“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.” ― Christopher Hitchens
Continuing on the theme of interpreting the Bible as a moral work, in this Bible Studies we’re going to look at a very common mistake that Christians make; when pointing out the clearly immoral behaviour and edicts of God or Godly men in the Old Testament Christians often react by saying “But that’s the Old Testament, Jesus is all about love and those rules don’t apply anymore, you have to interpret them…” I’m sure we’ve all heard words to this effect before.
Old Testament Morality
Before we discuss why people who believe in the New Testament but reject portions of the Old Testament are unjustified in doing so from their own perspective, let’s have a look at some of the divine morality handed to us by the prophets of the Old Testament. As we’ve already explored the Ten Commandments in the last Bible Studies we’ll have a look at the Book of Leviticus; another Old Testament tome with a comprehensive list of rules people must follow.
The traditional view of the Book of Leviticus is that God told Moses the rules about sacrifice and how to be moral which Moses then wrote down, however most biblical scholars agree that it was written after 538 BC (a little after Moses). Leviticus can be roughly divided into two main sections; The Rules for Priests to conduct Sacrifices, and the General Rules to be Holy. Here is a small selection of those rules.
Stone anyone to death who takes the Lord’s name in vain
Don’t clip the hair around your temples or trim the edges of your beard
If a man devotes all of his belongings to God, then any livestock or slaves he has must be put to death as part of the sacrifice
– Leviticus 27:28-29
Don’t let different animals mingle, don’t plant two types of plant in the same field, don’t wear clothes made of mixed materials
Unruly Children, people who sleep around/masturbate and homosexuals must be put to death
– Leviticus 20:9-12
Disabled people are not allowed to approach temple altars
– Leviticus 21:16-23
Buy the children of foreigners as slaves, they will be your possession, even part of the inheritance you leave your children and will be your slaves forever
This is a very small sample of the Book of Leviticus. I would highly recommend having a read of it- every page is sure to offend and disgust any morally normal person to the point of absurdity! Go on, have a flick through!
But Jesus did away with all that Cruelty!
Clearly no rational or well intentioned human being living within post-enlightenment civilisation could take this Book of Leviticus seriously; Capital Punishment for naughty children? Owning fellow human beings as property? No polyester? Ludicrous all of it! Most Christians will agree that this is a silly list, or possibly that this was a system designed for different people living in different times, or maybe that now Christ sacrificed himself we don’t need to kill each other, or some other interpretation- needless to say that none of the Christians you meet daily follow these rules. The Christians you meet claim to follow the “teachings of Jesus”.
So what did Jesus have to say about these old and out of date rules? Surely killing kids and taking slaves is completely incompatible with the message of Jesus? Yes it is, but simply put Jesus told people to follow these rules to the letter. According to the New Testament Jesus said to follow these rules with his own mouth.
Examples of this come from the incredibly famous ‘Sermon On The Mount’ (or field depending on which Gospel you believe in). Jesus says very clearly that every old law handed to mankind from the prophets is true and that he, Jesus, was here to make sure they were followed.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
– Matthew 5:17-20 (King James Version)
Here Jesus is saying, very clearly and with his own chords, that every law laid down by the prophets is still valid. Every law in the Old Testament, including crazy Leviticus written down by crazy Moses, is still valid. Not a single letter of those old laws shall be changed or altered- they are to be followed exactly as they are laid out until the end of days! Those who do not obey these laws or tell others not to shall be the least Godly. If a Christian believes that Jesus is the moral authority, and that his teachings in the New Testament are true, then Christians must follow Leviticus and every other arcane and barbaric bible law! This is repeated on many occasions in the New Testament, specifically referring to Moses.
Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
–John 7:19 (King James Version)
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
-John 1:17 (King James Version)
Jesus even criticises people for not killing their unruly children as instructed in Leviticus, claiming those who do not kill their naughty kids to be ungodly hypocrites…
For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
-Mark 7:10 (King James Version)
For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you
– Matthew 15:4-7 (King James Version)
Jesus says it very clearly, follow the laws of prophets like Moses even when that means killing your children. By even suggesting this, Jesus has revealed himself to be among the cruellest and morally corrupted people to have ever existed. We feel very uncomfortable discussing parents even slapping their children as punishment, and yet Jesus states they should be slaughtered. It cannot be any clearer.
But we are more evolved than those people! Those laws applied to that specific society! We need to interpret Scripture for the modern world!
Well, that is one argument, but it is already defeated by that which Jesus said above- he did say those laws applied until the end of the world… Not only that but the New Testament states very clearly that followers are not to interpret the Bible, they must take it literally and follow the law as it is.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
–2 Timothy 3:16 (KJB)
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
–2 Peter 1:20-21 (KJB)
There it is. Christians who do not follow the Laws of the Old Testament are directly violating the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament. People who claim that those laws are up for interpretation are incorrect as stated in Timothy and Peter. Every ridiculous and offensive notion of the Old Testament is true and righteous.
If you believe the Bible to be true, and that the teachings of Jesus are morally good, then you condone every disgusting law of the Old Testament even as far as murdering your own children. If you do not believe that actively killing children with your own hands is righteous then you disagree with Jesus- you disagree with God. You cannot have both.
And there we go, that is why the Old Testament is still relevant according to Jesus, and why believers must be made accountable for claiming the Bible to have moral value. Normally, I personally, would criticise someone for moral hypocrisy but in this case I am glad that modern Christians are hypocrites and falling short of the teachings of Jesus. The life of any child no matter how unruly is clearly more important to us than it was to Jesus. We allow disabled people to have religious equality, we condemn slavery, we take care of our young and when need arises we wear polyester and we look damned good doing so! We are morally good despite the Bible, not because of it.