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Monday, March 27, 2023

Were ANY of the Commands of the Torah Carried Forward into the New Covenant?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the Torah, many Christians are hopelessly confused about its application or relevance to the New Covenant. Indeed, many Christian "theologians" have struggled to identify which laws were carried forward into the New Covenant and which ones were not. As most of my readers are aware, I came from a background where MANY of the provisions of the Torah were made an integral part of the New Covenant (Sabbath observance, festival observance, clean and unclean meats, tithing, etc.). Looking back, I can honestly say that I haven't found a SINGLE person (including the founder of the movement, Herbert W. Armstrong) who has been able to outline a rationale for picking and choosing among the different laws that is immune to challenge!

In his epistle, James wrote: "For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, 'You must not commit adultery,' also said, 'You must not murder.' So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law." (James 2:10-11) In other words, from James' perspective, it was IMPOSSIBLE to keep some of the commands and ignore or intentionally break others! Moreover, it is NOT hard to understand why a JEWISH pilar of the Jerusalem Church would make such a statement.

According to Chabad.org and The TalmudThe 613 Commandments (Mitzvot) of the Torah contain "248 Positive Commandments (do's) and 365 Negative Commandments (do not's)." The article goes on to note that "Several great Jewish scholars have compiled a complete listing of these mitzvahs. Although they all agree on the vast majority of the commandments, they do disagree concerning a number of them. The arguments are for scholastic purposes only, for they do not disagree over any actual commandment whether it is mandatory or forbidden—they only disagree whether certain commandments are independent commandments, or perhaps they are part of another commandment and are not counted on their own." After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, the Torah immediately became problematic - even for the Jews (many of its provisions could no longer be practiced/observed). The article continues: "It must be noted that many of these commandments (such as all the commandments associated with sacrifices) are not practicable as long as there is no Temple in Jerusalem."

The article then proceeds to offer a complete list of all 613 of the commandments which is in accord with the great Twelfth Century Jewish scholar, Maimonides writings on the subject. As this relates to the question of Christian faith and practice, I thought that it might be instructive for us to take a closer look at some of these individual provisions of the Torah. First, it should be noted that commandments 336-445 deal with offerings and sacrifices, and almost all Christians do not believe these are carried forward into the terms of the New Covenant (though there are many who believe that these will someday be reinstated).

Likewise, there are a number of other commandments which even the most devout Armstrongists will admit are NOT binding on Christians. Although I am not going to pretend that this is a comprehensive list, it does demonstrate that many of these individual commandments are NOT carried forward:

