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Deuteronomy 13:1-4 states:

  1. All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

  2. If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams--and he give thee a sign or a wonder,

  3. and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee--saying: 'Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them';

  4. thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God putteth you to proof, to know whether ye do love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The above passage seems to state that one may not subtract commandments from the Law of Moses which the Jewish people were commanded to obey, and seems to imply that a true prophet will not do so. Do Christians believe that Jews must still obey the Mosaic Law, and if not, how is that consistent with the above passage?

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Note: This question is inspired by, but not identical, to the following question: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/23594/… –  Malper Dec 9 '13 at 2:53
    
Can I suggest that you change this to "Messianic Jews" to bring it more on-topic? And maybe not "Do Christians believe", but "Do Messianic Jews believe"? –  David Dec 9 '13 at 2:55
    
I'm not interested in the opinion of the group who refer to themselves as "Messianic Jews" -- I'd like to know what the opinions of mainstream Christian denominations are on this issue. I could narrow it down to some denominations if that would improve the question... –  Malper Dec 9 '13 at 2:57
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I'd like to know, for example, whether the Catholic church believes that Jews must follow the Mosaic Law. It didn't occur to me that it would be different depending on whether said Jews believe in Jesus, but let me know if I'm wrong. –  Malper Dec 9 '13 at 3:15
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Which Christians? I think most Christians would say that it doesn't matter. But there might be some who have an opinion on this... for us to address it, it needs a doctrinal scope. –  Flimzy Feb 9 at 20:34

8 Answers 8

It's a fundamental belief of Christianity that the coming of Jesus fulfils the Old Testament law. In other words that the Law was only ever intended to be until the coming of Messiah. Jesus did not therefore abolish or diminish the law. His coming simply marked the end of its original intended purpose. Jesus says as much in Matthew chapter 5 verse 17.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Because of this Christians believe that nobody should be following the Law, Jews or non-Jews. A better way is available to them, namely following Jesus.

There are a relatively small number of Christians who believe that a way of salvation is open to the Jews who continue to follow the law, instead of Jesus, but it is a minority.

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I do not think the quoted verse is enough to be able to say with absolute conviction that The Law came to an end with Christ. It depends far too much on the meaning of the word 'fulfill'. –  gideon marx Dec 9 '13 at 9:36
    
There is much more in the scriptures than the one verse. I just quoted it as an illustration. I recommend reading the whole of the book of Romans. There are also numerous studies: I offer this s an example without vouching for its quality. –  DJClayworth Dec 9 '13 at 13:59
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I recommend reading the rest of Matthew 5 where 'fulfilled' is explained. Fully. –  gideon marx Dec 9 '13 at 18:32
    
@gideonmarx what do you think fulfilled means there? –  Gregory Magarshak Jun 8 '14 at 8:10

The Law of Moses was part of the Mosaic Covenant. This covenant was between God and Israel, but we should not assume that it would never end. In fact, God spoke to the Jewish people of a new covenant that He would establish.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:31 NASB

So, the Mosaic Covenant was established and was in effect for a certain amount of time. However, God asserts that the covenant was actually broken by the Jewish people. Nonetheless, God determined to establish a new covenant, and that covenant is now in effect.

God did make an eternal covenant with David, but that is different from the one with Moses.

Therefore, many, perhaps even most, Christians believe that Jewish people are no longer bound to the old covenant, as it is no longer in effect.

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The Law, given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, was God's second work intended to make A People for Himself. The first work we know as God's creating man in His image, according to His likeness, in which thus the Word of God was in his heart as it was certainly of God's own heart. For Moses writes in Deuteronomy 30:14,

But the word is very near you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.

Following man's fall in the Garden and the subsequent corrupting of that heart first created in man, there came in time the need for an objective Word that existed beyond the corrupting influences of man's heart. Not necessarily a new Word but more His first Word written anew. And it was a relatively unknown people, descendants of God's friend Abraham, through whom God intended once again to make for Himself A People. From the divine perspective of God, His intents and purposes were and always had been for the world at large, not for just a particular people themselves. As such, the Jews as a body coming up from the land of Egypt were then God's chosen and beloved instrument, in keeping with His promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, for bringing the knowledge and presence of God as well as now His written Word to the world, A People through whom also later this Word, made flesh, would come, blessed to the world for its salvation and eternal life in Him.

