God's Contradictory Instructions?

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Family Bible Fellowship Forum Index -> Misc. Theological Topics
View previous topic :: View next topic  

What is the best solution for the apparently contradictory moral imperatives through Moses and through Christ?
The Gnostic Solution
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
The Mistaken Moses Solution
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
The Dichotomous Solution
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Other
100%
 100%  [ 3 ]
Total Votes : 3

Author Message
Paidion



Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Posts: 944
Location: Chapple, Ontario

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 6:48 pm    Post subject: God's Contradictory Instructions? Reply with quote

Here is something which Steve wrote in an earlier post:

Quote:
Jesus said, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me...But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (John 5:46-47).

How indeed! Since Jesus believed the writings of Moses were the words of God, how can one accept Jesus as a trustworthy witness, if He was mistaken about a matter of such fundamental importance?


I tried to show that Jesus was not stating that Moses was always right about the revelation of God, but rather that Moses had written about Him, and the Jews didn’t believe it. So how could they believe Him?

Now I would like to add the following. Jesus made this statement:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ Matthew 5:38

Jesus’ quoted statement is found among many other statements which Moses recorded as having been given to him by Yahweh. But Jesus did not say, “My Father said to your forefathers through Moses, etc.” but a simple “You have heard that it was said”. In no way did He ascribe this prescription for vengeance to His Father. Rather, this prescription was something they “heard that it was said”. He Himself, gave instructions to do the opposite. Instead of getting even, His disciples were not to retaliate in any way:

But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Matthew 5:39-41

Immediately after saying this, Jesus quotes a similar saying that they had heard:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:43-45


This time His quote does not come from Moses, but yet seems also to be a saying with which the Jews were familiar. And again, he gives opposite instructions concerning enemies. The two sayings of “what they had heard said” seem to be of the same order ---- and both are contrary to Jesus’ teachings, contrary to His instruction for His disciples.

If we believe that “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is indeed the Father’s moral prescription through the prophet Moses, and that its opposite is His prescription through the greater prophet Christ, then we have to do something about this apparent contradiction. Here are three possible solutions. These three may not be exhaustive. If you know of others, I would be glad to become aware of them.

1.The Gnostic Solution:
Yahweh the God of the Jews was a different God from the Father of Christ and therefore required different behaviour from Israel than Jesus’ Father required of Jesus and His followers.

2. Mistaken Moses Solution:
There is only one God who always had the same character and the same standard of moral instruction. Moses was sometimes mistaken about the revelation from God and may have projected his own understanding of morality upon God’s word to the Israelites, thinking that its source was God.

3. The Dichotomous Solution:
There is only one God who had a different moral standard for Israel from that which He gave through Christ. What He said to Israel was right for them, and what He said through Jesus to his disciples was right for them ---- even if the two were diametrically opposite.

There are problems with each of the solutions. In my opinion, there are fewer problems with the second than with either of the others.
_________________
Paidion
Avatar --- Age 45
"Not one soul will ever be redeemed from hell but by being saved from his sins, from the evil in him." --- George MacDonald
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Steve



Joined: 17 Feb 2004
Posts: 1178
Location: Santa Cruz, CA

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paidion wrote:
"In no way did He ascribe this prescription for vengeance to His Father."


True, Jesus would not attribute to the Father a "prescription for vengeance." God (through Moses) said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" (Deut.32:35).

However, "an eye for an eye..." is not in any way a prescription for personal vengeance. To suggest that it was meant to be such is to entirely miss the meaning of the law as much as the rabbis did, whose teaching Jesus was refuting.

"Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc..." is the consistent penalty code to guide magistrates in the proper sentencing of criminal assailants. Jesus never addressed any magistrates, telling them that there was now to be a different penalty code for criminals. The code, "an eye for an eye..." represents the standard of perfect justice, and was oft repeated in order to keep it before the eyes of those entrusted with the task of enforcement of social justice in Israel (Ex.21:24/ Lev.24:20/ Deut.19:21).

Israel's was the most just law code in the ancient world (though there were resemblances in Hamurabi's Babylonia), and one that legal systems would do well to adopt, since it is the administration of perfect justice—a standard that no legal system can exceed. In fact, Moses said that the extraordinarily high standards of justice embodied in these laws would be Israel's boast, and the marvel of the nations (Deut.4:5-8). I do not see how anyone could think to impugn the justice of such a law, or doubt that it is just the kind of law that a righteous God would require His people to enforce in their courts.

