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The Law & Bible

The peaceful coexistence with justice is the basic requirement of any society for its survival, development and expansion; to achieve this, the people have to adhere to the rules of conduct or procedures known as ‘law’, established by custom, agreement, or authority. The enforcement of the body of rules is through a controlling authority. The laws of morality are means of controlling human conduct by setting normative standards. The best law is by the Creator, Who knows well the capabilities and limitations of His creatures; the human being one of them.

The Bible emphasizes the importance of law by declaring that the Law of God, is absolute and perpetual, Jesus said: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled”(Matthew;5:18). Law was given to Adam (Genesis;2:16-17), Noah (Geneis;9:6), the Israelites (Exodus;20:2-17; Psalms;78:5)  through Moses. (Exodus;31:18; John;7:19) and through the ministration of angels (Acts;7:53; Galatians; 3:19; Hebrews;2:2). It is described as; Pure: “The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes”(Psalms;19:8); “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple”(Psalms;19:7 also Romans;12:2). The law is truth (Psalms;119:142) and requires perfect obedience (Detromonmy;27:26; Glatians;3:10; James;2:10). It is man’s duty to keep the law: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man”(Ecclesiastes;12:13). Keeping of law result in blessedness (Psalms;119:1; Mathew;5:19; 1Jhon;3:22,24); the love of law, produces peace (Psalms;119:165). Disobedience of law, invite divine rage: “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD”(Isaiah;30:9); “Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it”(Jeremiah;6:19 ). Transgression of law is sin: “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law”(1 John;3:4).  The Israelites were punished for disobeying of law: (Nehemea;9:26-27). The ancient people of Israel adhered to the law of God given to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) in the Torah and the Mishna (the latter was later incorporated into the Talmud). Thus, for example, unfairness in labor relations was considered a religious sin and caring for the sick a religious obligation. The rabbinic ordinances were regarded as having validity only because the authority of the rabbis is sanctioned by the Torah. This however remained the personal law for Jews for centuries, being a minority in various countries. With the rebirth of a Jewish national state (1948) and the connected revival of Jewish culture, the Talmud has achieved renewed importance. Orthodox Jewry has always focused upon its study and has believed it to be the absolute Halakhic (“practice,” “rules of conduct”) authority. This belief has  now become even further intensified. While rabbinic courts in Israel have jurisdiction only in the area of family life, it has become one of the aims of religious (Orthodox) Jewry there to establish Talmudic law as the general law of the state.

Under the Old Testament, the ‘Ceremonial Law’, prescribes; the rites and ceremonies of worship. This law was obligatory and was practiced by Jesus Christ (peace be upon him); he confirmed the continuity of the law of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), by declaring: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.”(Mathew;5:17 also  the Beatitudes, Matthew; 5:3-12 and the Lord’s Prayer Matthew; 6:9-13). However on the contrary, after Jesus, the founder of Christianity abolished the law (Hebrews;7:9,11; 10:1; Ephasians;2:16); though it was binding on all. Whereas Jesus had said: “The disciple is not above his master:”(Luke;6:40); but Paul, the self declared 13th disciple of Jesus declared; “But now we are delivered from the law, being dead to that in which we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”(Romans;7:6). The Christians even claimed to be exempted as a covenant of works (Glatians;3:17), freedom from the bondage and the curse of law: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace”(Romans;6:14 also 7:4,6,Glatians;3:13).

The New Testament lays down the general principles of good government, but contains no code of laws for the punishment of offenders: “For this, Thou shall not commit adultery, Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal, Thou shall not bear false witness, Thou shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shall love your neighbor as yourself.”(Romans;13:9). Punishment proceeds on the principle that there is an eternal distinction between right and wrong, and that this distinction must be maintained for its own sake. It is not primarily intended for the reformation of criminals, nor for the purpose of deterring others from sin. These results may be gained, but crime in itself demands punishment. The Western Civilization has been following Roman Law and its derivatives. It was the law of ancient Rome from the time of the founding of the city of Rome in 753 BC until the fall of the Western Empire. However it remained in use in Christendom (Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire) until 1453 C.E. Romans considered ritual law (fas) to be God-given and social law (lex) as man-made. The ‘Roman Law’, as a legal system and as basis for the law codes has affected the development of law in most of Western civilization as well as in parts of the East. The Churches followed Canon Law which, established within Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, independent churches of Eastern Christianity, and the Anglican Communion for church governance.

The relationship between religious and secular authority in society is commonly known as ‘Church and State’. In most ancient civilizations the separation of religious and political orders was not clearly defined. With the advent of Christianity, the idea of two separate orders emerged, based on command of Jesus: “Render unto Caesar what are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”(Mark;12:17). The close association of religion and politics, however, continued even after the acceptance of Christianity as emperors such as Constantine exercised authority over both church and state. In the early Middle Ages secular rulers claimed to rule by the grace of God, and later in the Middle Ages popes and emperors competed for universal dominion. During the Investiture Controversy the church clearly defined separate and distinct religious and secular orders, even though it laid the foundation for the so-called papal monarchy. The Reformation greatly undermined papal authority, and the pendulum swung toward the state, with many monarchs claiming to rule church and state by divine right.

The concept of secular government, as evinced in the U.S. and post revolutionary France, was influenced by Enlightenment thinkers. The Western Civilization separated the religion from state, by declaring the religion to be personal matter of individual and initially depended on Roman Law, later on Civil Law, also called Romano Germanic Law, the law of continental Europe, based on an admixture of Roman, Germanic, ecclesiastical, feudal, commercial, and customary law. In western Europe today all states protect freedom of worship and maintain  distinction between civil and religious authority. The separation of church and state has been tested in the arena of public education by controversies over issues such as school prayer, wearing of headscarf for Muslim girls, public funding of parochial schools, and the teaching of creationism. After 9/11, there has been revival of religious frenzy among the West, especially in USA. The religiosity displayed by George.W.Bush Junior, is well known. A survey conducted in February 2008, by ‘Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’, a Washington based think tank, concluded: that vast majority of Americans – almost 70 percent – agree that it is important for US president to have strong religious beliefs. The American war on terror appears to be directed against the Islamic world than the terrorists, viewed by many as the Crusade of 21st century. The legal systems of some modern Islamic countries are based on Islamic law (Shari’a) or admix of Shari’a and Western law: while in most of Muslim dominated countries western law has replaced the Shari’a after colonization. Shari’a being restricted as the personal law for Muslims only.

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