Dynamic Biblical Law

I’m just coming out of an intriguing lecture (part of the Spring Convocation at Gettysburg Theological Seminary) by Dr. Terence Fretheim, Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary where he presented Pentateuch Law as “dynamic”.  I left thinking, “That made a lot of sense!”

Fretheim emphasized that the Law we find in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy) must be understood in it’s context, that of the wilderness experience.  The Law and narrative are interrelated so the law is not so much a “code” as it is a story.  He believes that the contingencies that come with wandering in the wilderness keeps the Law flexible as it serves the best interests of the people, providing the best life for as many as possible.  A God who is involved in genuine relationships has to be on the move as the people are on the move.  He therefore does not see this Pentateuch Law as immutable, timeless law, but rather dynamic for the sake of the best life possible.  He notes there are 21-22 changes in the Law between Exodus and Deuteronomy which may reflect that dynamism.

These perspectives certainly offer some challenges to those who understand Pentateuch Law as static or a fixed reality, but certainly, Christians recognize some of the challenges and changes in the Pentateuch Law from Jesus and in the book of Acts.

What is static, Fretheim suggests, is the concern of God which undergirds the laws.  We can’t abandon those.

Pondering Pastor


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