The End of the Law -- By: Charles C. Ryrie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 124:495 (Jul 1967)
Article: The End of the Law
Author: Charles C. Ryrie


The End of the Law

Charles C. Ryrie

[Charles C. Ryrie, Dean of the Graduate School, Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

The discussion of the end of the Mosaic law and the ramifications involved is one which usually bogs down in confusion. All interpreters of the Scripture are faced with the clear teaching that the death of Christ brought an end to the Mosaic law (Rom 10:4) while at the same time recognizing that some of the commandments of that law are restated clearly and without change in the epistles of the New Testament. Or to state the problem in the form of a question, it is this: How can the law be ended if portions of it are repeated after it supposedly ended?

The Concept of the Law

The law which is involved in this question is the Mosaic law. Although the word “torah” was used quite widely in Judaism, it especially referred to the code that was given at Sinai. The lives of outstanding rabbis were sometimes called “torah.” The whole of the Old Testament was so designated, but particularly the Pentateuch was the Torah. This superiority of the Pentateuch was linked directly to the greatness of Moses (Num 12:6–8; Deut 34:10), though the rabbis were careful to point out that any difference was only in matters of detail not of principle.

The law is generally divided into three parts—the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial. The moral part is termed “the words of the covenant, the ten words” (Exod 34:28)—from which Greek equivalent we derive the label decalogue. The judgments begin at Exodus 21:2 and determine the rights between man and man with attendant judgments on offenders. The ceremonial part, which commences at Exodus 25:1, regulated the worship life of Israel.

Although this threefold division of the law is quite popularly accepted in Christian theology, the Jews either did not acknowledge it or at least did not insist on it. They first counted all the particular precepts; then divided them into families of commandments. By this method they counted 613 total laws and twelve families of commandments. “The numeral letters of torah denote six hundred and eleven of them; and the other two, which, as they say, are the first words of the decalogue, were delivered by God himself to the people, and so come not within the compass of the word Torah in that place: whence they take this important consideration, namely, Deut ...

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