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I was having a conversation with an orthodox Jew over on Code Golf SE on whether Christians still need to follow the Law or not. After bringing up a few verses on the subject, he brought up Psalm 119:160:

All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

I pointed out this has a different wording in different versions, e.g. the KJV:

Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

He pointed out that the Hebrew word here most likely means "law", and that the Torah has been referenced with such a word. How does this not conflict with the various passages in the New Testament, for example Hebrews 7:18-19 or Luke 16:16?

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    This question has no meaning unless we identify what law we are discussing. Law has no meaning without an associated covenant and vis versa.
    – Dottard
    Feb 2, 2023 at 19:00
  • @Dottard the Law (capitalized) as in the body of laws given to Moses by God, i.e. the Torah
    – Seggan
    Feb 2, 2023 at 19:02
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    Except that the word Torah is not in Ps 119:160. It is another word for judgement or ordinance, מִשְׁפָט
    – Dottard
    Feb 2, 2023 at 19:04
  • As for oral law read Michael Brown article called "UNEQUAL WEIGHTS AND MEASURES A CRITIQUE OF THE METHODOLOGY OF THE ANTI-MISSIONARIES" and oneforIsrael article on oral law.
    – Michael16
    Feb 3, 2023 at 4:06
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    There are numerous verses in the OT that state that various commandments are forever or that the covenant between G-d and the Israelites is forever, not just Psalm 119:160. E.g. Deuteronomy 5:26; Exodus 12:17; Exodus 31:17 (the Sabbath is an everlasting sign); Judges 2:1; Psalms 119:44; Numbers 35:29 (mistaken murder); Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 23:31 (Yom Kippur). Apr 17, 2023 at 23:08

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Psalms 119:160 does have the following definition:

judgments מִשְׁפַּ֥ט (miš·paṭ) Noun - masculine singular construct Strong's 4941: A verdict, a sentence, formal decree, divine law, penalty, justice, privilege, style

On the other hand, Psalms 119:97 has the following definition with respect to “law”:

Your law! תוֹרָתֶ֑ךָ (ṯō·w·rā·ṯe·ḵā) Noun - feminine singular construct | second person masculine singular Strong's 8451: Direction, instruction, law

There are apparently different Hebrew words for “Law”:

Screenshot of a table showing the different Hebrew words for 'law'

It’s possible that he is wrong on the particular nuance of the Hebrew usage.

Your Jewish friend also should consider that God promised & prophesied a new covenant to the people of Israel:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—

not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord.

For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”” ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭31‬:‭31‬-‭34‬

‭Psalms 19:8 is more direct:

The precepts פִּקּ֘וּדֵ֤י (piq·qū·ḏê) Noun - masculine plural construct Strong's 6490: Appointed, a mandate

Since there is a New Covenant prophesied in the Old Testament, I would show your friend that such a new covenant requires a change in the Law, namely from animal sacrifices to the New Atonement found in Christ, since Jeremiah 31:34 makes it clear that God Himself will forgive their sins, this points towards the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus as our sin bearer.

Hebrews says:

“Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10‬:‭8‬-‭10

1.) ‭God has taken away the first: burnt offerings for sin according the law.

So that God may do,

2.) Establish Christ as the sin offering in our place.

Hebrews 7 also talks about a change in law, which only God can do:

“Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭7‬:‭11‬-‭12

‬ ‭Conclusion:

I think if your Jewish friend wants to assert “God’s Law is eternal” he should be using the Hebrew word: Huqqim or Piqqudim for “law” - seen in the chart above^.

An additional note, we also have:

דְּרָכָ֖יו də-rā-ḵāw His ways [are]

Sources: Did You Know There Are Different Hebrew Words For "Law"?

https://biblehub.com/text/deuteronomy/32-4.htm

BibleHub's Hebrew words for Psalms 119:97

BibleHub's Hebrew words for Psalms 119:160

BibleHub's Hebrew words for Psalms 19:8

A helpful resource: The Epistle to the Hebrews [ECBC] By: F.F. Bruce

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    I suggest that you add דרכיו as an outlier, His ways, as in Deuteronomy 10:12, 11:22, 32:4, Joshua 22:5, I Kings 8:58, Psalms 10:5, 103:7, 145:17. Feb 5, 2023 at 6:27
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The MT for Psalm 119:160 is:

רֹאשׁ-דְּבָרְךָ֥ אֱמֶ֑ת וּ֝לְעוֹלָ֗ם כָּל-מִשְׁפַּ֥ט צִדְקֶֽךָ

short, pithy, poetic and figurative, a stand-alone verse without context. This verse is open season for a wide range of interpretation. My literal translation is:

The beginning of your word is true, forever all your just laws (are true).