Is it anyone's preference that there were no law courts, or that whatever courts exist should operate by a lesser standard of justice? There is no reason to think that Jesus, by His sermon to His disciples, intended to abolish civil courts in Israel, so as to leave all criminals free to continue victimizing the innocent. Nor is there any indication that Jesus wished for the law courts to adopt a less-than-just standard in dealing with criminals than that which God revealed to Moses. That was not what Jesus came to change. Christians should not criticize just laws, but should strongly encourage them.

Unfortunately, the Jews took the "eye for an eye" instructions and turned them into permission for personal vengeance. Instead of allowing the law to limit retribution, as it was intended to do, they took it as a mandate for retaliation. Jesus, in disabusing His disciples of this error, was not calling into question the validity of the law itself. He made it clear that the private citizen who is a disciple should not wish to retaliate at all.

Paul agreed with this dictate of Jesus, and essentially repeated it—with the added explanation that the reason the disciple should not retaliate against an enemy is that, in doing so, one does not give God place to settle the score Himself, as He says He will do (Rom.12:19-21). Immediately afterward, Paul tells us that God has ordained the government to carry-out this score-settling business for Him (Rom.13:4)

Thus Paul understands the role of the Christian to be that of forgiving and absorbing injuries, rather than of retaliating. However, he also sees God as the one who will avenge, and sees that He generally does this through the institution of governmental justice systems, which are ordained by Him to punish criminals.

There is no suggestion in Romans that the State should adopt a code of vengeance less just than that given by Moses, nor did Jesus suggest any such thing in the Sermon on the Mount.

Therefore, there is not the slightest contradiction in the Mosaic command and the teaching of Jesus on it.

As for the "hate your enemy" tradition, Jesus points out that this is a bad rule, but He does so without having to register any disagreement with Moses, since Moses never gave such a command.

Therefore, the "dichotomy" posed in this thread presents no dilemma in the cases raised to introduce it.

However, in cases where real dichotomies exist, Paidion's third option comes closest to stating the truth—though it could be worded more accurately. According to Paidion, the third option is:

3. The Dichotomous Solution:
There is only one God who had a different moral standard for Israel from that which He gave through Christ. What He said to Israel was right for them, and what He said through Jesus to his disciples was right for them ---- even if the two were diametrically opposite.

In some respects, God does indeed present a different standard of behavior for the disciples than He had for Israel, just as I expect more from a sixteen-year-old than I expect from a three-year-old. Israel's society existed at a lower level of "maturity" than what has been made possible through Christ—

"But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!'" (Gal.3:23-26; 4:4-6)

For example, I believe that the Old Testament laws regulating divorce and of polygamy are based upon a lesser revelation of the nature of marriage than that which is introduced by Christ. Those who now possess the Spirit of God can be expected to live by higher standards and can be entrusted with higher revelations. Because we find Jesus introducing an elevated understanding of marriage, which was not revealed in the Old Testament, He calls for a morally higher standard of behavior, based upon the new revelation.

However, not all differences in instruction reflect conflicting moral standards. God does not give the same assignment to everyone, and therefore, what is right for one person (because it is his assignment) can be wrong for another (for whom it is not his assignment).

An obvious example would be in the case of the Levites. It was their assignment to dismantle, transport, and reassemble the tabernacle. No one else was allowed to touch it. It would be wrong for a Levite to shirk this duty, and equally wrong for a non-Levite to intrude into it. Similarly, Levites were not sent into battle, but a non-Levite would be required to go to battle.

Again, celibacy might be commanded to an unmarried man, while it is forbidden to a married man. For the average citizen to kick down another man's door would be wrong, but may be the duty of a law-enforcement officer.

By the same principle, God commanded Israel's magistrates to execute and penalize criminals in various ways, for various crimes. Christ did not command His disciples (who were not magistrates) to do so. This is not a contradiction, but a distinction in the vocations of different groups.

Israel was called to be an earthly kingdom, governed by political magistrates, and conquering certain enemy kingdoms. The church is not an earthy kingdom (John 18:36), and therefore does not have all of the same functions or responsibilities that fell to Israel as a nation, or to some persons in special roles.

When Paul said that "all scripture is God-breathed" (2 Tim.3:16-17), he may not have had in mind the complete Bible as we now have it (i.e., including a New testament), but he certainly did have the Torah and the Prophets in mind. Thus Paul includes Moses' writings among the inspired scriptures.

When Peter said that the prophets did not provide their own interpretations, but spoke as the Holy Spirit carried them along (2 Pet.1:20-21), he did not intend to omit Moses from this general statement, since Moses was regarded as the greatest of all of Israel's prophets.

