In the book of Joshua, just before attack on Jericho, Joshua told his men not to take any riches for themselves which was meant for God. Joshua 6:18 . In spite of this Achan hides some of the riches for himself. On God’s directive Joshua orders his punishment by stoning him and all of his household to death Joshua 7:25

In similar manner in Old Testament we come across much harsher punishment for wrong doing than what it is now. We find that OT commanded death penalty for many acts: Murder (Ex, 21.12), kidnapping (Ex. 21.16), bestiality (Ex. 22.19), Adultery (Lev. 20.10), homosexuality (Lev. 20.13), Being false prophet (Deu. 13.5) Prostitution and rape (Deu. 22.24) etc.

In contrast to this, Jesus showed much greater mercy for breaking such commandments. On one hand we find that compared to Old law, Jesus fine tunes the interpretation of sin (Matt. 5:21-22, Matt. 5:27-28 etc) and yet when it comes to application of justice shows more mercy and love (Matt. 5:38-39, 5:43-44 so on).

If one takes an overview on “sin and treating sinners” in New Testament, we find that Jesus increases the measuring scale by which a person is judged guilty and yet by doing so, advocated more lenient justice system.

Why Jesus advocated this change from Old Testament?

3 Answers 3


In the 10th chapter of The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer says this:

Here are the facts as I see them. For four hundred years Israel had dwelt in Egypt, surrounded by the crassest idolatry. By the hand of Moses they were brought out at last and started toward the land of promise. The very idea of holiness had been lost to them. To correct this, God began at the bottom. He localized Himself in the cloud and fire and later when the tabernacle had been built He dwelt in fiery manifestation in the Holy of Holies. By innumerable distinctions God taught Israel the difference between holy and unholy. There were holy days, holy vessels, holy garments. There were washings, sacrifices, offerings of many kinds. By these means Israel learned that God is holy. It was this that He was teaching them. Not the holiness of things or places, but the holiness of Jehovah was the lesson they must learn.

Thus, the Law was partly intended to teach the Israelites - who followed the Most Holy God - what was holy and what was not. Like you mention, Jesus took this one step further and made clear that sin included not just one's external actions but also one's own inner, private thoughts. Basically, He took the Law that was extremely hard to keep (being a full-time job) and made it effectively impossible to keep.

The Law that God gave Moses was also part of the covenant between God and Israel. This site covers the topic nicely and succinctly, but to summarize: 1) the Israelites' end of the agreement was to follow the Law completely, 2) God described in great detail how He would punish the nation if they failed to keep the Law, and 3) God promised to establish a new covenant.

As shown in Judges, Israel got themselves into a cycle of falling into idolatry, getting punished, crying out to God for help and repenting, being rescued, having a good time and worshiping God, and then falling back into idolatry a generation or two later. Every time the Israelites disregarded the Law and God's commands, people died. Every time a person was caught willfully breaking the Law, they died.

The Law brings death, not life.

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

God, being who He is, couldn't very well let this go on forever. And so, He sent His Son Jesus, who is life, life, life! Jesus came so the Father could show mercy, which is repeatedly mentioned throughout the New Testament.

On one hand, Jesus made the Law even harder to follow, effectively impossible to keep perfectly. That was to show that no one can satisfy God and His commands completely. On the other hand, Jesus also came to establish a new covenant, and it is one we keep not by good works, but by faith. Thus, peoples' actions mattered less than their hearts for Him. That was why He advocated a more-lenient justice system, one that included forgiveness.

God promised to the Israelites a new covenant, Jesus came to establish it, and in the process, made the old one, the Law, obsolete.

Hebrews 8:13 (NIV)
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

In summary, the reasons Jesus advocated these changes from the Old Testament that you mentioned are: 1) to make the Law effectively impossible to keep and 2) to show mercy and give life, and in the process of doing so, He made obsolete the Law based on works and instituted a new one based on faith.

  • Right. I fully agree and conclusion I drawn from your answer is this: By OT God was demonstrating that He is nothing but Holiest of holy and His expectation from us, is nothing short of a perfect holiness which by the way was next to impossible from fallen nature of humankind. This He demonstrated with harshest of the harsh punishment even for a trivial sin (while keeping the definition of sin to only superficial level). But that was only the outside requirement which He revealed in the OT and what He actually wanted from us was the holiness from our inner self. Apr 14, 2013 at 14:30
  • This second part God revealed to us through the teachings of His Son and that was found to be much difficult. That is where comes the necessity of forgiveness which Jesus taught us, effectively telling us that it is in vain in trying to keep the law because by the works of the law no one will be justified and be acceptable to God. What actually required is His Grace to make us acceptable to Him. If I am right in this conclusion than I get another question in my mind. Wouldn't this lenient justice lead to degradation of discipline in the society? Or am I wrong? Apr 14, 2013 at 14:32
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    @jayyeshu: That would probably be better as its own question, but I'd say "No, not among Christians." because if one truly loves Jesus, they will obey His commands (John 14:15). With respect to the larger society, that subject has been dealt with elsewhere on this site. Apr 14, 2013 at 17:14

If Jesus had not died for the sacrifice of our sins there would be no chance for grace. This was the purpose because man sinned continually. We are a rebellious creation from the very beginning when Adam and Eve first rebelled against God's commands.

When Jesus said in John 8:7 "he that is without sin cast the first stone" He said this because by those same standards everyone would be faced with the death penalty.

Jesus not only replaced animal sacrifices by becoming the sacrificial lamb but he also die in our place for the penalty of sins.

But this is not to say that there is no penalty for sins. That penalty is the lake of fire.

Hebrews 10:26 says that if we sin willfully then Jesus's sacrifice for our sins are no longer valid. Thus we are faced with a penalty much worse than the physical death.


Brief introduction

Let me start by saying that God is full of unfailing love and compassion.

"God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind." Numbers 23:19

The coming of Jesus Christ(the new covenant) was prophesied in the old testament long before. In the old testament, people followed the law of Moses which gave them authority to judge(with unfairness or fairness)

You must not mistreat any widow or orphan.Exodus 22:22

They mistreated them anyway.You can't judge God for what those human judges did.Jesus exposed how hypocritical those judges were.Judge those human judges not God.

When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.John 8:7

But in the new covenant, people live by faith and God is the only judge(He is always fair)

Why Jesus taught differently on “sin and treating sinners” as compared to Old Testament?

Jesus didn't teach differently on sin and treating sinners as compared to the old testament. God wanted people to repent in the old testament no matter how wicked they were.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah 1.

" When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened" Jonah 3.

Imagine being so wicked that God has to intervene.

Do you see how caring and loving He is? People usually can't show this type of forgiveness. I could do evil things before your eyes and even if I asked you to forgive me it would still take some times for you to forget and trust me, but God has the capability to forgive and forget your sins no matter how evil you are. Do you know how many prophets, king Ahab persecuted and killed? A lot, yet God forgave him. If someone could come and hurt all your relatives, would you forgive them and forget about it? Those prophets were God's children, yet our LORD forgave him.

Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity during his days, but I will bring it upon his house in the days of his son.” 1 King 21:29

Wicked Sodom was a city full of rapists, yet God promised Abraham that He would spare the city if ten righteous were found. Would you spare a city full of terrorists(in the thousands)for the sake of 10 people?

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”Genesis 18:32

You said that Jesus was lenient towards sin compared to God(God never change)in the old testament but He really isn't. He want us to repent(just like the people of Nineveh) and He doesn't want us to perish

(but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9)

Jesus and the Father are one so there isn't a difference between them.

"I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

Sins and their wages according to the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen

The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom every cause of sin and all who practice lawlessness. And they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Matthew 13:41

Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink,Matthew 25:41

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.Matthew 5:22

Being angry toward your brother is subject to judgement, calling someone a fool is reckless; how is it leniency? Jesus introduced new commands that are sometimes stricter than the old testament.

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.Matthew 5:29

But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours. Matthew 6:15

Lusting toward someone wasn't a sin in the old testament and people used to divorce for any reason, unforgiveness was rampant also. Jesus made it more strict. Why would you Jesus tell us to gouge our eyes out if sin is not a big deal(aka leniency)

As regards to sin, God really never changes, see how loving and righteous He really is.

"Then He told them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you would die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24

Many times the Pharisee tried to kill Him, yet He warned them time and time again so they could repent and believe in Him. But they couldn't, they had hearts of stone.

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He shows sinners the way.He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.Psalm 25:8

Old Testament we come across much harsher punishment for wrongdoing than what it is now.

God always wanted mercy. Sodom was full of rapists and homosexuals, yet they could have been spared if they had 10 decent people or didn't try to rape the angels.

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6

What can God do toward people who have no knowledge of Him and who keep doing what is wrong? God is Judge(Good and Upright,He is), He can't let chaos go rampant.

If you were a judge in a city, would you let crimes go rampant? Would you let go of a serial killer? As a judge, would you babysit a serial killer who can't stop killing people or a thief who can't stop stealing? (I'm using simple examples, I'm not trying to explain God, for His Ways are higher than my ways and His Thoughts are higher than my thoughts)


God shows mercy.

I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. Exodus 33:19

He always wanted people to repent

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Lord GOD. Wouldn’t I prefer that he turn from his ways and live? Ezekiel 18:23

Let the wicked man forsake his own way and the unrighteous man his own thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. Isaiah 55:7

Return to Him against whom you have so blatantly rebelled, O children of Israel. Isaiah 31:6

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. Jonah 3:10

We are not to question His judgement

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special occasions and another for common use? Romans 9:20

Does an ax raise itself above the one who swings it? Does a saw boast over him who saws with it? It would be like a staff waving the one who lifts it! It would be like a staff lifting him who is not wood! Isaiah 10:15

For He is not a man like me, that I can answer Him, that we can take each other to court. Job 9:32

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    Hi, I think you found an old question that could be answered with straight up Bible quotes. Unfortunately, this site morphed into something that doesn't quite fit that model. I know it isn't palatable to some ardent Christians who believe anything that other people say about the Bible isn't God's Truth and should be avoided, but this site is for scholars of Christianity, it's concerned with Christianity as a subject. I help moderate this website so it's my duty to delete certain answers that don't fit the model and strongly encourage participants to follow the rules.
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 2, 2019 at 3:13
  • What do you mean by scholars?are we forced to quote scholars?Do i need to quote a scholar to answer what tribe is David from?The author wanted an answer,i gave him an answer.He quoted bible verses saying that God was unmerciful in the old testament and i gave him evidence(with bible verses)that God was merciful,What kind of rules did i break in this post?
    – user47027
    Nov 2, 2019 at 4:41
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    You didn't break any rules, this question merely came into existence before we codified the rules, so I just don't want you to get the wrong idea about this site. You laid a perfectly appropriate answer on a question phrased in a way we probably wouldn't allow any more.
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 2, 2019 at 4:50
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    You and I are the scholars who answer questions here. Citing other scholars makes your post appear more scholarly. Hundreds of people have came and gone from this site just quoting the Bible and saying that should be enough, but unfortunately this website wasn't given to us to directly spread the Gospel so if you want to, you need to be as cunning as foxes and figure out how to answer questions the way they're supposed to be answered on this website which isn't the same way you might answer questions in a pastoral or personal setting.
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 2, 2019 at 4:55
  • Scribes were scholars.Why is Ignatius of Antioch a scholar but the one wrote 2 Kings isn't a scholar?Why shouldn't I quote Daniel,I don't think that first centuries scholars were smarter than him?Were the authors of the bible uneducated?Why shouldn't i quote Isaiah,he was a scribe.Let me give you give a definition of a scribe "an ancient Jewish record-keeper or, later, a professional theologian and jurist".Seem like scribe fall under the umbrella of scholar
    – user47027
    Nov 2, 2019 at 5:04

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