A Jewish view of the Christian view of the LAW

I have great respect for Rabbi Yisroel Blumental, and have gained much from his 1000 verses. There are many things, though, where, I as a Christian Jew/Hebrew Christian, disagree with him. For example, the Rabbi says:

 “The missionary argues that the Giver of the Law presented a Law which brings a curse down upon the human race (Galatians 3:13). The law, argues the missionary, is not something that can benefit man; it was essentially given for the detriment of man. According to the missionary, the system, as it appears, is flawed. Man “deserves” perfection and immortality, and God is withholding it from them. It is only by circumventing the system, through the acceptance of an unnatural belief; that man will get what he “truly deserves”.  (I ASSUME THAT ALL THIS IS THE MISSIONARY TALKING – according to the Rabbi).

Galatians 3:13 says, as he correctly points out: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.”

 The curse refers to man – represented by the Jew – in spite of the fact that he is unable to fulfill the law. “It shall come about…if you not obey the Lord to observe to do ALL his commandments and his statutes…that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deut 28).

 But, if we cannot fulfill the law, if we have no capacity to do all that God commands, why will He curse us? This is hard to understand for both the Christian and the Jew, But, this does not mean that the law was given for the detriment of man; recall the Rabbi (above): “The law, argues the missionary, is not something that can benefit man; it was essentially given for the detriment of man.”

 On the contrary, this is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Here is the Christian position: it is man, not the system (the law), who is flawed. Much more, he is estranged, cut off, from God because of sin. For this reason he does not deserve “perfection and immortality;” what he deserves is judgment and condemnation. Man’s sin is the reason why God withholds eternal life.

With regard to Christian view of the law, consider the verses that follow Galatians 3:13, which is the verse that Rabbi Blumenthal quotes above:

 (Words in capitals are from the Hebrew Bible; words in italics are words added to facilitate the understanding of the original Greek; I have underlined pertinent sections):

Galatians 3

 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Intent of the Law

 15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

From the Christian view, then, what is the purpose of the law?

1. To prevent sin:

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…Gal 3:19. God forbids certain thoughts/actions to keep evil in check.

 2. To put to death self-righteousness:

Gal 3:22: “But the scripture consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Only when you realise how sick you are, will you desire the physician.

 3. To discipline Israel during its youth:

Gal 3:24: “the law was our disciplinarian (paidagōgos) until Christ came.”

 We are no longer under the law, writes Paul (Galatians 3:25). But he also writes, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12); and:

 (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)

7 if the ministration of death, written, and engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which glory was passing away: 8 how shall not rather the ministration of the spirit be with glory? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation hath glory, much rather doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For verily that which hath been made glorious hath not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasseth. 11 For if that which passeth away was with glory, much more that which remaineth is in glory.

 Rabbi Blumenthal will, naturally, disagree with these reasons for the law, but then all I am doing here is putting flesh on, and straightening out a bit, the rickety Christian skeleton of his argument.

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14 thoughts on “A Jewish view of the Christian view of the LAW

  1. Bography
    God says that the Law is blessing and life (Deuteronomy 30:19) – and that is what He gave us. Paul’s casuistry is exactly the same like the serpent’s – unless you are convinced that the serpent wasn’t capable of giving complicated argumentation to support his position. – Bography – try trusting the One who gave us the Law – He’s reliable.

  2. I was thinking about your usage of Galations, which has no currency to a non-Christian, as proof to a non-Christian that he ought to believe what a Christian does. It’s ridiculous.

    I was also thinking about your usage of the Zohar, which has no currency to a Christian, as proof to a non-Christian that he ought to believe what a Christian does. Not only ridiculous, but cynical.

    • Further to my comment above, I was thinking about your assertion that our evaluation of the propriety of Jewish involvement in Christianity must start with an axiomatic conviction that the Jesus character of the “new testament” really did exist as that document, alone, attests. Obviously, such a starting point would markedly narrow the scope of the debate and could even appear to the untrained eye to bias its outcome, but it would also short circuit the intellectual integrity of our consideration by bypassing an enlightening analysis of one of the most pressing problems with Christianity: it’s entirely unverifiable, indeed suspicious, inception monologue.

      What kind of a serious religious thinker are you, if you are not even willing to contemplate the defensibility of assigning credence to a document that purports to be a recount of all that Jesus told Paul about Jesus’ lifetime exploits during Jesus’ appearance to Paul in a dream that happened decades after Jesus died–Paul and Jesus were not contemporaries who had known one another–and that wasn’t even written down by Paul, who was of course the only person who experienced this dream, until decades after he had his dream? After all, there were lots of historians recording major and even minor events of the day in Jerusalem during Jesus’ supposed time, and yet there is no record of the supposedly earth-shaking miracles Jesus publicly performed in any of the many voluminous records of that era at all other than Paul’s anachronistically documented, hard to believe dream. Didn’t you say that you are an intellectual?

  3. Raf,

    You quoted Deut. 28, but then you seemed to have lost the Bible’s trail.

    You pondered “But, if we cannot fulfill the law, if we have no capacity to do all that God commands, why will He curse us? This is hard to understand for both the Christian and the Jew….”

    Your question is not a valid one, which you’d have recognized had you continued reading beyond the cherry picked, out of context Christian proof texts. Had you read through to Deut. 30:11 and beyond, you’d know that G-d had already anticipated your question and your attitude, and that He’d addressed it head on:

    “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach (30:11)…walk in obedience to Him, and keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the L-rd your G-d will bless you (30:15)….”

    A complete review of the text reveals that the curse only kicks in when Jews choose elaborate “total depravity”/”salvation through grace” delusions instead of keeping the commandments, which are not too difficult.

