Embracing The Law: A Biblical Theological Perspective -- By: Elmer A. Martens

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 02:1 (NA 1992)
Article: Embracing The Law: A Biblical Theological Perspective
Author: Elmer A. Martens


Embracing The Law: A Biblical Theological Perspective

Elmer A. Martens

Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary

Fresno, California

Introduction

The subject of “law” (תורה, νόμος) is tantalizing, partly because of the large place given it in Scripture, partly because of the ambiguity of its definition and role, partly because of the way an assessment of law affects the relationship between contemporary Judaism and the Christian Church, partly because of the unceasing debate that surrounds it, and certainly because of the guidance the law affords or does not afford for Christian behavior. So large is the arena of debate, even for one facet of the subject, e.g., Paul and Torah, that an attempt at a synthetic view of the subject covering both testaments is like entering a minefield.1

The purpose of this essay is to explore the subject of “law” (תורה, νόμος) from a biblical theology perspective. In defense of this attempt, one can offer the rationale that beyond the debate of exegetical detail, Scripture is to be viewed wholistically. Theologians from either testament often proceed exclusively on their individual turfs, and they need to be called, whatever their specialization, to work toward synthesis. A look at the forest, rather than the microscopic examination of a twig, has its own rewards. Current discussion on the canonical approach to biblical interpretation is only a further incentive to pursue a less-than-atomized approach. Some fresh proposals on New Testament texts on law are altering the older theological landscape.2 While these proposals are contested, they nevertheless

invite probes toward a new synthesis. For all who see the Bible as Scripture, there is the deep-seated conviction that the two Testaments belong together, that Christians deal with one entity when they deal with Scripture, and that, while our work may take us into specialization of sections, a projected outcome is a statement broadly based on the entire Scripture.3

Both Harmut Gese and Peter Stuhlmacher have attempted such wholistic statements with respect to law.4 Both follow a history-of - traditions approach, with Stuhlmacher building on Gese’s work. Gese proposes two kinds of Torah: a Sinai Torah and a Zion Torah. The first, the more prominent, associated in the tradition with Moses, finds its locus in Deuteronomy a...

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