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Jesus, the Law of Moses, and Sex

To: alt.magick.ethics,alt.magick.order,alt.magick.tantra,relcom.arts.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
From: "Joe Steve Swick III" 
Subject: Re: Jesus, the Law of Moses, and Sex
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 08:15:22 -0800

Jesus urged his followers to keep the Law of Moses (which was much more than
a set of religious precepts -- it was the civil law, as well), stating:

"Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass
from the law, till ALL be fulfilled (i.e., till heaven and earth shall pass,
and all the prophecies come to an end)" (Matt 5:18).

He then specificallly stated concering the Law of Moses:

"Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, AND SHALL TEACH MEN
SO, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5: 19).

___Erik Jordan___
 I've always found Matt. 5: 19 interesting in that it condemned no one to

True enough. Judaism recognized from the outset that non-Jews were not
obliged to keep the full Law; they could still be "righteous" -- by keeping
the Noachide Laws,  they would yet have a place in Olam Ha-Ba... that is,
"the good people of all nations attain salvation (Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:2)"
(Telushkin, Nine Questions, 83). And, it may be of equal interest to note
that the word "hell" never appears anywhere in the Tanakh.

Nevertheless, Jesus seems to be saying that  to TEACH MEN to violate the
"fulness" of the Mosaic Law, or to ENTICE A JEW to non-observance was a very
serious matter.

 The ceremonial Torah, or "Law of Kedusha (holiness) was also a part of the
Law of Moses. It was believed that strict observance of these laws made a
man morally upright (tsdk), so Jesus' very NEXT words are important in
what they teach us about the duty of Christians regarding the Law of Moses:

"For I say unto you That except your righteousness [i.e., obedience to the
Law of Moses] shall EXCEED the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,
ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20).

___Erik Jordan___
 I'm not sure reading "[i.e., obedience to the Law of Moses]" into Matt.

No need to read it into the text at all. He's talking to a group of Jews,
who undertand perfectly well what "righteousness" (Heb. tsdk) is:

"And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these
commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us" (Deut. 6:25).

Jesus makes the comment in the middle of a discussion of the Law of Moses.
He concludes by saying that the righteousness of his followers must be
greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees, who he chides for "saying"
and "doing not." He clearly understands the fundamental Jewish belief that
1) the Law of God is an attempt to perfect the world under the Rule of God;
and 2) that unless one keeps the Law with the INTENTION of being moral, mere
observance does not MAKE one moral. I believe that this distinction is one
that Jesus focuses on repeatedly. OF ITSELF observance of the Law does not
make a man moral. That does not mean that one can ignore the Law.

___Erik Jordan___
 But the following is true [quoting JSW--]:

Jesus then goes on to teach the "higher law" -- a law which operates WITHIN
the restrictions of the Mosaic Law (see Matt 5:21-48 ff.) His final counsel
on the matter is this:

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:  All therefore whatsoever
they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works:
for they say, and do not" (Matthew 23:2-3).

If it is true, then my argument is correct. the Pharisees enjoined their
hearers to obey the four classes of Jewish Law -- Reflexive Laws, Laws of
Ethics, Laws of Holiness, and National Laws. Jesus commanded his followers
to "OBSERVE and DO" according to the teaching of the Pharisees, whom he
criticized as hypocrites who "SAY and DO NOT."

Clearly, Jesus is enjoining Christians to keep the Law of God as revealed to
Moses. This is not only DIFFERENT from what PAUL teaches... it is different
than what the Christian Church decides in the First Christian Council.

___Erik Jordan___
 It is my belief that it is not possible to fully observe Mosaic Law.

Which part is impossible to observe?  Which of the ethical and moral co
nsiderations of the Law are you willing to set aside?  The Law
teaches, "Do
not covet; do not kill; honor your parents; honor the Sabbath day; keep the
Name of God Holy." It enjoins specific moral, ethical, and holy practices,
which, if practiced purely, will enable people to become moral, ethical, and
holy. These laws were ostensibly given by God to man for this very purpose.
By contrast, you seem to excuse your lack of observance on the fact that
FULL observation of these laws is impossible. What?! Are you like the
Pharisees, who SAY and DO NOT?  Isn't it true that TO OBEY IS BETTER THAN
SACRIFICE (even JESUS' sacrifice) and to HEARKEN than the fat of rams? (1
Samuel 15: 22; Proverbs 21:3)?

Now, granting that we are human, I don't suppose that God expected that we
would ever "fully observe" the Mosaic Law:

"There is no man so RIGHTEOUS who does only good and never sins"
(Ecclesiastes 7:20 -- note again that "righteousness" is equated with

That is why God has always allowed teshuvah (repentence), which entails
four steps: 1) recognition; 2) remorse; 3) RESOLVE to KEEP the broken Law;
4) sacrifice.  Sacrifice need not entail an actual offering of an animal on
a physical altar, as Christians well know. As Hosea taught: "turn to the
Lord, say to Him, Forgive all iniquity and receive us graciously, so we will
offer the prayers of our lips instead of calves" (Hosea 14:3).

