Christian reading

Issue N41

answers for a jew, valeriy sterkh

Answers for a Jew

Why do Christians refuse to obey the laws of Moses? (ending)

As to the actual commandments of God laid down by Moses ("do not kill", "do not steal" etc.), these are certainly honored by Christians as true.

It should be added that not all commandments are equal in significance: «And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question» (Mk 12:28-34; compare Mt 22:35-40).

The dietary laws of Kashrut, for instance, belong to the third of fourth levels of significance. Kashrut refers to a set of rules defining which food is fitting to be consumed and which is not, according to religious laws. At the core of these regulations are Old Testament restrictions. Initially, there was only one restriction – on eating meat with blood still in it: «Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat» (Gen 9:3-4). But in the lifetime of Moses, another one was added: «It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood» (Lev 3:17). As time went on, the list grew (see Lev 11).

We can also see that the Kashrut commandments changed significantly over time. In the New Testament times they were abolished by God: «And when [apostle] Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven» (Act 11:2-10).

However, even before that Jesus «called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man» (Mt 15:10-20).

Paul said: «Meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse» (1 Cor 8:8). He explained: «I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost» (Rom 14:14-17). He also added an important comment: «All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient» (1 Cor 6:12). Therefore, even though some foods may be harmful for the body, no food is harmful for the soul.

As to the Sabbath, Christians do keep the commandment of the seventh day (though each Christian denomination does it in its own way). They celebrate Sabbath differently from the Jews though.

Generally speaking, the function of the Old Testament was that of a "tutor leading us to Christ" (Gal 3:24). That is why after the coming of Christ and after all the prophecies had been fulfilled in Him, the Old Testament became full and, therefore, complete. So, this is how we should construe the following words of Jesus: «Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil» (Mt 5:17).

After the Old Testament was fulfilled, it was set aside and replaced by the New Testament: «But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby» (Eph 2:13-16).

(to be continued)