One of the difficult questions for Christians is, what do we do with the Old Testament law? We all feel bound by the 10 Commandments and we know inherently that they are meant to guide us today. We do not, however, feel bound by many other laws found in the Pentateuch. I do not personally know a single Christian who feels any guilt whatsoever about wearing clothes made from mixed fabrics. Nor do I know any Christians who have built a fence around their roof in order to keep the law. So why is it that we can only keep a portion of the 613 laws, rules and regulations found in the OT? I will attempt to answer that question in a series of posts this week. Today will be a bit of an introduction to the Pentateuch, Tuesday I will offer some answers that people have given throughout church history, Wednesday I will take a quick look at how these views work out in real-life situations, and Thursday I will share with you what I believe to be the best answer to the question, “what is the point of the law.”
So now let’s get started with an introduction to the Pentateuch.
The word “Pentateuch” means five-fold book and refers to the first five books of the Old Testament. The narrative of the Pentateuch begins with creation and goes through the life of Moses. The narrative flows smoothly through Genesis and most of Exodous, however the rest of it is broken in order to insert hundreds of commands. These commands regulate everything from how to build the temple to what foods are acceptable.
There are so many laws, in fact, that the Pentateuch is often called the “Torah” which means instruction or law. This is where our question arises. As New Testament believers we believe that Jesus came to “fulfill the law.” (Matt 5:17) So does that mean that we do not have to keep any of it? That doesn’t seem to be the case. Every Christian I know feels that murder is wrong, and Jesus himself said that the most important command was to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Matt 12:20)
With this tension laid out, we will look tomorrow at how Christians have chosen to deal with it.