AFAICT, no Jew before Paul's polemic EVER believed that a man who disobeyed
ANY of the Law was "cursed" by God. Rather, this cursing was LIMITED to
those who violated the fundamental moral and ethical considerations found in
Deuteronomy 27:15-25 (see v. 26).  (This is why the Apostle Paul's arguments
in this regard are not extremely convincing for the observant Jew; Galatians
makes it cover the whole of the Law, when clearly that is not what was
intended.) Violations of these laws fell into several categories of
severity, some of them requiring the death of the lawbreaker.

___Erik Jordan___
It is the spirit of the Law which I try to observe.

LOL! Then why all this cavailing about polygamy?   Many Christians I
know appeal to the Law of Moses when it suits them, and ignore the parts
that they don't like, "pleading grace" for their lack of resolve. In fact,
most Christians don't even ATTEMPT to live the Law in ANY respect... but
occasionally, when they feel the law supports their views (homosexuality,
polygamy), they will appeal to it.  They are worse than the first-century
"anti-nomians." They not only do not keep the law, but they teach others
that it is not necessary to keep it. Listen again to what JESUS said about
this, Erik:

"Therefore, the man who infringes EVEN THE LEAST OF THESE COMMANDMENTS and
TEACHES OTHERS SO TO DO the same will be considered the least in the kingdom
of heaven" (Matt 5:17-19).

It seems to me that Jesus is saying that, rather than in SPIRIT or in WORD,
we may wish to keep the Law "in deed and  truth" (1 John 3:18).  The Law of
Moses is a revelation of God's LOVE OF and MERCY TOWARD mankind, as manifest
in his absolute JUSTICE (TSDK, which is the same word as RIGHTEOUSNESS).
Justice (that is, righteousness) is God's chief attribute, AND JESUS ENJOINS

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"
(Matt 5:48).

Similarly, we are enjoined by the Law of Moses to emulate this attribute of
God's character... which again, is a manifestation of his love and mercy:

Justice, justice shall you pursue (Deut. 16:20, JBS).
Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue (Deut. 16:20, Stone Edition).

 ___Erik Jordan___
Perhaps this is why he stated "better yea not burn" (sexually) instead
prepare yourself for the day of the Lord ... this may have been a causal
factor in the Roman Catholic policy of chastity for priests and nuns.

Again, a misconstruing of Paul's instruction, which is a response to a
situation not fully documented in the letter. I suspect that his advice was
for missionaries (like him) or others who were full-time laborers... that if
they could not remain single, it was best for them to marry... better to
marry than to BURN [WITH DESIRE, or IN HELL for UNCHASTE BEHAVIOR]. Remember
though, that Paul was himself married, as the scriptural record makes very

___Erik Jordan___
 Please define "UNCHASTE BEHAVIOR"?

Sexual relations apart from the marriage covenant.

___Erik Jordan___
Question comes to mind - does Mosaic Law prohibit premarital sex?

Strictly speaking, the Mosaic Law does not forbid sexual relations between
an unmarried man and an unmarried woman, or, even more tellingly, between a
married man and an unmarried woman. This is likely because the sexual act
itself was seen as contractual (i.e., a part of the marriage covenant). To
have sex WITHOUT THE INTENT of marriage makes of the woman a zonah, or
prostitute, and "Jewish law rules against [such a man]" (Telushkin, Jewish
Wisdom, 138). Of course, in Orthodox Judaism, there is indeed a strong
prohibition against premarital sex, and this is reinforced by not allowing
an unmarried woman to purify herself in the mikveh following her monthly
period (meaning, of course she remains ritually unclean and unfit for sex).

Furthermore, in the ancient world, chastity was very highly valued. It was
well understood that a woman who had engaged in sex with another man prior
to marriage would find it *extremely* difficult to marry. This served as a
bar against such behaviors.

___Erik Jordan___
 Does Mosaic Law prohibit prostitution?

No, it does not. And, it considers a "prostitute" to be any single woman who
has ever engaged in sex with a man who did not intend to take her for a
wife. Therefore, a woman already married and having sex with another man is
not a
prostitute, but an adultress, which was (at least technically) a capital

___Erik Jordan___
 ... homosexuality (male)?

Yes, this is not only forbidden (Leviticus 18:22), but is considered a
capital offense (Leviticus 20:3) :

___Erik Jordan___
... homosexuality (female)?

" 'You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or
the land of Canaan to which I am taking you' (Leviticus 18:3). . . What did
they do? A man would marry a man and a woman marry a woman" (Sifra Leviticus
on 18:3).

___Erik Jordan___
... incest?

Yes, this was illegal. In fact the incest prohibitions were extremely
strict... including several relationships that would be considered
absolutely legal in the United States today.  These laws proscribing
relations between near kin are presented in detail in Leviticus 18.

In an interesting case, the Apostle Paul excommunicates a man for having
sexual relations with "his father's wife" (apparently NOT his
mother...hmmmm) in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.

___Erik Jordan___
 ... rape?

Absolutely forbidden. If a man raped an unmarried woman, he was required to
give restitution, and perhaps marry the woman. If he raped a woman who was
betrothed or married, it was a capital offense. Later, the definition of
rape was extended to include the use of physical force against one's spouse
to coerce sex.

