Bible

Do Christians Really Have 1050 New Testament Commandments?

There are 1,050 commands in the New Testament for Christians to obey. Due to repetitions we can classify them under 69 headings. They cover every phase of man’s life in his relationship to God and his fellowmen, now and hereafter. If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards here and forever; if disobeyed, they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment.

-from the Christian Assemblies International website

Jesus commanded us in the second half of the Great Commission to teach others to observe ALL that He has commanded us. We first need to know the commands ourselves well enough so that we can teach others to observe them.

-from the Biblical Research Reports website

1050Really, is this a thing? I first saw a reference to “1050 New Testament Laws” on Facebook (someone had shared this meme in my timeline) and I was really surprised. So naturally, I “Googled” it so see what else I could find.

Besides the two above-quoted websites, a number of other dodgy online “resources” showed up including discussion groups at City-Data.com, ChristianForums.com, and RedHotPawn.com. I didn’t examine any of these sites in-depth and I haven’t read each and every one of the 1050 “commandments” (if they are commandments), but at first blush, I suspect that the list consists of a combination of teachings found in the Torah (and as such, they aren’t unique to the Apostolic Scriptures) and individual exhortations of Paul’s offered to specific populations concerning unique situations (as opposed of 1050 eternal, universal commandments that are either added on to the Torah mitzvot or that are supposed to replace them).

I did, more or less, accidentally find one flaw at Christian Assemblies International. Under the category “Seven Things to Avoid,” item three says “False Science” and references 1 Timothy 6:20, which they quote as saying:

Oh Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.

“…oppositions of science?” I don’t remember that.

Ah, but that’s the King James Bible translation. My preferred translation, the NASB, states:

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” …

Sorry. “knowledge” and “science” aren’t the same thing, so no sale KJV. In fact, the vast majority of other versions of the Bible translate the word referred to by the KJV as “science” as “knowledge”.

I suspect these so-called “New Testament Laws” are all equally bent, twisted, and mutilated to say what the Bible doesn’t really say.

But why? Why go through all the trouble? Isn’t it enough for mainstream Christianity to say that grace replaced the Law and all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you’ll go to Heaven?

under the lawA quick Google search couldn’t tell me who originally compiled this list and why, so I don’t have a definitive answer at my fingertips.

But even a quick scan of some of the other “commandments” tells me they suffer woefully from lack of context issues. For instance, under “Alcohol” on the Bible Research Reports page:

1Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet [sic], the hope of salvation. (emph. mine)

Most Bible translations do say “sober,” but some translate the same word as “clearheaded” or “serious” so it doesn’t automatically have to be sober as opposed to intoxicated. This does reflect a typical Christian bias against the use of alcohol in almost any degree, which again, makes me question the validity of the so-called “New Testament Laws”.

On the same website, under “Church Service,” I loved this one:

John 2:16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.

The Holy Temple in Jerusalem is not “church,” so I don’t find something Yeshua (Jesus) said about a very specific situation he encountered in the Temple to have a universal application to all non-Jewish Jesus worshipers (i.e. Christians) everywhere.

There was a section called “Commands — Old Testament” which listed exactly seven different passages, three from the Gospels and the rest from the Epistles. There’s no explanation accompanying this list, but I have to assume the writer/compiler intends that these are the only commandments from the Torah that survived Jesus “fulfilling the Law”.

Ironically, the list includes Matthew 5:17-19 which is the strongest evidence that Yeshua did not come to abolish (fulfill = abolish) the mitzvot but rather to illustrate living them (as a Jew) to their fullest. However, both Galatians 5:1 and James 2:12, taken out of context, seem to declare that the Torah is extinct post-crucifixion and resurrection, so they fit the traditional Christian doctrinal narrative.

communionThere’s a category for “Communion,” which, when the Gospels and Epistles were being composed, didn’t exist, not to mention one about “Denominational Differences”. I love this:

Mark 9:38-39 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. (39) But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

Denominations, as Christianity understands the term, did not exist when the above-mentioned fellow was casting out demons in the name of our Rav, so this certainly illustrates a creative application of these verses.