Thus, by taking the "Moses made a mistake" solution to apparent difficulties (which are not "contradictions," except in the minds of those who mistake their meanings) one must claim to be more enlightened than the very apostles whom Jesus selected to teach us about such things, and of whom we are told He "opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:44-45). I would rather be counted among those who "tremble at His word" (Isa.66:2) than to be found one who "judges the law" (James 4:11).
_________________
In Jesus,
Steve


Last edited by Steve on Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:42 am; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
anothersteve



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
Posts: 46
Location: Toronto, Canada

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve Wrote
Quote:
However, "an eye for an eye..." is not in any way a prescription for personal vengeance. To suggest that it was meant to be such is to entirely miss the meaning of the law as much as the rabbis did, whose teaching Jesus was refuting.

"Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc..." is the consistent penalty code to guide magistrates in the proper sentencing of criminal assailants. Jesus never addressed any magistrates, telling them that there was now to be a different penalty code for criminals. The code, "an eye for an eye..." represents the standard of perfect justice, and was oft repeated in order to keep it before the eyes of those entrusted with the task of enforcement of social justice in Israel (Ex.21:24/ Lev.24:20/ Deut.19:21).


That's how I see it as well

Also,
I was recently listening to a lecture by a history professor named Maxie Burch. He was saying that in these particular verses where Jesus was saying “But I say to you”, he was using a common Jewish hermeneutic at that time known as midrash. Midrash was a hermeneutical method that Pharisees would use to try and understand the deeper meaning of the text. It was then communicated orally, thus Jesus uses the phrase “You have heard it said”. Therefore Jesus, apparently, is not necessarily quoting Moses but rather addressing the Pharisees hermeneutic which had been orally transmitted. Professor Burch points out in Mat 5:21 that the phrase “and whoever murders will be liable to judgment” is not in the text, thus representing the Pharisees explanation of the deeper meaning of the text (don’t murder so you don’t get caught/judged) which had been orally passed down. Jesus showed them, according to Burch, that they had missed the heart of the matter (the hatred inside of you). If Burch is correct, it would seem that Jesus is not correcting Moses but rather he’s introducing a new midrashic (don't know if that's a word) understanding and correcting the Pharisees’ false view of the intent of the law.

If you would like to hear his lecture which deals with this particular issue here’s the link

http://www.rhinocrash.org/audio/podcast/ECH2.mp3

Or you can click the following link to go to itunes and listen to the lecture titled “Early Christian History Part Two”

http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=215629223
_________________
Avatar...My daughter and I standing on a glass floor. well over 1000 feet above ground at the CN Tower in Toronto...the tiny green dots beside my left foot are trees.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Paidion



Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Posts: 944
Location: Chapple, Ontario

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greetings Steve,

I am amazed that you can find the time to engage individuals who post to the forum. I probably have an inadequate concept of the time you spend with your radio program and your teaching ministries. However, I have observed in the past that many who are most heavily involved in Christian work seem to have the most time for the individual. But I don’t understand where they find this time.

In any case, I want you to know that I am grateful for your input and the sharing of the knowledge gained from your studies coupled with the way you have processed this knowledge to arrive at the conclusions which you have shared.

I appreciate the spirit in which you wrote most of the comments in your post above.

You wrote:
Quote:
Israel's was the most just law code in the ancient world (though there were resemblances in Hamurabi's Babylonia), and one that legal systems would do well to adopt, since it is the administration of perfect justice—a standard that no legal system can exceed. In fact, Moses said that the extraordinarily high standards of justice embodied in these laws would be Israel's boast, and the marvel of the nations [Deut.4:5-8]. I do not see how anyone could think to impugn the justice of such a law, or doubt that it is just the kind of law that a righteous God would require His people to enforce in their courts.

Is it anyone's preference that there were no law courts, or that whatever courts exist should operate by a lesser standard of justice? There is no reason to think that Jesus, by His sermon to His disciples, intended to abolish civil courts in Israel, so as to leave all criminals free to continue victimizing the innocent. Nor is there any indication that Jesus wished for the law courts to adopt a less-than-just standard in dealing with criminals than that which God revealed to Moses. That was not what Jesus came to change. Christians should not criticize just laws, but should strongly encourage them.


I have heard this explanation before. I don't think it is correct, for reasons which I shall state later in this post.

