The Law Of Change In The Bible -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 078:309 (Jan 1921)
Article: The Law Of Change In The Bible
Author: Harold M. Wiener


The Law Of Change In The Bible

Harold M. Wiener

There is no more trite observation than that all things change, yet it is generally supposed that the Bible contains an immutable, unchanging system. The purpose of this essay is to make some attempt to examine this view. Is it, indeed, the case that Law and Prophets present us with a conception of life that makes no allowance for growth and variation? If so, how could solutions have been found for the new problems of life that time invariably brings? That there was change in thought (as contrasted with law) may be seen from many passages. A single instance must here suffice. In 1 Ch 21:1 that is attributed to the Satan which in the parallel passage is held to be due to the Lord (2 S 24:1). The difference in the theological outlook is immediately apparent, but this is not a matter for regulation by law. Accordingly it does not fall within the scope of the present essay. Nor, again, is it proposed to investigate additions to existing law, except in so far as these may appear to have a bearing on the subject of institutional change. It is common knowledge that, e.g., certain minor feasts and fasts were adopted by Judaism long after the time of Moses, but these and most other additions have no important relation to our present subject. What we desire to examine is not how additional laws were made to deal with new subject-matter, but whether existing law could be repealed or altered, and, if so, by whom and within what limits. For this purpose we may exclude changes in the law made by changes in interpretation. It is almost certain that in different ages different views were taken of the interpretation to be placed on existing laws; but while change may be and often is effected through the work of the authorized interpreters of laws, they are theoretically lim-

ited to the task of explaining laws already in being, and ostensibly have no power to alter or repeal them.

Historically the problem that we have to study begins with the work of the Mosaic age. Moses introduced many innovations; but what was his attitude to change when once he had laid down a binding rule? Did he regard this as unchangeable either for his own age or for the future? And what attitude did he take up with respect to the problems that would inevitably arise after his death? Did he conceive or claim that — at any rate, so far as the topics with which he dealt were concerned — what he had given was immutable law, all-sufficient for all time, save in so far as it might require interpretation and elucidation? Could any practical lawgiver and judge conceivably hold any such view? These seem to be the q...

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