Law of Moses
   HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

The Law of Moses ( he, תֹּורַת מֹשֶׁה ), also called the Mosaic Law, primarily refers to the
Torah The Torah (; hbo, ''Tōrā'', "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") is the compilation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, namely the books of Book of Genesis, Genesis, Book of Exodus, Exodus, Leviticus, Book of Numbers, Numbers a ...
or the first five books of the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (;"Tanach"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
Hebrew: ''Tān ...
. The law revealed to Moses by God.


Terminology

The Law of Moses or Torah of Moses (Hebrew: , ''Torat Moshe'',
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Greek language, Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible. It includes several ...
grc, νόμος Μωυσῆ, ''nómos Mōusē'', or in some translations the "Teachings of Moses") is a biblical term first found in the
Book of Joshua The Book of Joshua ( he, סֵפֶר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ‎ ', Tiberian: ''Sēp̄er Yŏhōšūaʿ'') is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (;
, where Joshua writes the Hebrew words of "Torat Moshe " on an altar of stones at
Mount Ebal Mount Ebal ( he, ''Har ʿĒyḇāl''; ar, جبل عيبال ''Jabal ‘Aybāl'') is one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of the city of Nablus in the West Bank (Bible, biblical ''Shechem''), and forms the northern side of the val ...
. The text continues: The term occurs 15 times in the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (;"Tanach"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
Hebrew: ''Tān ...
, a further 7 times in the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...
, and repeatedly in
Second Temple period The Second Temple period in Jewish history lasted approximately 600 years (516 BCE - 70 CE), during which the Second Temple existed. It started with the return to Zion and the construction of the Second Temple, while it ended with the First Jewis ...
, intertestamental, rabbinical and patristic literature. The Hebrew word for the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, ''
Torah The Torah (; hbo, ''Tōrā'', "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") is the compilation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, namely the books of Book of Genesis, Genesis, Book of Exodus, Exodus, Leviticus, Book of Numbers, Numbers a ...
'' (which means "law" and was translated into Greek as "nomos" or "Law") refers to the same five books termed in English "Pentateuch" (from Latinised Greek "five books", implying the five books of Moses). According to some scholars, use of the name "Torah" to designate the "Five Books of Moses" of the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (;"Tanach"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
Hebrew: ''Tān ...
is clearly documented only from the 2nd century BCE. In modern usage, ''Torah'' can refer to the first five books of the Tanakh, as the Hebrew Bible is commonly called, to the instructions and commandments found in the 2nd to 5th books of the Hebrew Bible, and also to the entire Tanakh and even all of the
Oral Law An oral law is a code of conduct in use in a given culture, religion or community application, by which a body of rules of human behaviour is transmitted by oral tradition and effectively respected, or the single rule that is orally transmitted. M ...
as well. Among English-speaking Christians the term "The Law" can refer to the whole Pentateuch including Genesis, but this is generally in relation to the New Testament where ''nomos'' "the Law" sometimes refers to all five books, including Genesis. This use of the Hebrew term "Torah" (law), for the first five books is considered misleading by 21st-century Christian
bible scholar Biblical criticism is the use of critical analysis to understand and explain the Bible. During the eighteenth century, when it began as ''historical-biblical criticism,'' it was based on two distinguishing characteristics: (1) the concern to ...
John Van Seters, because the Pentateuch "consists of about one half law and the other half narrative".


