Short Shot- The Song of Moses and the Passing of the Law of Moses - #1
Don K. Preston
The dominant view in the theological world is that the Law of Moses was “nailed to the cross.” That concept is based on a misunderstanding of Colossians 2:14-16. (See Dr. Dallas Burdette’s excellent article posted on this site, for an in-depth exegetical look at Colossians 2:14f). I am not going to discuss that text in depth here, but let me make just a couple of Short Shot observations:
- Paul said– writing circa AD 62, that the law was still– he uses the present tenses- a shadow of the good things “about to come” (from mello, in the infinitive, meaning “about to be, imminent”- See Blass-DeBrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1961), 181.
- Those “good things” were foreshadowed in the New Moons, Feast Days and Sabbaths. In other words, the Jewish Feast Days foreshadowed the coming better things.
- The Feast Days that are referenced- the Feast Days that had not yet been fulfilled- were Rosh Ha Shanah, (Feast of Trumpet), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Succot, (Feast of Harvest), the last three of Israel’s feast days.
- Those last three of Israel’s feast days were “eschatological feast days” pointing to the last days consummation, i.e. Rosh Ha Shanah pointed to the judgment, Yom Kippur to the coming of the Lord and Succot which pointed to the resurrection. Since Paul, when writing in AD 62 or so, said that those final three feast days were still, when he wrote, shadows of the good things about to come, this means that those final three feast days were not yet fulfilled. Stated otherwise, it means that the Law of Moses had not been nailed to the cross, since all of the Law was not fulfilled.
The significance of what Paul says about the feast days is one of the most ignored issues in any discussion of the passing of the Law of Moses – or eschatology as a whole. See my book, Torah To Telos, The Passing of the Law of Moses, Vol. I for a discussion of the importance of the feast days for a proper understanding of the feast days and the passing of the Law of Moses. Simply stated, you cannot posit the judgment, the coming of the Lord and the resurrection in our future without thereby teaching that the Law of Moses remains fully in effect, awaiting the fulfillment of “the New Moons, feast days and Sabbaths.”
The remainder of this Short Shot will vindicate that claim from a different perspective. Let me offer now a Short Shot point or two that will serve as the ground of this article.
✦ The Book of Deuteronomy is part and parcel of “the law”, i.e. the Law of Moses. I am unaware of anyone that denies this. I will not develop it here, but, scholarship has long understood that Deuteronomy, and particularly chapter 32, known as The Song of Moses, served a paradigmatic function for Jesus and the NT writers. It was their “roadmap” for understanding the Last Days. For an in-depth discussion of this, see David Lincicum, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter With Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic, 2010).
✦ Deuteronomy 32, known as the Song of Moses, was an integral and indivisible part of Deuteronomy and thus, of “the Law.” Once again, I am unaware of anyone that denies this.
✦ One of the foundational tenets of all futurist views of eschatology is that the Law of Moses was “nailed to the cross” as noted above. God was supposedly through with Israel at the Cross, and beginning on Pentecost, God was dealing exclusively with the church. (In anticipation of what we will discuss below, let me express this: The standard view of Amillennialism and Postmillennialism (and some Dispensationalists) is that the Law of Moses- and that would include Deuteronomy and the Song of Moses – had no binding applicability after the Cross).
✦ In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus said that not one jot or one tittle would pass from “the law” (more accurately, from the Law and the prophets), until every jot and every tittle of “the law”) which of course would include Deuteronomy 32), was fulfilled. Thus, until Deuteronomy 32, the Song of Moses was fulfilled, the Law of Moses could not pass away, could not be annulled, could not be taken out of the way.
✦ The Song of Moses foretold Israel’s last days (eschaton ton hemeron – “last of the days”- LXX- Deuteronomy 31:29 / 32:20). There are some who try to turn the Song into a generic discussion of Israel’s history without any specific or limited application to AD 70 (e.g. Kyle Pope, Thinking About AD 70, Athens, AL; Truth Publications, 2019), 1-27) See my YouTube response to his book, beginning here).
