Progressive tightening of the Law?

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Skyler, Oct 6, 2010.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Has the Law been made successively stricter through history?

    It seems that, prior to Moses, incest was acceptable (though, to my knowledge, not commanded). After Moses, incest became unlawful; but it seems that polygamy was still permitted (though again, I would argue, not commanded). By the New Covenant, though, polygamy (and, arguably, divorce) are both forbidden.

    Is this the case, or am I missing something?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't think describing the Law as becoming progressively tighter is quite right.

    The Law became particularized at Mount Sinai, and its (broad) application became more explicit as the full counsel of God's Word was revealed.
  3. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    So incest was always wrong, even before Moses?
  4. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    When Adam and Eve were created, and for a time after, some intermarriage was of necessity. We don't know how the effects of sin fully worked out, though the Fall affected everything immediately. We know initially people lived a lot longer (e.g Methusela around 800 years) and Genesis seems to say the average lifespan was 120 years.

    Probably the best way of understanding that is that the "degrees on consanguinity" prohibiting inter-marriage were particularized in the Levitical law. At that time, there were many more people on the earth, and God was constituting a theocracy, based on twelve tribes, in Israel.

    So, I don't think we could say that the degrees of consanguinity were evident as an ordinance of creation, marriage was, of course.
  5. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    But are those "degrees of consanguinity" equally binding to all nations since that time, or only to the nation of Israel?
  6. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    The Westminster Summary divides law into moral, ceremonial, and civil. It was certainly civil law given Israel, a unique nation, constituted of twelve tribes with land allotments and job functions centered around them and around a temple.

    The laws of close intermarriage would derive from a principle that would still apply, though not necessary the strict application of the Levitical code.
  7. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    If the principle applies now, why did it not apply before Moses?
  8. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm not sure that it didn't.

    But God in creating two people on earth, then expanding the human race created a situation where it was not possible, initially to marry immediately outside one's kin.

    At what point the human race became sufficient for that is not clear, but really doesn't have any relevance to the equity of the principle today.
  9. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    So you would not have a problem with saying that God created a situation wherein it was impossible to fulfill one of His commands (to fill the Earth) without violating another (committing incest)?

    ---------- Post added at 12:07 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:07 PM ----------

    Just for the record, I'm not arguing for incest here. In case that's not immediately clear.
  10. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    No, Skyler.

    It's not about God "fulfilling" anything.

    There was no clear commandment defining degrees of consanguinity at Creation- are you saying there was?

    The fact that God guided the development of the human race to a point where He could separate out a nation to dwell with (Israel) was all part of His plan.
  11. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I was referring to humans fulfilling God's commandments. I apologize if that wasn't clear.

    No, I'm saying that there doesn't need to be a clear commandment for it to be wrong. Or was (for example) stealing permitted back then?
  12. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

  13. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    The moral law was, and has always been, a law which is in its entirety binding upon all men, regardless of whether or not they have it written down.
  14. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes, the moral law, summarily comprehended in the ten commandments is binding on all men in all generations. It is not peculiar to Israel.

    As I understand it, "types and shadows" of it were revealed at creation (i.e. creation ordinances). Some of that was explicit, some was implicit, some would only be particularized to function later for the unique nation God would be building, Israel.

    God made moral law explicit in the Ten. The teaching of our Lord, and the New Testament make the broad application of the Ten much more clear.

    Yet the apostle Paul says in Romans 7, it was by Command eight that he would know his sin of stealing.

    But what
    , what "commands" are you referring to, specifically?

    Are you referring to Leviticus 18, the Old Testament prohibitions against what we term incest?

    If so,
    are you saying Leviticus 18 was moral law, particularized, applicable to all men, even before it was given Israel?
  15. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    That's what I'm asking. Was Leviticus 18 part of the moral law (and therefore applicable to all men) or ceremonial law?

    Or was it part of the expired judicial law?

  16. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    The Levitical law was civil law given Israel. The Israelite had to obey it all- moral, ceremonial, and civil to be righteous (which of course could not be done perfectly) in God's sight.

    That meant the explicit consanguinity restrictions given in the Levitical law.

    But I wouldn't quite describe civil law as only "expired"- part of the Westminster summary is "further than the general equity thereof may require."

    Strictly yes, as a code, "civil law" was directed at the Old Testament theocracy of Israel, centered uniquely as it was on tribal allocations of land and vocation function, and around a temple.
  17. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    So you would say that the general equity of the incest laws still applies, correct?
  18. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    I would say the common law, drawn from biblical principles at least, has rightly recognized that one ought not marry inside their immediate kin- that such principle is broadly related to Command Seven.

    Look at how the Westminster Larger Catechism summarizes this.

