Unwrap / Biblical Genre

The Law

When referring to biblical law texts, one is specifically speaking of those texts that include laws and regulations for the Israelite community. These laws are categorized in many ways, but the most common designations are moral, judicial, and ceremonial. Moral laws are those laws which govern one's life in the pursuance of holiness. The moral laws aim to promote the welfare of those who obey them. The judicial classification, also known as civil law, is assigned to laws that govern the community, specifically how the people should relate to others. They cover everything from murder to paying restitution for various offenses. In many cases, civil laws also can be identified as moral laws. Finally, ceremonial laws govern the Israelite worship practices.

While a significant portion of the Bible's first five books, known as the Pentateuch, contain most of the biblical law (these laws are known as the Torah), other smaller statutes are scattered throughout the Bible. Additionally, the Jewish people added more laws to assist them in keeping the laws that God had given them within the Torah. We can find these other laws referenced in some of Jesus' teachings along with extrabiblical sources.

As we read and interpret the Law, it is important to remember that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Law (Matthew 5:17-20). As such, ceremonial law has been abolished (for example, there is no longer a need to make sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin). Furthermore, some civil law is no longer relevant. However, while Jesus has satisfied the requirements of all the Law, believers are still to pursue obedience to the moral law as the Holy Spirit works in us and empowers us to do so (Mark 12:30-31).

Key Concepts

  • The biblical law is Scripture that communicates God's commands and statutes to his covenant people.
  • Laws can fall under different classifications. The most common three are:
    • Moral law – laws that direct how to live and intended for all people at all times
    • Ceremonial law – laws that have to do with the Temple worship and meant just for the Israelites
    • Civil or Judicial law – laws that governed, preserved, and protected the Israelite society
  • While believers are no longer under the moral law but under grace, the moral law still provides instructions for holy living.


Biblical Law
  • Leviticus
  • Exodus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
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