The New Testament and the Law of Moses


References to 'The Law' are common in the Bible and Book of  Mormon.  What 'Law" were they talking about?  To answer this question, it helps to understand the writers and the audience.  In the days of Moses, the nation of Israelites received a set of 613 carnal commandments for their disobedience in the wilderness.  This was called 'the Law of Moses.'  


These commandments can be found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Anyone who was as Israelite (prior to the nation's split) and, the Jews who remained in Jerusalem after the split, all were required to abide by the rules of the Law of Moses.  The Law of Moses governed every aspect of a person's  life.  


What was the purpose of the Law?  It was a type and shadow to teach all people about the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would be coming.  The people were required to keep the Law of Moses, until Christ fulfilled the Law in His death.  The Law of Moses was such a part of the peoples thinking, worshipping, eating, breathing, etc., that it was simply referred to as 'The Law.'


In the New Testament, which was written in Greek (originally in Hebrew), the word 'Nomos' was used to signify the word 'Law of Moses.'  When ever 'Nomos' occurs, it is a reference not to just any civil laws or spiritual laws, but specifically the Law of Moses.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for 'The Law' was 'Torah.'  This is important to understand because with this small piece of information, much of the New Testament writings by Paul become crystal clear.


Paul's audience were sometimes Jews, who had lived under 'The Law' for 1300 years, and sometimes Gentiles (non-house of Israel people who had not lived under 'the Law,'  Christ and the prophets, including Moses, taught that because the entire law pointed towards Christ's life and His death on the cross, and when he died, the type and shadow (or the lesson) was fulfilled, and no longer was required to be kept.  In fact, the Lord commanded them NOT to keep it.  This was hard for the Jews to accept in the New Testament days, and it is still hard, even for 'Messianic Jews', to accept this today.


Let's look at what Paul was saying about this Law 2000 years ago.


Compare these facts with the twelve facts taught by the Book of Mormon:  Twelve Facts the New Testament teaches regarding the Law of Moses:


1.      The Law was given for disobedience and transgression:


Galatians 3:19 Wherefore then, the law was added because of transgressions, …


Also See Mosiah 1:110-113


2.      One of the most important pieces of information given from the New Testament is that the Law of Moses was given as a perfect type and shadow of Christ:


Luke 24:43 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.


John 1:45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.


Also See Alma 16:215


3.      The Israelites (Jews especially) were taught to keep the law according to the commandment, until after Christ died on the cross:


Romans 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.


Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.


Galatians 3:19 …, the law was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made in the law given to Moses, who was ordained by the hand of angels to be a mediator of this first covenant, (the law.)


Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances;


II Corinthians 3:13….the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished (referencing the Law of Moses);


See also Alma 14:75


4.      Unlike the Nephites, many Jews of the New Testament misunderstood the Law of Moses' true purpose, and rejected the words of Christ, Paul and the Apostles:


Because Paul taught that the Law of Moses was done away, the Jews hated him.  Jews plotting to kill Paul is mentioned over 10 times:


Acts 9:23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him (Paul);


Acts 14:19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.


Acts 21:21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.


Acts 21:27-8 .. the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,  Crying out, Men of Israel, help; this is the man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law…


Acts 21:30-31 And all the city was moved, and the people (Jews) ran together; and they took, and drew him out of the temple; and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him…


Acts 23:12 And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.


Acts 23:27 This man was taken of the Jews, and would have been killed of them; then came I with an army, and rescued him,…


Acts 26:21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.


II Corinthians 11:24 …Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.


When James, the brother of John was killed by Herod, Acts 12:3 records '..when (Herod) saw it PLEASED THE JEWS, '  he tried to take Peter, too. 


Another 'James', James the Just, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown one hundred feet down from the pinnacle of the (Jerusalem) Temple….by whom?  When his tormenters discovered he survived the fall, his enemies beat him to death with a club.


While these examples are saddening, they graphically illustrate the contempt with which the message of Paul was received.


5.      Paul was tortured for teaching that the Law of Moses was done away.  Once, a Rabbi used Acts 21:26 to attempt to suggest that Paul was condoning the Law of Moses after the death of Christ, because the passage shows him participating in one of the temple rituals, required by the law.  It is a fallacious argument that erodes away when the passage is read in context. Paul was NOT condoning the Law of Moses, but participating in a plan to keep a riot from occurring because the word was out that Paul had been teaching against the Law.  Here is a synopsis of the story from Acts 21:


In Acts 21, verses 1-4, Paul is told by the Spirit at Tyre NOT to go to Jerusalem. 


