Posted by: mystic444 | August 5, 2010

Did Jesus Abolish The Law?

(17) Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. (18) For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. (19) Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19, NRSV).

In my previous article (Did The “Prince Of Peace” Come Bearing A Sword?) I wrote about another “Do not suppose that I have come to…” passage in the New Testament. It was a passage sometimes used to mock the Gospel of Jesus as being hopelessly self contradictory. Many passages of the Bible, both in the Old Testament prophets and in the New Testament writers, speak of the Messiah as being a bringer of peace to men. He is the “Prince of peace”, his message is the “Gospel of peace”, and the angels are said to have announced “peace on earth, good will toward men” as a result of his coming into the world. Through him believers are said to have “peace with God”. Yet Jesus said that he came not to bring peace, but a sword, turning family members against each other.

The fact is that the ministry of the Messiah was to be twofold: he would bring both salvation and judgment. As the prophet Isaiah had put it: “(1) The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; (2) to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:1 and 2). That might seem to be contradictory, but nevertheless both things are comprehended in the ministry of the Messiah.

On occasion, when some people emphasized one aspect of the truth in a way that suppresses the other aspect of the truth, Jesus or his followers would reverse that tendency by expressing themselves in a way that would shock their hearers. They would sound like they were actually denying the aspect of the truth which had been popularly emphasized. And in fact, when the words are interpreted literally, it is a denial or contradiction. That is why it is so important to keep in mind the statement Jesus made when many of his followers thought he was crazy and were leaving him (when he spoke of the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood in order to have life): “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Or as the apostle Paul said (2 Corinthians 3:6): “…who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life”. Jesus, as it were, threw cold water in the faces of his hearers in order to shock them into thinking clearly.

This type of paradoxical, seemingly contradictory manner of speaking can be a more ‘fun’ and memorable way of expressing the truth also. For instance, Proverbs 26:4 and 5 seem to be glaringly contradictory verses: “(4) Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. (5) Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes”. By expressing himself in this paradoxical manner, the author catches our attention and makes us think. He could have said: “When you respond to a fool, be sure you don’t use the same kind of foolish speech, because that will make you a fool just like him. But also be sure you answer the fool in a way that will expose his folly, so he doesn’t think himself wise when he’s not”. But using that paradoxical mode of expression is so much more interesting.

In the same way, Jesus said (Matthew 5:39, English Standard Version): “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”. Yet his brother (physically and spiritually) James said (James 4:7): “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Is that a contradiction? Well, if you insist on interpreting according to the ‘letter which kills’, it certainly is. But when you interpret ‘according to the spirit’, recognizing the ‘fun’ kind of paradoxical speech, you see that it’s not a contradiction at all. Jesus said not to resist an evil person by responding in the same evil way; don’t hit back when he hits you. But James says to resist the evil one (the devil) by refusing to submit to his suggestions or demands.

So, how do I think this all applies to the verses in Matthew 5? Many people think that Jesus was saying here that nothing in the law or prophets – not even the smallest stroke of a pen – would ever pass away so long as this physical world exists. Therefore, all the laws about executing adulterers and Sabbath breakers are still valid; laws about clean and unclean foods, not mixing together various materials in the clothing we wear, and people with deformities not being allowed into the ‘congregation of the LORD’ should still be enforced. Physical circumcision should still be a requirement.

Some say Jesus’ teaching was completely different from that of Paul, who they think was more the enemy of the ‘true’ teachings of Jesus than a faithful apostle of the Christ. After all, it is well known that Paul taught that “we are not under law, but under grace”. With the “new covenant” being written on our hearts, the “old covenant” written on stone is done away. In Galatians 3, Paul said this about the law: “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added [to the Abrahamic covenant] because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made… (verse 19). And: “(23) But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. (24) Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (NKJV). And in Ephesians 3:15, Paul said that Christ – in doing away with the division between Jew and Gentile – has “abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances”.

The problem is, though, that it was not only Paul who seemed to be in conflict with Jesus’ statement that while heaven and earth existed, not even the smallest part of the law and prophets would be done away with. No sooner had Jesus said those words, than he himself began to set aside at least some of the Old Covenant laws!  😯 Read Matthew 5 and notice the number of times Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said… But I say unto you”.

