Shai, let me mend an old mistake
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Way way back, maybe it was ten years ago, certainly a long time ago, you'd asked me how Christians have determined which of the Old Testament laws to carry forward and which to leave behind. I gave you an answer that I see now was woefully inadequate. I answered that basically some of those laws had been health laws that are no longer relevant, and some had been distinctiveness laws that applied to Jews to separate out ("holy" means "set apart for the LORD's purposes"), and then the ones we've carried forward are those that address the eternal moral needs, i.e. those that still help or harm.
This is not a terrible answer, but it's not the best answer. Yes, those things were done, but by whom? Which Christians decided or debated or discussed this stuff? I still don't fully know the answer because there's 2000 years of history of that, but I know that it started with this.
Catholics will say that Peter addressed this question after the elders and apostles met because he was the first Pope and it was his place to shepherd the LORD's people on Earth. I'm not going to argue for or against that, but it's a significant thing to point out here. And then James spoke second because he was the Bishop of Jerusalem, i.e. the second-in-charge in the room.
Anyway, they produced the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
So there you have it. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to the apostles and elders who met at the Council of Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15.
The topic in question was http://arfer.net/pms/topics/54838937 . It sure did drift off-topic, didn't it?
Have you ever stopped to think and forgotten to start again?
Taking only a cursory glance at things, I'd say off-the-cuff that there are four sorts of things going on in the Law.
1. moral precepts
2. ceremonial precepts
3. Imperfect permissions
4. judicial precepts
So a man might say, "why the 10 commandments, but not the ban against pork?"
The Decalogue are moral precepts which are part of the natural law. They remain, not because the Church picked and chose what of the Law should remain-- the Law is gone. As St. Augustine wrote to St. Jerome, "After the new dispensation, the observance of the Law became deadly." No, we do not pick parts of the Law to keep and parts not. The whole Law has been fulfilled. The Law, as St. Paul says, was a pedagogue, that is, a slave who has authority over the master's children, until they are age of majority, when it no longer has authority over them.
We keep the Decalogue not as part of the Law but as part of the general moral law. Observe, within the Decalogue there is something ceremonial-- the observation of the Sabbath. We do not observe the Sabbath. We observe the Lord's day, Sunday (which sometimes is analogically referred to as the Sabbath). The moral law is to dedicate one day of the week to God for especial worship (why this is, involves some study of the meaning of seven, so let us leave it at that.) The ceremonial aspect is, that it be Saturday.
Anything which pertains to moral action, remains.
Anything which pertains to ceremonial action is all a sign and figure of Christ and the new dispensation. The most obvious of these being, the sacrifice of Passover. Anyone particularly interested should simply read Dr. Brant Pitre's Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist or Q 98-105 of the Summa, first part of the second part. These were like roadsigns, and if the roadsign is for Paris, then after one has arrived in Paris, there is no further use for the roadsign.
The judicial precepts were for the people of God at a specific time and passed away when the time passed away. They had nothing to do with morals, nor were they necessarily ceremonial.
Imperfect permissions were those things which were not commanded but permitted, due to the hardness of the hearts of the people. For example, that divorce was not commanded, but was permitted, due to the hardness of your hearts. But from the beginning it was not so.
As far as the temporary ban on the food sacrificed to idols, to blood, to meat from strangled animals, and from "sexual immorality" (porneia), I think the first three were pastoral concessions and the last pertains to illicit forms of sexual intimacy, viz., between too-close of cousins, but I am not well-studied in this.
Those three, however, were temporarily banned not due to any inherent fault in them, but due to the scandal they provoked among the Jews (newly Christian or potential Christian). Since they are no longer problematic, especially seeing as there's so few idols to sacrifice food to these days, and we rarely strangle our animals in cultic rituals, they are no longer proscribed.
Mark, can I say how much I love your extensive pastoral reading? I recently inherited a book series that has a lot of Scholasticism, and between that and your periodic theological posts, I enjoy a familiarity that I have long gone without.
A good survey of where I'd come from on the subject (which is weirdly unchanged since in that topic but I have more respect for people's time now so it's shorter) is in Karen Armstrong's The Bible: A Biography, which I recommend for anyone interested in Biblical historical criticism. (The body of literature surveyed, by the way, will confirm Mark's post as the longstanding treatment of the Old Testament by the Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches, though not by mainline protestant theologians.)
Though, Mark, I'm curious about your reading of the "temporary ban... [as] pastoral concessions." Surely other religions (including several that practice animal sacrifice) survive, and I don't see a compelling reason to read porneia as "sex with a first cousin" (though admittedly I'm coming from a Greek context and not an Aramaic-Koine context). Is there an ongoing conversation about this sort of thing, or are you working backward?
