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Quotes: Was the Levitical Law Added Because of Transgressions?

Recently someone told me the early Christians saw the Law of Moses as two laws. The first was the ten commandments given to Moses on the mountain along with the commands of Exodus chapters 21-30. The other was the rest of the law, added only after Aaron had made the golden calf for rebellious Israel.


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I am still contemplating this idea. I will be adding quotes to this page as I find them. The first one is the primary verse of Scripture on which the early Christians based this idea, Paul's statement to the Galatians that the law was "added because of transgressions" (Gal. 3:19).

The most important application of this concept is that not only was Jesus the final sacrifice, but God never wanted sacrifices at all. Today we say that we do not offer sacrifices because they are no longer needed. Jesus was the final and perfect sacrifice. The Epistle to the Hebrews says this (ch. 9), so I found it puzzling whenever I read early Christians saying that God never wanted sacrifices. 

I could not dismiss what they were saying, however, not only because they were much closer in time, culture, and language to the apostles than we are, but Jeremiah 7:22 agrees with them: "For I didn't speak to your fathers, nor command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices" (WEB version).

The early Christians agree with this, saying sacrifices were not commanded until after Israel made the golden calf. 

If you check this out, though, you will find that God commanded Moses to make an altar to offer sacrifices in Exodus 20:24, before the golden calf was made. The person who told me about this showed me a passage from a fourth- or fifth-century Christian who argued that the sacrifices prior to the golden calf were voluntary, not commanded. After sacrifices were offered to the golden calf, only then did God mandate sacrifices to himself. The idea was that if Israel felt compelled to offer sacrifices, God would make sure they were offered only to himself.

Again, I am still researching this. You can decide for yourself as I get more quotes up. I will add three Bible verses now along with a quote from Justin around A.D. 150. I will add to both the Bible quotes and early Christian quotes over the next few weeks.

Bible Quotes

What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise has been made. (Gal. 3:19)

For I didn't speak to your fathers, nor command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices, but this thing I commanded them, saying, 'Listen to my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in the way that I command you, that it may be well with you. (Jer. 7:22-23, WEB)

For you don't delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it. You have no pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:16-17, WEB)

Early Christian Quotes

Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150

Justin is retelling an encounter with a Jewish man in this quote. Justin is speaking, and Trypho, a Jew, is being addressed.

"All those righteous men already mentioned [Abel, Enoch, Lot, Noah, and Melchizedek] though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God. And after them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses, under whom your nation appeared unrighteous and ungrateful to God, making a calf in the wilderness. Therefore God, accommodating himself to that nation, enjoined them also to offer sacrifices, as if to his name, in order that you might not serve idols. This precept, however, you have not observed; nay, you sacrificed your children to demons." (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, ch. 19)

Where To Go from Here

You can find out how the early Christians viewed the "fulfillment" of the Law of Moses, and I have some quotes on the law, sacrifices, and circumcision. Or, you might try Early Christianity or back home.

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