What is so amazing is that the Greek term, (eschaton ton hemeron – “last of the days”- LXX- Deuteronomy 31:29 / 32:20) is also used in such passages as Isaiah 2:2 and Hosea 3:5, and men such as Pope gladly apply these texts to the first century. While Pope agrees that the Song had a first century application, even “especially” (his word) to “first century Judaism,” he denies that it applied exclusively to AD 70. But that is not the point! The point is that if / since it is admitted that the Song applied “especially” to first century Judaism, then the fact that the NT writers, writing years after the Cross, said the Song was being fulfilled and was about to be fulfilled in their generation completely falsifies the claim that “the law” i.e. including Deuteronomy was nailed to the cross.
You see, one thing is for certain. Even granting that the Song had some applications to Israel during the long span of her history, the fact that the Song was being applied by the inspired writers to post cross events and realities – as is the case in regard to the calling of the Gentiles – proves beyond dispute that the Law of Moses was not nailed to the Cross. The fact is that the text of the Song spoke of Israel’s last days. Not simply events to happen “sometime later,” but in the last of the days. There is a terminus in the prophecy, a terminus for the nation. The vast majority of translations as well as commentators agree with this.
The NT writers make it clear that they were living in the “last days” the very days foretold by the OT prophets.
Note that in Acts 2:15f, Peter said that Joel 2:28f and its prophecy of the last days, was being fulfilled– beginning to be fulfilled– that very day. Peter’s language in Acts 2 delimits that application to “this generation” i.e. his first century generation: “Save yourselves from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). Peter was speaking after the Cross, yet, he was citing the Song (32:5f / 32:20) and he was saying that his audience was that “perverse generation” that Moses said would arise in the last days and become “utterly corrupt” (Deuteronomy 31:29).
It is to be noted that Peter used the singular and very emphatic language, to speak of “this perverse generation.” The word “perverse” (skolios) is in the singular, just as the word generation (geneas) is in the singular. And the text is “the perverse, the generation, this” (tees geneas tees skolias, tautees) identifying his generation as the very specific, singular generation to be known as “the perverse generation” of Israel’s last days.
Simply stated, speaking after the Cross, Peter was saying that the Law, the Old Testament, was being fulfilled in his day, in his generation, the generation which was “the last days.” (It is also to be noted that in Acts 3:19-24 Peter was anticipating the fulfillment of “all the prophets” from Samuel and onward, at the eschatological consummation! Thus, the idea that the Old Testament was nullified at the Cross is totally nullified).
Thus, it must be admitted that the Law was clearly not abrogated at the Cross. It was however, removed at some point after the Cross, when all things written were fulfilled (Luke 21:22). That is, after all, what Jesus said had to be fulfilled before one jot or one tittle of the Law could pass.
Based on the foregoing- and there is much, much more that could be said, but this will suffice– let me offer a thought or two here:
If Deuteronomy- including chapter 32- was “the law”,
If not one jot or one tittle of “the law” could pass until every jot and every tittle of “the law was fulfilled- per Jesus,
It must be true that every jot and every tittle of Deuteronomy, including chapter 32- had to be fulfilled before a jot or tittle of the law could pass away, be annulled, and no longer be applicable.
Consider then, in light of this:
It is true that Deuteronomy- including chapter 32- was “the law.”
It is true that not one jot or one tittle of “the law” could pass until every jot and every tittle of “the law was fulfilled- per Jesus,
Therefore, it must be true that every jot and every tittle of Deuteronomy, including chapter 32- had to be fulfilled before a jot or tittle of the law could pass away, be annulled, and no longer be applicable.
With this in mind, let me present two different elements / prophecies from the Song of Moses that were NOT fulfilled prior to the Cross but they were being fulfilled after the Cross, and one of those tenets would not be fulfilled until AD 70! (The second element will be discussed in a separate post).
