A Theological Investigation Of Motivation In Old Testament Law -- By: Greg Chirichigno

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 24:4 (Dec 1981)
Article: A Theological Investigation Of Motivation In Old Testament Law
Author: Greg Chirichigno


A Theological Investigation Of Motivation
In Old Testament Law

Greg Chirichigno*

The concept of motivation and its use in the laws of the OT did not attract wide attention until 1953 in an article by B. Gemser,1 who argued against Eerdmans’ thesis that OT ethics did not meddle with the inner thoughts of man.2 Gemser took issue with Eerdmans’ thesis in another article3 in which he contended that OT ethics produced an internal response of deep reflection:

The motive clauses with their appeal to the common sense and to the conscience of the people disclose the truly democratic character of their laws, just as those of the religious kind testify to the deep religious sense and concentrated theological thinking of their formulations.4

It will be my purpose in this paper to continue the study of the use and purpose of motivation in OT law. We will examine the occurrence of motivation in the law codes of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, especially with respect to their theological significance. Gemser’s inquiry into the reflective nature of law has not been treated thoroughly since the publication of his articles. I believe that the significance of motivation in the law codes has been obscured by the current debate on OT law. It will not be my intention here to attempt to resolve the dilemma, as it seems that the remnants of the documentary theory and the present

*Greg Chirichigno is studying for a master’s degree in Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

trend of literary criticism have only confused the matter.5 Otto Kaiser remarks that “scholarship in this area (Israelite law), in spite of an extensive literature, has reached few assured results.”6

Therefore by using the grammatico-historical method when looking at the occurrence of motivation in the law codes I hope to approach the intended meaning and purpose of motivation within law.

I. Motivation: Preliminary Discussion

Within the law codes of the OT there occur many examples of motive clauses, as in Exod 20:5; 23:32-33; Lev 17:10-11; 26:1; Deut 12:30-31. As one can see from these examples of motivation concerning worship occurring in the decalogue (Exod 20:1-17; Deut 5:6-21), covenant code (20:22–23:33),You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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