11.18.2005

The Context of the Law

My Pentateuch proff made some good points in class yesterday.

He asked, “What do we do with the mosaic law, particularly the parts we find shameful, for instance laws regulating the treatment of slaves, or the prefrences given to men?”

The “right” answer is along these lines. Divide it up into three categories, ceremonial, civil and moral, with only the latter applying to us today. The problem, (as it so often is) is in the application. For starters we often write off huge sections of the Bible without giving them a second thought, and when it comes to deciding what parts are moral, we pick and choose.

Instead, Butler suggested, we should try and find the point behind the civil or ceremonial law, asking, “what is the contemporary equivalent?”

In other words, it’s all about, that’s right, my favorite word, drum roll please…

…contextualization, du da!

Of course this is fraught with problems too, people being what they are, we are apt to contextualize the meaning right out of a passage. There are certainly times when the meaning is all too clear, but we just don’t want to hear it.

That said, take a new look at Leviticus, and ask the question, what is the contemporary analogy, or at the very least the principle behind the rule.

Here are a fiew just for fun.

Lev 4
13 If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty.

Lev 7
22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 Say to the Israelites: 'Do not eat any of the fat of cattle, sheep or goats.

Lev 19
9 When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

33 When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

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