As one commenter at discussion group quipped, “It is impossible to keep 1,050 commands let alone 613 O.T. ones that you can’t do!”

Of course, he’s wrong that you can’t perform any of the 613 mitzvot. There are a subset of some 200 odd mitzvot that observant Jews perform today. However, I’d tend to agree, if the general Christian position is that God gave the Torah commandments to the Jewish people just to prove no one can be righteous by the performance of good deeds because there are just too many of them (and this is a complete distortion of the focus and purpose of the Torah), then expecting “saved by grace” Christians to perform 1050 commandments is just insane.
Mitzvah
I am truly at loss as to why any corner of the Church would make this stuff up, but if any one out there is frustrated that non-Jewish Yeshua disciples don’t have commandments of their/our own, it looks like you have enough, according to the sources I’ve cited, to stuff a proverbial Christmas goose.

Personally, I’ll stick with the simplicity of a life of holiness. It provides quite enough to keep my hands full, and I’m convinced I’ll never do it very well.

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22 thoughts on “Do Christians Really Have 1050 New Testament Commandments?”

  1. I find it intriguing that someone has attempted to formulate a halakhah for Christians. The effort is, regrettably, invalidated by flaws of the sort that you noted, such as its linguistically simplistic and ignorant interpretations of texts, its supercessionism, and its resort to an insupportably invalid and anachronistic doctrinal matrix. However, it seems to reflect exactly the sort of sentiments expressed in responses to recent posts, wherein we saw a desire for a definition of clear rules for gentile disciples to follow — and this despite a doctrinal perspective that considers rule-following an essentially impossible, even Sisyphus-ian, task.

  2. The irony is that this effort seems to have been generated by traditionally-minded Christians who should, by any definition I’m aware of, shun any such application of numerous “laws” in favor of a more “freed by grace” doctrine.

  3. “A quick Google search couldn’t tell me who originally compiled this list and why…”

    This may help: “This list is based on one originally compiled by Rev. Finis Jennings Dake (1902-1987).”

    http://www.whoaretheturners.com/new-testament-commandments.html

    Dake was an American Pentecostal Minister (this and other info can be found on Wikipedia), and I understand that the list was published in the (KJV) Dake Annotated Reference Bible (on page 313?).

    Don’t have an answer for “why”.

  4. @Marko — I appreciate the link you provided, and I find the list intriguing, though very much in need of line-by-line analysis by someone who actually understands the language, context, and cultural background of the Judeo-Greek text underlying each passage that is cited. It appears to be a list compiled by someone who seriously wished to obey the apostolic instructions; though they were not cognizant that a difference continued to exist between Jewish and non-Jewish disciples, and that some of the instructions might not be not applicable equally to both groups, or in all cultural circumstances — nor does this list make any distinction between firm commandment and merely wise counsel. However, these shortcomings could be overcome with the right analysis. The result would, no doubt, categorize these statements differently, and would likely reduce the actual number of implicit rules particularly applicable to non-Jewish disciples. But it could provide an interesting comparison with the instructions recorded in the Didache.

  5. Marko, I visited the site you suggested and it said the source for this list was Dake’s Study Bible Notes. When doing a Google search, I also found a link to an article published by the Christian Research Institute (these sites all have such dramatic and impressive names) called Dake’s Dangerous Doctrine. The write-up in very long and I haven’t gone though it all yet, but the conclusion states:

    Dake’s view of essential Christian doctrines sometimes has more in common with the theology of the cults than with historic Christian theology. His works, while containing many biblical truths, include numerous other unbiblical and outlandish teachings, such as: God lives in a mansion on a material planet called Heaven and is invisible to us only because He is so far away that we cannot see Him, humans are miniatures of God in attributes and power, Adam replaced Lucifer as ruler of the earth, disease germs are related to demons, God wants the races to remain separate as they were originally and will be in eternity. It is unfortunate that Dake’s faulty works find such a welcome place in Christian churches and bookstores.

    Assuming any of that is true, it raises serious questions (as if we didn’t have enough already) about the validity and applicability of his list of 1050 “commandments.”

