Mosaic Law

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Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law. Painting by Rembrandt in 1659.

The Mosaic Law consists of the rules of conduct given to Moses by God at Mount Sinai, as described in the Old Testament.

The Mosaic Law primarily consists of the Ten Commandments, but also includes the rules set forth in the Torah, which is the first five books of the Old Testament.

The Mosaic Law should not be confused with the Noahide laws, which God gave to Noah after the Great Flood and which are thus independent of the covenant received by Moses.

In Judaism

In Judaism, the 613 mitzvot (commandments, singular: mitzvah) are divided into the following categories:[1]

  • mishpatim, whose reason and utility are obvious, and which probably would have been instituted without Divine revelation;
  • chukkim (singular: chok), which are accepted because of their Divine inspiration and which would otherwise appear incomprehensible or even irrational; and
  • eidot ("testimonials"), which commemorate or represent something, and which are comprehensible once their significance is explained.

They are all accepted as equally binding on Jews. Judaism teaches that only Jews are required to follow the 613 mitzvot, while Gentiles must follow only the seven Noahide laws.[2]

In Christianity

Christians differ on the applicability of the Mosaic Law to Gentile Christians. That question was considered in the Council of Jerusalem and was resolved thus:

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and [from] blood. Acts 15:19-20 (KJV)

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. Acts 15:28-29 (KJV)

While Jehovah's Witnesses still follow those laws, the traditional approach among other Christian denominations is to divide the Mosaic Law into moral, civil, and ceremonial laws and to treat only the moral laws as binding on all Christians.[3] However, other Christians object that such a division of the Mosaic Law is arbitrary and unsupported by the Biblical text.[4]

Mosaic laws and health

The prophet Moses authored the book of Leviticus

See also: The Bible and health

Max Neuberger, writing in his "History of Medicine" states concerning the Mosaic laws:

The commands concern prophylaxis and suppression of epidemics, suppression of venereal disease and prostitution, care of the skin, baths, food, housing and clothing, regulation of labour, sexual life, discipline of the people, etc. Many of these commands, such as Sabbath rest, circumcision, laws concerning food (interdiction of blood and pork), measures concerning menstruating and lying-in women, and those suffering from gonorrhoea, isolation of lepers, and hygiene of the camp, are, in view of the conditions of the climate, surprisingly rational.[5]

See also


  1. The Logic of the Mitzvot, from
  2. Gentiles, from Mechon Mamre
  3. Which Old Testament Laws Must I Obey?, from Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pa.
  4. Applying the Old Testament Law Today, from Bibliotheca Sacra
  5. Neuburger, Max. History of Medicine. Oxford University Press, 1910, Vol. I, p. 38.