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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Seek Wisdom

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What does biblical law have to do with justice? Everything! Moses said to his people: “Justice, justice only shall you pursue that you may live….” No-one has said it better! The pursuit of justice is the foundation of civilised society.  Seeking justice means tackling injustice. So justice doesn’t happen unless we are focused and determined. Yet everything – including our lives –  depends on it.

God gave Moses and his people laws that were the very embodiment of wisdom. Biblical law and wisdom go together because both are ultimately concerned with “how to live life well.” This is very different to modern law, which is usually seen as concentrating on minimum standards of obligatory behaviour – what citizens need to do to “stay on the right side of the law.” Wisdom is the cornerstone of biblical law, and this is reflected in its concern for the quality of relationships. This is seen in both Rabbinic and New Testament interpretations of biblical law:

Whatever you yourself hate, that do not do to your neighbour: in this is the whole Torah. The rest is but comment upon it. Go and take it as your guide!
(Shabbat 31a; Hillel, a Pharisaic teacher from the first century BC)

One of them [the Pharisees], a lawyer, asked him [Jesus] a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” [quoting Deuteronomy 6:5]. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” [quoting Leviticus 19:18]. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets. (The Gospel According to Matthew 22:35–40)

The purpose of biblical law is to enable us to love God and to love our neighbour. Biblical law is a guide on how to love appropriately. However, this is not merely an agenda for improved interpersonal contact; it is also an agenda for institutions. In biblical law, love for God, and love for neighbour influences the design of our financial and lending relationships, our political relationships, our conditions of employment, our impact upon the environment, and so on. Love is institutionalized. The challenge is to see how biblical law advances being about something more than just an interpersonal agenda, important though that is. It is to recognize that biblical law goes far beyond this to inform the whole of politics and public administration. Its goal is to develop a worldview that is shaped at every point by an understanding of what it means to live a life of love as persons made in the image of God and which, in turn, feeds into our understanding and aspirations regarding the sort of world we want to live in.

This is what God, Justice and Society is about.

God, Justice and Society explores aspects of law in the Bible, from the patriarchal narratives in the Hebrew Bible through to the trials of Jesus in the New Testament. The book

  • Explores the subject of biblical law, which is foundational for understanding Western civilisation and the history of Western law
  • Discusses how biblical law works in relation to different areas including the environment, property, social welfare, homicide, theft, and marriage
  • Challenges popular misunderstandings about the story of Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments, as well as the interpretation of specific verses such as “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Read reviews of God, Justice and Society here

Download FREE Seeking Justice podcasts here

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