Ethical Values In The Old Testament Essay

This essay has a total of 849 words and 5 pages.

Ethical Values In The Old Testament

Ethical Values In The Old Testament


BY JOHN G. TAYLOR III

RELIGION 205 DR. FRANK JOHNSON 18 NOVEMBER 1996 ETHICAL VALUES IN THE OLD
TESTAMENT

How we live our lives is governed by ethics. Ethics is "human moral
conduct according to principles of what is good or right to do." Our ethical
values today descend primarily from a Christian ethic in which "a truly ethical
decision, we are told, must be spontaneous, undirected, free - the individual's
unfettered and uncoerced response to each new decision-demanding situation."
The ethical values of today, especially Christian ethics, borrow and carry
forward the Hebrew ethics of the past. Yet it is hardly fair to explain Old
Testament ethics with only what was borrowed from it.
What sets Judaism apart from other religions of the time was its
monotheistic basis. The ethics of Judaism is historical and traditional as
opposed to philosophical and theoretical. "In Israel, for the first time, an
ethical conception of God is attained, and this not philosophically but
historically; while its view of the moral life is certain of justification not
only by reason but by history." Thus God is looked at as an ethical
personality and is looked to as an example of good and right. In the Old
Testament, God's voluntary (voluntary for God) covenant with man must be looked
at as the prime example of ethical value. The covenant's requirements is the
source of all ethics, morals, laws, and justice in the Old Testament.
The Mosaic Covenant is the best example of ethical values and norms in
the Old Testament. The Mosaic Covenant has three parts; the Decaloque, the
Covenant Code; and the Holiness Code. The Decaloque is made up of apodictic (or
absolute) law, it is unconditional and has no "ifs or buts" about it. This is
commonly refereed to as the "Ten Commandments." Although legally vague these
commandments are the basics for all ethical norms in the Old Testament. The
Covenant Code is made up of casuistic (or conditional) law, it has a
characteristic formula: "if this happens, then that will be the legal
consequence." Much of the Covenant Code deals with property and parallels
other ancient Near East law codes. The Holiness Code found in Leviticus 17-26
states what is holy, for example, "the phrase: "I, Yahweh, your God, am holy"
(19:2; 20:26) is the self-predication almost "tautological," for holiness here
has a theistic, rather than an exclusively moral, connotation."
How the covenant is presented in the Old Testament is as a whole and as "
the words of Yahweh." Many of the laws within the covenant, especially in the
Covenant Code are anachronistic, meaning many are laws of a later time that were
added to the original covenant. This "shows how successive generations
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