The Biblical & Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law

by | Nov 15, 2010 | Biblical Theology, Books

Now this book looks interesting. Its title is From the Finger of God: The Biblical & Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law. It is written by Philip S. Ross and published by Christian Focus. I just ordered a review copy and can’t wait to get it!

Many in our day seem to easily dismiss the long-held view of the three-fold division of the law. It looks like this is the first place to go to see if it has a biblical & theological basis.

Here are some blurbs from their website:

“Philip Ross has dealt with issues lying near the heart of the Christian life (and indeed, of the healthy functioning of any human society) in this careful, fair, and, at times, humorous (or at least, entertaining and attention-holding) study of the continuing validity of God’s law… I will be frequently referring to his volume in my classes, and warmly commend it

Douglas F Kelly ~ Richard Jordan Professor of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina

“The question dealt with in this book is the relationship between the laws and requirements of the Old Testament and those of the New. Are these still obligatory on the New Testament Church? In dealing with this question the author suggests a threefold classification, and provides a very full analysis of the arguments in favour of that classification from many authors down through the centuries, as well as of those who write against that classification. I commend it to all who wish to live by the Scriptures.”

Lord Mackay of Clashfern ~ Retired Lord Chancellor & Patron of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship

“This book is a valuable contribution to discussion about the question of the nature of the unity of biblical law in the context of the diversity of its threefold historical function. It demonstrates how the finality of the person and work of Christ is the crux of the matter and how the atonement has law as its background. A readable presentation of the biblical data relevant to the subject that leaves no stone unturned.”

Paul Wells ~ Professor of Systematic Theology at Facult’ Libre Theologie Reformee in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Like me, you may never have thought that the division of the Law into the categories of civil, ceremonial and moral needed prolonged enquiry. When you read this book you will be glad that Dr. Ross thought otherwise. The book would be worthwhile if only for the discussion of the Decalogue or of the fulfilment of the Old Testament in the New , but there is something for the Bible lover on every page, as well as a demanding but readable opening up of a huge area of biblical enquiry, that takes us with profit from Genesis through to the Lord Jesus and his apostles. A real and rewarding mind-opener

Alec Motyer ~ Well known Bible expositor and commentary writer

“In recent times, little has weakened biblical theology more than the tendency to collapse all the rules and statutes of the Old Testament into one uniform corpus of law material. In this timely and extremely helpful study, Dr Philip Ross demonstrates not only that the division of the law into moral, civil and ceremonial categories arises out of a natural reading of the biblical text, but that its adoption in Patristic, Reformed and Puritan literature shows it to have been the orthodox position of the church. To lose this confessional distinctive is to drive an unbiblical wedge between the Testaments, and to eviscerate the gospel itself. Unless the moral law is still in force, how can we define sin? And unless we can define sin, what gospel can we preach? Dr Ross’s work is an important corrective to much misunderstanding on the nature and place of God’s law in the Bible, and a reliable guide both to the primary and secondary literature on the subject.”

Iain D Campbell ~ Minister, Point Free Church of Scotland, Isle of Lewis

“It is a given for scholars in a variety of allied disciplines (e.g., biblical studies, systematic theology, Christian ethics) that the ancient Christian distinction between the civil, ceremonial, and moral laws is without foundation. Philip Ross dissents from the consensus and he does so thoughtfully, lucidly, and wittily. Those who are new to the question and those are willing to reconsider their views will find in Ross an able guide through the labyrinth.”

R. Scott Clark ~ Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Westminster Seminary, Escondido, California

“This is one of the most important theological books to be published for several years. And it is a book which is desperately needed and which should be read by pastors and church leaders worldwide as a matter of urgency.”

Eryl Davis ~ Head of Research, Wales Evangelical School of Theology, Bridgend, Wales

Elegantly written, this work is an impressive achievement in biblical studies combining systematic clarity with exegetical analysis.

Theodore G. Stylianopoulos ~ Archbishop Professor of Orthodox Theology and Professor of New Testament (Emeritus) Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

In this remarkable work Dr. Philip Ross studies the threefold Division of the Law as traditionally held by the Reformed, Orthodox and Catholic Churches and establishes this framework to be scripturally based. Ross’s study is a welcome contribution to this topic especially in the context of challenges to this formulation from several modern authors who reject it as non-biblical, challenges which this study effectively refutes. This study is to be commended not only for its scholarly rigor but also for its ecumenical relevance.

George Keerankeri, S.J., ~ Reader in Sacred Scripture, Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi

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Implications of Jesus’ Relationship to the Law

Implications of Jesus’ Relationship to the Law

You remember that we are working through Matthew 5:17-20 under the theme we determined at the beginning of this blog series. That theme concerns Jesus’ relationship to the Old Testament Scriptures. Those Scriptures are described in the way typical of the New Testament as the law and the prophets. Jesus’ relation to them is described both negatively and positively. It is not to abolish but to fulfill them. Jesus comes to bring the Scriptures to their intended goal or predestined destination. This relationship of Jesus to the Old Testament is the underlying theme of the entirety of verses 17-20.

The Perpetuity of the Law

The Perpetuity of the Law

This, then, is why Jesus feels the need to issue this warning. A new time—the time of the kingdom—has come. What will this mean for the law and the prophets? Does it mean that their time is over and that their authority has been overthrown? To this Jesus gives an emphatic answer. It does not! He does not overthrow their authority. Rather, the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures remains and must remain inviolate forever. It is not their abolition, but their fulfillment which Jesus brings.

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