Law in the Ancient Near East

The "Law of Moses" in ancient Israel was different from other legal codes in the
ancient Near East The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗ ...
because transgressions were seen as offences against God rather than solely as offences against society (civil law). This contrasts with the
Sumer Sumer () is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia (south-central Iraq), emerging during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age, early Bronze Ages between the sixth and fifth millennium BC. It is one of ...
ian Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100–2050 BCE), and the
Babylonia Babylonia (; Akkadian: , ''māt Akkadī'') was an ancient Akkadian-speaking state and cultural area based in the city of Babylon in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and parts of Syria). It emerged as an Amorites, Amorite-ruled ...
n
Code of Hammurabi The Code of Hammurabi is a Babylonian legal text composed 1755–1750 BC. It is the longest, best-organised, and best-preserved legal text from the ancient Near East. It is written in the Old Babylonian dialect of Akkadian language, Akkadian, p ...
(c. 1760 BCE, of which almost half concerns
contract law A contract is a legally enforceable agreement between two or more Party (law), parties that creates, defines, and governs mutual rights and obligations between them. A contract typically involves the transfer of goods, Service (economics), ser ...
). However, the influence of the ancient Near Eastern legal tradition on the Law of ancient Israel is recognised and well documented, for example, in principles such as ("
eye for an eye "An eye for an eye" ( hbo, עַיִן תַּחַת עַיִן, ) is a commandment found in the Book of Exodus 21:23–27 expressing the principle of reciprocal justice measure for measure. The principle exists also in Babylonian law. In Roman c ...
"), and in the content of the provisions. Some similarities are striking, such as in the provisions concerning a man-goring ox (Code of Hammurabi laws 250–252, Exodus 21:28–32). Some writers have posited direct influence: David P. Wright, for example, asserts that the Covenant Code is "directly, primarily, and throughout dependent upon the Laws of Hammurabi", "a creative rewriting of Mesopotamian sources ... to be viewed as an academic abstraction rather than a digest of laws". Others posit indirect influence, such as via
Aramaic Aramaic ( syc, ܐܪܡܝܐ, Arāmāyā; oar, 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉𐤀; arc, 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡀; tmr, אֲרָמִית) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic languages, Semitic language that originated in the ancient Syria (regio ...
or Phoenician intermediaries. There is consensus that the similarities are a result of inheriting common oral traditions. Another example, the Israelite Sabbatical Year has antecedents in the Akkadian ''mesharum'' edicts granting periodic relief to the poor. An important distinction, however, is that in ancient Near East legal codes, as in more recently unearthed
Ugaritic Ugaritic () is an extinct Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language, classified by some as a dialect of the Amorite language and so the only known Amorite dialect preserved in writing. It is known through the Ugaritic texts discov ...
texts, an important, and ultimate, role in the legal process was assigned to the king. Ancient Israel, before the monarchical period beginning with David, was set up as a
theocracy Theocracy is a form of government in which one or more deity, deities are recognized as supreme ruling authorities, giving divine guidance to human intermediaries who manage the government's daily affairs. Etymology The word theocracy origina ...
, rather than a
monarchy A monarchy is a government#Forms, form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state for life or until abdication. The legitimacy (political)#monarchy, political legitimacy and authority of the monarch may vary from restric ...
, although God is most commonly portrayed like a king.


