Is my opinion on Moses' laws correct?


#1

I’m not sure if the following view is in accordance with the Catholic Church, but I am of the opinion that the laws in Leviticus were composed by Moses, not God. I believe God gave the 10 Commandments, but the rest of the laws were from Moses’ mind.

Jesus seemed to allude to this.

In the Gospel of Mark:

Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment."

Gospel of John:

*“Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. “For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” *

Going to the Old Testament now:

Exodus 31:18, “And He gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.”

Deuteronomy 5:22, “These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and He added nothing more. Then He wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.”

So there is a distinction between the 10 commandments of God and the laws of Moses which followed.

Moses himself makes this distinction:

Deuteronomy 4;13-14, “So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. The Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might perform them in the land where you are going over to possess it.”

The whole gigantic list of laws Moses wrote in a book and placed in a pocket *beside *side of the ark, while the Law written by God on tables was placed *inside *the ark of the covenant.

Deuteronomy 31:24-26, "And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, “Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you.”


#2

Whatever the Church may believe about the Law (Torah) given to the Jewish people by Moses, Judaism, particularly Orthodox Judaism but even some within other movements of Judaism, believe that Moses was inspired by G-d Himself to write the Law. The latter is written by Moses but it comes from G-d. In fact, the Law is really a detailed explanation of each one of the Ten Commandments, whereas the codified Mishnah of the Talmud (the Oral Law) is a more detailed explanation and guide toward understanding the (Written) Law. Orthodox Judaism believes that the Oral Law was also given to Moses by G-d.


#3

I think Jesus was grouping together in a general way those elements which had accrued by religious authority (such as an excessive degree of priority accorded tithing in dill, mint and cumin, as well as charging high prices for sacrificial animals) as against the commandments that God gave in their intended places (Mk 12:28-34).

God gave the rules about feasts for example which are prophetic of Christ and the life of the Church. God gave the events in the life of the nation that the feasts commemorated, in the first place.

Likewise the sacrifices and tithings had importance in commemorating and acknowledging realities, but that only acquired proper relevance in the context of the core values.

I suppose Moses as an individual has a similar position to the NT Apostles in his role vis-a-vis revelation?


#4

It is a dogma of the Catholic Faith that all the books and every part of every book, in both Testaments, is entirely inspired and entirely inerrant. So it is all from God.


#5

Thanks for the replies.

I’ve been rereading Pope Benedict’s “In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Creation and the Fall,” and in it he explores the two Genesis creation stories from a textual criticism perspective.

I suppose it was a bit of a surprise to see him fully accept the idea that the 7-day creation story is inspired by the Babylonian creation story Enuma Elish. (He goes into great detail about the significance of the structure of the story itself, especially regarding numbers and numerological symbolism in Judaism, and how the story was, in one sense, written to counter the Babylonian beliefs by “de-mythologizing” their story and rewriting it from a Jewish theological perspective.)

I hate to bombard people online with links to other websites, but if anyone is interested, a lot of the textual criticism he wrote about can be found in this Wikipedia article: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_creation_narrative

And here’s an interesting exegesis of Genesis I:
biologos.org/blogs/archive/the-numerology-of-genesis-1

It might also be worth mentioning that a great deal of Church Fathers and even certain Jewish thinkers before the time of Christ felt a literal reading of this part of the Bible was incorrect. One who comes to mind is Origen, who went as far as to call it “myth.”

I suppose I was more inspired by this line of thinking when I wrote my OP.


#6

To say that the creation story of Genesis 1 “is inspired by the Enuma Elish” is a bit misleading. It makes it seem like the content of Genesis 1 follows the content of the Enuma Elish.

As you mention, it does no such thing: rather, it serves to contradict the mythology of the Babylonian belief system. It shows that God is without peer – without beginning or end – and that His creation is entirely good. It shows that we, as humans, aren’t the ‘playthings’ of the gods, but are the beloved children of God.

So, rather than saying that “Genesis 1 is inspired by the Enuma Elish,” it would be more accurate to say that “the inspired writer of Genesis 1 was motivated by the need to refute the claims made by the Babylonians in their creation epic.”

Fair enough?


#7

That’s generally my opinion. I believe the writers of the Bible were inspired and that they made use of several pagan mythologies to express the truth of God.