Later, Philip in Ceasarea prophesies in verse 11 that Paul will be bound by the Jews (not the Gentiles), and because his life was being threatened by going to Jerusalem, they also beseech him (by the Power of the Holy Ghost) not to go there. 


Now Paul was brave, but brash.  He went to Jerusalem anyhow, while those warning him were reduced to saying, "God's will be done.' (verse 14).


Verses 17-19 describe a glad reunion between Paul and the brethren, and Paul shares of his successes among the Gentiles, but now the plot thickens.


Verse 20 describes James and the disciples giving Paul a 'heads up' on the situation in Jerusalem.  They say to him 'you see how many thousands of Jews BELIEVE (in Jesus), and at the same time, the same people are ZEALOUS of the Law (Law=Nomos in Greek=Law of Moses/Torah in Hebrew).'  The disciples are obviously nervous about this.  They continue in verse 21 to tell him that the word is on the street that these same local Jews also know that Paul HAS BEEN TEACHING THE JEWS TO FORSAKE THE LAW OF MOSES in the outer regions where Jews/Gentiles are intermingled.


The elders ask him to go along with a plan to 'keep the multitude together' (i.e. keep the peace). In verse 23 they say 'Do therefore this that we say to thee….'  In other words, they were saying 'listen to us or you'll start a riot.'


The plan to 'keep the multitude together' is described in verse 24.  The elders have four Jews who don't know anything about Paul--especially the fact that he has been telling other Jews in the regions round about to stop keeping the law of Moses.  They ask Paul to go to the temple and participate in the purification with these four men, so that ' all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.'  In other words, they were wanting Paul to participate in the ritual so that all the towns folk would see that Paul was really just another good Torah abiding Jew.


The plan started to come together.  Paul performs the rituals with the other unassuming men, and just about pulls the deception off. 


But in verse 27, just as the seven days are almost completed, (and Paul at this time must've been wondering why all those silly people in Tyre & Ceasarea prophesying were so uptight--he's just about pulled the caper off)  some riled Jews from Asia spot him in the temple!


They lay hands on him, perhaps dragging him out the door, and in verse 28 start calling to the towns folk announcing that this Paul character has been TEACHING EVERYONE ELSE (Jews and Gentiles) AGAINST THE LAW (again law=Nomos= Law of Moses/Torah).  What's more, they announce that this Paul has defiled the temple by bringing the heathen Greeks into it (another serious infraction of the Law).


Now, everything that the elders were trying to protect against, happens.  Here is where they drag him out, slamming the door behind him. (verse 30).


What's more, now all of Jerusalem is in an uproar, and the uproarers want to kill Paul (verse 31).  If it hadn't been that centurions caught wind of the riot and came to see what the fuss was all about,…well, the book of Acts would've been a few chapters shorter.


The centurions capture Paul, and in the following chapter, Paul declares his conversion.  I won't elaborate on it, but Paul has the mob quieted as he makes his defense, telling them he was brought up on the law.  But when Paul gets to the part in the testimony about God telling him to do the will of 'the Just One' (Acts 22:14) and then repeats that he's been commanded to tell the Gentiles that they also get a piece of salvation (another no-no), the mob responds in their usual manner:  they're ready to filet him (Acts 22:22).


So,…what is the point of this passage?  Acts 21 is a vivid illustration of what Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23.  Paul said ' unto the Jews I BECAME AS A JEW, THAT I MIGHT GAIN THE JEWS; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law… To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 AND I DO THIS FOR THE GOSPEL'S SAKE, that I might be partaker thereof with you.'


You see, Paul literally says that he was willing to act like a Jew under the Law, if he thought that he could have a better chance of converting Jews who were still abiding by it.  Understand, however, that he was not participating in the Law out of tradition--he knew AND TAUGHT that it had been accomplished, not necessary to keep anymore!  He was trying to convert people to Christ, and willing to ease them into it--line upon line.




Here is another pointed account from Paul's life wherein he teaches against the law of Moses and is nearly killed for it:


The story takes place in Acts 14.  Paul performs a miraculous healing.  The town leaders were so impressed that they wanted to bring oxen for sacrifice--a way of showing thanks.  The apostles were dumbfounded and ran to stop the sacrifice, imploring the leaders to turn from these vanities unto the living God. 