So then, for every believer in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the question is not whether Jews, or Gentiles,--of which as Scripture declares there is but one believer and he or she neither Jew nor Greek--are yet commanded to "keep the Law". The question is rather why any believer would not want to keep the Law, being as it is the right and true Word of Holy God and being as it was given to the world only but through a particular people, His beloved Jews? There were two primary purposes, for the Jew first, and then also for the Gentiles, for the Teachings, or Law, of Holy God: the first for salvation the second for a way of life and living (not according to culture but according to the Spirit). Christ indeed fulfilled the horrific aspect of the Law's inability to save, its being able only to condemn, and through Christ, by faith alone and by His having perfectly fulfilled the Law, we have the promise of eternal life in Him. But as to the second intent of the Teachings, Christ did not come to destroy or annul these Teachings, and declared that anyone who does so destroy or annul even the least of these Teachings will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. Rather, the Teachings of God are still very much in force today for life and living before God and the world. Again, not for salvation, but for how to live and conduct ourselves in our walk before God and the world.

So, again, why would a believer in Christ indeed not want to follow, no matter by whom or in what manner His Teachings have come down to the world today, as many of the Teachings of God as possible which He blessed to us through His Word? Ought each of us not rather sit down now and take up the Holy Scriptures and, beginning with Genesis 1:1 and ending with Revelation 22:21, begin writing out God's Teachings for how we are to live, what feasts we are to observe, what commands we are to keep, especially irrespective of most if not all the cultural dictates of man, to the Glory and Honor of His Holy Name alone?

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Welcome to C.SE! When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. This is a good answer, but it would be helpful if you identified your tradition, and exhorted a little less at the end. It reads like a sermon, not an essay. –  Affable Geek Feb 9 at 21:32
    
Here's my welcome too: Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Here are some meta posts about this site to help you learn how we do it here: What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't) and How we are different than other sites Please also take the tour and see the help center. I hope to see you post again soon. Please also keep in mind that I and other users are willing to help you, so ask us anything if you need help. –  fredsbend Feb 9 at 22:31

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NIV)

Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16, NIV)

If we believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven and that the Mosaic Law cannot take us to Heaven, there is really no other way around. Your good works cannot save you, your obedience to any religious laws cannot save you, your piety cannot save you. Without Jesus, nothing you do can really save you.

Now, if the Law of Moses cannot take us to heaven, then it is really irrelevant whether Jews are following the Mosaic Law or not, because if they reject Jesus, it won't do any good for salvation anyway. The same condition applies to anyone who follow any other laws from other religions. Only Jesus can take us to Heaven.

Jewish perspective: It is important that everyone should follow the Law of Moses or at least the Seven Laws of Noah, because, according to Judaism, any non-Jew who adheres to these seven laws is regarded as a righteous gentile, and is assured of a place in the World to Come, the final reward of the righteous.

Christian1 perspective: Everyone must believe in Jesus Christ because He is the only way to Heaven and their is no other way. Judaism cannot save you, Islam cannot save you, following the laws written in the Bible cannot save you. Our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus alone can save us.

(1) Any Christian group who strictly believes that Jesus is the only way to Heaven

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Messianic Jews do. These are Jews who are Christians. A Jew does not stop being a Jew, even if he becomes a Christian. The Messianic Jews follow Jewish laws in addition to receiving the Christian Gospel and accepting Christ as their Messiah/Saviour.

Christians are called to use good judgement, but not to be judgmental. We also believe we have been grafted in to the Jewish vine, but as Gentile Christians we only need to follow the Noahic law. This is what the first counsel in Jerusalem was basically about. It said a Gentile did not have to become a Jew to be a Christian, I do not think it was stated the other way around, but that is not for me to say.

Let me point something else out. Jesus lives and Jesus IS a Jew, not was but is.

The grafting of the Gentiles into the Jewish vine did not kill that vine, but it fulfilled it. The Jews have always been charged with the salvation of the world and "the nations" meaning the non-Jews. Jesus fulfilled this, but not by losing His "Jewishness" Jesus is a Jew. He said "Salvation is of the Jews"

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I think you will find that not all Messianic Jews follow the Mosaic Law, and of those that do, many follow it out of respect for their fellow Jews, not because they believe it is necessary. It's a matter of debate among Messianic Jews. –  DJClayworth Jun 9 '14 at 14:36

Paul the Apostle was a Jew who converted to the Christian faith, and he taught strongly in his epistles that following the law will get the Jew nowhere. He worked tirelessly to convert the Jew to Christ and deliver them from the law, going from synagogue to synagogue in Acts. He wanted them to forsake Moses (Acts 21:21). He himself as a Jews put aside the law to live by faith; law and faith are mutually exclusive. I believe mainstream Christianity is in agreement with this point of view.

Romans 3:20

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin

Galatians 2:16

knowing that a man is not justified by that works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Galatians 2:19

For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.