The church fathers taught that even among the pagan religions aspects of truth can be found. I recall reading how the early missionaries to evangelize Ireland were surprised to see that the Celtic religion had a concept of a diety based on the number three, which is similar enough to the concept of the Trinity that they peacefully and gladly embraced Christianity.

Assuming God exists, and assuming people have an inherent desire to seek him, it makes sense that bits of truth could be discerned in paganism. I also believe it’s fair that an inspired writer could have and did borrow from pagan mythology to teach truths about God, such as with Genesis I. (In fact, God-inspired people borrow from other sources all the time. When the Temple of Jerusalem was built, I’m sure the architects and builders and masons used pre-existing technology and knowledge to build it. It didn’t make it any less holy or significant.)


#8

Traditionally it’s believed Leviticus was dictated by God at Mt Sinai but after the sin of the golden calf Moses had written the book of Deuteronomy at the plains of Moab before entering the promised land, which is why we read many similarities between these two books but with a few additions to Deuteronomy e.g. permission for divorce etc.


#9

:thumbsup: 100% correct.

Blessings,

Brian


#10

I’m not sure if the following view is in accordance with the Catholic Church, but I am of the opinion that the laws in Leviticus were composed by Moses, not God. I believe God gave the 10 Commandments, but the rest of the laws were from Moses’ mind.

Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai learning the entirety of the Torah from the Creator. This was not some Jedi mind trick where Moses just made commandments of the Torah at his own whim and fancy.

The analogy given is that the Torah is like the compilation of lecture notes, but the lecture itself is in the Oral Torah (i.e., the Mishnah). In English translations, the Mishnah is comprised of roughly 24 volumes - an extensive work.


#11

That’s interesting because that same thought came to mind for me today, prompted by the citation in Mark regarding divorce. And the Church teaches that believers are obliged to obey the Decalogue, BTW, but not the other parts of the “Old Law”, as it’s put.


#12

The OT disciplines have been entirely dispensed by Christ and His Church [per the Council of Florence, 11th Session]. But these disciplines, such as animal sacrifices and dietary laws, were instructive; they also teach by means of action. The OT sacrifices prepared for and taught about Christ’s sacrifice. The dietary laws were a figure for discerning good and evil, and choosing only good. So even the dispensed OT disciplines are still in force, as concerns their inner meaning, though not their outer prescriptions.


#13

I think that is a slightly diffrent issue - the Church teaches us to follow the Decalogue (and not the remainder of the Mosaic Law) because scripture teaches us that the Mosaic Law was fulfilled in Christ and we are no longer under the law of Moses, but the law of Christ (Pall’s exact words). Jesus repeated the 10 commandments (all but the Sabbath observance) expressly in the New Testament - and this is the law written in our hearts.

But your post did me cause to reflect on the initial post and dig a little deeper. I found this interesting statement in a Catholic Commentary that does draw a distinction between the Mosaic Law (law of God) and some of the customs and traditions established by Moses, including specifically on divorce.

“Divorce was not a Mosaic ‘command’ but a toleration of existing custom. This custom itself was due to Israel’s ‘hardness of heart’, i.e. (cf. Deut 10:16; Jer 4:4; Ecclus 16:10) to a moral immaturity insensitive to God’s will—a will made plain, as our Lord says, in Gen 1:27”

A. Jones, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St Matthew,” in A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, ed. Bernard Orchard and Edmund F. Sutcliffe (Toronto;New York;Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1953), 885.


#14

Many people read scripture with the understanding that we are no longer under any law, with the belief that this means that even obedience to the Decalogue is unnecessary. Faith, alone, etc. In any case it can become confusing at times, especially with St Paul. For example, when he says in Rom 2 that people will still be judged by the law, is he speaking solely of the Ten Commandments or of the other parts of the Mosaic law as well?

I believe the answer to be obvious enough, even though not clearly outlined in the NT. Paul does away with the necessity of the law to justify us, since it cannot, but also does away with the necessity of the ceremonial and other non-Decalogue laws altogether, as laws that must be fulfilled. We’ll be judged only on those laws necessitated or demanded by love, as per those mentioned in Rom 13:8, for example, all part of the Decalogue. In the end were actually judged on our love, as St John of the Cross put it.


#15

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