  6. Ohhh, Kayyy — So, apparently, Dake was a flake (as the idiom of the ’60s would express it). That might well explain the faulty scholarship (or lack thereof). I just thought that the emphasis on obedience to the apostolic instruction was merely a reflection of the uptight fundamentalism that often characterized old-line Pentecostals (also characterized often by anti-intellectualism).

    On the other hand, that shortcoming doesn’t need to deter any modern more-scholarly types from attempting to redeem his list in the manner I described above.

  7. It would require someone who had a fluent knowledge of Biblical Greek and how Hebrew and Aramaic expressions and idiom might be expressed in Greek by the Jewish writers of the Gospels and Epistles, and that’s just for starters.

  8. As flakey as Dake was (I agree with PL’s description), he did list one new commandment right: Yochanan 13:34 (though Dake equates ‘brothers’ to being ‘Christians’).

    An aside regarding Dake, I didn’t realize it was he that a friend of mine had heard speak at a Kenneth Hagin school in the US, about heaven being a physical planet. It was supposedly some inside info for those who are in the know and not to be so readily shared. I wonder why?

  9. : ) That’s funny, Drake.

    In regard to earlier conversation,
    I did searches to find the particular verses.
    It’s not super easy; more than one kind of search tried.

    http://hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Heart_of_the_Law/heart_of_the_law.html
    http://www.icr.org/bible/Leviticus/19:18

    The first article is somewhere between conventional theology (Christian) and something more nuanced [and probably ends up in other articles there leading to something fundamentalist like the original topic of the meditation here]. Plus, the title (of the first one) is the concept wording I was looking for. But the second link is what I was really going for. This has been called the heart of the Torah in Judaism; it’s found at sort of the midpoint (of the body of the law). [I ran across a Chabad article that didn’t seem to want to talk about this at all, while they were answering a question about the exact literal middle of the Tanakh or Torah. So, maybe it’s a Reform Judaism idea.]

  10. @Marleen — Your first link to “hebrew4christians” does seem to provide a rather conventional Christian approach, including several classic Christian misapprehensions about some of the issues that Rav Yeshua addressed, and their interpretations that express or lead toward supercessionism. The second one, being less interpretive, avoided such difficulties. However, the centrality of this quintessential Torah concept is not an idea from Reform Judaism, but is rather a reflection of a teaching from Rabbi Hillel the Elder who was challenged by a gentile (a potential convert) to teach him the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Rav Yeshua quoted exactly the same two verses as did Hillel, as the most fundamental summary of Torah.

    I don’t see any reason why Chabad would shy away from such a discussion, except that generally they are oriented toward elucidating Torah in more detail rather than merely summarizing it. Hillel also told his challenger to go and study, lest he should think that it could ever be sufficient to satisfy oneself with a mere summary, however accurate — and, of course, James’ article above was about a Christian exercise in doing something similar to just that by enumerating the instructions compiled in the apostolic writings (which were, of course, derived from the apostles’ understanding of Torah as elucidated by Rav Yeshua). It is a shame that such an exercise should have been so flawed by its lack of scholarship and understanding that it is largely unreliable.

    It seems to me that it would be possible to develop quite a set of devotional self-help books out of a better list along the same conceptual lines as Dake tried to follow, including such themes as: “be kind”, “be gentle”, “be generous”, “be cheerful”, “be honest”, “avoid lust”, “avoid unhealthy foods”, “avoid idolatry of all kinds”, and onward through perhaps a thousand such lemmas appropriately organized and catalogued. Modern disciples of Rav Yeshua, including Jewish ones as well as non-Jewish ones, need in any case to internalize such lemmas from their own individual studies in the scriptures. It could be helpful to see them organized and enumerated in print. It could be really interesting to see connections between these lemmas and at least some of the 613 Torah commandments, perhaps even including cross-references to commentary in Talmud and other Jewish literature where applicable. Associated commentary on these lemmas per se might even discuss the distinctive “how-to” approaches that apply either to Jews or to gentiles, thus clarifying what is often a matter of contention or confusion at the present time.