50. Not to erect a column in a public place of worship—Deuteronomy 16:22

51. Not to bow down on smooth stone—Leviticus 26:1

52. Not to plant a tree in the Temple courtyard—Deuteronomy 16:21

68. Men must not shave the hair off the sides of their head—Leviticus 19:27

69. Men must not shave their beards with a razor—Leviticus 19:27

78. The Kohanim must bless the Jewish nation daily—Numbers 6:23

79. To wear Tefillin on the head—Deuteronomy 6:8

80. To bind tefillin on the arm—Deuteronomy 6:8

81. To put a Mezuzah on each door post—Deuteronomy 6:9

82. To write a Sefer Torah—Deuteronomy 31:19

83. The king must have a separate Sefer Torah for himself—Deuteronomy 17:18

84. To have Tzitzit on four-cornered garments—Numbers 15:38

85. To bless the Almighty after eating—Deuteronomy 8:10

86. To circumcise all males on the eighth day after their birth—Leviticus 12:3

90. Not to walk more than 2000 cubits outside the city boundary on Shabbat—Exodus 16:29

126. To issue a divorce by means of a Get document—Deuteronomy 24:1

127. A man must not remarry his wife after she has married someone else—Deuteronomy 24:4

128. To do Yibum (marry childless brother's widow)--Deuteronomy 25:5

129. To do Chalitzah (freeing a widow from yibum)--Deuteronomy 25:9

130. The widow must not remarry until the ties with her brother-in-law are removed—Deuteronomy 25:5

131. The court must fine one who seduces a maiden—Exodus 22:15-16

132. The rapist must marry the maiden (if she chooses)--Deuteronomy 22:29

133. He is not allowed to divorce her—Deuteronomy 22:29

134. The slanderer must remain married to the wife he slandered—Deuteronomy 22:19

135. He must not divorce her—Deuteronomy 22:19

161. Not to have sexual relations with a menstrually impure woman—Leviticus 18:19

162. Not to marry non-Jews—Deuteronomy 7:3

163. Not to let Moabite and Ammonite males marry into the Jewish people—Deuteronomy 23:4

164. Don't keep a third generation Egyptian convert from marrying into the Jewish

people—Deuteronomy 23:8-9

165. Not to refrain from marrying a third generation Edomite convert—Deuteronomy 23:8-9

166. Not to let a Mamzer ("bastard") marry into the Jewish people—Deuteronomy 23:3

167. Not to let a eunuch marry into the Jewish people—Deuteronomy 23:2

168. Not to castrate any male (including animals)--Leviticus 22:24

169. The High Priest must not marry a widow—Leviticus 21:14

170. The High Priest must not have sexual relations with a widow even outside of marriage—Leviticus 21:14

171. The High Priest must marry a virgin maiden—Leviticus 21:13

172. A Kohen must not marry a divorcee—Leviticus 21:7

173. A Kohen must not marry a zonah (a woman who had forbidden relations)--Leviticus 21:7

174. A Kohen must not marry a chalalah (party to or product of 169-172)--Leviticus 21:7

217. The Nazir must let his hair grow—Numbers 6:5

218. He must not cut his hair—Numbers 6:5

219. He must not drink wine, wine mixtures, or wine vinegar—Numbers 6:3

220. He must not eat fresh grapes—Numbers 6:3

221. He must not eat raisins—Numbers 6:3

222. He must not eat grape seeds—Numbers 6:4

223. He must not eat grape skins—Numbers 6:4

224. He must not be under the same roof as a corpse—Numbers 6:6

225. He must not come into contact with the dead—Numbers 6:7

226. He must shave after bringing sacrifices upon completion of his Nazirite period—Numbers 6:18

235. Not to plant grains or greens in a vineyard—Deuteronomy 22:9

236. Not to crossbreed animals—Leviticus 19:19

237. Not to work different animals together—Deuteronomy 22:10

238. Not to wear Shatnez, a cloth woven of wool and linen—Deuteronomy 22:11

239. To leave a corner of the field uncut for the poor—Leviticus 19:10

240. Not to reap that corner—Leviticus 19:9

241. To leave gleanings for The poor—Leviticus 19:9

242. Not to gather the gleanings—Leviticus 19:9

243. To leave the gleanings of a vineyard—Leviticus 19:10

244. Not to gather the gleanings of a vineyard—Leviticus 19:10

245. To leave the unformed clusters of grapes for the poor—Leviticus 19:10

246. Not to pick the unformed clusters of grapes—Leviticus 19:10

I realize that this is a lot, but I felt that it was necessary to give my readers the real flavor of the subject of Torah from a Jewish perspective. We should also note that we haven't even touched on the provisions related to leprosy, skin diseases, mold/mildew, slave labor, etc.. Anyway, from this list, we can see just how comprehensive and pervasive the various provisions of the Torah were, and it also becomes very clear that many (if not most) of the commands of the Torah CANNOT be forwarded to the New Covenant.

Moreover, even with the provisions which most Christians would think of as being valid or having some applicability to the New Covenant, the Jewish understanding of some of those commandments would be hotly contested by most Christians. For instance, in Maimonides' Yesodei ha Torah, we read: "This God is one. He is not two or more, but one, unified in a manner which [surpasses] any unity that is found in the world; i.e., He is not one in the manner of a general category which includes many individual entities, nor one in the way that the body is divided into different portions and dimensions. Rather, He is unified, and there exists no unity similar to His in this world. If there were many gods, they would have body and form, because like entities are separated from each other only through the circumstances associated with body and form. Were the Creator to have body and form, He would have limitation and definition, because it is impossible for a body not to be limited. And any entity which itself is limited and defined [possesses] only limited and defined power. Since our God, blessed be His name, possesses unlimited power, as evidenced by the continuous revolution of the sphere, we see that His power is not the power of a body. Since He is not a body, the circumstances associated with bodies that produce division and separation are not relevant to Him. Therefore, it is impossible for Him to be anything other than one."