Galatians 5:2

Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.

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The Catholic Church teaches that the Old Law ended and everyone including Jews must convert to be saved.

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Cantate Domino, 1441, ex cathedra: “The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and teaches that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, of the Mosaic Law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to divine worship at that time, after our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began; and that whoever, even after the passion, placed hope in these matters of the law and submitted himself to them as necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ could not save without them, sinned mortally. Yet it does not deny that after the passion of Christ up to the promulgation of the Gospel they could have been observed until they were believed to be in no way necessary for salvation; but after the promulgation of the Gospel it asserts that they cannot be observed without the loss of eternal salvation. All, therefore, who after that time (the promulgation of the Gospel) observe circumcision and the Sabbath and the other requirements of the law, it declares alien to the Christian faith and not in the least fit to participate in eternal salvation, unless someday they recover from these errors.”

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Sess. 8, Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra: “Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity… But it is necessary for eternal salvation that he faithfully believe also in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ…the Son of God is God and man…– This is the Catholic faith; unless each one believes this faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”

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Exegesis of Deu. 13:1

The issue with Deu. 13:1-4 as cited in your original post is that the chapter doesn't actually begin with Deu. 13:1 (which is numbered as Deu. 12:32 in most Christian bibles). Rather, it begins with Deu. 12:29 in Christian bibles (and Jewish bibles).1

By starting with Deu. 12:32 (13:1), one neglects to appreciate the preceding passage which establishes the context of Deu. 12:32 (13:1).

In Deu. 12:29, it is written,

When Yahveh your god cuts off the nations from before you, [the nations] which you come there to inherit them, and you inherit them and dwell in their land,

כִּי יַכְרִית יהוה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה בָא שָׁמָּה לָרֶשֶׁת אוֹתָם מִפָּנֶיךָ וְיָרַשְׁתָּ אֹתָם וְיָשַׁבְתָּ בְּאַרְצָם

So, the Israelites have not yet entered the promised land, the land of Canaan. Yahveh is going to cut off (i.e., eliminate) the nations from those lands, and the Israelites will come and inherit those lands and dwell therein.

In Deu. 12:30, it is written,

Be careful lest you be lured after them, after their destruction from before you, and lest you ask about their gods, saying, "How did these nations serve their gods? Then I will do likewise!"

הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן תִּנָּקֵשׁ אַחֲרֵיהֶם אַחֲרֵי הִשָּׁמְדָם מִפָּנֶיךָ וּפֶן תִּדְרֹשׁ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶם לֵאמֹר אֵיכָה יַעַבְדוּ הַגּוֹיִם הָאֵלֶּה אֶת אֱלֹהֵיהֶם וְאֶעֱשֶׂה כֵּן גַּם אָנִי

Notice how Yahveh cut off the nations out of the lands that the Israelites were to inherit (v. 29). Why then would any Israelite ask how those very same nations that were cut off served their gods? And, not only that, but the Israelite says that he would serve Yahveh in the same manner that the nations served their gods: "so then I will do likewise!" (וְאֶעֱשֶׂה כֵּן גַּם אָנִי). Moses cautions the Israelites NOT to be lured after those nations by asking how they served their gods and then by serving Yahveh in the same manner.

In Deu. 12:31, it is written,

You shall not do likewise to Yavheh your god! For they did to their gods every abomination that Yahveh hated! For they have even burnt their sons and their daughters in fire to their gods!

לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה כֵן ליהוה אֱלֹהֶיךָ כִּי כָל תּוֹעֲבַת יהוה אֲשֶׁר שָׂנֵא עָשׂוּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶם כִּי גַם אֶת בְּנֵיהֶם וְאֶת בְּנֹתֵיהֶם יִשְׂרְפוּ בָאֵשׁ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶם

Rather than permitting the Israelite who says, "Then I will do likewise!", Moses prohibits the Israelite, saying, "You shall not do likewise to Yahveh your god!" The reason, of course, is that the nations who inhabited the lands committed abominable acts to their gods, the very abominable acts which Yahveh hates, and for which He cut them out of the land (cp. Lev. 18:27; Deu. 18:12).

But again, why would the Israelites have even considered doing those acts for Yahveh? The reason is because the Israelites believed that Yavheh did not hate the acts themselves, but rather, they believed He hated the fact that the nations did those acts for their gods but not for Yahveh. So, by doing those acts for Yahveh, the one true god, the Israelites believed that Yavheh would approve of their actions. As Moses explains, those very acts themselves are abominations to Yahveh! With that context in mind, Deu. 12:32 makes more sense.

In Deu. 12:32, it is written,

All this word that I command you, observe to do it. Do not add to it nor diminish from it!

אֵת כָּל הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם אֹתוֹ תִשְׁמְרוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת לֹא תֹסֵף עָלָיו וְלֹא תִגְרַע מִמֶּנּוּ

The Israelites wanted to know how the nations served their gods so they could add those same practices to how they served Yahveh, believing that Yahveh would view them favorably as long as they did those practices for Yahveh. But, Moses says that those acts and practices were all abominations. Therefore, he warns them not to add to or dimish from Yahveh's commandments by infusing their practices with the practices of the nations that were cut off because of their abominations. Yahveh commands the Israelites how He expects them to serve Him; the Israelites are not to add to or dimish from those commandments by incorporating the practices of the nations that were cut off.

That being said, Deu. 12:32 (13:1) does not prohibit someone (i.e., another prophet) from adding other commandments for the Israelites to obey at a later time. Of course, such a person cannot change those commandments already commanded by adding to or diminishing from them.

Even Jews today have added to the Torah as a whole. For example, Exo. 12:2 (cp. Exo. 13:4) states that Aviv (אָבִיב) shall be the first month of the year. Yet, today, Jews use names derived from the Babylonian captivity, with the first month of the [agrictultural/festival] year being named Nisan (נִיסָן) instead of Aviv (cp. Est. 3:7).

Furthermore, the script that Torah scrolls are written in today (Ashuri script) is not the same script that Moshe would have written the Torah. Therefore, the Torah that we have today couldn't possibly be the same exact Torah Moshe was given on Mount Sinai.


Jewish Commentary on Deu. 13:1

Some Jewish rabbis used Deu. 13:1 as proof that the Torah was immutable and nothing could ever be added to it or diminished from it. One such rabbi was Moshe ben Maimon or Maimonides.2 Yet, there were other rabbis such as Yosef Albo who did not believe that Deu. 13:1 could be used as proof of the immutability/eternality of the Torah of Moshe.

In Sefer ha-Ikkarim, Book 3, Chapter 14, pp. 120-122, he wrote,

The opinion of Maimonides is that the Torah will never change in whole or in part. Hence one of his principal dogmas is the immutability of the Torah.

Maimonides bases this dogma upon the scriptural passage, "Thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it."

The prohibition against adding to or subtracting from the commandments has no reference to the number of the commandments, but to the manner of performing them. The meaning of the prohibition is that we should not invent of our own mind or borrow from the idolaters some addition or dimunition in the manner of performing the commandments, because we may think it does greater honor to God. The context proves this is the meaning.

In section "Reeh" the Bible warns against idolatry: "When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee..."

Now there is something strange in the sequence of thought in the above passage, "Take heed to thyself that thou be not ensnared to followe them, after that they are destroyed from before thee." Would a person be likely to be ensnared to follow them after he has seen them destroyed? Why then does the text connect the idea of inquiring after their gods with their destruction?

The Bible is concerned that one should not be enticed in any manner after idolatrous practices. Therefore it says, a person might make a mistake and suppose that the reason God commanded the destruction of the idolaters is because they offered to the idols the honorable service that is becoming to God. (Translation by Isaac Husik)


Jews keeping the Torah of Moses

Whether Jew or Gentile, no Christian is obligated to keep the Torah of Moses, for the Torah of Moses is the Old Covenant, and Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, are under the New Covenant.

Brothers, don't you know (for I speak to those who know the law) that the law is lord over a man as long as he lives? (Rom. 7:1)

Since Jews who believe in Christ have died with Christ (cp. Rom. 6:8), they are a new man and no longer under the law; the law is no longer their lord or master. For, the apostle Paul wrote,

so that, my brothers, you have also become dead to the law by the body of Christ, in order for you to become another man's, [even] he who was raised from the dead, so that we may bring forth fruit to God. (Rom. 7:4)

Even the rabbis wrote that a soon as a man dies, he is free from the commandments (i.e., of the Torah).3


Footnotes

1 Jewish bibles stop chapter 12 of Deuteronomy after thirty-one (31) verses.

2 Introduction to the Mishna, Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter Ten, Ninth Principle of the Faith; Mishneh Torah, Sefer Madda, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, Chapter Nine, Halakha 1

3 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Tohorot, Tractate Nidda, Chapter 9, Folio 61b: כיון שמת אדם נעשה חפשי מן המצות


References

Sefer ha-Ikkarim (The Book of Principles). Albo, Joseph. Trans. Husik, Isaac. Philadephia: Jewish Publication Society, 1946.

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