Hebrew Bible


Moses and authorship of the Law

According to the Hebrew Bible, Moses was the leader of early Israel out of Egypt; and traditionally the first five books of the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (;"Tanach"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
Hebrew: ''Tān ...
are attributed to him, though most modern scholars believe there were multiple authors. The law attributed to Moses, specifically the laws set out in the books of Leviticus and
Deuteronomy Deuteronomy ( grc, Δευτερονόμιον, Deuteronómion, second law) is the fifth and last book of the Torah (in Judaism), where it is called (Hebrew: hbo, , Dəḇārīm, hewords f Moses label=none) and the fifth book of the Chr ...
, as a consequence came to be considered supreme over all other sources of authority (any king and/or his officials), and the
Levites Levites (or Levi) (, he, ''Lǝvīyyīm'') are Jewish males who claim Patrilineality, patrilineal descent from the Tribe of Levi. The Tribe of Levi descended from Levi, the third son of Jacob (Bible), Jacob and Leah. The surname ''Halevi'', wh ...
were the guardians and interpreters of the law. The Book of Deuteronomy () records Moses saying, "Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the
Ark of the Covenant The Ark of the Covenant,; Geʽez, Ge'ez: also known as the Ark of the Testimony or the Ark of God, is an alleged artifact believed to be the most sacred relic of the Israelites, which is described as a wooden Chest (furniture), chest, covere ...
of the ." Similar passages referring to the Law include, for example, Exodus 17:14, "And the said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of
Joshua Joshua () or Yehoshua ( ''Yəhōšuaʿ'', Tiberian Hebrew, Tiberian: ''Yŏhōšuaʿ,'' Literal translation, lit. 'Yahweh is salvation') ''Yēšūaʿ''; syr, ܝܫܘܥ ܒܪ ܢܘܢ ''Yəšūʿ bar Nōn''; el, Ἰησοῦς, ar , يُوشَع ...
, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of
Amalek Amalek (; he, עֲמָלֵק, , ar, عماليق ) was a nation described in the Hebrew Bible as a staunch enemy of the Israelites. The name "Amalek" can refer to the nation's founder, a grandson of Esau; his descendants, the #Amalekites in the ...
from under
heaven Heaven or the heavens, is a common Religious cosmology, religious cosmological or transcendence (religion), transcendent supernatural place where beings such as deity, deities, angels, souls, saints, or Veneration of the dead, venerated ancest ...
"; Exodus 24:4, "And Moses wrote all the words of the , and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the mount, and twelve pillars, according to the
twelve tribes of Israel The Twelve Tribes of Israel ( he, שִׁבְטֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Šīḇṭēy Yīsrāʾēl, lit=Tribes of Israel) are, according to Hebrew Bible, Hebrew scriptures, the descendants of the biblical Patriarchs (Bible), patriarch ...
"; Exodus 34:27, "And the said unto Moses, Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a
covenant Covenant may refer to: Religion * Covenant (religion), a formal alliance or agreement made by God with a religious community or with humanity in general ** Covenant (biblical), in the Hebrew Bible ** Covenant in Mormonism, a sacred agreement ...
with thee and with Israel"; and "These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the established on
Mount Sinai Mount Sinai ( he , הר סיני ''Har Sinai''; Aramaic Aramaic ( syc, ܐܪܡܝܐ, Arāmāyā; oar, 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉𐤀; arc, 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡀; tmr, אֲרָמִית) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic languages, Se ...
between himself and the
Israelites The Israelites (; , , ) were a group of ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes in the ancient Near East who, during the Iron Age, inhabited a part of Canaan. The earliest recorded evidence of a people by the name of Israel ...
through Moses."


Later references to the Law in the Hebrew Bible

The Book of Kings relates how a "law of Moses" was discovered in the
Temple A temple (from the Latin ) is a building reserved for spiritual rituals and activities such as prayer and sacrifice. Religions which erect temples include Christianity (whose temples are typically called church (building), churches), Hindui ...
during the reign of king
Josiah Josiah ( or ) or Yoshiyahu; la, Iosias was the 16th king of Judah (–609 BCE) who, according to the Hebrew Bible, instituted major religious reforms by removing official worship of gods other than Yahweh. Josiah is credited by most biblical s ...
(r. 641–609 BCE). Another mention of the "Book of the Law of Moses" is found in .


