Does Ritual Law Exist? – Part 2
by Paul Blake
In Part 1, it was explained that scholars have essentially rejected the “categories of law” such as ritual, moral, civil, etc. A major concern is that these categories are essentially not found in Scripture. The words appear either occasionally … or not at all in numerous instances. When they do appear, the usage is not necessarily related to the classical categories like ritual law and moral law from Christian tradition. Consider the following four word studies – on ritual, ceremony-ceremonial, civil, and moral – as each should be seriously considered.
1. A search on the word “ritual” brings up zero results in NASB and eight results in NKJV. These eight results in NKJV are linked with idolatrous sacrifices, which were a major violation of the covenant. Therefore, the NASB and NKJV translations seem to be in agreement that “lesser ritual laws” do not exist.
2. A search on the word “ceremony-ceremonial” produced one result in NASB and three results in NKJV. The NASB reference was in Luke 11:381, even though the Greek indicates “wash” (see NIV and NKJV) instead of ceremonially washed. Two of the three results in NKJV were linked with Passover, and one result linked to a funeral ceremony. Therefore, the NASB and NKJV translations seem to be in agreement that “lesser ceremonial laws” do not exist.
3. “Civil” shows up zero times in NASB and zero times in NKJV. Therefore, the NASB and NKJV translations seem to be in agreement that “civil” laws do not exist.
4. “Moral” only shows up three times in NASB2 and once in NKJV.3 This is surprisingly low considering how popular the term “moral” has become. Interestingly, none of these four total instances clarified the various laws that should be considered moral.
In summary, the terms ritual, ceremony-ceremonial, civil, and moral are seldom used in Scripture. When they do show up, they are almost always used differently than how they are understood today. In not a single case do we find these categories defined, which would help scholars and saints alike to understand which laws fall into which category. Without a Scriptural foundation to base these categories, it would be difficult to call these categories “Scriptural.” Students can easily see why scholars have moved away from this understanding of ethics-laws. Since these categories lack verses to support them and have fallen out of favor amongst the experts … is it time to discard them?
In Part 3, further evidence will be presented against the idea of ritual law and categorization … incongruent (dissimilar) penalties if ritual law exists, the potential abolishment of ritual laws, and the fear of the Lord surrounding the definition of right and wrong.
1. Luke 11:38 – When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal.
2. Job 11:15 – “Then, indeed, you could lift up your face without moral defect, and you would be steadfast and not fear.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 2 Peter 1:5 – “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge”
3. 2 Chronicles 28:19 – “For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord.”