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February 18, 2011 / Daniel

The Law and the Christian, Part Three

A Tanach

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In partial response to Bruce’s comment–

Paul’s use of Deut. 25:4 in 1 Corinthians 9 is a difficult problem. I have problems with saying that it is a “proof text.” At first glance, it does appear that Paul’s exegesis is allegorical or somewhat arbitrary. Of course, one of my presuppositions is that the NT writers were faithful interpreters of the OT. So, there are some things that we should consider. Beale suggested in class that perhaps Deut. 25:4 was meant in a proverbial sense even in the OT. If he’s right, the law was always concerned with giving the worker an equitable share of the profits.

I’m not sure that Beale is right, but I think that even if we take this Law literally, it shows that the Law was concerned with social justice, even when it means treating your work animals with justice. The social justice revealed in this law can be seen throughout Deuteronomy. For instance, Deut. 24:14-15 is concerned with taking care of your hired servants and giving them their wages in a prompt manner. Deut. 24:19-22 is about sharing your harvests with the widows, orphans, and aliens.

So I don’t think that Paul’s use of this law is arbitrary. Deut. 25:4 illustrates the broader concern of social justice within Israelite society. Land owners must share the profits of their harvests with their workers and the marginalized and even with the animals that helped them bring in the profits. Based on this principle of social justice, Paul argues that it is only equitable for the churches to meet the needs of pastors who work to serve the people of God.

In other words, Paul’s use of Deut. 25:4 is contextual. His method is exegetical. And we should use him as a model for proper hermeneutics.

This is why I can’t read “Don’t eat fish without scales” and come to the conclusion that God wants me to avoid slimy people. (Good illustration, Bruce. It made me laugh). That interpretation is arbitrary. It is not anchored in the text or a historical-cultural reading of the text. Several sociologists have come to the conclusion that the dietary laws functioned as ethnic boundaries. Acts 11 reveals that this was the case. And in the OT, the dietary laws are found within the context of God’s holiness and His desire for His people to be holy. God wanted His people to be different. In the OT, the people of God was a distinct ethnic group. In the NT, the people of God are from many ethnic groups and yet we are still supposed to be a different people (1 Pet 1:16; Lev. 19:1). This interpretation of the food laws is not arbitrary. It’s grounded in passages from the OT and NT.

Thoughts?

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