The Old Testament law is seen as irrelevant by most modern Christians today. Christians are now under the blood of Jesus Christ, which is said to abrogate the Law. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (NASB). The law of Christ is to love God and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). This does not mean, however, that the Old Testament Law does not apply to Christians today. Author J. Daniel Hays expounds on this topic in his article, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today,” and focuses on the method of Principlism. This approach allows the Old Testament Law to be viewed in light of the New Testament.
Reflection of Principlism
The traditional approach to the Mosaic Law is categorized by moral, civil, and ceremonial laws. Hays postulates this approach is not correct as it has three major weaknesses: it has no textual support, it ignores the narrative context, and it fails to reflect the changes from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Hays asserts the correct method is Principlism, a five method approach to applying the Law.
The five methods of Principlism are identifying what specific laws meant to the target audience, determining the differences between the original audience and Christians today, developing universal principles from the Bible, correlating a law from the Old Testament and applying it to the New Testament, and applying a universal principle to life today. Each approach has strengths, but at the same time has weaknesses. The first method identifies a specific law and applies it to the context of the Scripture. Hays says, “Connecting texts to their contexts is a basic tenet of proper interpretive method. The Law is part of a story, and this story thus provides a critical context for interpreting the Law.” This is important as any text in the Bible needs to be placed in proper context. The negative aspect of this method is misinterpretation of a specific law if not placed within the proper context. For example, Genesis 17:10 explains that each male was circumcised to be in the covenant God promised to Abraham. Applying context to the Scripture would assert that each male should be circumcised today, however, the New Testament stresses circumcision is no longer required (Galatians 5:1-11).
The second method determines differences between the original audience and Christians today. This method reflects the changes from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Hays says, “believers in the present church age are under the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant. Thus they are not under the laws of the Old Covenant.” The problem with this method is distinguishing which laws are applicable to Christians today. The first of the Ten Commandments warns against worshipping other gods (Exodus 20:3). With this approach it would seem appropriate to worship other gods.
The third method develops universal principles from the Bible. The meanings of a specific law can be...