Let’s look at just a couple of these statements. In verses 31 and 32, Jesus said this: “(31) Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (32) But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” In the law of Moses, divorce was permitted with virtually no restrictions. If you wanted a divorce, you could have one. But Jesus says divorce is not permitted except for sexual immorality. This is expanded upon in Matthew 19:3-9 and Mark 10:1-12. There are some differences in the way Matthew and Mark present the incident, so I’ll follow Matthew’s account. The Pharisees asked Jesus if it was legitimate to divorce one’s wife for just any reason (Mark doesn’t include the “for just any reason” part of the question). Jesus referred them to the first chapters of Genesis, concerning Adam and Eve. Husband and wife were to be joined together as ‘one flesh’. “So then they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (verse 6). The Pharisees then asked why it was that Moses had said it was okay to give a certificate of divorce and put away one’s wife. Jesus responded that Moses had permitted divorce because of their hard hearts, but it wasn’t allowed from the beginning. So Jesus told them that divorce was not permissible except for the cause of sexual immorality. Therefore Jesus set aside (or annulled) part of the Mosaic law.

In Matthew 5:38 and 39, we read this: “(38) You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ (39) But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Therefore, Jesus has again set his own judgment in contrast with what was in the law of Moses. No doubt the “eye for an eye” stipulation of Moses was itself intended as a protection, to prevent people from going to extremes to avenge a wrong. You don’t kill someone because he knocked out one of your teeth. But Jesus said even that was not good enough. When someone hits you, don’t retaliate by hitting him back. Jesus’ teaching is that when someone does something to offend or hurt you, you should respond by doing something good and kind to him.

Consider also what Jesus had to say about food: “There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile…Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? (Thus he declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:15, 18, 19). Despite all of the dietary laws of Moses, Jesus here declared all foods to be clean. Paul was perfectly in keeping with his Lord when he said: “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

The key to the verses referred to at the beginning of this article (Matthew 5:17-19) lies in the word “fulfill” or “make full”. Although Jesus was about to say many things which would set aside the letter of the Mosaic law, he wanted his hearers to understand that, paradoxically, he would actually be bringing out the ‘spirit’ of the law – its inner meaning and perfection – and thus making the law ‘full’ by the very act of doing away with some of the commandments. His own commandments were in fact superior to the letter of the Mosaic law; and it was his own commandments – which he was about to give in the remainder of chapters 5-7 in Matthew – to which he referred in verse 19: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of THESE commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The commandment of physical circumcision could be set aside, because the ‘spirit’ of the law is fulfilled in ‘circumcising’ our hearts – being set aside to God in our innermost being. Commandments about putting lawbreakers to death can be set aside because, when we realize the real intent of the law, we’ll realize that none of us could survive if we followed those punishments. That’s why, when an adulterous woman was brought to Jesus and he was asked whether the Mosaic law commanding her death should be fulfilled, Jesus didn’t just nullify the commandment by saying “no”; he dramatized his answer by saying that anyone there who felt he wasn’t himself guilty and deserving of the full punishment of the law should throw the first stone. The only one there who would have survived a strict adherence to the Mosaic law was Jesus himself; and his ‘law’ was love and compassion. Mahatma Gandhi was correct when he pointed out that if we live by the rule of “an eye for an eye”, it will just make the whole world blind.

Laws about clean and unclean things, including foods, go back to the same answer Jesus gave about divorce: it was not so in the beginning. Everything God created was “very good”; it was only man’s twisted decision to believe in ‘good and evil’ that introduced this dualistic philosophy. In the law God had essentially said, “You want good and evil? I’ll give you good and evil! I’ll give you so many distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ that you’ll have a difficult time keeping up with them!” But when Jesus came bringing ‘grace and truth’ in contrast with the law of Moses (John 1:17), the twisted division mankind had inaugurated at the instigation of ‘the serpent’ was overcome; mankind was ‘reconciled to God’ and all those legal distinctions between ‘clean and unclean’ were done away. The law ‘made sin exceedingly sinful’, but grace and truth in Jesus Christ puts away that sin and brings reconciliation. Jesus made the law full, even by doing away with the law! That’s a paradox, no doubt, but nevertheless it’s a great truth. 😀

More and more I enjoy the delightful paradoxes and on-the-surface contradictions of the Bible. The Prince of Peace comes to bring a sword; the one who came not to destroy the law but fulfill it, immediately starts setting aside the law.

