I mentioned in a comment on my last post (How Paul Dohse’s version of “once saved always saved” is similar to, yet differs from, the distinction between mortal and venial sin) that Protestants don’t really read the Law and therefore end up accusing the Law of saying all kinds of things it doesn’t say, accusing the Law of teaching what really comes from thoughtcrime legislation made up by Protestant pastors. For example, the idea that the Law condemns being sad or angry, or that the Law condemns any action where the motive is not 100% perfect, or any other amount of Gnosticizing nonsense that people accuse the Law of teaching which it in fact does not.  I also mentioned in the body of the post there that Protestants forget, because they don’t read the Law, that the Law does NOT make all sins equal.  The Law imposed the death penalty on murder but not on little white lies, for instance.

Well, fine, so what is the solution to this Protestant ignorance of the Law’s actual teaching?  Well, actually reading the Law, of course.  Now I love the KJV, but I’ll admit it can be hard to read, particularly in the Old Testament.  So my own practice with regard to the Law has been to read it not only in the KJV, but also in the modern JPS (Jewish Publication Society) translation (last revision was 2005, I think), which also fulfills a second purpose, to help see to some extent how the Jews interpret the Law since their translation is not a strict word for word translation but applies some Jewish interpretation.  This translation is easy to find in the Judaica section of your local Barnes and Nobles.  There they will probably have a Pocket Tanakh with the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the JPS translation, possibly a pocket Torah with just the English of the JPS (no, it won’t actually fit in your pocket unless you have MC Hammer pants), and maybe a few other formats of the same translation. You can also read the weekly Torah reading that the Jews are on this week in Synagogue at hebcal.com from the JPS for free online. Just click the big button that says “Torah Readings” and it will bring up a link to this week’s reading.

Now the JPS is not necessary, of course.  Read the Law in the NKJV, NASB, NIV, the NRSV, the ESV, whatever translation you use.  Read it in two or three different translations.  Just read it.  And by the Law, yes, I mean all of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Dueteronomy…but don’t get bogged down in the boring section on the construction of the tabernacle and stop reading.  Skip the tabernacle construction if you have to.  Read the legal sections of the Law, read the commandments, read how the sacrifices were to be offered and when, where, and why.  See for yourself that the Law doesn’t treat all sin as equal.  See for yourself that the Law categorized commandments into judgements and statutes (ordinances) as that’s pertinent to understanding that passage in Paul about the “handwriting of ordinances….”  Get acquainted with the information that the authors of the New Testament basically assume even an idiot already knows, because you cannot properly interpret much of the New Testament without this information.  And you cannot come at all this information accurately just from second and third hand sources; you’ve got to read the thing for yourself.

Addendum: If anyone tries the hebcal.com suggestion, it might be good to have some knowledge of their naming scheme ahead of time. The Jews divide the text of the Law into 54 sections called Parashat (which means “section”) to be read one on each Sabbath, with a doubling up of two together on two Sabbaths since there are only 52 weeks in a year but 54 sections. If you go to that site and click “Torah Readings” it will take you to a page saying something like “This week’s Torah Portion is Parashat Vaera (read in the Diaspora on 17 January 2015).” You’ll have no idea what a Parashat Vaera is, but click the link, and you find that its the name they give to the section that is Exodus 6:2-9:35.  The word “Parashat” just means “section” as I already said, and the next part here “Vaera” is just the first Hebrew word that occurs in that section.  That’s how their naming scheme works.