the Old Testament irrelevant?

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
I'm sure most of you have heard anti-Christian faith/validity arguments in which the seemingly outlandish, extreme, and unnecessary laws and punishments of the Old Testament are used as the central basis of the argument.

Aside from the argument that the bible is outdated and supposedly untrue, etc etc, people will often respond with an "oh that changed after Jesus" with the response "so the you don't believe in the Old Testament then?" which brings up a conundrum.

I could bring up a list of all the punishments and rules, but i feel that would be unnecessary.

So basically,
What do we have to say about those rules/punishments?
why are they void now?
some of them are so harsh and seem to be completely unnecessary, so why were they even put in place and enforced in the first place?


  • Good question! I had the same one.
  • you have heard anti-Christian faith/validity arguments in which the seemingly outlandish, extreme, and unnecessary laws and punishments of the Old Testament

    Who can say they were unnecessary? Faithful Jews followed them fearfully and accurately, also true Christians cannot say that because they believe these were God's commands given in the OT. Only those who are abusive of anything sacred and those living careless life styles can say or use such arguments that essentially betray their ignorance.

    You can seriously argue that from the Ten Commandments derive the foundation of most of the laws governing civilized social behavior.

    Not all the rules found in the OT have been abolished in the NT. There are some priesthood rules that are kept through the teaching of the Apostles. A rule that was abolished by Jesus Christ was stoning, when He prevented the stoning of the adulteress. Another one was modifying and abolishing the Sabbath by Jesus, this included the related punishments. Many new rules were introduced in the NT though, for example those of Baptism, the Eucharist, etc.

  • Fr. Thomas Hopko, an Orthodox Priest and former Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary had a series on the subject.
    1st podcast
    2nd podcast
    3rd podcast
    4th podcast

    It will take a while to listen to, but it sheds a lot of light on the subject. I wish I could try to summarize it, but unfortunately I cannot accurately summarize it in a post. Also in addition to reading the podcasts read this thread:
  • John_S2000,

    I'm not talking about the ten commandments nor the simple understandable ones, im talking about the seemingly outlandish ones, for example:
    When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand.

    and thanks anba bola, ill get to those eventually lol
  • Please can you be more specific by telling where in the Bible can I find it? This way if I do not know (like in this case posted above) may be I can ask and find out from someone knowledgeable.

    There is a general answer I think of, we read:

    Mark 10
    2 The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.
    3 And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”
    4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”
    5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’

    i.e. He created one male and one female, and

    Matthew 19
    7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ meant that it was not His original plan to allow divorce rules when He created Adam and Eve but that it was allowed just as a temporary rule by Moses, and thence these rules and similar ones must be rectified or changed to abide again to the original divine purpose.

    There are positive spiritual restorative changes that God promised to Christians, the new Israel. This means that many rules given by Moses in the OT were primarily earthly ones:

    Ezekiel 11
    17 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ 18 And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. 19 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

    Compare between:
    Because of the hardness of your heart and
    take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh

  • I also remember hearing a very short answer by HH Pope Shenouda, saying that God did not change, but humans did and so God's actions are the best for humanity at whatever time. So working on this, I have heard the interpretation that the law was set up so that it would be impossible to follow everything to teach the Israelites not to depend on their own selves but rather to place their trust in God.
  • "Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart."

    "But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their hearts. 16Nevertheless when they shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. 17Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

    ...i don't know i thought this was kind of relevant, seeing the difference between both covenants. i think all those laws put in the Old Testemant--what we kind of call "petty" laws-- (someone once told me) that they were basically to separate Isreal from all the other nations. that Israel would be extremely unique. but those laws, like you can't wear this on this day. im sure if you broke it, you wouldnt go to hell. they're meant to teach us obedience.
  • This is a question I really struggled with when I was still a Protestant, and one of the aspects of the Orthodox Faith that attracted me was Her position on the Hebrew Scriptures (often times incorrectly referred to as the Old Testament): there is nothing Old about the Old Testament and there is nothing New about the New Testament.  Jesus Christ is found in both, only if you are expecting Him as He is Himself (ie: profession of faith by St. Symeon and the Theotokos).  When you read the Scriptures (before and after Christ, as it were), read them with Christ Jesus as your "lens," meaning, read everything in the context of the Incarnation of the Word of God.  Jesus also said in St. Matthew's Gospel that He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it, and that no part of it would pass away unto the end of the ages.  So, from the Lord's mouth we see that the entirety of the Scriptures start at Genesis, go through to Daniel (in the LXX), and continue from Matthew to Revelation.  And remember, too, that the Scriptures are only a part of the Truth revealed to us as Orthodox Christians, since the Holy Tradition includes the Scriptures--there are no two pillars where one (scripture) is higher than the other.  The Fathers make it clear that the Scriptures are of paramount importance, but they are also clear that the Scriptures are a part of the Holy Tradition of the Church. 
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