Later, echoing the conclusions of our friend Neo, we read: "If so, what is the meaning of the expressions employed by the Torah: 'Below His feet' [Exodus 24:10], 'Written by the finger of God' [ibid. 31:18], 'God's hand' [ibid. 9:3], 'God's eyes' [Genesis 38:7], 'God's ears' [Numbers 11:1], and the like? All these [expressions were used] to relate to human thought processes which know only corporeal imagery, for the Torah speaks in the language of man. They are only descriptive terms, as [apparent from Deuteronomy 32:41]: 'I will whet My lightning sword.' Does He have a sword? Does He need a sword to kill? Rather, this is metaphoric imagery. [Similarly,] all [such expressions] are metaphoric imagery." In other words, Torah is a very complex document that is subject to many different interpretations and applications! With this background, we are ready to address our original question: Were ANY of the commands of the Torah carried forward into the New Covenant?

Jesus Christ told his disciples that he came to this earth to FULFILL the Torah and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). Indeed, from the Christian perspective, Jesus of Nazareth is the ONLY individual who has ever lived who obeyed ALL of the commands of the Torah without a single stumble or sin! Likewise, for Christians, Jesus is the ONLY individual who embodied ALL of the predictions of the prophets regarding the Messiah. This is how Jesus FULFILLED the Torah and the prophets.

However, although Jesus personally fulfilled the various commands of Torah, he also made very clear that the Jews understanding of Torah was very imperfect, and that they had NEVER fulfilled its commands. In that same fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Christ also told his disciples: "For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." In other words, NONE of the commands would disappear until he had fulfilled them! Again, the Jews had never kept the commands in this way. To reinforce his meaning, he proceeded to show his disciples just how insufficient Jewish obedience to the Torah (and there understanding of it) had been. Indeed, he told his disciples that their righteousness would have to surpass the righteousness of the Jewish religious leaders (verse 20).

He then proceeded to give them several examples of how he expected them to accomplish this feat. The simple act of refraining from physically killing a person would no longer be sufficient. Going forward, they would be expected to rein in their anger and abusive behaviors toward their brethren (verses 21-26). Going forward, thinking about being unfaithful to one's spouse would be the equivalent of actually having sexual intercourse with someone who wasn't his/her spouse (verses 27-29). Likewise, he went on to let them know that the Torah's provisions for divorce did NOT have God's sanction (verses 31-32)! Going forward, the prohibition against swearing falsely would expand to include any and all kinds of oaths (verses 33-37). Going forward, it would no longer be "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Instead, he told them to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (verses 38-45). With these concrete examples of how the Jews had misapplied Torah commands, Christ made clear that he would be looking for something more from those who would profess to follow him!

Toward this end, Christ established two principles for his disciples to apply to ALL situations going forward. He had personally fulfilled all of the dos and don'ts of the Torah! Instead, he would expect his followers to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV). In other words, going forward, all of the commands of Torah were summarized into two great principles. This, and this ALONE, was carried forward into the New Covenant!

Hence, ALL of our attempts to cherry pick amongst the various commands of the Torah are shown to be an exercise in futility. This is why Paul told the Romans that they were "not under the law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). It is also why he wrote to the saints of Galatia that "all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.' Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.' But the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them.'" (Galatians 3:10-12) So, we see that Christians are operating under the grace of the New Covenant, and that God and Christ expect them to apply those two principles to EVERYTHING they do in this life! 


  1. You stated, "This, and this ALONE, was carried forward into the New Covenant!"

    I disagree with this statement for a number of reasons. The first is that Jesus was the culmination of the OT Law. His act of fulfilling was not a condemnation of the ethical value of the Law but was the preface for issuing the Law in a new rendition. In addition, circumcision is a canonical case used by the Apostle Paul. Circumcision was carried forward into the NC in a new spiritual rendition. This one case is enough to cast reasonable doubt on your statement. And beyond that we have the following endorsement of the OT:

    "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

    The verse above refers to the OT. I do not believe this scripture supports the idea that an act that was immoral in the OT can become moral in the NT under the guise of love. The scripture above does not implement the Law of Moses for NT salvation but recognizes its ethical content.

