A question about the ceremonial food/animal laws and the curse

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by a mere housewife, Oct 19, 2012.

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  1. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    I have probably heard the answer to this before but just don't remember things well enough, and don't know how quite to search for it. I understand (if I've understood correctly) that there are several aspects to the OT ceremonial laws: for instance, to give a sense of total distinction from other nations, of being set apart to God in a way that touched every area of life; as well as to point forward to this set apartness being in Christ (among other things).

    Would one of the reasons for the OT dietary laws with the 'unclean' creatures be a reminder that Adam had involved all creation in a curse; and that the creatures themselves were in need of a sort of 'redemption'? So also the firstlings of all their animals had to be redeemed in some way -- not just as a general pointer forward to Christ (certainly that), but also specifically to emphasise that even the animals needed a second Adam? And so now, though the whole creation is still groaning in travail until the sons of God are brought to light, the creatures are already clean and 'purified' (the ESV has Christ making a 'declaration' of this at Mark 7:19 which the KJV does not?); and 'touch not, taste not, handle not' does not apply -- because Christ has already (as the fulfillment of Psalm 8) redeemed the creation?
  2. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Very interesting. I had never thought of that as a reason. If the curse at creation involved animal death, as many creationists believe, and as the Bible seems to teach, then this could be an aspect of the food laws.

    In the light of the above text that your husband cited, and other passages, I've tended to think that one reason for these ceremonial/typological food laws was to teach the Israelites in making distinctions between what was good to ingest spiritually, and what was not. The childhood Israel needed such helps to understand spiritual things.

    There may be a number of lessons behind them, but if any of them have a postive influence on health, that is just accidental to their purpose.
  3. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    If it is legitimate to think in such terms, a related question would be if the consecration/sanctification element of those laws is not specifically with reference to a consecration to Christ, the redeemer -- even the creation being devoted to Him. ('All things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.') Is it wrong to think of the set apartness/sanctification and consecration of those laws specifically in light of union to Christ, and He with us, rather than simply more generally to the Father? It seems it would not be wrong, in light of Christ's prayer in John 17:
  4. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Everything in the Old Covenant ceremonial law points to Christ and his NT body the Church, in some way.

    If the believing Israelites learned consecration to Christ, in their childhood way, through these laws, what can we learn from these laws,while not having to physically or literally follow them or be bound by them. This is the genius of the biblical typology: it taught the childhood Israel/the Church, about Christ and spiritual things as they observed it; it teaches the adult Israel/the Church, about Christ and spiritual things without having to observe it pysically and literally.
  5. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Amen. This is quite true, and often utterly overlooked or bypassed in consideration of the biblical text. While it would go wholly against the Lord's good purposes to enjoin his people in any practice that was positively harmful to them, some practices or ceremonies are discernible as little more than "house rules," exercises in authority and submission. Some law is nothing but disciplinary, serving no other purpose than making life "stressful," i.e. for training. For that reason alone, they are commendable as "good" of course.

    But too often we find interpreters spending inordinate effort trying to find out the "practical usefulness" of this rule or that, often with the assumption that by such a determination we may find some better way-of-life for ourselves through some attempt at revival of that precept. For some, it might mean "good advice" from God; for others, it means obedience/disobedience (back under the law). When we read the OT law, our goal should above all things to refer the regulation to preparation for Jesus Christ's coming into the world, certainly to the minimizing of other considerations.

    The view that all the laws of Moses must at some level be taken as practical advice-for-living, begs the question of the unique redemptive-circumstances of Israel; not to mention the variable nature of social context--time, place, history. Take the matter of hair-maintenance (Lev.19:27; 21:5). Could God have made no rule at all here, and the people be no worse for it? What about a different rule? The opposite rule? Even to infer that because of this law, therefore God commands you to be properly groomed! is extreme. In some way or another, this attitude is reflected in churches where they measure sideburns or the tightness of a bun. Church leaders shall determine what is "proper grooming?" Great.