One other thing to keep in mind about this statement of Jesus concerns “heaven and earth” passing away. “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (NRSV). The Biblical prophets, Jesus and his apostles, understood such things metaphorically. For instance, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17 –  “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” In Christ, according to Paul, the “old” heavens and earth have passed away, and there is a “new” heaven and earth. It had already been inaugurated for the believers in Christ Jesus; but it would come fully into existence with the complete destruction of the whole Mosaic order when the Roman army conquered Israel and destroyed its capital city, Jerusalem, and the Temple which was the centerpiece of the ‘old heavens and earth’. That’s why Peter said he and his readers were “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire. But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home” (2 Peter 3:12 and 13). Those apostles of Jesus Christ, and believers in him and his message, knew very well that it was the ‘last hour’ of that Old Covenant age, as John said: “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18 NKJV). Or as Peter said: “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). Jesus had told them: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things that are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22).

Oh yes, it’s true that Jesus did not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them. And with the destruction of Jerusalem, all things that were written were fulfilled. Jesus did not teach that everything in the law would last as long as the physical earth existed, but that it would last until the old heavens and earth passed away, and all was fulfilled. There was a gradual process, during the time between his earthly ministry and his ‘second coming’ in 70 A.D., wherein all things were accomplished. The Roman armies destroying Jerusalem put the finishing touches on the process. The ‘old’ with its ‘old covenant’ has indeed passed away, and the ‘new’ with its ‘new covenant’ has come. Jesus, James, Peter, John, and Paul were all in agreement about this.

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Responses

  1. To those who would mistakenly argue that certain Mosaic laws such as the tithing, dietary, festival, and Saturday Sabbath laws have been abolished, I sincerely ask them: how do you explain Galatians 5:18 which says: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”? If you interpret this verse as further proof that many Old Testament laws no longer need to be obeyed, doesn’t that idea conflict massively with MANY other major verses, especially two “gold standard” verses: ACTS 2:38: “Repent, and ….. be baptized ….. for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive ….. the Holy Spirit” and 1 JOHN 3:4: “…… sin is the violation of the law.”?

    To get the vital Holy Spirit in the first place, which is essential for salvation, you need to repent of sinning, which 1 John 3:4 clearly defines as breaking the law or torah. THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN STOP BREAKING THE LAW IS TO OBEY THE LAW!!

    Therefore the only interpretation possible of Galatians 5:18’s “not under the law” and similar verses such as “released from the law” and “freed from the law” is that Holy Spirit led Christians are no longer under the penalty (automatic death penalty for many sins) part of the law, but still are under the obedience part of the law, excluding primarily circumcision and the various sacrifices the apostles “went out of their way” to explain as abolished. Romans 8:2: “….. Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” shows that death, the penalty part of the law, no longer applies to obedient, law (torah) abiding Christians. In some very concise, abbreviated verses the Apostle Paul does not go to the trouble of “spelling out” which part of the law has now been annulled, the penalty part, not the obedience part of the law.

    Galatians 5:18 when turned around also reveals that all non-Christians ARE under the law, showing that much of the law was never really abolished.

    Visit http://TithingHelps.us to become more knowledgeable about Galatians 5:18 and other pro-law verses that mathematically outnumber by more than 2 to 1 the supposedly, at first glance anti-law verses in the English translations of the New Testament.

    Again, I emphatically encourage you to visit http://TithingHelps.us which also analyzes Matthew 7:23, a verse most Christians do not understand.

    • “Anonymous” – Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your attempt to honor God’s law, and deliver people from the kind of ‘antinomianism’ which teaches people that they can be immoral and unethical because they’re “not under law, but under grace”. However, I believe your exposition is very superficial as it fails to engage with what Paul says frequently about it not being necessary to do “the works of the law”. It’s not just that believers who have turned away from their previous wickedness are no longer under the ‘death penalty aspect of the law’ because of their previous failure to do the works of the law; it’s that they are no longer subject to a requirement to do “the works of the law”.

      What then are “the works of the law” to which Paul referred? I believe it is fairly obvious when Paul’s writings are read carefully that he was talking about the outward forms and rituals of the law – including (but not limited to) circumcision, although as he points out circumcision originated with Abraham, not Moses. He was not talking about moral precepts of the law such as the prohibition of murder and adultery, and the importance of children being obedient to their parents.

      This should be obvious, I would think, just from a consideration of the book of Acts in the Bible. I have written about this in a couple of articles: Paul/Saul of Tarsus: Apostle or Apostate? and Part 2 of: Paul/Saul of Tarsus: Apostle or Apostate?. (I have also written of Paul and the rituals of the law in another article comparing the Bible and the Qur’an (Koran): Correlations Between the Bible and the Qur’an.)