Content

The content of the Law is spread among the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and
Numbers A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with number words. More u ...
, and then reiterated and added to in
Deuteronomy Deuteronomy ( grc, Δευτερονόμιον, Deuteronómion, second law) is the fifth and last book of the Torah (in Judaism), where it is called (Hebrew: hbo, , Dəḇārīm, hewords f Moses label=none) and the fifth book of the Chr ...
. This includes: * The
Ten Commandments The Ten Commandments (Biblical Hebrew עשרת הדברים \ עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים, ''aséret ha-dvarím'', lit. The Decalogue, The Ten Words, cf. Mishnaic Hebrew עשרת הדיברות \ עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְ ...
* Moral laws – on murder, theft, honesty, adultery, etc. * Social laws – on property, inheritance, marriage and divorce. * Food laws – on what is clean and unclean, on cooking and storing food. * Purity laws – on
menstruation Menstruation (also known as a period, among other Colloquialism, colloquial terms) is the regular discharge of blood and Mucous membrane, mucosal tissue from the endometrium, inner lining of the uterus through the vagina. The menstrual cycle i ...
, seminal emissions, skin disease and mildew, etc. * Feasts – the
Day of Atonement Yom Kippur (; he, יוֹם כִּפּוּר, , , ) is the holiest day in Judaism and Samaritanism. It occurs annually on the 10th of Tishrei, the first month of the Hebrew calendar. Primarily centered on Atonement in Judaism, atonement and R ...
,
Passover Passover, also called Pesach (; ), is a major Jewish holidays, Jewish holiday that celebrates the The Exodus, Biblical story of the Israelites escape from slavery in Ancient Egypt, Egypt, which occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew calendar, He ...
, Feast of Tabernacles,
Feast of Unleavened Bread Passover, also called Pesach (; ), is a major Jewish holidays, Jewish holiday that celebrates the The Exodus, Biblical story of the Israelites escape from slavery in Ancient Egypt, Egypt, which occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew calendar, He ...
,
Feast of Weeks A banquet (; ) is a formal large meal where a number of people consume food together. Banquets are traditionally held to enhance the prestige of a host, or reinforce social bonds among joint contributors. Modern examples of these purposes i ...
etc. * Sacrifices and offerings – the
sin offering A sin offering ( he, קָרְבַּן חַטָּאת, ''korban ḥatat'', , lit: "purification offering") is a sacrificial offering described and commanded in the Torah The Torah (; hbo, ''Tōrā'', "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") ...
, burnt offering, whole offering, heave offering,
Passover sacrifice The Passover sacrifice ( he, קרבן פסח, translit=Qorban Pesaḥ), also known as the Paschal lamb or the Passover lamb, is the Korban, sacrifice that the Torah mandates the Israelites to ritual slaughter, ritually slaughter on the evening of ...
, meal offering,
wave offering The wave offering (Hebrew language, Hebrew: ''tenufah'' תנופה) or sheaf offering or omer offering (''korban omer'') was an Sacrifice, offering (''korban'') made by the Jewish priests to God (Exodus 29:24, 26, 27; Leviticus 7:20-34; 8:27; 9: ...
, peace offering, drink offering, thank offering, dough offering,
incense offering The incense offering ( he, ) in Judaism was related to perfumed offerings on the altar (Judaism)#Altar of Incense, altar of incense in the time of the Tabernacle and the First Temple, First and Second Temple period, and was an important compone ...
, red heifer,
scapegoat In the Bible, a scapegoat is one of a pair of kid goats that is released into the wilderness, taking with it all sins and impurities, while the other is sacrificed. The concept first appears in the Book of Leviticus, in which a goat is designate ...
, first fruits, etc. * Instructions for the priesthood and the
high priest The term "high priest" usually refers either to an individual who holds the office of monarch, ruler-priest, or to one who is the head of a religious caste. Ancient Egypt In ancient Egypt, a high priest was the chief priest of any of the many go ...
, including
tithe A tithe (; from Old English: ''teogoþa'' "tenth") is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in money, cash or cheques or ...
s. * Instructions regarding the
Tabernacle According to the Hebrew Bible, the tabernacle ( he, מִשְׁכַּן, mīškān, residence, dwelling place), also known as the Tent of the Congregation ( he, link=no, אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, ’ōhel mō‘ēḏ, also Tent of Meeting, etc.), ...
, and which were later applied to the
Temple in Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem, or alternatively the Holy Temple (; , ), refers to the two now-destroyed religious structures that served as the central places of worship for Israelites and Jews on the modern-day Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusa ...
, including those concerning the
Holy of Holies The Holy of Holies (Hebrew language, Hebrew: ''Qōḏeš haqQŏḏāšīm'' or ''Kodesh HaKodashim''; also הַדְּבִיר ''haDəḇīr'', 'the Sanctuary') is a term in the Hebrew Bible that refers to the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle, w ...
containing the
Ark of the Covenant The Ark of the Covenant,; Geʽez, Ge'ez: also known as the Ark of the Testimony or the Ark of God, is an alleged artifact believed to be the most sacred relic of the Israelites, which is described as a wooden Chest (furniture), chest, covere ...
(in which were the tablets of the law, Aaron's rod, the
manna Manna ( he, מָן, mān, ; ar, اَلْمَنُّ; sometimes or archaically spelled mana) is, according to the Bible, an edible substance which God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert during the 40-year period follow ...
). Instructions and for the construction of various altars. * Forward looking instructions for time when Israel would demand a
king King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, queen, which title is also given to the queen consort, consort of a king. *In the context of prehistory, antiquity and contempora ...
.