    1. I believe the ethical value of Torah was carried forward into the New Covenant by the application of those two principles (love for God and each other). While most of the individual commands reflect those principles, Christ chose NOT to obligate his followers to follow that list of dos and don'ts. You cited circumcision as an example of a command that "was carried forward into the NC in a new spiritual rendition." I don't have any problem with that characterization. However, let's be very clear here, the physical command to circumcise is NOT part of the New Covenant. Under the NC, circumcision became a metaphor for the transformation of the human heart - the internalization of those principles which summarized the Torah and the prophets. In similar fashion, according to the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, the physical Sabbath became a metaphor for Christians resting from our own works and accepting Christ's work on our behalf.

      I believe the Torah and the prophets MUST be interpreted in the light of Jesus Christ and his work - that this represents their ONLY value for Christians. Jesus Christ accepted the Torah, fulfilled its provisions, and transformed its application into those two great principles for his disciples. He did NOT, however, endorse all of the individual provisions of the Torah. I too believe that "ALL Scripture is breathed out by God" and profitable for the things Paul enumerated. Inspiration, however, does NOT mean that every word in the Torah, prophets, Psalms, Proverbs or New Testament originated in the mind of God and represents His mind. I've elaborated on this through many posts here over the last few years. For whatever reason (and I have thought of a few), God decided to make Scripture a joint venture between Divine and human, and ONLY the Divine portion of that equation can rightly be characterized as inerrant and eternal.

  2. Circumcision was issued in a new spiritual rendition in the NC. It originated with the Promise to Abraham and was sustained in the OC as a fleshly command. In the NC it now has a new spiritual gravitas. The fact is, it is a command that spanned three covenants. How many other commands might we find, if our exegesis is careful, that follow an intercovenantal arc? Somebody must have done a mapping.

    If Jesus did an aggressive distillation, to the point of abstraction, of the OC in order to arrive at the NC, why would Paul have written of the Hebrew scriptures:

    "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

    Wouldn't Paul rather have said:

    "All scripture has no value and there is no need to refer to it any more. Jesus has opened the door for you to just follow the way of love as your heart dictates what love is."

    I do believe that the OT was edited and curated. That is why I see the NC as the standard for Christians. But Paul was not an anti-nomian as the book of Romans distinctly reveals. Nor does he advocate anywhere designer morality. If he were to do that, his words "Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?" would turn into vapor and become meaningless. There would be no categories. I have said about as much as I can say about this.

    1. Neo,
      As always, I appreciate your contributions here (even when we disagree). Indeed, I believe that the presentation of these different perspectives helps others to process and clarify their own thinking/conclusions on/about these topics. Also, having these discussions, hopefully informs our own opinions and arguments on the subject in question - Again, even when we decide to continue to disagree.

      From my perspective, you have equated my position with amorality or outright licentiousness. I don't believe this is the case. The principles which Christ advocated clearly do NOT amount to "anything goes." Likewise, you appear to be suggesting that my views/interpretation of II Timothy 3:16 makes the Old Testament irrelevant. Again, nothing could be further from the truth (as is demonstrated by my five-part series on Jesus in the Torah). Nevertheless, for Christians, I believe that the Torah ONLY has meaning and relevance when interpreted through our Savior. Our perspective, Paul's perspective, is clearly at odds with the Jewish perspective and interpretation of those writings.

      Finally, although Jesus never confronted the fact that Moses did NOT author all of the Torah, we know for a certainty that he did NOT. As you suggested in your comments, the OT was edited and curated. Moreover, in a number of places (the characterization of Moses as the humblest person on the face of the earth, and the account of his death), the Torah itself makes plain that Moses did NOT author all of the material contained therein. Also, there are a number of occasions during the kingdom period and after the return from exile, where the Torah was read aloud to the people at one time. It would be very hard to do that with the material which now occupies our canon. In other words, it is clear that priests, scribes and copyists embellished the material over time. In addition to all of these facts, we must also allow that more than one lesson or interpretation is possible for many of the passages found therein (some of them not even anticipated by the human authors of those passages).