      Briefly, though, the great controversy in the book of Acts, which led to the Council at Jerusalem in chapter 15, was concerning whether or not the Gentiles needed to be circumcised AND keep the law of Moses in order to be saved. The conclusion, based on Peter’s experience with the household of Cornelius, the experiences of Paul and Barnabas in their ‘missionary work’, and James’ interpretation of a Biblical prophecy, was that the Gentiles do NOT need to either be circumcised or keep other ritual laws of Moses. The Gentiles should not be ‘troubled’ by anything other than the necessity “to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:20). Circumcision, dietary laws, and religious festivals were no part of the requirements for Gentile believers.

      What Paul was talking about in Galatians in regard to not being under law – or “the works of the law” – is evident just in this one exclamation of rebuke he made in 4:10 and 11: “Gal 4:10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. Gal 4:11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” His point was that they used to observe such things when they were idolaters; but now that they have been delivered through the faith of Christ, why should they let themselves be hoodwinked by the Judaizers into doing the same kind of thing all over again? As he commented in Galatians 5:3, those who submitted to being circumcised were also undertaking an obligation to do “the whole law”; but as the context shows, faith in Christ delivers the believers from such an obligation. As Acts said, there is no requirement that believers be circumcised and keep the law of Moses.

      This is also made clear in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, in chapter 2. He said that Christ has forgiven us our trespasses, “Col 2:14 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; Col 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Col 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ… Col 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, Col 2:21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Col 2:22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”

      Notice that in Galatians Paul was not just concerned that his readers were being swayed to accept circumcision, but that they were also being tempted (by Judaizers, not pagans) to observe other rituals like special days, months, and years. And in Colossians, the ordinances which the Colossian readers were warned against included specifically “sabbaths”, as well as other holy days and “new moons”. [The writer of Hebrews (in chapter 4), if it wasn’t Paul himself, spiritualized the concept of the sabbath. The ritualistic Jews (those who were Jews in the flesh, but not in spirit) failed to enter God’s sabbath [rest] despite all of their outward observances of sabbath days and other holy days. Believers can enter God’s sabbath [rest] through their faith. Whether that sabbath is heaven, or a present enjoyment of spiritual rest through faith, is not (in my estimation) relevant to this particular point. What is important is that the sabbath keeping which remains for the believer is not the observance of a special day of the week.]

      Paul indeed made it a practice to go into the Jewish synagogues on the sabbath days in order to preach to the Jews. But I don’t recall that he ever asked or required the Gentile believers to attend Jewish synagogue services or in other ways observe the “seventh day sabbath”.

      No, the idea that Paul could only have meant that believers were no longer subject to the penalty for their former disobedience when he spoke of not being under law is simply incorrect. He specifically said over and over that believers are not obligated to do the WORKS of the law, and the ORDINANCES of the law – meaning the outward ritual observances including circumcision, dietary laws (“let no man judge you in meat or drink”), holy days and sabbaths.

      • Aha. Gotcha. Big Time.

        It is you, not me, that do not fully understand the verses you are using to support your position. You have made the mistake of not patiently delving into the original Greek and/or have not understood the context of the verses you are referring to.

        Acts 15:24: “…… that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, you must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment.” The Greek word for “and” is kai, Strong’s number 2532, usually translated as “and.” Kai definitely CAN also be translated in other ways, depending on the context. The conservative, more literal King James Version of the Bible translates kai in other verses in the New Testament as “even” 108 times, “then” 20 times, and “so” 18 times. Kai has also been translated as “so then, certainly, just, now, well, while, for, if, that, therefore, when.” Kai can mean “as a consequence or result of an action taken” in which verse 24 could very well mean that circumcision would merely be an act or consequence of keeping the law of Moses, and Mosaic law observance in general was not a separate command. In such a situation keeping the other laws of Moses is not an issue. Verse 24: “…….. subverting your souls, saying, you must be circumcised so then or certainly or now or well or while or for or if or that or therefore or when keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment” are other possible translations. THINK! Paul and Barnabas had a HUGE argument and debate over only one single part of the Mosaic laws — circumcision in Acts 15:2. Can you even begin to imagine how great and prolonged the debate would have been if other Mosaic laws were disputed, such as those dealing with murder, coveting, tithing, diet, resting on the Sabbath, and worshipping only one God? The verse 1 Corinthians 7:19: “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters,” only one of many, many dozens of other pro-law verses, helps prove that the Apostles did not conclude that the Mosaic laws in general were nullified at the time they decided to abolish circumcision. Acts 27:9 records that Paul continued to observe Old Testament laws such as the fasting Day of Atonement, which occurred well after the time they decided to abolish circumcision, again indicating that Acts 15:24 does not mean that they decided to nullify the law in general. Kai therefore must have had a meaning other than “and.” The Apostles concluded that it would be too much of a burden to impose circumcision on Christians.