Quote:
Unfortunately, the Jews took the "eye for an eye" instructions and turned them into permission for personal vengeance. Instead of allowing the law to limit retribution, as it was intended to do, they took it as a mandate for retaliation. Jesus, in disabusing His disciples of this error, was not calling into question the validity of the law itself. He made it clear that the private citizen who is a disciple should not wish to retaliate at all.


Perhaps the Jews did take the ruling as permission for personal vengeance. Most people would, given such a ruling. I still wonder why Jesus didn’t state it as the word of His Father through Moses. But perhaps the explanation given by Another Steve is the one for which I have been looking.

Quote:
Paul agreed with this dictate of Jesus, and essentially repeated it—with the added explanation that the reason the disciple should not retaliate against an enemy is that, in doing so, one does not give God place to settle the score Himself, as He says He will do (Rom.12:19-21). Immediately afterward, Paul tells us that God has ordained the government to carry-out this score-settling business for Him (Rom.13:4)


I don’t think God “settles scores”, now or in the future. I think He is interested only in redemption of people --- delivering them from their wickedness --- changing them to His likeness. I think “Vengeance is mine” is an incorrect translation of the phrase in Rom 12:19. The Greek word is “ekdikāsis” which literally means “out of judgment”.
The phrase should be translated “judgment is mine” or perhaps “justice is mine.” The word is used in 2 Cor 7:11 where Paul commends the Corinthians for their repentance and the attitudes that were produced in them as a result of their Godly sorrow: “What earnestness! What eagerness to clear yourselves! What indignation! What alarm! What longing! What concern! What vengeance!"

"What vengeance!"??? Surely that one doesn’t belong in the list of the results of Godly sorrow. How about “What justice!”

“Justice” also seems to fit in Luke 18:7 and 18:8, and is so translated in the ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, Philips, and the Young Literal Translation.

Quote:
Thus Paul understands the role of the Christian to be that of forgiving and absorbing injuries, rather than of retaliating. However, he also sees God as the one who will avenge, and sees that He generally does this through the institution of governmental justice systems, which are ordained by Him to punish criminals.


Perhaps God uses justice systems for correction of criminals. But He doesn’t use these systems for retaliation or revenge. The “eye for an eye” system smacks of revenge in my opinion even if it is limiting what might otherwise be “two eyes for an eye”. I still don’t think God would use man’s justice system for revenge. It is impossible to justify the retribution theory of punishment. As I see it, the reformative theory comes much closer to God’s intentions and better expresses His character.

Quote:
There is no suggestion in Romans that the State should adopt a code of vengeance less just than that given by Moses, nor did Jesus suggest any such thing in the Sermon on the Mount.


If Moses gave a "code of vengenace", then that proves to me that it didn't have its origin with God. For God is not vengeful. Christ taught his disciples not to be vengeful. This is one of the many ways in which they show themselves to be the sons of the Father.

Jesus didn’t see his ministry as influencing the Roman government in this or any other matter. He came to reveal the heart of the Father, and the Father does not inflict vengeance or retribution, but redeems people from their sinful ways.

Quote:
Therefore, there is not the slightest contradiction in the Mosaic command and the teaching of Jesus on it.


You see no contradiction between getting even with one who has wronged you and offering no resistance.

Quote:
As for the "hate your enemy" tradition, Jesus points out that this is a bad rule, but He does so without having to register any disagreement with Moses, since Moses never gave such a command.


True, but by stating this “It has been said …. but I say to you” immediately after the other, he seems to classify it in the same category.

Quote:
In some respects, God does indeed present a different standard of behavior for the disciples than He had for Israel, just as I expect more from a sixteen-year-old than I expect from a three-year-old. Israel's society existed at a lower level of "maturity" than what has been made possible through Christ [quotes Gal 3:23-23]

For example, I believe that the Old Testament laws regulating divorce and of polygamy are based upon a lesser revelation of the nature of marriage than that which is introduced by Christ. Those who now possess the Spirit of God can be expected to live by higher standards and can be entrusted with higher revelations. Because we find Jesus introducing an elevated understanding of marriage, which was not revealed in the Old Testament, He calls for a morally higher standard of behavior, based upon the new revelation.


Yes, I can see this. As you said next:

Quote:
However, not all differences in instruction reflect conflicting moral standards. God does not give the same assignment to everyone, and therefore, what is right for one person (because it is his assignment) can be wrong for another (for whom it is not his assignment).


Is Jesus' instruction, “Do good to those who despitefully use you” a moral standard or just a mere "assignment". If it is a moral standard, and if he contrasts it with "an eye for an eye" then, the latter seems to fit in the moral standard category too. That's one of the reasons I am inclined to think that it was not merely a legal standard to limit over-retaliation.

