Monday, August 15, 2011

A Prooftext for the Threefold Division?

I have read and loved Philip Ross' book From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law. I am now reading it through for the second time more slowly because I am helping teach a class at our church on the Ten Commandments and am finding Ross' work to be extremely helpful. I am drastically over-preparing for the class and almost certainly my leftovers and notes will become posts here at BTB in the future.

What was of interest to me was that Ross includes in the book a prooftext which Aquinas was fond of using to show that the threefold division of the law into moral, civil, and ceremonial may be more than just a helpful convention. He points to Deuteronomy 6:1:
These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.
Ross examines the three words for "decrees," "commands" and "laws" and comes to this conclusion:
...[T]he individual Hebrew words for law do not divide the law into cast-iron categories. Even so, the [sic] Deuteronomy's use of the words sometimes makes a distinction between the Decalogue and the rest of the Mosaic code. That distinction does not force the practical-theological conclusion that the Decalogue 'doth for ever bind all'. It does, however, further challenge the view that the Old Testament law was written, and always viewed, as an indivisible whole.


  1. I am just getting into this area (mainly because of being introduced to New Covenant Theology). Would you recommend this book for someone who is not very familiar with the issues? If not, do you have a better recommendation?

  2. I think this is the best book on the threefold division. It is possible for you to get the book and skip some of the things that go over your head while still appreciating Ross' arguments. I really know of no book defending the threefold division besides this one, although the limit of my answer comes from ignorance.


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