        Acts 15:19,20,28,29: “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. ……. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality …….” When the book of Acts was written the dominant Greek and Roman cultures at that time were centered around idol worship and even had many local pagan temples. Christian Gentiles assembled, literally with the sizable Jewish community, in the synagogues each Saturday. Bibles were extremely expensive at the time since Scrolls were hand written, and very few people had them except the very rich. Synagogue services were the only opportunity most Gentile Christians had to hear the Scriptures and learn Christianity since new Christian congregations had not yet been established in many areas. The Jews welcomed the new people, but they needed to be assured that the Gentiles had genuinely forsaken any form of idolatry. The apostles therefore required the Gentile believers, to get along with the Jews, to accept certain rules (generally man made rules or customs that were not necessarily always required for salvation) showing that they had rejected idolatrous practices: 1) they should not become involved in any ritual involving animal strangulation, 2) they should not participate in any ceremony misusing blood in sacrifices, 3) they should not become involved in any meal associated with idol worship, and 4) they should completely avoid any contact or dealings with temple prostitutes. Verse 21: “For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” This last verse shows that the apostles were motivated to help make the Jews accept the new Christian converts into the synagogues to regularly hear and learn what Moses was recorded to have said. If Acts 15:20,29 is a complete, exhaustive list of laws for Christians to obey, Gentile believers can now murder, cheat, lie, remove property landmarks, commit bribery, abuse the name of the Lord, work on the Sabbath, eat an animal torn by a wild animal, consult wizards, eat trichinosis infected pork and other toxic, scavenger meat, forget about tithing which often saves the helpless hungry from starving to death, curse their parents, covet, divorce for frivolous reasons and marry someone else, look at women adulterously, etc. which of course is a ridiculous conclusion. Acts 15:20,29 therefore does not even remotely begin to prove that the Mosaic laws have been nullified. For a better understanding of these verses in Acts 15 go to tomorrowsworld.org/magazines/2008/how-to-study-your-bible then scroll down to principle 5.

        Galatians 4:10: “You observe days and months and seasons and years.” Nothing, absolutely nothing in these scriptures identifies these as God’s Holy Days. The Galatian Christians were Gentiles returning to what they had come from (verse 9). They were going back to pagan observances. God nowhere, repeat, nowhere in the Bible made any months holy, and He condemned the observance of times in Deuteronomy 18:10,
        so Galatians 4:10 could not refer to biblical festivals and Holy Days.Verses 8 and 9 of Galatians 4 refer to the practices of the Galatians before they knew the laws in the Old Testament. Then they are shown to be going back to the “weak and beggarly elements.” To say that God’s laws are “weak and beggarly elements” is ridiculous. These “days and months and seasons [times] and years” were man made pagan practices, which could have been similar to astrology today.

        Colossians 2:14: “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, ……… He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” The ORIGINAL GREEK SAYS that this verse refers to our past record or evidence of sins we have already committed, not the actual laws of the Old Testament, which is a big difference. Visit (type in the address) ucg.org/un/un0503/blottedout for a better understanding of this verse. Another good site for study is ucg.org/booklets/nc/wipedout. To keep this reply as short as possible, which is difficult to do, I am referring you to other sites to correctly explain this verse.

        Colossians 2:16: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” — King James Version. The context or subject content here is not about Biblically forbidden food, but a warning by Paul to the Colossians to ignore criticism by a local group of ascetic heretics condemning the Gentile Christians in Colosse for physically enjoying the feast meals on the Sabbath and holy festival days. This verse actually shows that the righteous Colossians did observe the Saturday Sabbath and the Mosaic festival days.

        Colossians 2:20-22 is referring to MAN MADE ordinances and rules concocted by those ascetic heretics, not any Mosaic laws. Righteous Christians were not obligated to observe those non-Biblical practices.

        Also, you are leaving out a massive number of verses almost “spelling out” the need for Christians to obey certain Mosaic laws. You are also “sweeping under the rug,” “deleting” certain Old Testament prophecies predicting that the Saturday Sabbath will be observed worldwide by everyone in the distant future, and that the dietary laws will also be mercilessly enforced. The Feast of Tabernacles also will someday be enforced through plagues and drought.