      In conclusion, I do NOT advocate turning grace into a license to sin. I believe that we are made new creatures in Christ, and that our lives will reflect this new reality (as in the fruits of the Holy Spirit - which are ALL consistent with the principles of love toward God and each other). If we (Christians) have truly repented of our sins and accepted Christ's sacrifice for them, we will live the commands which Christ quite purposefully made the basis/foundation/standard of ethical/moral behavior for his disciples.

  3. The last word is yours. I do find myself unable to support your theology on this express issue.

  4. Neo,
    It appears that we both have the last word on this one. At any rate, I appreciate your perspective, and I encourage everyone to follow the dictates of their own conscience.
    Your brother in Christ,

  5. I tend to line up with NEO on this subject but there are a few comments I would like to make on some selected statements.


    If the focus is solely on performance and DOS and don't s then one would probably conclude NO! But if you're wondering why God gave these laws in the first place, who they apply to, and what do they actually mean, you might come to a different conclusion!


    Deut 25:4. Is this law applicable and relevant?
    "thou shalt not muzzle the ox . . "
    I think we know Paul's answer, (1Cor. 9) , but the interesting thing is , he says it was written for "our sakes", for the here and now, for new covenant saints.

    Any other laws binding today?
    1 Cor. 7:39, the new covenant " wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives".


    True, but does a summary of anything diminish that which it summerizes? Do cliffs notes invalidate the book?


    What do these principles have to do with mold or a skin disease? Did Christ fulfilling the law eliminate mold? Would certain Torah instructions be of any value at all with these complications?


    Romans 7:7, "for I had not known sin but by the law. For I had not known lust except the law had said, thou shalt not covet".

    Paul knew of " love", but love is a moral response, not a standard. Love satisfies the laws requirement. It summerizes the law but does not replace it. The law details God's love, but love all by itself can mean different things to different people.

    MOST OF THE COMMANDS OF THE TORAH CANNOT BE FORWARDED TO THE NC? Is this an admission that some can?

    Not all Torah commands apply to everybody. There are civil laws, temple and priesthood laws, sexual laws, administrative penalties, etc. Even in our society we have the same situation, such as a person under 21 can't legally drink, or drive under 16, or vote under 18 or get married by a certain age. A level of maturity is implied. We make rules for our children based on this, such as curfews, bedtime, dating, that are not binding once they grow up, but the rules themselves are still good and profitable and valid. Do some points of the law mirror this in some way?

    We may not agree on specifics, but we can all agree that the "weightier" matters of the LAW do carry over and are of most importance. There is so much to be gleaned!

    1. BP8,
      I agree with you that there is a lot of confusion about Torah's application to the New Covenant. Like you and Neo, I believe that Torah has a lot of significance for the New Covenant. I, however, do not believe that significance is to be found in identifying commands which are carried forward into the terms of the NC.

      Yes, there are many Torah commands that we can readily identify as being consistent with the Love standard which Jesus espoused. Obviously, things like respecting property rights, boundaries, faithfulness, properly compensating someone, putting God before everything else, etc. are comprehended by the Love standard. After all, Jesus and Paul both suggested that love fulfilled the law's requirements. One would expect this overlap as the FOUNDATION of both covenants is the same (LOVE). Nevertheless, it does NOT necessarily follow that any of the individual provisions of the written code are carried forward into the NC!

      So, I would point out that the Torah: was founded on these two principles (Love for God and each other), pointed to Jesus Christ (was symbolic of him and his work), that he fulfilled its individual requirements on our behalf, and he transformed its provisions and applications by incorporating its foundation into the terms of the NC.

      I believe much of the confusion arises from the kind of language employed by both traditional Christians and Armstrongists in how they talk about the Law. For instance, it is inappropriate to talk about anything being done away with or abrogated. Instead, it is more precise to talk about the Law as having been fulfilled and spiritualized, transformed into principles which can be broadly applied to almost any circumstances which might confront a person in this life.

      Unfortunately, too many Christians have forgotten or ignored the fact that First Century Christians did NOT have access to a New Testament. They preached Christ almost exclusively from the Hebrew Scriptures. However, just as we see Jesus in the sacrificial system, the designations of clean and unclean, circumcision, Sabbath, Holy Days, etc., we understand that those things are only shadows of the reality found in Christ. Hence, returning to the shadows (symbols) and individual provisions seems regressive to me and completely unnecessary.