    Note how the Scripture proof for the statement and/or proposition of doctrine does not cite the Leviticus 18 passages as prooftext, not there.

  19. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    A couple of things: first, there appears to be an interesting pattern in which man seemed to already be aware of the ceremonial law, prior to it having been particularized: the sacrifice, say of Abel or Noah, is an example of this. And while it is not accurate to say that the law somehow became stricter over time, what God revealed was indeed over time and in many cases matched the developments in history that He brought about -- the OT kingdom and civil law would be a good example. I found Biblical Theology to be helpful for imposing a discipline for trying to understand what the people of God learned over time and to see how God brings about history, then interprets it through revelation.
  20. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Does this not imply that the Westminster divines, at least, viewed incest as a violation of the moral law rather than simply the judicial law?
  21. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes, it is quite helpful to have the full counsel of God's Word today.

    God's people have a great blessing in that.

    The Old Testament is interpreted in light of the New, a fundamental hermeneutic of covenant theology (whereas dispensationalism tends to do the exact opposite- interpret the New in light of the Old, and in so doing, cut off the Old Testament's present relevance to the life of the believer).

    The "types and shadows" of the Old become much more clear in the New.

    Christ is implicit in the Old Testament, much more explicit in the New.

    Everything, including obedience to our God, can be looked at in terms of that framework-
    which is the completed revealed Will of God- His Word.

    (This is why the extra-biblical revelation used as an ordinary means of grace in charismatic/pentecostal communions is so damaging to Scripture, to sola scriptura, but that's another topic):)
  22. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Remember that one has to define exactly what is meant by the terms, e.g. is it incest if there are three human beings on the earth.

    Notice how rape and incest are footnoted with Scripture related to fornication generally (sex outside of marriage), not to the section in Leviticus.

    One of the ways to understanding this is that, within the broad application of the ten commandments, all sorts of behavior comes into view. This becomes much more explicit in the New Testament.
  23. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    But here's my problem.

    If incest is a moral law (i.e., binding on all men at all times), then it was also binding on Adam & Eve's immediate descendants. But God's command to multiply and fill the earth was also binding on them. Thus there would be a contradiction between two of God's commands (which I would argue is an impossibility).

    My conclusion is that one of those two premises is wrong. The second premise--that the dominion mandate was binding on them--is I think obviously sound, so therefore there must be a problem with the first premise, that incest is a moral law binding on all people.

    Incest is therefore either a ceremonial or judicial law. Ceremonial laws were, according to the Confession, abrogated by Christ; judicial laws are also not binding, "further than the general equity thereof may require."

    However, the Scripture reference you cited, 1 Cor. 5:1, seems to imply that Paul thought that incest was definitely wrong, after the ceremonial law was abrogated; therefore, incest cannot merely be part of the ceremonial law.

    Thus far it seems that the command against incest a) was not binding on Adam's immediate descendants; and b) is binding on all men today. From that (given the assumption that moral laws are binding on all men at all times, and that the ceremonial laws are not binding after Christ) we deduce that incest is neither a moral nor ceremonial law.

    If it is a judicial law, then it is no longer binding, apart from the general equity of the command. But what is the general equity of the law? Is it not the eternal moral law which underlies the command (as seems to be implied by the Westminster Catechism)? If so, then it cannot be a judicial law either.

    Do you see where I'm coming from?
  24. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    It seems the logic being used:

    1) restricts answers to inadequate, mutually exclusive choices
    2) misses the context, and
    3) needs to carefully define terms.

    It's necessary to define exactly what the law of "incest" is referring to.

    The Westminster Larger Catechism states that incest is generally related to a broad application of the seventh commandment. Not the exact specification in Leviticus as it was to Israel, though. That was a civil law given Israel.


    Let's say speeding is prohibited in the Levitical Law, let' say a chariot cannot drive more than 25mph within one mile of the Temple.

    Could that broadly be related to one of the ten commandments?

    Yes, not acting in a way that preserves life (positive), or acting in a way that endangers life (negative). But is that 25mph? What about in a society that does not have a temple? What about one with different logistics around its temple? What about one that does not have chariots? Or one that does not have people slowly walking away from the temple on sabbath?
    It would be a sin to violate the 25mph for the Israelite, but that would not exactly be transferrable to all nations and situations, though there is a moral principle (not behaving in such a reckless manner as to endanger life by driving too fast around public gathering places.

    The general equity gets to that- it does not really restrict or eliminate the moral, ceremonial, or civil nature of the law.

    Another point is context, is incest defined as relations among the immediate federal head of the human race?

    The reasoning presented assumes that is, by definition, but I don't think incest even includes that- it's not a matter of God giving opposite commands, it is defining what you are talking about. For example, one could say killing is wrong, moral law, always has been- but does that include self defense?

    Also, the answer must be put in context.