        • “Anonymous” – You wrote: “Aha. Gotcha. Big Time.” I’ll simply have to return the charge and say the only one you have caught “big time” is yourself. 😀

          Let’s consider your attempted ‘scholarly’ reference to the possible meanings of the Greek word “kai”. Despite the fact that words other than ‘and’ are sometimes used to translate “kai”, the primary meaning is in fact simply “and”; and that is the way it is translated in the overwhelming majority of cases. The other meanings such as “also”, “even”, “therefore”, “as a result or consequence” are derivatives of that primary meaning, and build on it. Let’s take for instance the idea of “as a result or consequence of”. If we insert that phrase into the argument of the Judaizers (“it is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses”, Acts 15:5), it would become: “it is necessary to circumcise them, and as a result or consequence of that command them to keep the law of Moses.” That this is the meaning Paul himself understood is absolutely clear from what he said in Galatians 5:3 – “And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law“. Your argument about other possible meanings of the word “kai” is useless here, not only because there is no compelling reason in the immediate or wider context to give it some other meaning, but because the context (both immediate and wider) is clear that it is the primary meaning of “kai” which is intended.

          It was this “bondage” to “the whole law” of Moses from which Paul insisted that Christ had delivered the believers. It was this “bondage” to the whole law of Moses – not just one single element of it (circumcision) – which was the subject of the letter to the Galatians. It was the “works” of the law – plural, not just a single “work” – which Paul said were unnecessary.

          In chapter 3 (of Galatians) beginning with verse 15, Paul illustrated his meaning by contrasting the law given to Moses with the promise given to Abraham. He says that the law cannot annul the promise; but it was added (430 years later) to the Abrahamic promise because of the transgressions of the people of Israel. As an addition to the promise, it served as a ‘tutor’ or ‘schoolmaster’ to train people until faith came. “But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (3:25). Was it only circumcision which was the ‘tutor’ until Christ and faith came? Of course not. It was “the whole law” with its ritualistic “works” which was the tutor, and to which we are no longer in bondage.

          It was this “bondage” to “the whole law” of Moses which was the subject of the Jerusalem Council spoken of in Acts 15, not just a single portion of that law (circumcision). This should be clear to any thinking person from the statement attributed to Peter in verse 10: “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Was it only circumcision which the Jewish people found burdensome and unbearable? Certainly not! In fact, they prided themselves on their circumcision; they most certainly did not consider it burdensome and unbearable! But “the whole law” was indeed a burden to them. The restricted list of requirements for Gentile believers was obviously meant to be a stark contrast to “the whole law” of Moses which had been a burden even to the Jews, and which was NOT to be enforced on the Gentile believers. It may not have been a complete outline of the moral law of God; but it made clear that the Gentiles were not subject to “the whole law” with all of its ritual requirements.

          Again, the whole letter to the Galatians was written concerning bondage to the law of Moses, not bondage to paganism. So when Paul said (4:3) that “WE, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world”, he was talking about those who were under the law of Moses; and he then said in verse 5 that God’s son came “to redeem those who were under law, that we might receive the adoption as sons”. Then in verses 6ff, he said that you Galatians, who were never under the Mosaic law, are also sons and have received God’s spirit. You also are no longer slaves. Although when you served false gods you were in a bondage to rudimentary elements of the world similar to the bondage we Israelite were in, Christ has also redeemed you. Why are you now letting Judaizers hoodwink you into returning to bondage to those weak and beggarly elements of the world which both you and we formerly served? Special “days, months, seasons, and years” are weak and beggarly elements of the world, whether they’re part of your former pagan system, or part of the Mosaic system which the Judaizers seek to enforce.

          Here’s another place where you betray your cause by attempted ‘scholarship’. When Paul referred to the observation of “times” or “seasons” in Galatians 4:10, this was something quite different from what is referred to (in the KJV) in Deuteronomy 18:10. Every other translation I have consulted (even the New King James Version) renders the word (in Deuteronomy) in such ways as “soothsayer”, “tells fortunes”, “interprets omens”. Young’s Literal Translation renders it “observer of clouds”, based on the basic meaning of the Hebrew term: cloud or cover. The idea is one who seeks to see ‘omens’ in cloud formations. Paul, though, in Galatians uses the Greek word ‘kairos’ which means an ‘occasion’ or a ‘set and proper time”. It is NOT the Greek word used by the Septuagint to translate Deuteronomy 18:10. My New Revised Standard Version (New Oxford Annotated edition) has this brief footnote in explanation of Galatians 4:10 – “They still observe Jewish fast-days, new moons (months; Col. 2:16), Passover seasons, and Sabbatical years.”