Now I'm sure there is a scholar out there who might have an escape clause in this story.  Perhaps the sacrifice wasn't going to be performed in the temple, or maybe the season wasn't right, or maybe the oxen were blemished, etc., and perhaps this was why Paul interrupted the sacrifice.  Plausible?  Perhaps. 


But consider now, how the story ends.  Doesn't it make sense that if there were a Mosaically Lawful reason to intervene and prevent the sacrifice, then Paul's fellow Jews would have completely understood and been in agreement?


Now for the rest of the story.  What actually happens to Paul?  His Judaic brothers assembled a mob, persuaded the people, stoned his body, dragged him from town, and left him for dead. Here is the scriptural account:


Acts 14:9 The same heard Paul speak; who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,

10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.


12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.

13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, BROUGHT OXEN and garlands unto the gates, and WOULD HAVE DONE SACRIFICE with the people.


14 When the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, HEARD THIS, THEY RENT THEIR CLOTHES, and ran in among the people, crying out,

15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that YE SHOULD TURN FROM THESE VANITIES UNTO THE LIVING GOD, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein;


16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.

17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness..


18 And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.

19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.


Paul did not teach the Gentiles to follow the Law of Moses:


Acts 15:20 But that we write unto them (Gentiles) , that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. …24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain men which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law; to whom we gave no such commandment;


Acts 21:21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs….25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication.



6.      Some misguided teachers lived in Israel teaching that the right way was only The Law.


Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. …5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.  (Paul and apostles then declare that Salvation comes only through Christ).


See also Jacob 5:9-13


7.      The writers of New Testament's chapters understood the truth regarding The Law of Moses:


John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, but life and truth came through Jesus Christ.


Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.


Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.


Hebrews 10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices, which they offered continually year by year make the comers thereunto perfect.


Paul's use of Metaphor (types and shadows) also drives home the point comparing it to a marriage:


Romans 7:3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.


4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

(Who has died?  The first husband, the Law of Moses.  Is the bride free to remarry?  Yes.  Who does she marry the death of her first husband?  Christ.  Can she be married to two at the same time?  No.)


Another metaphor used by Paul's suggests that the story of Abraham casting out the bond woman and her son Ishmael, and keeping the free woman (Sarah) with Isaac, is simply a type for the ending of the Law of Moses (bondage) with the covenant of Jesus Christ (freedom).


Galatians 4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman.

23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise.

24 Which THINGS ARE AN ALLEGORY; for THESE ARE THE TWO COVENANTS; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to BONDAGE, which as Agar.

25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.

31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.


See also Alma 14:76, Alma 16:4,Alma 16:214


8.      Prophets foretold that the point of  The Law of Moses was not the sacrifices and rituals, but what it pointed towards.


Isaiah 1:11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord; I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.


Psalms 40:6 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened; burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.


Psalms 51:16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt offering.


See also 2 Nephi 11:44


9.      Christ announced at His appearance to the Jews in Israel after his death and resurrection, that the Law was then fulfilled:


Luke 24:43 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.


John 15:25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.  (Remember, all 613 aspects of the Law of Moses were literally 'fulfilled' by Christ).


Matthew 5:19 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.


Matthew 5:20 For verily I say unto you, heaven and earth must pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall in now wise pass from the law, until all be fulfilled.


See also 3 Nephi 4:47


10.    After Christ's announcement, the Apostles knew the Jews would not believe:


Matthew 7:14 And then said his disciples unto him, they will say unto us, We ourselves are righteous, and need not that any man should teach us. God, we know, heard Moses and some of the prophets; but us he will not hear. 15 And they will say, We have the law for our salvation, and that is sufficient for us.


Even the Apostles misunderstood the message of Christ fulfilling the law and it's completion.  On the road to Emaus, (after Jesus' death) Jesus begins with the records of Moses (i.e. The Law) and explains how he has fulfilled these things.  The disciples finally begin to see the big picture:

Luke 24:26 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.


See also 3 Nephi 7:3-7


11.    Finally, the some Jews (after Christ's ministry) understood the purpose had been fulfilled, and did not keep the Law of Moses anymore:


Acts 21:21 (speaking of Paul)… thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.


12.    Most confusion regarding the Law comes from Moses commandment that the Law would be required for 'all generations'   It wasn't the PHYSICAL OBJECT that was to exist throughout their generations, but the PURPOSE OF THE OBJECT--JESUS CHRIST!  A few scripures follow as an example:



Exodus 29:42 This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord, where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee.


