(PeterTaylor) Why was the Mosaic law given, and why does it have the punishment scale it does? The answer to the first part of the question is multi-faceted. From the OT perspective, the Mosaic law was given as part of the Mosaic covenant: if the community as a whole followed the law, then "out of all nations [they] would be [Yahweh's] treasured possession" (NIV: Ex 19: 5). From an NT perspective, the law is intended to lead people to Christ: since no-one can keep all of it (consider "Do not covet your neighbour's wife, donkey, etc" - NIV: Ex 20: 17) it is clear that the sacrifices prescribed are the only reason the covenant holds together, yet they are merely a type of Christ's sacrifice. That's heavily abbreviated, and I'm sure you'll want me to expand on parts of it, but moving on to the second half of the question: why did the Mosaic law have a punishment scale? For a lot of the prescribed punishments, it's fairly clear that the intention of the punishment is compensation to the victim. "A thief must certainly make restitution" - NIV: Ex 22: 3. In other areas, the intention seems to be twofold: deterrent, and a demonstration to the surrounding kingdoms of what it was to be the people of Yahweh. So, for example, sorcery was punishable by death.
Interesting. So, given all that, how much of the law ( OT and NT ) do you think is still valid today? Should "sorcerers" still be punished by death? -- Xarak
(PeterTaylor) The OT law is part of God's self-revelation, and since God is immutable it's still valuable in showing Christians what pleases and displeases God. The NT makes it clear that it's not possible to keep the OT law, and so there is no intrinsic value in keeping it: however, the NT writers expect Christians to seek to please God (Paul's prayer for the Colossian church is that they may please God in every way - NIV: Col 1: 9-12 - and one of his instructions to the Ephesians is to find out what pleases God - NIV: Eph 5: 10). Therefore, to continue with the same example, a Christian ought not to be involved in sorcery, and church discipline should be applied when such cases come to light. The punishments don't apply directly today, because the Church has a different commission to Israel. Israel's commission was to live as a people separated from the nations around them. The Church's commission is to live as a community within the pagan nation-states. It is true that there are states which claim to be Christian states, and base their laws on the OT; the level to which Christians in legislative positions should seek to impose Christian morality on the nation is one on which Christians disagree, and on which I have yet to reach firm conclusions.
(PeterTaylor) I'm not sure I'd say there is NT law, although there's certainly NT ethical instruction. Most of Paul's letters, for example, consist of a chunk of doctrine, followed by a chunk of ethical instruction arising from that doctrine. Look at the way he moves from doctrine to praxis (therefores referring back to the preceding doctrine): "Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your reasonable act of worship" (NIV: Rom 12: 1 - see margin); "Therefore I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received" (NIV: Eph 4: 1); "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence but also in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose" (NIV: Php 2: 12-13); "We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more" (NIV: 1Thes 4: 1). The theme of pleasing God is back, with the observation that this is the logical thing to do. There's also a hint on the Philippians passage of the work of the HolySpirit, although that's more to do with how a Christian lives a moral life.
Well, obviously Mosaic law is supposed to tell you how to run a country that works. Parts are obviously designed to keep a people-in-exile a people apart (Some of the stupider food laws) - really dumb idea unless you are a nasty racial supremicist; some for health reasons (food, mildew, incest,non-marital sex)- a really good idea when you don't understand the causes of disease, banning this that appear to cause disease is a good idea; some are just about pleasing god (sacrificeing stuff)... if I were trying to be a good Jew from the rules laid down in the OT I would probably be sacrificing sheep but I probably wouldn't be following rules that are no longer applicable (I can eat pork, because I know that pork today is safe to eat for instance), I fail to see why people stopped sacrificing stuff since this obviously pleased god. The Torah forms the entire law of the state of Israel (as was, dunno if as is) and thus has all the laws you need to run a country - thus if you are liveing in England and you want to be polite you stop enforcing your law against theft and let the police enforce the country's law against theft (but you still have to self-enforce the more personal laws). To me, none of it is relevent, to someone who wants to please god I think that mostely only the bits that there is no other reason for are there to please god and that since now we have other models for society which allmost kinda somewhat nearlly work we don't need to follow ones that sorta worked 3000 years ago in the middle of a desert when we're living in the 21st century in the middle of a swamp. - Naath
Jews today don't sacrifice at least partially because they have no Temple. According to Jewish teaching, God only exists on earth in his Temple in Jerusalem, currently the site of the third holiest site of Islam. Therefore Jews cannot gain forgiveness through sacrifice, as there's nowhere they can commune properly with God. There is apparently another reason, but Chel has forgotten it. --ChrisHowlett
I thought He was in the tabernacle (which is apparently someplace other than Jerusalem now), well, people were sacrificing stuff before they built a temple. But I suppose that it makes sense that since his house got knocked down you can't visit. Perhaps he should have a new house. Anyone know why it's the thrid holiest site in Islam? - Naath
The Tabernacle was replaced with the Temple by Solomon. AFAIK, the Ark of the Covenant (which the Tabernacle was the shelter for) was carried off to Babylon and never returned. It's holy to Islam (at least partially) because Islam, Judaism and Christianity all share the Old Testament as a holy writing - in particular (so I am informed) because it contains the rock upon which Isaac was not quite sacrificed by Abraham. --CH