Quote:
When Paul said that "all scripture is God-breathed" (2 Tim.3:16-17), he may not have had in mind the complete Bible as we now have it (i.e., including a New testament), but he certainly did have the Torah and the Prophets in mind. Thus Paul includes Moses' writings among the inspired scriptures.


I have no doubt that Paul included Moses’ writings. But to say that Moses’ writings are inspired is not tantamount to saying that they are without error.

Quote:
When Peter said that the prophets did not provide their own interpretations, but spoke as the Holy Spirit carried them along (2 Pet.1:20-21), he did not intend to omit Moses from this general statement, since Moses was regarded as the greatest of all of Israel's prophets.


Do Peter’s words imply that prophets never make a mistake ?

Quote:
Thus, by taking the "Moses made a mistake" solution to apparent difficulties (which are not "contradictions," except in the minds of those who mistake their meanings) one must claim to be more enlightened than the very apostles whom Jesus selected to teach us about such things, and of whom we are told He "opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:44-45). I would rather be counted among those who "tremble at His word" (Isa.66:2) than to be found one who "judges the law" (James 4:11).


So you conclude that I am one of those who claim to be more enlightened than the apostles. Right?
_________________
Paidion
Avatar --- Age 45
"Not one soul will ever be redeemed from hell but by being saved from his sins, from the evil in him." --- George MacDonald
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Steve



Joined: 17 Feb 2004
Posts: 1178
Location: Santa Cruz, CA

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Paidion,

With reference to my time to interact with individuals, it is indeed limited, but incumbent upon me to find. I regard writing to be among my teaching duties, along with face-to-face teaching and radio broadcasting. If the time is taken from anywhere, it is probably from my sleep, as at this moment. :-)

It actually does not take me as long to post my answers (even very lengthy ones) as one might imagine. Though I am a slow typist, I am a fairly rapid thinker, and my posts are often a stream of consciousness that takes me longer to type than to create mentally. My haste in posting such unpremeditated strings of ideas accounts for the numerous revisions that are tabulated in small print at the bottom of many of my posts. I often "rush to press" an un-proof-read answer, in order to secure the next position in a thread ahead of anyone else, and then I have to revisit it many times to smooth out poor wording or to fix punctuation and other typographical errors.

As for the new contributions to our on-going discussion, I do not find your arguments against my points to be persuasive. I believe that I have stated the truth as clearly as I am able. I will leave the final assessment of evidences to the tribunal of the individual's judgment. It is my perception that you have placed arbitrary limits upon what God may be permitted to say, and how He may be permitted to govern. I already know that you will not agree with me in this assessment, but I share it because it is my honest and un-malicious perception.

On this question I will now rest my case. If I have not said enough to convince anyone in particular, I am not worried. I think "the truth will out," as they say.

You asked if I am saying that you are among those seeing themselves as more enlightened than the apostles? I will have to leave that question (not of what I am suggesting, but of whether you really are one of those people) to your own self-judgment, since I am not the one who can judge hearts. You have always struck me as having a good heart, so I would not wish to make a disparaging judgment. I do, however, think that you have placed boundaries upon what you will allow yourself to regard as truth—boundaries which (as I read them) did not restrict the somewhat freer minds of the apostles.
_________________
In Jesus,
Steve
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
STEVE7150



Joined: 19 Jun 2005
Posts: 894

PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jesus’ quoted statement is found among many other statements which Moses recorded as having been given to him by Yahweh. But Jesus did not say, “My Father said to your forefathers through Moses, etc.” but a simple “You have heard that it was said”. In no way did He ascribe this prescription for vengeance to His Father. Rather, this prescription was something they “heard that it was said”. He Himself, gave instructions to do the opposite. Instead of getting even, His disciples were not to retaliate in any way:



If God did'nt speak through Moses and Jesus was aware of this fact would'nt it be logical for him to set the record straight at some point either directly or through his apostles?
Why was this never done?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
STEVE7150



Joined: 19 Jun 2005
Posts: 894

PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One last thought. If Jesus's moral standards were given by God through Moses to the Isrealites would they have survived and remained intact as they had to because God set them apart?
Can God give different moral standards to different peoples depending on their specific circumstances?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Family Bible Fellowship Forum Index -> Misc. Theological Topics All times are GMT - 8 Hours
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group

BlueSilver_C 1.00 Theme was programmed by DEVPPL JavaScript Forum
Images were made by DEVPPL Flash Games