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RE: [XTalk] Jesus, Paul and the law

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  • Matson, Mark (Academic)
    ... It strikes me that the central issue is not the Law per se, or not the Law , but rather the audience. The Law (of Moses) was, at least according to
    Message 1 of 10 , Apr 27, 2011
      Gordon, Ron, Bob:

      >(responding to all, but particularly this in Ron's first post:

      >(3) If Jesus had rejected the Jewish law in whole or in part, it is difficult to see why Paul was so ambivalent about both the law as a whole and about specific laws >pertaining to circumcision and food. Dale Allison puts it this way in a comment on Mt 11:13: ³... If Jesus himself had set aside the law, the heated debates on the topic in >the primitive community are hard to fathom.² (Matthew, II, 257)

      It strikes me that the central issue is not "the Law" per se, or "not the Law", but rather the audience. The Law (of Moses) was, at least according to Paul, a particular feature of Judaism. It was God's gift to Jews, and was incumbent on them as part of the covenant. I am not sure that Paul ever moved away from this position. But for Gentiles to whom he now preached and who were his primary audience, the Law is not necessary. It is not an entry-way into this new covenant, hence the pitched arguments over circumcision. Circumcision is symbolic for the whole law... a synecdoche if you will. Gentiles only need faith in Jesus to enter the new covenant.

      So if the law is not a required entry point into the new covenant, does it have any value? Well, instructional at most. And here I think the distinctions between "moral law" and "ceremonial law" might be useful, but never as actual legal dictates for Gentiles.

      But did Paul reject the law for Jews? Or, to put it another way, does the new covenant completely supplant the old covenant for Jews (are they mutually exclusive?). I don't think Paul thought so. I think he remained an law-observant Jew.

      Ron, I think you're right on Jesus. He seemed to have operated fully as affirming the Law. What might be interpreted as "breaking law" is usually interpreting it in a quite rabbinic fashion.




      Mark A. Matson
      Academic Dean
      Milligan College
      423-461-8720
      http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/mmatson/personal.htm
    • Ronald Price
      ... Gordon, I meant that Christians rejected the whole Jewish system of laws based on the Torah, where ³whole² has its normal dictionary definition. Of
      Message 2 of 10 , Apr 27, 2011
        On 27/04/2011 12:05, "Gordon Raynal" <scudi1@...> wrote:

        > A point of clarification: what does "the whole" (now rejected by all
        > Christians)" mean?
        >
        Gordon,

        I meant that Christians rejected the whole Jewish system of laws based on
        the Torah, where ³whole² has its normal dictionary definition.

        Of course the Christian bible includes the Torah, but in practice it is the
        New Testament which is used as the yardstick for Christian behaviour, and
        even there Christians usually focus on general guidelines such as Œdo to
        others what you want people to do to you¹ rather than detailed rules or
        ³laws².

        Ron Price,

        Derbyshire, UK

        http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Bob Schacht
        ... Well, I don t know what the practice is in your Christian church (assuming that you belong to one), but in the Episcopal church (and Anglican), the Ten
        Message 3 of 10 , Apr 27, 2011
          At 08:54 AM 4/27/2011, Ronald Price wrote:
          >On 27/04/2011 12:05, "Gordon Raynal" <scudi1@...> wrote:
          >
          > > A point of clarification: what does "the whole" (now rejected by all
          > > Christians)" mean?
          > >
          >Gordon,
          >
          >I meant that Christians rejected the whole Jewish system of laws based on
          >the Torah, where ³whole² has its normal dictionary definition.
          >
          >Of course the Christian bible includes the Torah, but in practice it is the
          >New Testament which is used as the yardstick for Christian behaviour, and
          >even there Christians usually focus on general guidelines such as Œdo to
          >others what you want people to do to you¹ rather than detailed rules or
          >³laws².

          Well, I don't know what the practice is in your
          Christian church (assuming that you belong to
          one), but in the Episcopal church (and Anglican),
          the Ten Commandments are included in the Book of
          Common Prayer and are occasionally included in
          communal worship, especially in penitential seasons.
          Furthermore, here in the States we've had a bit
          of controversy with some evangelical Christians
          who want the Ten Commandments to be publicly
          displayed (e.g.,
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Moore). Contrary
          to your portrayal, I don't think the Ten
          Commandments are a dead letter in the Christian
          Church-- either now, or in the First Century of our era.