___Erik Jordan___
 I ask these questions of you do to your obviously extensive study of the
Bible? (I admit knowing the quick answer to some of these ... but then I
don't know Hebrew nor Aramaic).

I play at Hebrew, and know a little Greek.

The quote from Matthew 19 above was part of a response Jesus gave when
questioned about marriage. You will recall that in his day, there were two
main schools of thinking on the subject of marriage and divorce: that of
Hillel, which interpreted the passage in Deuteronomy as meaning a man could
divorce his wife for any reason; and the school of Shammai, which believed
that "any blemish" had special reference to sexual misconduct.

Jesus clearly sided with the stricter interpretation of Shammai:

"3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is
it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause [i.e., as Hillel
suggested]? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he
which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For
this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his
wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain,
but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put
asunder.7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of
divorcement, and to put her away?  8 He saith unto them, Moses because of
the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from
the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away
his wife, except [it be] for fornication, and shall marry another,
committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit
adultery" (Matthew 19:3-9).

As for polygamy: Jesus does not directly deal with this subject, but his
exclusive language here -- especially his appeal to Adam and Eve as the
model of  God's intent in such matters (in the beginning... from the
beginning), might be seen to not give much room for polygamy. However, the
Law of Moses allowed for such marriages, and nothing in the NT expressly
overturns that law.

Paul's letters to gentiles are written to communities in which polygamy is
not common. For this reason, it is logical to read his statements to them,
that "a bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2)
and "let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and
their own houses well" (1 Tim. 3:12), as  restricting the practice among

However, GRAMMATICALLY, both of these passages allow for plurality. The Gk.
mia may mean the first of a series, as in the first day of the week, etc.
Note that this is different than the word Paul uses to describe a WIFE
who has married ONE MAN in 1 Tim. 5:9. Here, instead of MIA (first of a
series), he uses HEIS (numerically "one"). If we interpret 1 Tim 3:2, 12
with this in mind, then we may come away with a very different
understanding: a
bishop must be the husband of HIS FIRST WIFE.... deacons must be husbands of
their FIRST WIVES (i.e., they must not have DIVORCED). So, this one can be
argued both ways. My point is that you may be attributing to Paul something
very different than anything Paul taught.

___Erik Jordan___
This argument is familiar. Which do you consider to have been his intent?
I've always considered Paul very clever.

I think Paul didn't wish to upset the applecart: he discourages gentile
Christians from contracting plural marriages, but leaves wiggle room for a
principle allowed (and occasionally demanded) by Mosaic Law.

___Erik Jordan___

Indeed.  Paul's move to actively proselyte gentiles into the
Christian body saved it from an early death. There were simply not enough
Jewish followers to sustain the movement, and the relaxing of the two
aspects of Jewish Law most difficult for gentiles -- the Law of Kashrut and
Circumcision-- was, politically speaking, most savvy.

And, there is nothing to indicate that Jesus was somehow more "liberal" in
his views than any modern preacher when it came to marriage and sex.

____Erik Jordan___
He would seem in someways more liberal and in others more conservative.
Christ's strict interpretation of divorce laws is fairly conservative ...
His aversion to the throwing of stones does liberalize the same laws a bit.

This is a common Christian view. Actually, while adultery was a capital
crime, it was generally not prosecuted fully. Again, Telushkin explains:

"Although the Bible designated adultery as a capital offense (Leviticus
20:10), the Torah and Talmud imposed so many judicial requirements for
conviction (e.g., requiring two witnesses who had warned the couple in
advance) that the law, in effect, became a dead letter.

"Yet, when adultery clearly had occurred, two lesser, but very severe,
penalties were imposed:

"1. The adultress was both prohibited from remaining married to her husband
(even if he was willing to forgive her) and forbidden to marry her lover.

"2. A child who ensued from the adulterous relationship was characterized as
a *mamzer* (basteard), and forbidden  to marry other Jews besides
*mamzerim*. (Significantly, the offspring of a relationship between two
unmarried people was not regarded as either a "bastard" or "illegitimate.")

"These two laws' severity caused many tenderhearted Rabbis to deny that
adultery had occurred even in instances where it clearly had. Thus, the
sixteenth-century Code of Jewish Law, the Shulkhan Arukh, ruled that if a
woman gave birth to a child up to a full year after her husband had gone off
to sea, we simply assume that she had a very long pregnancy. (Even ha-Ezer
4:14). Rabbi Michael Gold has observed, '[The Rabbis] were willing to ignore
biological facts to avoid imposing the stigma of 'bastard' on the newly born
child' " (Telushkin, Jewish Wisdom, 139-40).

So, Jesus' actions seem consistent with Rabbinical tradition, as are his
comments in Matthew 19:9. In fact, this last verse is evidence that women
who committed adultery were not frequently subject to capital punishment.

May I ask "what specifically IS your affiliation, if any?"

In most respects, I'm a Fundamentalist Mormon (that is, I believe in


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