Willis, it seems like every other time you post, I need to look up a word that's in the OED or Urban Dictionary but not both.
Hey Wil. Sorry, I have been away and just now am reading this! So actually I'm not particularly well-versed in what is meant by the instructions by the Apostles, so much as "I think I read that once," and I would have to do some reading on the subject. Since it is, of course, not impermissible for a Christian to consume food with blood in it, then my off-the-cuff conclusion is that whatever I read had some merit to it and these were not dogmatic constitutions on what was to be and not to be permitted, so much as, like I said, pastoral considerations given to the time.
A similar situation could be found in, I believe, St. Cyril (I think) of Jerusalem. He provided a list of canon Scripture for the instruction of neophytes. Because his list does not include the Deuterocanon, some have supposed to use him to justify the Protestant rejection of a portion of the Scriptures. But St. Cyril himself uses the Deuterocanon in other places as though it were inspired Scripture. The surmise is simply that, for a pastoral reason (namely, to avoid putting too much psychological pressure on converting Jews from the Jerusalem district), St. Cyril elected to use, for the neophytes, only those books of the Old Testament which the Jews were already familiar and comfortable with, until they came to be sound enough in the faith to start dealing with books that their tradition had rejected about 200 years previously.
Whatever the particulars on the blood situation, like I said, I am fairly certain this is for pastoral purposes. For also, in the same part, they say to abstain from food sacrificed to idols. Now for the sake of clarity on this point, it is easier just to set here the major part of 1 Cor 8.
4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.
Given this, we have an explicit testimony from the Scriptures themselves, that at least one of the points listed has to do not with actual objective morality (no worse off if we do not, no better off if we do), but with pastoral care (not causing scandal to the weak). I'd say it's pretty easy to see blood and strangled animals falling under this category as well. This is also what the commentary of the Haydock Bible suggests, which I will just link to instead of posting (go to v.20 if you desire to read it). http://haydock1859.tripod.com/id130.html
As far as porneia goes, that's something I will have to take more time to answer (I'm a little busy this morning). But it's important for me to get a sound answer because it is part of the divorce debate. Some believe that porneia should simply mean adultery, and if there is adultery, they are freed from the marriage bond. The Church strives to maintain that adultery is not grounds for divorce (indeed, we hold that there is no ground for divorce, although someone may be civilly divorced in order to protect themselves from an abusive spouse... yet they are still married, and not free to marry another, until one should be dead).
From my understanding, which is extremely limited, porneia has a broad meaning and is not the most direct way of saying adultery in Greek.
Thus perhaps, it refers to unnatural unions of men and women (too close, etc...) But perhaps, in Acts 15, it could have only meant simple fornication. The Gentiles were by and large aware enough of the evils of adultery. No one can doubt that. But the evils of fornication, perhaps they were not so opposed to, and needed a sound reminder of that. Anyway, until I read more about that (Haydock is no help since it is not mentioned there, although it is translated as fornication... also I could be wrong that the original Greek is porneia, but I thought it was-- that could be checked), until I read more, again, I don't actually know what the Church says on the matter.
(Oh yeah. As far as the other religions with animal sacrifice, etc... that would have to be addressed by their local Church. If local Christians were eating food sacrificed to pagan deities, and it was causing scandal among recent converts from the indigenous religion, then I assume the local bishop would mandate that no one do that-- which is in his power, I think. But for most of us, we are not in a position where we are dealing with large volumes of neophytes from animal-sacrificing religions, whom we might scandalize)
I know this is a lot of reading, but technically you did ask! :)
This short article covers more eloquently than I, the talk about porneia. https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/no-divorce-except-for-fornication
It is limited in its scope due to its brevity and the nature of the article (it is for Catholic Answers magazine). Nevertheless he brings forward the typical arguments you would hear from Catholics to defend our doctrine on the subject.
The most interesting thing he mentions (at least for me, because I had not heard this before) was that these same four prohibitions are found in Leviticus 17 and 18. There, indeed, are they to be found, though not so much in bullet-point form like the Apostles' presentation of them. If we suppose them to be connected, it lends credibility to the argument that porneia is referring to illicit relations.
You could also look up the uses of porneia in the Scriptures. St Paul speaks of porneia regarding a man with his father's wife. Other than that, it often has a very vague sense to it, notwithstanding the Thayer's Greek Lexicon entry on it which outright rejects its potential to mean illicit relations.
Nevertheless, the Catholic exegesis, marshalled by Fr. Hubert Richards in the above article from Catholic Answers, seems to make more sense, given the context.
(For anyone so interested that they really read all of this, Fr. Richards seems to indicate these four things falling in to Lev 17:8ff and 18. For myself, I reckon one needs to read all of Lev 17 to see all the points, not just from v8 onwards)
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