          And yes, Paul would and did use such terms as “weak” and “beggarly” to refer to the Mosaic rituals. Not only did Paul call the law “weak” in Romans 8:3 (“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh…”); the writer of Hebrews (if it wasn’t Paul) used just such language concerning the law of Moses. In Hebrews 7 he pointed out that the former law and priesthood could not make anyone perfect (complete) and so a change of the law and priesthood was necessitated (verse 12 for instance). Then in verses 18 and 19 he said this: “For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” Then in chapter 9, he explained that so long as the ‘first tabernacle’ (or ‘outer tabernacle’) was still standing, the way into the ‘inner sanctuary’ (“the Holiest of All”) was not fully open. But that outer tabernacle was just on the verge of being completely demolished – which took place when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. The whole Mosaic order was demolished at that time. Prior to that time, Jewish believers like Paul no doubt did continue to observe the “holy days”; but the ‘Gentile’ believers had no obligation to join in. As the writer said in verses 9 and 10 of Hebrews 9, all of those Mosaic regulations were symbolic for the time then present, and were “concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances IMPOSED UNTIL THE TIME OF REFORMATION” (verse 10). That “time of reformation” has come, and those “fleshly ordinances” are no longer imposed.

          Now concerning Colossians 2, what Paul meant by “handwriting of ordinances (or requirements)” is plain and clear from verses 20-22: “… Why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations [ordinances] – Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle – which all concern things which perish with the using – according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” Those regulations were mere outward things, and they no longer had any Divine authority for them; they were merely the commandments and teachings of men (the Judaizers, and ‘gnostics’ from both Jews and Christians). That these regulations (food, drink, festivals, new moons, and sabbaths, verse 16) were from the law of Moses, not pagan or ‘ascetic’ regulations, is clear from the fact that Paul said in verse 17 that they “are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ”. Were pagan or ‘ascetic’ regulations ‘shadows of things to come’ whose ‘substance is Christ’? Perhaps you believe that, but I sure don’t and I don’t think Paul did either. That he was indeed speaking of the regulations of “the law”, and not of your hypothetical ‘ascetics’, is also plain and clear from the parallel passage in Ephesians 2:11-18. There Paul said that Gentiles had formerly been alienated from “the Commonwealth of Israel” and the “covenants of promise”. But now the separating wall has been demolished. How? By “having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances…” (verse 15). The ordinances/requirements are the requirements of the law which formerly separated Jew from Gentile; requirements which Hebrews said were only “imposed until the time of reformation”. Those ordinances/requirements are now abolished.

          Of course, we’re talking about all the strict and detailed rituals of the law, not its ‘spirit’ and moral/ethical principles. It is useless to try to maintain that saying we are not under the ritualistic ‘tutor’ is equivalent to saying we are free to murder, commit adultery, dishonor our parents, etc.! The ‘tutor’ was given as a means of impressing on people the moral and spiritual meaning; but after the ‘tutor’ has served its purpose, it becomes outdated and no longer necessary. The moral law remains intact, while the symbolic ‘tutor’ of “foods and drinks, various washings;, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10) has ‘vanished away’.

          I believe this will be the final comment I make or allow on this subject – unless someone else wishes to ask a genuine question as to how I believe certain verses relate to my ideas. It may be ‘childish’, but “it’s my blog, and I get the last word”! 😆 I’m not going to allow my comments section to be taken up by anyone who wishes to enforce a ‘Christianized Judaism’ or ‘Judaized Christianity’ on people. If you wish to talk about it on your own site, by all means do so. I’m not going to be going to your site to argue against you.

          • I believe that your readers would become more convinced of the validity of your arguments if you would at least answer additional questions I have for you concerning other Biblical verses. If you can refute what I say, then you will be considered by others as the one with the truly accurate or righteous theology. Are you really going to prevent me from commenting further?

            • In answer to your question: yes, I really am going to delete any further argumentative comments. I consider that enough has been said from each side. If you or others are not convinced that the ritual and ceremonial regulations of the Mosaic law are a thing of the past from what I have already shown, then there is probably nothing further I could say to convince you. I mean, if what the writer of Hebrews said about the the change of priesthood with its obviously necessary change of law is not convincing to you; and particularly if the explicit statement of Hebrews 9:10 about the “food, drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances [having been] imposed until the time of reformation” is not enough to convince you that those laws have been superseded and abolished; then what more can I say? At any rate, I’m quite sure that, by the will and grace of the Beneficent and Merciful Sustainer, you will not convince me of your Judaizing viewpoint.