    Going forward, let’s make every effort to be complete. It’s not too difficult.

    • Deut 30:11 is saying that people understand very well what they must do for the word is in their hearts. But no one – it is clear, because even Moses fell short and paid a heavy price, it would seem – is able or wants to fulfil ALL of the law.

      • Raf,

        You say that Deut. 30:14 is teaching only that “the word is in their hearts”, but that the verse comports with your view that “no one…is able or wants to fulfil [sic] ALL of the law”. But let’s look at the whole sentence, in context:

        “What I’m commanding you today is not too hard for you. It isn’t beyond your reach. It isn’t up in heaven. So you don’t have to ask, ‘Who will go up into heaven to get it? Who will announce it to us so we can obey it?’ And it isn’t beyond the ocean. So you don’t have to ask, ‘Who will go across the ocean to get it? Who will announce it to us so we can obey it?’
        No, the message isn’t far away at all. In fact, it’s really near you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart so that you can obey it. Today I’m giving you a choice. You can have life and success. Or you can have death and harm. I’m commanding you today to love the L-rd your G-d. I’m commanding you to live exactly as he wants you to live. You must obey his commands, rules and laws.”

        By examining the complete passage, we find that your position is a clear and direct repudiation of the letter and spirit of Deut. 30:11-16. I urge you to adopt a committment to being complete in your Biblical studies.

        • For the moment, leave out “not able” to fulfil all of the law and focus on “don’t want” to do so. Is there any Jew in history who has fulfilled all of the commandments? If not, this must mean that he/she didn’t want to; Moses for instance.

  4. Moses disobeyed God. This means that he wanted to disobey. We know that Moses expected all Hebrews to fulfill all of the law. Moses fell short of the glory of God. He received a terrible punishment. You know the story. Now, if it was purely a matter of Moses being another Adam, who was, before he fell, perfect, then it would be true that Moses was a hypocrite. But Moses – and here is where the Jew and the Christian differ – was a fallen creature, that is, he had lost the ability to be perfect, that is, to fulfill all of the law. He followed his imperfect heart and so was unable to love God as he was commanded. As I wrote in my post, one of the reasons the law was given was to show up the inability of fallen (corrupt) man to be perfect, that is to fulfill ALL of the law.

    Anonymous, when are you going to come out of the darkness into the light? I am spellbound by your non-name.

  5. I’m not sure what you mean by posing the same question. Perhaps you prefer this explanation of Moses’ sin:

    Yankel Nosson
    07-29-2004, 10:22 PM
    Moses and the Leap Year
    Parshat Va’etchanan
    http://www.chabadtalk.com/forum/archive/index.php3?t-4025.html
    Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit — the Sh’lah, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.

    I have found the following comment among the writings of a great Kabbalistic scholar, Rabbi Chaim (Vital), the leading disciple of the Ari Zal.

    [The comment has been paraphrased by the editor:] As a consequence of Moses’ accepting the mixed multitudes as converts, he became involved in the “Sod Ha’Ibur,” the calculations pertaining to leap months, leap years, etc. One of these calculations involves determining when a Jubilee year occurs (the fiftieth year after the conclusion of seven cycles of seven years).

    G-d had not wanted to accept this mixed multitude as converts. Had they not been accepted, Israel would have experienced neither death nor exile, since acceptance of the Tablets would have signified everlasting life, as our sages said: “al tikra charut, ela cheyrut, do not read ‘engraved,’ i.e. charut but ‘free’ (from death), i.e. cheyrut.”

    Moses had not consulted G-d (regarding the acceptance of the mixed multitudes, which had been Abraham’s lifework). In addition he had developed a personal interest in the conduct of these people as he had hinted when he referred to them (Num. 11:21) as “the people amongst whom I find myself.” He had also foretold that these people would convert when he told Pharaoh (in Ex. 11:8) that “all these people who sit at our feet will bow down to me.” This meant that Moses was anxious to convert these people. Alas, not only did Moses fail to truly convert them but they also infected the Israelites proper with their lack of faith during the episode of the golden calf, so that G-d told Moses: “Go and descend, for your people have become corrupt” (Ex. 32:7).

    These people and their offspring by now made up the majority of the Jews in the desert. This is why Moses was forced to insert an extra year (the jubilee year) after every 49 years. This extra year serves as a warning that Israel must not again err by accepting converts wholesale and being misled by them.

    http://www.thirtysevenbooks.com/Shlah/Vaetchanan5762.htm

    • Raf,

      I’m sorry. I don’t have time to read other peoples’ long essays in the middle of our conversations. What I meant when I asked you, three times now, if you thought that Moses was a big fat hypocrite is, and, I mean, in “yes” or “no” terms, do you say that Moses was a hypocrite?

      Please make sure your answer is one word long.

      • All I or anyone else knows about Moses is derived from the Torah, the written Torah. The Torah tells me that he was a sinner, nothing about hypocrisy.

        Anonymous, how about coming out of your hiding place. I give you as much space as you want on my forum, something denied to you elsewhere. Try and be a little more gracious.

      • “All I or anyone else knows about Moses is derived from the Torah, the written Torah.”

        How do you know that more isn’t known about Moses by others than you? What’s your connection to Sinai? I thought you’d said it had been broken. Are you now claiming that your parents did pass down to you their ancestors’ testimony about what was transmitted to the Jews at Sinai, and that it didn’t include an oral tradition? That would be newsworthy. But if you possess no familial tradition from Sinai, then isn’t it the height of arrogance to presume to know better than others with such a tradition what parts of it are legit?

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