Rabbinical interpretation

The content of the instructions and its interpretations, the Oral Torah, was passed down orally, excerpted and codified in Rabbinical Judaism, and in the
Talmud The Talmud (; he, , Talmūḏ) is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (''halakha'') and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the center ...
were numbered as the
613 commandments The Judaism, Jewish tradition that there are 613 commandments ( he, תרי״ג מצוות, taryag mitzvot) or mitzvot in the Torah (also known as the Law of Moses) is first recorded in the 3rd century AD, when Rabbi Simlai mentioned it in a sermon ...
. The
law given to Moses at Sinai A law given to Moses at Sinai ( he, הלכה למשה מסיני, Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai) refers to a Halakha, halakhic law for which there is no Torah#Biblical law, biblical reference or source, but rather was Oral tradition, passed down orall ...
(Hebrew Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai הלכה למשה מסיני) is a
halakhic ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also Romanization of Hebrew, transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', and ''halocho'' ( ), is the collective body of Judaism, Jewish religious laws which is derived from the Torah, written and Oral Tora ...
distinction.
Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism Judaism ( he, ''Yahăḏūṯ'') is an Abrahamic religions ...
Jewish Encyclopedia: Gentiles: Gentiles May Not Be Taught the Torah
/ref> asserts that Moses presented the laws to the Jewish people, and that the laws do not apply to
Gentiles Gentile () is a word that usually means "someone who is not a Jew". Other groups that claim Israelite heritage, notably Mormons, sometimes use the term ''gentile'' to describe outsiders. More rarely, the term is generally used as a synonym fo ...
(including Christians), with the exception of the
Seven Laws of Noah In Judaism Judaism ( he, ''Yahăḏūṯ'') is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. ...
, which (it teaches) apply to all people.


Christian interpretation

Most Christians believe that only parts dealing with the moral law (as opposed to ceremonial law) are still applicable, others believe that none apply, dual-covenant theologians believe that the Old Covenant remains valid only for Jews, and a minority have the view that all parts still apply to believers in Jesus and in the New Covenant. According to
Matthew 5 Matthew 5 is the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It contains the first portion of the Sermon on the Mount, the other portions of which are contained in chapters Matthew 6, 6 and Matthew 7, 7. Portions are similar to ...
, Jesus says: The
Gospel of John The Gospel of John ( grc, Εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Ἰωάννην, translit=Euangélion katà Iōánnēn) is the fourth of the four canonical gospels. It contains a highly schematic account of the ministry of Jesus, with seven "sig ...
() states:
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.


In Islam

Muslims believe Moses was one of the major prophets (and apostles) of God and the Law was one of the three major revealed scriptures known by name beside the
Quran The Quran (, ; Standard Arabic: , Classical Arabic, Quranic Arabic: , , 'the recitation'), also romanized Qur'an or Koran, is the central religious text of Islam, believed by Muslims to be a revelation in Islam, revelation from God in Islam, ...
, which mentions the Law or Torah a total of eighteen times, and repeats commandments from it:


See also

* Matthew 5: Antitheses *
Moses in Islam In Islam, Mūsā ibn ʿImrān ( ar, , ), is an important Prophets and messengers in Islam, prophet and messenger of God in Islam, God and is the most frequently mentioned individual in the Quran, with #Quranic references, his name being menti ...


References


External links

*{{Commonscatinline
Jewish Encyclopedia: Torah: Laws of the Torah
Ancient Near East law Biblical phrases Religious terminology Biblical law