Faith in Christ' plan in the New. This is not the case at all. There is only one salvation plan in scripture; Abraham was saved by faith, just as surely as any New Testament saint. The ordinances of the law pointed toward Christ. He taught them in pictures. There is one recommended course of action:

"Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him." (Psalm 2:11-12).

What was true then is still true today. God hasn't changed His mind or taken it back:

"Those who refuse Christ will perish. Those who seek refuge in Christ as the only place of safety are saved. In the truest sense, it is Christ who rescues the perishing. Note that these commands to trust Christ or else suffer the consequences are not prophecies of how men would be saved after the Incarnation. Christ was the only object of saving faith in the Old Testament dispensation just as He is the only object of saving faith now." (Michael P. V. Barrett, Beginning at Moses, Kindle location 5223)