Destroying Strongholds Essay:
The Early Church and the Law of Moses

This section lists important quotes from the ante-Nicene Fathers regarding the status of the Law of Moses since Christ's work, and hence the establishment of the New Covenant. It is in keeping with Paul's understanding that the Law of Moses has no purhase whatsovever on Christians since Christians are dead to the Law, but alive in Christ and that to live under the Law is to return to slavery and death. This does not mean that Christians are not called to a high moral standard. On the contrary, we are called to a far higher ethical standard than what was required under the Law of Moses. The ability to actually live in obedinece to a higher ethical standard was foretold by the Prophets (Eze. 11, 36; Jer. 31) and is enabled by the gift of the Spirit. For a complete discussion of the Law of Moses as seen from the New Covenant perspective see chapter 13 in Church and State: A Defense of Nonresistance and Separation. A link is provided here Church and State, Chapter 13. Below, all quotes are from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1--10, Ed.'s Alexander Roberts D.D, and James Donaldson, LL.D., Chronologically arranged, with brief notes and prefaces by A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D., Hendrickson Pub., Inc. 2004

The Early Church and the Law of Moses

Indeed, I do allow that one order did run its course in the old dispensation under the creator, and that another is on its way in the new one under Christ. I do not deny that there is a difference in the language of their documents, in their commandments of virtue, and in their teachings of the law. Yet all this diversity is consistent with one and the same God. Tertullian, 3.345, 346

God thus shows that the ancient covenant is temporary only, when He indicates its change. Also, when he promises that it will be followed by an eternal one. Tertullian, 3.346

Still, we make this concession: that there is a separation [of the two covenants] by reformation, amplification, and progress. To illustrate, fruit is separated from the seed, although the fruit comes from the seed. Likewise, the Gospel is separated from the Law even though it is developed from the Law. It is a different thing from it, but not an alien one. It is distinct from it, but it is not inimical to it. Tertullian, 3.361

The epistle that we also allow to be the most decisive against Judaism, is that in which the apostle instructs the Galatians. For we fully admit the abolition of the ancient Law. We hold that it actually proceeds from the dispensation of the Creator. . . . Christ marks the period of the separation when He says, ``The Law and the Prophets were until John.'' He thus made the Baptist the boundary between the two dispensations of the old things that were then terminating and the new things that were then beginning. Tertullian, 3.431; see also 3.157

If we still live according to the Jewish Law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. Ignatius, 1.62

If anyone preaches the Jewish Law to you, do not listen to him. For it is better to listen to Christian doctrine from a man who has been circumcised than to listen to Judaism from one who is circumcised. Ignatius, 1.82

The Christians do not observe the same forms of divine worship as do the Jews. Letter to Diognetus, 1.26

Is there any other matter, my [Jewish] friends, in which we Christians are blamed, than this: that we do not live after the Law, and are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not observe Sabbaths as you do? Justin Martyr, 1.199

We do not follow the Jews in their peculiarities in regard to food, nor in their sacred days, nor even in their well-known bodily sign. Tertullian, 3.34

The following two quotes from Tertullian are from his work against Marcion.

The same God, therefore, who prohibited meats also restored the use of them. For He had indeed originally allowed them. Tertullian, 3.471

We do not now deal with the Law any further than [to remark] that the apostle here teaches clearly how it has been abolished - by passing from shadow to substance. That is, it has passed from figurative types to the reality, which is Christ. Tertullian, 3.471

From these things, it is plain that all those things [i.e., clean and unclean animals] are returned to their original blessedness now that the Law is finished. Novatian, 5.648

The former Law that had been given by Moses was about to cease. And a new law was to be given. Another dispensation and a new covenant were to be given. The old baptism was to cease and a new one was to begin. Cyprian, 5.508

The yoke of the Law was heavy, which is cast off by us. And the Lord's yoke is easy, which is taken up by us. . . . In the Gospel according to Matthew, it says: ``Come unto me you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.'' . . . Also, in the Acts of the Apostles: ``It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to impose upon you no other burden than those things that are of necessity: that you should abstain from idolatries, from shedding of blood, and from fornication.'' Cyprian, 5.556, 557

The [Jewish religious leaders] alleged other causes for their anger . . . namely, that Jesus destroyed the obligation of the Law given by Moses. That is, He did not rest on the Sabbath, but labored for the good of men. Furthermore, He abolished circumcision, and He took away the necessity of abstaining from the flesh of pigs . . . However, he did not do this by His own judgment, but according to the will of God. Lactantius, 7.118

When you read the Law, do not think yourself to be bound to observe the additional commandments . . . Read them only for the sake of history, in order to learn about them and to glorify God that He has delivered you from such great and so numerous bonds. Apostolic Constitutions, 7.393

But what parts of the Law can I defend as good, with greater confidence than those which heresy has shown such a longing for? There is the statute of retaliation, requiring eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and stripe for stripe. Now there is not here any hint of permission to do mutual injury. Rather, on the whole, there is provision for restraining violence. To a people who are very obstinate and lacking in faith towards God, it might seem tedious, and even impossible, to wait on God for that vengeance that was subsequently to be declared by the prophet: ``Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'' Therefore, in the meanwhile, the commission of wrong was to be curtailed by the fear of an immediate retribution. Tertullian, 3.311

We affirm that this was the function of the Law, as preparatory to the Gospel. It was utilized to form faith, through gradual stages, of those who would learn the perfect light of the Christian discipline. Tertullian, 3.373