Exodus 30:8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.



Moses foretold of a prophet that would come after him.  This 'prophet' was Christ.  All the prophets from Adam till Moses had a direct revelation of Jesus Christ:


Adam:   Genesis 4,:7; 6:53

Enoch:   Genesis 7:57

Brother of Jared: (time of Babel) Ether 1:76

Noah:     Genesis 8:11

Abraham:            Genesis 15:11,12 (John 8:52)

Blessing from Jacob to Judah: Gen 49  Till Shilo come

Moses:  DC 22:4a  And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and my Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth;


Each wanted to teach Christ and pass a knowledge of Him down to their descendants.  Paul also said of Moses that he Esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt (Hebrews 11:26), and that the Israelites drank from the Rock, which Rock was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4).  These and other scriptures imply an open understanding of Christ by Moses, in Moses' day.


Because of this Moses said:


Deuteronomy 18:15 The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;


Moses said another will come and you will hear him.


Since by the evidence, we see that this was the real intent of the law, that it would be done away after Christ, then wouldn't it make sense, therefore, that when Moses said:  "Do these things for All you Generations…', that the implication and (initial understanding) was:  "Do these things for All your Generations UNTIL THIS PROPHET COMES AND FULFILLS THE LAW."


Why is this a plausible suggestion?  Two answers:  First, because the scriptures teach it:


Galatians 3:19 Wherefore then, the law was added because of transgressions, TILL THE SEED SHOULD COME TO WHOM THE PROMISE WAS MADE IN THE LAW GIVEN TO MOSES, who was ordained by the hand of angels to be a mediator of this first covenant, (the law.)


The second answer is also scriptural:


Paul, himself a Jew, indicts his entire nation in the following passage (below). With the indictment, however, comes the beautiful promise:


First, Paul lets us know that he's being open about the truth.  Just as Nephi said, regarding the law of Moses "..I have spoken plain that ye can not mis-understand…', Paul does the same thing.


II Corinthians 3:12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech;


He contrasts his plainness, though, with a metaphor about Moses.  He says that the veil separating Moses from the physical view of the Israelites, is likened unto the SPIRITUAL VEIL of UNDERSTANDING that exists when the OLD Testament is read by the same people, (and as Paul says,  EVEN TO THIS DAY.)   Since in Paul's day, the 'Old Testament' did not exist in its compiled form as we know it, and since the word Testament = Covenant in the Hebrew, and since Paul goes on to say the confusion exists WHEN MOSES IS READ, then what exactly was Paul referring to?  The Law of Moses, the old covenant.  He is saying that from then until a true conversion to Christ, the people by whom the law is read, will mis-understand.


But the promise is once again extended, that when the Jews come to a true knowledge of Jesus Christ, the veil of mis-understanding of the Law will be lifted.  And isn't this the same message of the Book of Mormon?  And isn't this the purpose of the Book of Mormon.  If so, then how much more the truth of it unto us?  Therefore cling to the truth of God's word revealed so we can bring others to a knowledge of the truth.



II Corinthians 3:12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech;


13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished;


14 But their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.


15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.


16 Nevertheless, when their heart shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.




Moses taught the people that the law was simply to point them towards Christ.  God gave the Israelites every opportunity to ready themselves for the coming of the Messiah and to understand his purpose:  he gave them a plan by which every aspect of their lives were governed by this type and shadow.  The type and shadow was the Law of Moses.  But when the purpose of the Law was satisfied (life & death of Christ), there wasn't a reason to keep it anymore.  (They were commanded to remember it, however.  Christ shares Malachi's words with the Nephites, telling the Nephites to remember the Law that was given in Horeb)


At the time of Christ's ministry, telling Jews that 'keeping the Law was no longer necessary' would sound as foreign as telling a latter-day saint today that Baptism was no longer necessary.  But the point of the Law was that it would serve as the schoolmaster (as Paul stated) until Christ, and that it would have an end in Christ.


Understanding the purpose of the Law was the major difference between Israelites in America and Israelites in Jerusalem at the Time of Christ's life.


To sum it up, the Nephites understood that the Law pointed toward Christ, and when Christ came to them, they glorified him. 


Unfortunately, the Jews missed the point of the Law.  And when Christ came to them, they crucified him.


Read other papers on the Law of Moses:


The Book of Mormon and the Law of Moses


Did Paul REALLY Practice the Law of Moses