  11. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1883118/jewish/What-Is-the-Midpoint-of-the-Torah.htm/mobile/false

    http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning-love-leviticus

    I only skimmed these articles, but I picked up that the authors weren’t going to get to that for which I was looking. The second one uses the wording (heart), at at least one point, but for all of Leviticus (and largely in a similar way as what is addressed in the first one). The first one (unless I missed something) sticks very literally to a write-in question, as asked. I would have thought the answer would take a very brief excursion, anyway, to this other meaning.

    Hillel and standing on one foot, yes, that sounds very familiar. The “heart” terminology for the center of Judaism or Law, like the physical heart isn’t exactly in the middle, is something I heard in a Jewish Community Center [frequented by Orthodox (while I haven’t seen anyone dressed [etc.] quintessentially), Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and “just” (something I heard there too) Jews].

    I did hear about Hillel long before that, and quite a bit (as well as Buber and others more contemporary and many people in-between in time), when attending a Messianic synagogue. I don’t remember for sure one way or the other [which pains me] whether the designation “heart of Torah” was part of that.

    I agree what you described could be helpful for congregations, PL. Personally, I think it would be good to have a separate volume or handbook for “how to” matters, and another summarizing “organized and catalogued” rules, instruction, commands and such.

    Then there could be the follow-up spin off(s) going into all kinds of fun and deep details and stories and thoughts a d discussions and “self help.” Who’s volunteering? Actually, it’s a tip that could pay off.

    Or, not so much a “tip” — you’ve come up with a great idea of something it sounds like you could do, PL.

  12. These are the searches I tried:
    “the heart of the Torah”
    “the heart of the law”
    “the heart of the law in leviticus”

    I didn’t get the one with less interpretaion
    until I put in “the law to love at the heart of the old testament”

  13. Me: “….something it sounds like you could do, PL.”

    Sorry.

    While this is probably true, likely the best way would be as a partnership of three or four people (or more). In addition to the language expert (and person with experience as to what is suggestion and what is clear commandment), I’m thinking a gentile man and two gentile women (none of these people from the same family so as to get greater perspective — not that it would hurt for spouses to be included if they want). As we have talked about gentiles thinking these things through, it didn’t really fit to say PL could do it (alone).

  14. While I appreciate the vote of confidence, Marleen, I agree wholeheartedly that the project is to big for any one individual. I did, however, send an email to the head of FFOZ asking for his opinion of such a project as a potential means for answering and unifying the disparate views of the HR and OL folks who seem to want rules and a halakhah of sorts to follow, along with an analysis of what subset of Torah is really applicable to gentile disciples. It might help them to get along better with Jewish messianists without co-opting our Torah and halakhah; and it might be a good fit with the FFOZ audience and readership demographics. On the other hand, it may be asking for a bit too much, as it suggests wholesale re-inventing of the religion “once delivered to the [gentile] saints” (viz: Jude 1:3).

  15. One doable approach might be not to go into everything we were talking about as a standalone kind of project of a series or set of books or volumes (especially not the how-to part). It could be an outright answer to what Dake put together, as a way simply to explain (away) his one dimensional understanding and help people.

  16. @Marleen — I’m afraid that sort of approach would become primarily a critique of the translational shortcomings of the KJV from which Dake was working, and an ad-hominum explanation or critique of pastor Dake’s views, when what is really needed is to re-create and re-organize such a list from a better translation and better analysis.

  17. I don’t think revealing translational shortcomings of the KJV in the process should be avoided. I don’t know that it would be terrible, either, to mention Dake [and maybe some others who’ve been influential in the same vein — except then that could be or seem random, in a sense, as an incomplete showing] at some point(s) in such a book [book, singular, obviously, if it were one book or in “one of the” proposed books]. Some people wouldn’t be interested at all once they figured out the author (or group of authors) doesn’t think the KJV is the only real version for the English speaking universe. But that’s how it always is; some people are ready to learn something, and some aren’t. That can’t be a deterrent. I can see how it would be more unwieldy and less productive to work completely or mainly from someone else’s list or a list based in a rigid translation rather than to start over. Do you think, though, that rigid stances (the existence of them) based in misunderstanding shouldn’t be addressed? I mean, I can imagine that not contrasting at all with rigidity (or lack of differentiation) could be done.

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