    The application of the Ten Commandments became much more explicit in the New Testament.

    Our Lord, in the Sermon on the Mount, included application of being "angry with your brother without a cause" as violative of the Sixth Commandment.

    We understand the broad application of the Ten Commandments much more clearly in light of the New Testament- does that make sense?
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2010
  25. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    People like e.g. Abraham came from a pagan background, which explains incest and other misdemenours in his case.

    Incest in the Torah is not part of the judicial law but part of the moral law as summarised by the Seventh Commandment. The judicial law is that incest as defined in the Torah was a crime in Israel and punished by death.

    We do not know what provision would have been made for Adam and Eve's children to multiply had they not sinned.

    In the situation that pertained after the Fall, brother-sister relationships may not have had the possibility of genetic flaws, and inter- and intra-familial psychological tensions, but this does not mean that it wasn't written on Man's heart from the beginning that certain unions were immoral.

    There may be the possibility of a general moral principle, relating to certain unions and the avoidance of certain unions, interacting with a positive principle, in the case of brother-sister relationships, which meant that God in His wisdom knew that for a short period of time after the Fall such brother-sister unions would be morally acceptable for the sake of the unity and propagation of the race, but after a certain period they would be extremely and universally harmful to the race and after that point therefore, effectively and really, morally unacceptable.

    See discussions in the relevant literature.

    I don't believe that the moral law has tightened, but that God is dealing with a more mature Church, which justifies treating her like an adult. We are in the last phase of the Church before the end of the World, although this last phase may go on for 1,000s or 10s of 1,000s of years to give the adolescent Church time to mature.

    The Bible teaches us that the Mosaic period was the Church's childhood. A healthy adolescence and adulthood should be much longer than the preparatory childhood. The Israel of God's childhood was c.1,400 years from Moses to Christ.

    That would make the period from Adam to Moses, the Church in the womb, birth and weaning. The visible Church was born when God entered into Covenant with Abraham and circumcision was introduced.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2010
  26. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Scott1: I would tend to agree with your post, I think. But if incest isn't defined by the Mosaic law, then how is it defined? If it's the application, not the moral principle, then what is the moral principle that applies?
  27. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Adam and Eve had perfect DNA. With the fall, we can assume DNA began to gradually have errors such that offspring of a brother and sister began to carry a greater risk of birth defects. I don't believe there was or is anything intrinsically morally wrong with a brother and sister marrying, or cousins. Of couse as a creationist I believe Adam and Eve's children had to marry each other and it was neither sin or perversion.

    Theer was no rain before Noah's flood, and some folks postulate a water vapor canopy that shielded the earth from cosmic radiation and led to much longer lifespans. They shortened noticably after the flood. It is now postulated that old age happens with gradual change in DNA with every cell division ( Telomere - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) and that can hastened by radiation. After the flood it would be imperative not to marry siblings as DNA degenerated.

    If any of the many adopted children I know should marry, and find out later that they had the same birth parents ( I know, not statistically likely to happen) I would not go tell them the marriage was incestuous or sinful. I might counsel them to get genetic counseling for recessive genes before they had babies, and consider adopting if they are both carriers of something awful.

    " You have stolen my heart, my sister my bride". " You're a garden locked up, my sister my bride". "If only you were to me like a brother, who was nursed at my mother's breasts! then, if I found you outside, I would kiss you, and no one would despise me."

    She wasn't a blood sister, but upon marriage they become brother and sister as well as lovers.

    I don't think this is a moral issue but a DNA one to protect kids. I don't think the law to bury excretment was moral, but to protect people. I don't think the law to wash after you touched a dead or infected person was moral, but to protect from disease. Same with not eating pork back then or shell fish ( hepatitis risk).

    Just my opinion, I could be wrong.
  28. Grillsy

    Grillsy Puritan Board Junior

    Technically, there is not a greater risk of birth defects because of an incestuous relationship necessarily . I realize that you said that this was to protect people because of DNA. I also realize you said this was just your opinion. A possible problem here would be that this would make it somehow unlawful for people with a history of genetic illness to procreate. Or at least one would expect that to be prohibited in the Scriptures.
  29. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    How are you quoting the WCF like that? Are you just typing in "QUOTE="WCF Chapter XIX Section IV"" or is there actually a feature for doing this?
  30. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    How can it possibly be moral law if Adam and Eve children married each other? And Abraham his step sister?

    Grillsy, if a parent passes on a bad gene where a carrier of the recessive won't show symptoms if they have one dominant good gene, the chances of their grandchildren getting the disease ( ie, two recessive bad genes) are much higher if siblings marry each other than if they marry an unrelated person. Just intermarriage over time even in a relatively small community increases is happening with the Amish now, and happened in Royal families in history.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page