According to the Catholic Church, what are the differences in the way the Mosaic/Deuteronomic Laws are given versus the Ten Commandments. I have been led to understand that there is a difference by some things I have heard, for instance the lack of a Theophany(?) in Deuteronomy - and that Jesus appears to upend many of the Deuteronomic standards in the New testament.

What are the differences between the Mosaic Law and the ten Commandments in terms of the circumstances of their being made binding?

  • 1
    It would be helpful to explain why you think that's the case? Because it doesn't sound like something the Catholic church would say. Oct 30, 2015 at 17:09
  • I heard this in a talk on Matthew by a catholic theologian. I assumed i understood it correctly, and that he is explaining it orthodox. Maybe it would be better to rephrase my question. Oct 30, 2015 at 17:12
  • 1
    Is it possible that he meant "Moses made the covenant" in the sense that "Moses brokered the deal" or "Moses represented Israel before God". There is good biblical evidence of the Covenant being between God and Israel. Oct 30, 2015 at 17:15
  • Yes thats much closer to what i meant. I tried rephrasing to avoid that confusion. Oct 30, 2015 at 17:17
  • Does the revised title sound better? It seemed to me closer to what you intended. If not please revert. Oct 30, 2015 at 19:32

1 Answer 1


If I'm understanding you, you are wondering about how some laws in the Old Testament differ, since Jesus seems to upend some, yet uphold others. And you also asked about how to know if they are binding. This answer hopefully will provide clarity to those points.

In the New Testament a distinction is made between commandments and the statutes (letter) of the Law (the Old Testament / Torah). Commandments are moral principles, personal and inter-personal. Statutes are practical ordinances dealing with possessions and actions.

The greek word for "commandments" was ἐντολῶν "entolon" (Concordance). And the word for "the Law" (the collection of laws in the Torah / Pentateuch) was τὸν νόμον "ton nomon" (Concordance). (In other places, νόμον alone could mean laws, rules, or principles in general, and not the entirety of the Pentateuch Law, depending on context). And finally, the greek words for individual laws are usually translated "statutes", "ordinances", or "decrees".

Here is an example that shows the conceptual difference between the commandments and the Law -- that not all statutes in the Law are commandments:

"Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping God's commandments is what matters." (1 Corinthians 7:19)

In this sentence, you see that, while circumcision was an ordinance of the Law, it was not considered a commandment. So not all laws in the Law are commandments.

Jesus also spoke of commandments, saying things like "whoever upholds these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:19), and "you know the commandments -- you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery.." (Mark 10:19)

The general principle is that God's commandments should be obeyed, whereas the statutes and laws in the Torah are not applicable anymore.

Here is a principle for how to determine the applicability of the Old Testament laws, and whether they are binding today:

All of the Pentateuch was given by God through Moses. But to whom? God specifically addresses the recipients in the beginning of many chapters -- the People of Israel. So none of the Pentateuch was given to non-Israelites.

Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ...
(Leviticus 1:1-2)

So in essence, God said, "Israelites, do these things." In saying this, he does not instruct anyone else besides the Israelites to do what he says.

But, God speaks truth among those statutes. He sometimes says "Israelites, do this, because this principle is true". Since God cannot lie, this means that "this principle" is true for all people. Even when he does not state his reasoning, we can meditate and wonder why he gave the laws as he did.

So since those laws were not spoken to us non-Israelites, then by default none of them are binding to us. Jesus bound the commandments to us, telling us to do them, but the rest of the Law remains not binding. But there is still much value and truth to be gained from reading and pondering the Old Testament laws.

  • The moderators thought this answer was not addressing the question. I could not comment, so I posted a duplicate answer and explained in the first paragraph how this answer answers many points in the question.
    – Matthias
    Nov 2, 2015 at 15:28
  • For future reference, you can edit a deleted answer and then flag it for moderator attention... While I'm not a moderator, I still don't understand how this answers the question. I don't see anything in it talking about the difference between the 10 Commandments and other Deuteronomic laws in your answer, which is the heart of the original question.
    – ThaddeusB
    Nov 2, 2015 at 15:51
  • 1
    Thanks. I mentioned that there was a distinction between "the commandments" and the laws. I'll edit and expand on that with references.
    – Matthias
    Nov 2, 2015 at 16:31
  • this answer is far by the easiest to understand why. thank you!
    – keithics
    Feb 4, 2018 at 16:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .