Peter is cited in Acts 15:10-11 as saying to the Jerusalem Council, "Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?". And yet, in Deuteronomy 30:9-14:

The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

God states that not only is it possible for the average Israelite to obey the Mosaic Law, but implies that the Israelites' ancestors successfully did it (cf. Genesis 26:5, where God says that Abraham obeyed "My commandments, My statutes and My laws").

  • In addition, the author of Psalm 119 appears to assume that it's possible for a person to follow the Law properly (vv.88, 145, 146) and praises such a person (vv.1-2, 33-34, 55), then claims to properly follow the Law himself (vv.14, 22, 31-32, 69, 129, 157, 167-168).
  • In Deuteronomy 11:13 (and v.22), God says ("if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today — to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul") that the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:36-38) is one of, or a shorthand for, the legal requirements of the Mosaic Law.
  • Two people in the Gospels are recorded as asking Jesus what to do to inherit "eternal life". Each time, he responds by asking what is written in "the Law" or "the commandments", several examples are quoted from the Pentateuch and then Jesus says to the person to go and do them and "live" (Luke 10:25-38; Matthew 19:16-20).

So on what basis does Peter make the claim that the Mosaic Law is impossible to bear?

2 Answers 2


Peter was referring to the same laws Jesus condemned in Matt. 23:4, "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."

All of your quotes were from the OT and referred to the OT laws. Peter and Jesus were talking about the man-made laws added on top of those. See Mark 7:7, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

As a result, Jesus said in Matt. 11:28-30, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

If they were not burdened, then why would He give this invitation? His "yoke" is indeed light, but the man-made laws the Israelites submitted to were not.

  • Deut. 31:27, Moses speaking, "For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?" It was hard to bear because of their sinful hearts.
    – Steve
    Aug 24, 2015 at 13:16

I think the best way to look for answers is to look to Scripture.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Jesus- Matthew 5:17-18

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;

Paul- Romans 2: 12-15

For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Paul- Romans 10: 3-4

Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Paul- Galatians 3: 21-25

Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul indicated that the Old Testament law was not abolished, but was fulfilled by the grace of God revealed through Christ. The message here is that, while God's law does not go away, it is transcended by God's grace. By saying the law is "a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" Paul is showing that the existence of the law is important because it shows us our own imperfection. We can be good at following the law, but we can never be perfect. No mortal person other than Jesus Christ has ever lived a sinless life, and none of us can ever be "good enough" on our own merit to follow the law perfectly. Once we come to that realization, we are then faced with a simple choice: try to make it on our own steam or fully rely on the grace of God.

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