As someone who has lived in the middle east for 55 years and never spoke a language other than Hebrew with his wife, children and grandchildren, this verse looks to me like it is saying in current American English:

Your word is true from the beginning and your just laws are true to the end

I can't help but think of the coffee company advertising slogan "Good to the last drop" when I recite this verse. That's what it sounds like in Hebrew, "Your Torah is good to the last drop".

WRT the OP, the problem word is לְעוֹלָ֗ם, which could mean:

  1. always
  2. for ever
  3. the end

There isn't enough context to determine if the original intent was particularly to assert "for ever" in time. It is likely that the original intent was "every one of the above", a kind of superlative.

WRT current orthodox Jewish law, non-Jews should study the Torah because it is God's word, but should only follow the commandments given to Noah, because the non-Jews were not specifically given the other commandments and should not be doing something that God did not tell them to do.

WRT the use of this verse as a proof-text for the eternity of the Torah, it would appear that the OP's orthodox correspondent is barking up the wrong verse. The eternity of the Torah is connected with the eternity of the covenant that God established with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and re-established with Moses. Israel's part in this covenant is keeping the Torah.

Psalm 105:8 (NIV):

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations

Psalm 105:10 (NIV):

He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant : Psalm 11:5 (NIV) He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever

II Samuel 23:5 (NIV):

If my house were not right with God, surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part

.. and many other verses that have to explained away to argue that the Torah and all of its laws are not eternal. The standard Christian argument to explain away these verses is to claim that Jesus somehow "fulfilled" the eternal covenant, i.e. paid off all of its obligations vicariously for all mankind. Judaism never accepted the premise of vicarious suffering or vicarious fulfillment of obligation, let alone vicarious atonement for sin. That remains a fundamental irreconcilable difference.

Psalm 119 is a contrived acrostic psalm that bends the Hebrew language in entertaining ways in order to maintain the acrostic. It is hard to escape the impression that this psalm is intended to be a kind of sacred entertainment. In the Yemenite Jewish tradition we recite this psalm in unison at the end of the sabbath in order to always end the sabbath and start the new week on a light note. I wouldn't try to use any verse of this psalm to score points in any doctrinal argument.

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    It's probably a bad idea in general to use Psalms for doctrinal argument. It's a poetry/song lyric book. That doesn't mean that not important, but it's just inherently not amenable to strict legalistic interpretation, as with the Torah's commandments themselves, or even the prophetic writings. Feb 3, 2023 at 2:27
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    @DanielbenNoach I'd argue Psalms are quite useful for refutation of doctrines; sometimes you get some broad categorical statement (maybe even repeated) that simply flies in the face of a doctrine. Consider someone who argued that there is only one destination/state in the next life for the godly and ungodly, with no distinction; the various Psalms would be some of the strongest refutation in the whole OT. But I agree it's hard to positively assert most doctrines, let alone complex ones, from the Psalms, for the reason you outline; any given sentence may be a poetic gloss of an idea. Feb 3, 2023 at 10:14
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Let's assume that "laws" in Psalm 119:160 does mean "Mosaic law" as Psalm 119:1 read.

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. (NIV)

By that time, the Israelite only knew and supposed to be obedience to the Mosaic law.

However, there is no conflict to Hebrews 7:18-19 and Luke 16:16. First of all, Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 5:17

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (NIV)

Paul also explained in Galatians 3 the purpose of the Mosaic law;

21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

23 Before the coming of this faith,[j] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.

24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.

25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

Hebrew 7:18-19, when it said the law was weak and useless, did not mean abolishment, as Jesus proclaimed. It only mean the Mosaic law is not capable to fulfill the salvation of man, for no one is capable to obey the Mosaic law fully. As Paul explained, we are now justified by faith, not by the Mosaic law.

