Old Testament Law: An Introduction
by Anthony Weber
Christians have long struggled to fully understand the Old Testament. The narratives contain many stories of hope and grace, but there are also plenty of stories of violence and despair. To complicate matters, Christians claim that the Old Testament reveals truth about not only about world, but also the character and nature of the God who made it. Since our understanding of God is on the line, I believe it is important that we seek to understand the Old Testament to the best of our ability.
In a previous series, we looked at the issue of war in the Old Testament. In this series, we are going to delve into Old Testament laws. The Apostle Paul was adamant that all of Scripture is inspired and is useful (2 Timothy 3:16), and the “all Scripture” he referred to was the Old Testament. The “inspired” part caused little controversy among the Jewish population; the “useful” part, however, created immediate tension. In fact, the first church council at Jerusalem convened because of this issues involving the Law (Acts 15:24-29).
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Over the next few centuries many Christians began either to reject the Old Testament completely or to make it allegorical as a way to find something meaningful without the uncomfortable task of wrestling with the literal meaning. One early writer, for example, interpreted the food laws of Deuteronomy 14:7 in the following way. “The clean animal symbolizes a true Christian who is able to both chew the cud (=meditate on the Word) of God, the Bible) and be cloven-footed (=walk in the world while not being corrupted by it and in the Spirit at the same time).”
Can we all agree on something? God’s Law as revealed in the Old Testament is daunting, uncomfortable, and confusing at best. But if the Bible is God’s revelation to the world, then something about that revelation should give us a picture of who God is and what He calls us to be. Laws reflect the giver of the law; it is important that we understand God’s laws so that we do not misunderstand God.
As with all forms of communication, there are at least three crucial aspects of the laws that we must remember…
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