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What can Leviticus teach New Testament people?

About three times a year, we have a series of Wednesday night Bible studies at church. Because I enjoy teaching, I usually volunteer. This month, I recycled some material that I taught in my regular Sunday school class at the beginning of the year. It’s based on the book Hidden in Plain Sight: Finding Wisdom and Meaning in the Parts of the Bible Most People Skip by Boyd Seevers.

As New Testament people, it’s easy for us to skip the boring parts of the Old Testament. I have just about decided that I don’t need to read Numbers ever again. But the apostle Paul tells us to pay attention.

Bible Study by Nats Photos-resized

Photo by Nat Arnett • freeimages.com

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.—2 Timothy 3:16–17

All Scripture. Not just the exciting parts, not just the parts about Jesus, and not just the parts where we get to see the great heroes of the Bible screw up in spectacular ways.

Hidden-resized

This is the primary book I taught from.

We are New Testament people, but the Old Testament is in our canon so we can understand God’s character and his relationship to his people.

That said, all Scripture is useful, but it is not all equally useful. The entire book of Leviticus, for example, exists under the Mosaic Covenant, which for Christians is superseded by the New Covenant. So what are we to make of it?

The theme of Leviticus is summed up in one verse: “For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45).

This book is also helpful in comprehending some of the more obscure parts of the Bible.

This book is also helpful in comprehending some of the more obscure parts of the Bible.

Similarly, Jesus says “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

The main themes of Leviticus have not been made obsolete, even though the means to accomplish them and the manner of expressing them have changed.—Boyd Seevers, Hidden in Plain Sight, page 65

We are no longer bound by the practices described in Leviticus, but we still must honor the principle of being God’s holy people.

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About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

9 comments on “What can Leviticus teach New Testament people?

  1. Superseded, yes, but still of importance in understanding the cultural language Jesus spoke in and to. For example, reading the exact rules Leviticus gives on honoring the Sabbath brought that commandment new meaning to me: most of it was about the Israelites giving other people (namely, their servants and dependents) time to rest, not necessarily a personal edict. It made me reexamine my entire attitude toward honoring God through my relationship with others. Reading Judaic law also shows just how their society worked and gives context to the stories we read. I find the Years of Jubilee and the system of the Cities of Refuge fascinating.

  2. And you can’t fully appreciate the New Testament without the old. All the stuff about the feasts and so many details that point toward Jesus. I use a Bible reading plan that has me read a couple of NT chapters and a couple of OT chapters. I got through Leviticus fine. It’s sitting down and trying to read it straight through day after day that’s the challenge. 😉

  3. A better question would be: What DID Leviticus teach New Testament Christians? For it is that example those who claim to be “New Testament people” today should follow.

    One thing it taught the original Church was to keep on observing the seventh-day Sabbath, Festivals and Holy Days described in Leviticus 23. (My church just has observed one of these: the Feast of Trumpets, this past Thursday. Today is the regular weekly Sabbath.) We see Jesus, the 12 apostles and Paul doing exactly this. The debate in those days was never about whether, but about how, Christians should keep these days. This is true even in Colossians 2:16-17. The Sabbath etc. were not established in Israel by the Law of Moses with its sacrifices; and when the sacrifices were set aside, the days of worship remained.

    But you see, you in what a Protestant pastor interestingly called “the Nicene Family” have been done a terrible disservice and so I’m going to take the time to expose an ancient lie for what it is. The Ante-Nicene Fathers in the West, and the authors of a few old (and badly written) Greek NT MSS. with them, threw the baby out with the bathwater and rejected the days of worship with the sacrifices. But to make their case stick, not only did they have to misrepresent certain verses in Isaiah and elsewhere, but they had to drop one little word (a definite article) in Colossians 2:17 to make it read “but the body of Christ”. Thus the implication in the Greek, in the Fathers and in those MSS., is “but the body (is) of Christ”. That’s what you’ll find in all the modern versions I know of. And of course, that is used as a pretext to deny the validity of Leviticus 23 for Christians today.

