To understand the historical context of both the Old and New Testaments is extremely important when making connections between our society and their society. When we fail to do this, we usually come to the wrong conclusions about scripture. An example of this is that many non-believers claim that there is an obvious conflict between the moralities in the Bible — Old Testament morality being more “cruel”, while New Testament is more “acceptable”. They also go on to say that if the morality in the Bible reflects God’s morality, then God’s morality is “changing”. This, they conclude, is a contradiction in God’s nature.
Contradiction In God’s Nature?
In the Bible, God’s commandments seem contingent on the moral and historical status of the people He’s dealing with. Jesus plainly affirms this in Matthew 19:8, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been that way.” Even though God didn’t intend marriage to be that way, He permitted divorce for the Israelites because of their moral depravity. Thus we can conclude that God’s commands are dependant on the historical context of the people. Different people at different times are to follow different commands.
Contradiction In The Bible’s Morality?
A contradiction is something that is logically incompatible between two statements. Given the fact that the Bible says that God’s commandments are historically conditioned and that the the New Testament was written in a totally different historical frame than that of the Old Testament’s, there isn’t any contradiction happening. Most of the laws given in the OT were never intended to be timeless ethical principles (like “unclean food”). As proof of this, ancient Israel was a theocratic society with God at the head. That’s a huge contrast between our society and ancient Israel’s. Many acts, like adultery, were deeply immoral and deserved capital punishment. In our sexually promiscuous society such a view of adultery seems inconceivable, but I take that as a clear sign on how far we’ve fallen away from God. Think about it. Look at how much society’s view of marriage and purity has changed in the last hundred years. Now think about the last thousand years. It’s a huge transformation and isn’t necessarily in the right direction.