To set the stage for properly understanding what will follow, let me offer this axiomatic principle, stated well by Kyle Pope (Thinking, page 57):
“That which is abolished, annulled, or put away is no longer in force.”
This is so simple, yet profound, so irrefutable – and yet ignored! You will see why I say that as we proceed.
And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them, Because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters. And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, For they are a perverse generation, Children in whom is no faith. They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.
So, in Israel’s “last days”- again, eschaton ton hemeron, LXX, the Lord said He would provoke Israel to jealousy. This would be because they would provoke Him to jealousy, by being an adulterous generation. (The term jealousy denotes a marital concept of fidelity or infidelity). On this, see Jesus’ three fold indictment of his generation as “this wicked and adulterous generation”- (Matthew 12:39 / 16:4 / Mark 8:38). And guess what? To be an adulterous generation, there had to be a “marital” relationship between the Lord and Israel when he spoke. This is particularly significant when we come to Revelation and see the imagery of the adulterous, harlot wife under indictment for her unfaithfulness.
What the Lord was predicting was the calling of the Gentiles, the “foolish nation,” the nations that were no nations.
Although Gentiles had always been allowed to join Israel, they were never particularly called by the Lord to come, and furthermore, there was no understanding on the part of the prophets – or of the rabbis – of calling the Gentiles into a full equality with Israel! The calling of the Gentiles into full equality with Israel, in Israel’s kingdom blessings was “the mystery of God” something that the Jews never grasped, before the first century (Romans 16:25-26 / Ephesians 3:1-8 / Colossians 1:24-27).
Paul and the Calling of the Gentiles
It is not necessary to go into detail to prove that Paul was especially chosen by Christ to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 26:17 / Ephesians 3 / Colossians 1:24-28, etc.). The question is, what was Paul’s justification for his ministry? Well, of course, in the texts just cited, he appealed to the fact that the resurrected Lord had appeared to him and chosen him to go to the Gentiles. But there is more. The Jews were not going to simply accept the testimony of a man based on his claims of seeing the resurrected Christ. They were going to demand scriptural justification– and Paul gave it!
Of course, the first thing to be noted is that Paul was not called to be the apostle to the Gentiles until well after the cross. Hang onto that tidbit.
Now, let’s turn our attention to what Paul says of his ministry to the Gentiles and its impact on the Jews.
In Romans 10 the apostle chronicles the spread of the Gospel to the Jews. Lamentably, Paul’s brethren spurned the Gospel call prompting Paul to discuss that mission and the result of it. I give a good bit of that chapter here, beginning at verse 16:
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.”
19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says:
“I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”
20 But Isaiah is very bold and says:
“I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
21 But to Israel he says:
“All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.”
So, Paul tells us that the Jews were without excuse for their condition because the Gospel had been preached into all the world (fulfilling Matthew 24:14), and consequently, the Jews should have understood what was happening. Paul was saying that if the Jews had actually understood their own scriptures correctly, they could have and should have, understood was happening to them. Paul calls forth two of the OT “witnesses” who, he teaches, foretold the very things that were happening when he wrote: the preaching of the Gospel, the rejection of the Jews, the resultant calling of the Gentiles. So again, Paul says that the OT prophets- Moses and Isaiah – foretold what was happening in the days after the Cross– in fact, almost 30 years after the Cross!
Notice that the two OT “witnesses” that Paul called forth to describe and to justify what was happening were Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah 65:1-2– i.e. Moses and Isaiah. Paul quotes the Song verbatim, as well as Isaiah 65:1-2. So, the Jewish rejection of the Gospel and the resultant calling of the Gentiles – directly through Paul’s personal ministry – were, according to Paul, foretold by Moses and Isaiah. But once again, take note that the calling of the Gentiles did not take place before the Cross. It did not take place at the Cross. (To be sure, the Cross was the ground for that ministry, but that is not Paul’s point in Romans).
The calling of the Gentiles took place after the Cross, in and through the ministry of Paul the apostle. (Now, it was anticipated by Jesus in Matthew 15 and some other texts, but that is not the point. Being done is not the same as being predicted!) In approximately AD 57 Paul described what was happening in his day, in his generation, in his ministry, in the Gospel proclamation to the Jews, their rejection of that message and his personal ministry to call the Gentiles. In addition to Romans 10, see Romans 11:11f also, where Paul said that he was provoking the Jews to jealousy, by calling the Gentiles– and once again- he cited the Song of Moses. He said that what was taking place was the fulfillment of the Song of Moses and Isaiah 65 (and 66, we might add). To say that this is problematic for the, “The Law was nailed to the Cross” argument, is a HUGE understatement! To keep this article as a Short Shot, consider the implications and meaning of what we have just seen:
1 – Deuteronomy- including chapter 32- was “the Law.”
2 – Deuteronomy 32- The Law- foretold the calling of the Gentiles- Deuteronomy 32:19-21.
3 – Not one jot or one tittle could pass from “the law” – including chapter 32- until every jot and every tittle of the law was fulfilled- said Jesus.
4 – But, the calling of the Gentiles – fulfilling Deuteronomy 32- occurred after the cross, through the ministry of Paul, and was taking place when Paul wrote Romans, circa AD 57.
5 – Therefore, not one jot or one tittle of the Law- including Deuteronomy 32- had passed when Paul wrote in approximately AD 57.
Now, there are only a very limited number of ways to counter this argument:
✖ Prove that Deuteronomy -including chapter 32– was not “the law.”
✖- Prove that not every jot or tittle of the law had to be fulfilled for it to pass. (I must confess to being literally stunned at the illogical, “creative,” totally unprecedented attempts to escape the force of Jesus’ words! To say that there are a ton of “argumentum ad desperatum” and argumentum ad absurdum arguments floating around is a huge understatement! It truly is staggering – not to mention troublesome – but it illustrates the power of tradition and prejudice.
✖ – Prove that the calling of the Gentiles actually did take place at the Cross, thus fulfilling the Song. But, once again, this is no where suggested, hinted at, stated or implied in any NT passage. It is simply specious. If / since the calling of the Gentiles was truly Paul’s distinctive ministry, then to suggest that the calling of the Gentiles took place before or at the Cross has not a shred of evidence to support it. (It is, of course, to be noted that Peter converted the first Gentiles in Acts 10. That is because Peter possessed the “keys of the kingdom” and opened the door. Paul, however was the apostle to the Gentiles, and Peter was the apostle to the circumcised (Galatians 2). Furthermore, and appeal to Peter converting Cornelius does not help since that event was also after the Cross where the Song was supposedly annulled).
✖- Prove that although “the law” including the Song, had been abrogated and annulled at the Cross, nonetheless, the prophecy and prediction in “the Law” of the calling of the Gentiles was still applicable after the Cross, even though it was ostensibly annulled at the Cross! It is unnecessary to say this is untenable- is it not?
✖- Being unable to prove these points (and that cannot be done) means, logically, irrefutably, that the conclusion: “Not one jot or one tittle of the Law- including Deuteronomy 32- had passed when Paul wrote in approximately AD 57″ is inescapable and irrefutable.
To the reader: Since Paul undeniably applied the Song of Moses to his ministry of calling the Gentiles– years after the cross (almost three decades), telling us that the Song was being fulfilled in that ministry, this serves as absolute, definitive, irrefutable proof that the Law of Moses was not nailed to the Cross. And, there is more to come “On the flip side.”
In the meantime, get a copy of my book: Torah To Telos: The Passing of the Law of Moses, for an in-depth study of the passing of the Law. You will be amazed at the wealth of evidence that falsifies the idea that the Law ended at the Cross.