    This observation goes far beyond that minor rite. I'm just steering clear of most controversy by avoiding all questions of general equity. However, you may take it for granted that God might have instructed his people in many different ways than he did, especially (but not confined to) the ceremonies--food, dress, home & garden; and Israel would have necessarily complied. The laws they were given were the best for them in that era, and the best for setting examples to the nations surrounding them. But the justice of God is only ever approximated by human enforcement, as well as divine mercy. And some times and places need more of one than the other. Choosing the Ancient Prescription as the tonic for every age's ailment would be folly.
  6. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Thank you Richard and Rev. Buchanan. I understand that the laws are about redemption, rather than health; I want to understand better how. Is this part of what is intended in God sending his son into the world not to condemn the world, 'but that the world through him might be saved' -- that all creation involved in the curse needed a second Adam?

    (For OT Israel with all those laws seems a bit like the ark -- a little picture of the world saved in Christ, borne up on judgment, with the animals.)
  7. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Re your thoughts, Heidi, different commentators have pointed out that the unclean animals are associated with the curse, including death and filth.

    (a) Having hoofs like the horse or paws like the lion and bear can be used for killing.

    (b) Not purifying your food effectively by chewing the cud can be associated with uncleanness and death.

    (c) Pigs and shellfish are associated with scavenging and filth.

    (d) Birds of prey are killers.

    (e) Things that creep along the ground may be associated with serpents and hence Satan.

    (f) Fish that don't follow the "normal" pattern, e.g. eels, may be associated in form with serpents.

    I see what your saying, that when Christ came, these animals experienced a little redemption by being made clean. Well e.g. prawns may not be thankful for it.

    Most of the animals that were unclean under Moses, of course, we still do not normally eat in the West, apart from the horse, by the French, shellfish and pork, and maybe one or two others.
  8. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Thank you, Richard. Yes, I suppose what I am trying to ask about re: dietary laws is whether Christ did not have a special right to declare all animals clean, as being not only God, but our second Adam. The subjection to vanity will continue until the travail of creation is over, as I understand it -- so animal death will continue until we are manifested as the children of God?

    And there is also the aspect of having to redeem the firstborn of all animals that opened the womb -- which seems to signify more than the curse being on us, and also involving creation in Adam -- redemption likewise, in Christ.
  9. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    The Westminster Confession recognizes 3 categories of law:

    1) moral- binding on all men in all generations
    2) ceremonial- prefiguring Christ's perfect life, death and resurrection
    3) civil- given to the unique Old Testament theocracy of Israel

    I would think of the dietary laws more of being civil law.

    What were the purposes? We start by knowing God wanted a people that lived differently from the other nations. In some ways, that protected them from disease by laws of quarantine, from food borne illness, other disease from sanitation practices. Those benefits flowed from obedience and we do not know all the things it protected them from. Only that they were all binding on the Old Testament Israelite, and he was blessed in trying to be obedient in keeping them.

    ...But he could not possibly keep them all, which pointed all the more to need for a Savior, who did.
  10. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Just to wax technical, but such a statement only renders all food in and of itself indifferent. It still might be used or disused for religious purposes, and it would (at the time of this statement) yet require the full inauguration of the new age to abrogate the ceremonial laws.

    Responding to the OP, I hope I am remembering correctly when I say that Prof. Poythress' book, Shadow of Christ, has shown that the various distinctions have alot to do with the relation of the animal to the cursed earth. I am sorry I am unable to check or clarify this just now.
  11. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Thank you Rev. Winzer. Ruben found the book for me online here: The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses | The Works of John Frame and Vern Poythress Thanks also for your clarification about Mark 7:19 -- Ruben was pointing out wherein the contrast lies to me earlier, as it seems most versions have Christ making a pronouncement which renders foods at least indifferent, and the KJV reading is that the natural processes of the body itself render foods so.

    Doing a search for 'unclean' in the book, I found this, which seems particularly relevant (though other things were also quite relevant):

    Then it does seem legitimate to think especially of that theme of separation in the OT law in light of set apartness and consecration specifically to our Redeemer and Lord? While that is probably something I should have been familiar with before, I have not really understood it in that light, but more vaguely of being set apart to God.
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