          Bob Schacht
          Northern Arizona University
          So that hardly sounds like a rejection of the "whole" of Jewish law.

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Ronald Price
          ... Bob, O.K., what I wrote was an over-simplification. You can tell I have never been a member of the Anglican Church! Nevertheless I think there is an
          Message 4 of 10 , Apr 27, 2011
            On 27/04/2011 17:35, "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@...> wrote:

            > Well, I don't know what the practice is in your
            > Christian church (assuming that you belong to
            > one), but in the Episcopal church (and Anglican),
            > the Ten Commandments are included in the Book of
            > Common Prayer and are occasionally included in
            > communal worship, especially in penitential seasons.
            > Furthermore, here in the States we've had a bit
            > of controversy with some evangelical Christians
            > who want the Ten Commandments to be publicly
            > displayed (e.g.,
            > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Moore). Contrary
            > to your portrayal, I don't think the Ten
            > Commandments are a dead letter in the Christian
            > Church-- either now, or in the First Century of our era. .....
            >
            > So that hardly sounds like a rejection of the "whole" of Jewish law.

            Bob,

            O.K., what I wrote was an over-simplification. You can tell I have never
            been a member of the Anglican Church!

            Nevertheless I think there is an important distinction between Jewish
            acceptance of the ten commandments because they form part of the Torah, and
            any Christian acceptance of them. The latter cannot be simply because they
            are in the bible, for in that case Christians would not eat pork and
            circumcision would be obligatory on religious grounds. So presumably their
            attraction for some parts of the Church must be because they are perceived
            to reflect Christian values as reflected in the New Testament.

            Ron Price,

            Derbyshire, UK

            http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Gordon Raynal
            Hi Ron, Thanks for your reply to me. I ll just respond off of Bob s note, so see below: ... This takes us away from Bible and into the world of Christian
            Message 5 of 10 , Apr 27, 2011
              Hi Ron,

              Thanks for your reply to me. I'll just respond off of Bob's note, so
              see below:
              On Apr 27, 2011, at 2:24 PM, Ronald Price wrote:

              > On 27/04/2011 17:35, "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@...> wrote:
              >
              >> Well, I don't know what the practice is in your
              >> Christian church (assuming that you belong to
              >> one), but in the Episcopal church (and Anglican),
              >> the Ten Commandments are included in the Book of
              >> Common Prayer and are occasionally included in
              >> communal worship, especially in penitential seasons.
              >> Furthermore, here in the States we've had a bit
              >> of controversy with some evangelical Christians
              >> who want the Ten Commandments to be publicly
              >> displayed (e.g.,
              >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Moore). Contrary
              >> to your portrayal, I don't think the Ten
              >> Commandments are a dead letter in the Christian
              >> Church-- either now, or in the First Century of our era. .....
              >>
              >> So that hardly sounds like a rejection of the "whole" of Jewish law.
              >
              > Bob,
              >
              > O.K., what I wrote was an over-simplification. You can tell I have
              > never
              > been a member of the Anglican Church!
              >
              > Nevertheless I think there is an important distinction between Jewish
              > acceptance of the ten commandments because they form part of the
              > Torah, and
              > any Christian acceptance of them. The latter cannot be simply
              > because they
              > are in the bible, for in that case Christians would not eat pork and
              > circumcision would be obligatory on religious grounds. So presumably
              > their
              > attraction for some parts of the Church must be because they are
              > perceived
              > to reflect Christian values as reflected in the New Testament.
              >
              > Ron Price,
              >
              This takes us away from Bible and into the world of Christian theology
              and ethics, but your summation even here is still an
              oversimplification. The relationship between "grace and law" is an
              issue all across the Christian theological heritage and it is quite
              complex. That said, take a look sometimes at the Westminster Larger
              Catechism and the section on the place and understanding of the
              Decalogue.

              Gordon Raynal
              Inman, SC
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