There is no conflict with Luke 16:16 as well. "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John" (Luke 16:16a), which is true. Again, it means stop using the law and the Prophets, but doesn't mean abolishment. For thereafter, we are justified by faith, according to the New Covenant, and Jesus is our mediator. So the verse continue: "Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. (Luke 16:16b)

Hebrew 10:1 read

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

The reality is Jesus, and He is eternal. The law is His shadow, but shadow is also a reality.

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No one seems to have answered the fundamental issue that was asked:

How does [Psalm 119:160] not conflict with the various passages in the New Testament, for example Hebrews 7:18-19 or Luke 16:16?

These are the specific scriptures:

Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
— Psalm 119:160

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
— Hebrews 7:18–19

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
— Luke 16:16

Hebrews 7:18 is referring to the Levitical laws for running the priesthood. Yes, they are defined in the Torah, but they are explicitly not "the Law" that is meant for the people. The priesthood existed as a type of the Messiah, and is no longer needed now that that a "better hope is introduced", the Messiah himself.

As for Luke 16:16, the very next verse says: "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.", indicating that verse 16 could not possibly be saying that the Law changed. Rather, it is saying that the Law, which regulated our physical lives, was all that humanity had, but now we have in addition been given something much greater.

Rather than contradicting, these verses confirm and support each other: God's Law for mankind has always existed and always will.

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  • Once Christ fulfilled the Law, it had served its purpose for those who put total faith in him to be saved, as opposed to striving to work at law-keeping to be accepted by God. After all, not a single soul can keep that Law. As Tim Kellar said, "The Law is not a check-list that we keep; it’s a benchmark that we fail." So, when that Law was taken out of the way when nailed to the cross, Colossians 2:14, there is only faith in Christ as the means of salvation, shown in obedience to him, not to rules and regulations. 1 spelling change made in the first line of your answer.
    – Anne
    May 8, 2023 at 12:39
  • @Anne says "not a single soul can keep that Law". Not from birth, but the aim of a Christian should be to become perfect, like Jesus, who as a mortal human being was able to remain sinless (i.e. never breaking God's Law) throughout his life, using nothing more than his character and guidance from God's holy spirit. Christians should strive for that character and can receive the same guidance. ¶ "that Law was taken out of the way when nailed to the cross". No, the IOU or debt that one owes for breaking that law was nailed to the cross. Jesus's death paid that debt for repentant sinners. May 8, 2023 at 23:20
  • Those who do not believe in the pre-human, eternal Word of God, who became flesh, consider Jesus to be the perfect example, and if that man could do it, so can they, with his help. But those who believe in the incarnation see the sinless Son of God doing away with "the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones" (2 Cor.3:3-11). By the indwelling Spirit of Christ, they are conformed to Christ's likeness and "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor.2:16) - metanoia - receiving a new mind. We don't disagree on everything here, but law-keeping is to go back to that from which Christ set us free
    – Anne
    May 9, 2023 at 9:21
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There are better verses to make that argument:

Deut 12:18 NHEB Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the eyes of the LORD your God.

You can explain that the law only applies to man until the resurrection. As Pharisee Paul explained, the believers are united with the Messiah as one, and has died to sin, resurrected with him. Hence, after the resurrection of the Messiah, we are living in post-resurrection, which was called the world to come. Being spiritually dead to sin, the torah no longer applies to us.

The sages already explained that when the Messiah comes, the commandments of the Mosaic law will be nullified:

The Jewish Spiritual Heroes, Volume II; The Amoraim of Palestine and the Jerusalem Talmud, Introduction 3
This aim caused some of the scholars to believe that study of the Torah and the fulfillment of its commandments was most important in life even though one did not agree with the commandments....Others said that after the coming of Messiah all commandments would be done with and there would no longer be any need for written laws.1)נדה ס״א ב׳, מדרש תהלים פּרשה נ״ו.