              I did not comment on Old Testament prophecies because I am convinced that prophecy is greatly misunderstood by ‘evangelical’ Christianity. Most, if not all, Biblical prophecy has to do with things that are past for us today. At any rate, I am quite convinced that those prophecies to which you refer are either misunderstood by you – probably through failure to understand the metaphorical and allegorical language of prophecy – or they are examples of what Jeremiah said in 8:8 about the fact that his readers did not have the law with them because the false pen of the scribes had turned it into a lie. The lying scribes did not hesitate to twist and distort the historical traditions which they compiled into what we now have as the “Old Testament”, and they also did not hesitate to introduce their own lying words into “the Scriptures” and claim God had said it. I do not doubt that evidence of the work of those lying scribes can be found in the prophetic books as well as in the ‘historical’ books.

              In addition to all I have said, I have embraced the belief that Muhammad was a true prophet of God and among the greatest of them. The Qur’an (Koran) which the angel Gabriel gave through Muhammad confirms what I find in the writings of the New Testament: that those Mosaic rituals and restrictions were only given to the children of Israel – because of their transgressions – and were only temporary.

              It is not, of course, my responsibility to convince you or anyone else; ultimately it is only God who can do that. Once I have presented my view of what I believe to be godly, with the supporting arguments, I have done all that lies in my power and responsibility. (The same is true for you, of course.)

            • Concerning your reference to the law and priesthood being changed in Hebrews,…

              [Comment by Stephen – mystic444 – I told you that I would delete any further argumentation on this subject, and I meant it. Your arguments come from simple desperation: desperately trying to uphold a favorite viewpoint which is clearly unsustainable. I refuse to continue to argue with someone who is determined not to accept the clear and plain meaning of Biblical statements. Anyone who can say that “foods and drinks” in Hebrews 9:10 does not in fact refer to “foods and drinks” (that is, dietary laws) is beyond the range of reasonable argument. Anyone who does not see that the “fleshly ordinances” of Hebrews 9:10 are the same as the “ordinances” of Colossians 2 (“food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths”, verse 16; and “do not touch, do not taste, do not handle”, verse 21); or the “days, months, seasons, and years” of Galatians 4:10; is also beyond the range of reasonable argument.]

              I probably never will be able to fully understand what you said about the Koran. That book actually, in writing, condones lying to unbelievers (non-Muslims). There are also verses in it commanding the murder and mutilation of unbelievers (non-Muslims).

              [Comment by Stephen – mystic444 – You are quite mistaken about both of your accusations against the Qur’an. But considering your arguments concerning statements of the Bible – a book which you have read and with which you show some actual familiarity – it is not surprising that you would be mistaken about a book with which you are not familiar. The only non-muslims whom the Qur’an permits Muslims to kill are those non-muslims who have first physically attacked the Muslims; that is, only fighting in defense of self, family, or community is permitted. Most everyone acknowledges that killing in defense of one’s own life – or the lives of family, community, and nation – is perfectly legitimate. The Qur’an does not permit ‘mutilation’ of the enemy – unless you consider any blow that wounds or kills to be ‘mutilation’. In that case, any individual or military person who shoots an enemy is guilty of ‘mutilation’.

              The only ‘lying’ permitted is when one’s life is at stake if one tells the absolute truth. For instance, to use a familiar illustration, if you were hiding a Jewish person in Nazi occupied territory, and Nazi police questioned you as to whether or not you had any Jews in your house, you would be perfectly correct in using deception or outright lying to protect the Jewish person or people you were hiding. The Qur’an allows a person to deny his Muslim faith if his life is being threatened – so long as he does not actually renounce the faith in his heart. But even then it’s a case where it is permissible, but the better course even then is to be honest and accept whatever persecution God permits the oppressor to carry out. Lying about what the Muslim faith teaches in order to deceive people into embracing the faith is never permitted in the Qur’an. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, it is not permissible to lie about the teachings of the faith even to save one’s life. One may deny that he is a Muslim, but he may not claim that Islam does not teach something that it actually does teach or vice versa.

              I have written quite a few articles on Islam since I first began investigating the subject. If you’re interested in that, you can find them in the ‘Categories’ section on the right side of the page under the headings ‘Islam’, ‘Islamophobia’, and ‘Muslim Terrorism’. I don’t believe I’ve written an article on ‘lying’ (or ‘taqiyya’), but at the end of my article entitled “Abrogation in the Qur’an” I gave a few links to other articles on the subject.


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