    But in the Greek texts of the East – the Received, Majority and Byzantine Texts – and also all the critical editions I can find, the reading is “but the body of the Christ”, not “but the body of Christ”. In other words, we have a definite noun phrase which demands irrefutably a completely different ellipsis of the verb: “but (let) the Body of the Christ” – the Church – “judge (how to eat, drink and observe the days of worship, not some arrogant Gnostic or Kabbalist outsider)”. So even there, the issue is not whether, but how – and indeed, why, for the days of worship in Leviticus 23 portray the Work of Christ in bringing mankind to salvation.

    But so strong has been the Catholic influence on mainstream-Christian practice that even translators can look right at the linguistic evidence and either miss it (as in an issue of the JOURNAL OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE I have, somewhere) or else be willingly ignorant of it. I only found out the exact technical point of linguistics (even though most of my explanation has been taught by my church for many years for other reasons) because the BAUER-ARNDT-GINGRICH Greek lexicon noted the point about definite Greek noun phrases (specifically, how the definite article is used with them) in another context.

    • I am pleased to see your reply. I wondered if you would. I had scriptures listed some that Mr Ames gave us this past Sabbath that I was compiling for a comment here and on the previous posts on religious topics. My prayer as in all things is that we are the light we are called to be. Given Leviticus speaks of a number perpetual acts we follow one must if Christ tells us that to know Him snd love Him we must keep the Commandments. If which the fourth commandment in “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” In six days you shall do your work but the seventh is holy set apart for a holy convocation. And given on Creation God created the 7th day as His Sabbath day as a sign between God and His people. If Sunday is the first day of the week, then Saturday is His “Sabbath who He is Lord of.” He also days that we are to keep Hus holy days and feast days as a perpetual covenant. Never ends. And to enter into life ( eternal life) we must keep His commandments. Not just those that are convenient. I believe that it was said in a previous post that we don’t get to choose, yet that us exactly what main steam Christianity has done despite how sincere they seem. I use to be like that. Until God called me to His truth. And it was on the issue if the Sabbath. I had to give up a job because if it but knew from God’s promises that He would provide me another job where I wasn’t asked to work on Saturdays or after sundown on Fridays which each day during creation and since, starts a new day. God did provide an even better job and a week after I had to givey notice on the 12 year job I had built tenure in. But He kept Hus promise. I am grateful to know too that as the world believes loved ones are either burning in a hell fire or up in heaven that that is another no n scriptural fall icy. Scripture doesn’t say that at all. That no man has ascended to heaven ecmxceot the one who came from heaven and returned to heaven- Christ. That in the second resurrection everyone not called now will be resurrected then. They will be given the truth that only some have been called to know now. Snd they will get to choose to believe and follow that truth or reject it and be cast into the lake of fire in the last resurrection. It was so depressing being taught by ministers all my life things that didn’t make sense. Like Christ dying on cross on “Good Friday” and being in the tomb for three days and three nights being resurrected on ” Easter.” There is no way that equates to three days and three nights. The world is being deceived. And it seems people don’t want the truth. It requires to give up things they aren’t willing to give up for a walk worthy of the truth it is encapsulated in. Nothing about the religion mainstream Christianity preaches makes sense. I am glad John you shared the truth here. Given what you do in your work with our church I really hoped you would share that here in kind .
      Blessings yisraela

  4. Exceptional! I have often had questions and now have some glimmer of light to strive toward and to expand upon. I have been seeking a truth based church to attend, and I wish I were in your neighborhood to join you in your studies. What matter/type of church is this? I hope I can find one like it here in NE FL. Thank You Kristen and John.

  5. […] Who Wrote the Gospel of John and How Historical is ItSabbaths Or Sabbath In Colossians 2:16–17What can Leviticus teach New Testament people .a3a5_box {font-size: 14px !important;font-style: normal !important;font-weight: normal […]

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