Pri Haaretz, Toldot 5
And this is what they of blessed memory meant that in the days of the Messiah the Commandments will be nullified "for the Land will be filled with Understanding of God", and they will possess a different Torah from the Decrees which will become as Commandments. And when a person goes from strength to strength, higher and higher, until he reaches and stands before the root of the whole Torah and Commandments which is "I am HaShem your God...", simple unity and infinite, he then crimps the wings of all the Commandments and Decrees, and they are all nullified. And this is the nullification of the Evil Inclination and elevation of it [back] to prior to the beginning of creation.

Flames of Faith 13:12 According to the Zohar when the Messiah will come there will be a part of pig that will become kosher.

All this is beautifully explained on this website Chabad. Chapter 11: Mitzvos After the Resurrection, By Nissan Dovid Dubov. (Some excerpts)

The Messianic Era and the Resurrection

There is however an opinion in the Talmud14 that the mitzvos will no longer apply after the Resurrection. According to this opinion, the Messianic era will comprise two distinct periods. In the first period after Mashiach arrives, the whole of Torah law will be in force and the mitzvos will be fully observed. However, from the time of the Resurrection (which is to take place forty years after the advent of Mashiach15 ), the mitzvos will no longer be in force.

But what of the principle that all Torah laws are everlasting?

In response to this apparent contradiction one could suggest that this means that they will last until the time of the Resurrection. In other words, the mitzvos apply only during the period of which it is written,16 היום לעשותם — “[You shall observe the commandments... which I command you] today, to do them.” As the Sages explain,17 the time to do the commandments is today, while in this world, but not “tomorrow, [when] you shall reap the reward,” i.e., in the World to Come.18 In this light, one may perceive the observance of the mitzvos as a means of refining and elevating the world, and once this has been achieved in the period of the Resurrection, they have no further function.19

One Problem Resolved, One Problem Posed

A careful analysis of the context of the Talmudic teaching cited above23 —that “the mitzvos will no longer apply in time to come [i.e., after the Resurrection]” — provides a solution to this apparently glaring contradiction.

The opinion is expressed that “a garment that includes kilayim [i.e., shaatnez, a prohibited mixture of wool and linen]... may be used for shrouds for the dead.” This statement sparks off the following debate:

“Rav Yosef responded: ‘This means that the mitzvos will no longer apply in time to come’ [for otherwise, those resurrected would be wearing forbidden garments].

“Abbaye (some say it was Rav Dimi) objected: ‘But R. Mani said in the name of R. Yannai that this permission applies only for the eulogy but not for the burial!’

“[Rav Yosef] replied: ‘Was it not taught that R. Yochanan said that it applies even for the burial? And in this R. Yochanan is consistent with his own teachings, for R. Yochanan taught: What is meant by the verse,24 “free among the dead”? — Once a man dies, he is free from fulfilling the mitzvos.’“

The commentaries find R. Yochanan’s opinion problematic.

(1) The reason given — that the dead are free of mitzvos — is valid only when the departed are in the grave. Upon Resurrection, however, surely they would immediately transgress the prohibition of kilayim.

(2) Elsewhere25 R. Yochanan says: “How is Resurrection deduced from the Torah?

“It is written,26 ‘Of [these tithes] you shall give G‑d’s heave-offering to Aharon the priest.’ But would Aharon live forever?! After all, he did not enter the Land of Israel and thereby make it possible that terumah be given to him! Rather, this verse teaches that he will ultimately be resurrected, and the Jewish people will give him terumah....”

Now, if R. Yochanan holds that the mitzvos (such as terumah) will be observed after the Resurrection, how could he permit the use of kilayim for burial?27

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This matter is bound up in the fact that all God's judgments are righteous and true, for he is Righteous. All his judgments are true, but the Law is only a part of God's word. Sinners need law to expose to us what is illegal (unlawful) and to threaten us with punishment / judgment. Merely knowing what is good and what is evil will not save us from our sin. However, a wonderful thing happens due to the righteousness of God having been demonstrated to the whole world at the cross of Christ. There, all God's righteous wrath against sin was poured out on to Christ, the sin-bearer (though he had done no sin). The punishment for sin was administered. Then, those who put faith in that provision of grace, so as to come under it, knew the truth of this:

"And ye are complete in [Christ] which is the head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven all your trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross. Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." Colossians 2:10-15 A.V.

Those who live by Law will be judged by Law. Those who live without Law shall be judged without Law. (Romans 1:16 to 2:16). Those who have had the condemnation of Law removed from them due to faith in Christ have passed from judgment to life (John 5:24 & 6:47). Sadly, many people cannot believe that God would justly pardon them due utterly to his Son having borne our punishment, so they maintain a degree of legalism: a sort of belt and braces policy, which shows they do not have faith in God and his Son's total provision for the forgiveness of all their sins. But that is another question.

The answer to your question is that the Law you speak of is not eternal. As you quoted Psalm 119:160, let me give Young's Literal Translation, which shows a critical difference regarding 'eternal': "The sum of Thy word is truth. And to the age is every judgment of thy righteousness." As I said at the start of my answer: *"all God's judgments are righteous and true, for he is Righteous. All his judgments are true. *

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  • @Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim al Yahud Good points. Yes, Hebrew words in Ps 119 eg use various words for aspects showing the enormity of what ‘God’s word’ entails. But the righteousness of God is an integral truth in the scriptures, and all God’s laws are righteous – no question! A problem is forgetting the purpose of the Law, clinging to legalism, unable to grasp that God is not ruled by Law, and neither are heaven’s inhabitants! The Law, given through angels to Moses, exposes our sin to point to God’s way of dealing righteously with its removal. Once there is no more sin, there can be no more Law.
    – Anne
    Feb 6, 2023 at 12:42
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We could split hairs over whether the Psalm refers to "the Law" as being eternal and as such is problematic for Christians, but we should recall that Jesus taught:

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; cf. Luke 16:17)


A tittle (Gr. κεραία) is a small stroke or point in Hebrew writing that distinguishes one letter from another. In this verse, Jesus emphasizes the enduring nature of the Law (the Torah) and the importance of every detail, down to the smallest part of a Hebrew letter. The jot (Gr. ἰῶτα) mentioned in the verse refers to the smallest Hebrew letter, yod (י) (viz. "not one iota"). Together, jot and tittle serve as a metaphor for the smallest details of the Law, highlighting the importance of following and preserving it completely.

Theophylact explains that Jesus taught us to fulfill the Law not only through actions, but even our thoughts:*

Do not think that because the Lord said, Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, and whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, that He is destroying the Law. For the Law said, Thou shalt not kill, and Thou shalt not commit adultery. The Lord does not destroy the Law, but rather fulfills it, so that not only our actions, but also our thoughts, should be pure. The Lord does not say that we should not keep the Law, for He Himself was circumcised and kept the Sabbath, and taught others to do so. But He says that the Law is fulfilled not only when we do not commit adultery, but also when we do not lust; not only when we do not kill, but also when we are not angry without a cause.

In this sense, there is no conflict with what is taught in the Psalm, even if it is understood to refer to "the Law".


* Explanation of the Gospel According to St. Matthew (PG 123:193)

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It does not conflict a tiny bit! The Law is eternal in the sense that it is eternally presupposed by the Liberty in Christ's salvific grace, that superseded the Law, the latter featuring as a servant and a preparation to the advent of this very liberty (Galatians 3:24). Thus, when Christ and His grace comes, the Law is abolished lawfully, for as Paul says with a genial turn of a phrase "by Law (i.e. lawfully) I have died for the Law" (Galatians 2:19-21; cf. also Ibid. 5:23).

Now, whoever adheres to the precepts of the Law even after the advent of grace in Christ, such a one is violating the Law by the very fact of adhering to its precepts, because he does not see the Law from a perspective of Holy Spirit, but from a human perspective. Just imagine: a boy in, say, ancient Athens, is given a wooden sword and ordered to exercise with it before he gets enough skills for holding and fighting the enemy with a real iron sword. As he gets prepared and ready for holding the real sword, he is given it and sent to a phalanx. Now, it would be an utter madness for this boy to hold also the wooden sword alongside with the iron sword, for the wooden sword became obsolete and it will only hinder him on a battlefield. Far more so is with regard of Faith!

Therefore, Paul says quite radically that those who even after having become Christians still adhere to the statutes of Law are enemies of Christ and abolish His redemptive sacrifice on The Cross - “if righteousness comes by Law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).

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