The Law of Moses (Hebrew: ? Torat Moshe), also called the Mosaic Law, primarily refers to the Torah or the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Traditionally believed to have been written by Moses, most academics now believe they had many authors.
The Law of Moses or Torah of Moses (Hebrew: ? , Torat Moshe, Septuagint Ancient Greek: , nómos M?us?, or in some translations the "Teachings of Moses") is a biblical term first found in the Book of Joshua 8:31-32, where Joshua writes the Hebrew words of "Torat Moshe ? " on an altar of stones at Mount Ebal. The text continues:
And afterward he read all the words of the teachings, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the Torah (Joshua 8:34).
The Hebrew word for the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, Torah (which means "law" and was translated into Greek as "nomos" or "Law") refers to the same five books termed in English "Pentateuch" (from Latinised Greek "five books," implying the five books of Moses). According to some scholars, use of the name "Torah" to designate the "Five Books of Moses" of the Hebrew Bible is clearly documented only from the 2nd century BCE.
In modern usage, Torah can refer to the first five books of the Tanakh, as the Hebrew Bible is commonly called, to the instructions and commandments found in the 2nd to 5th books of the Hebrew Bible, and also to the entire Tanakh and even all of the Oral Law as well. Among English-speaking Christians the term "The Law" can refer to the whole Pentateuch including Genesis, but this is generally in relation to the New Testament where nomos "the Law" sometimes refers to all five books, including Genesis. This use of the Hebrew term "Torah" (law), for the first five books is considered misleading by 21st-century Christian bible scholar John Van Seters, because the Pentateuch "consists of about one half law and the other half narrative."
The "Law of Moses" in ancient Israel was different from other legal codes in the ancient Near East because transgressions were seen as offenses against God rather than solely as offenses against society (civil law). This contrasts with the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100-2050 BCE), and the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (c. 1760 BCE, of which almost half concerns contract law). However the influence of the ancient Near Eastern legal tradition on the Law of ancient Israel is recognised and well documented. For example, the Israelite Sabbatical Year has antecedents in the Akkadian mesharum edicts granting periodic relief to the poor. Another important distinction is that in ancient Near East legal codes, as in more recently unearthed Ugaritic texts, an important, and ultimate, role in the legal process was assigned to the king. Ancient Israel, before the monarchical period beginning with David, was set up as a theocracy, rather than a monarchy, although God is most commonly portrayed like a king.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Moses was the leader of early Israel out of Egypt; and traditionally the first five books of the Hebrew Bible are attributed to him, though most modern scholars believe there were multiple authors. The law attributed to Moses, specifically the laws set out in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, as a consequence came to be considered supreme over all other sources of authority (any king and/or his officials), and the Levites were the guardians and interpreters of the law.
The Book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 31:24-26) records Moses saying, "Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD." Similar passages referring to the Law include, for example, Exodus 17:14, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven;" Exodus 24:4, "And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the mount, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel;" Exodus 34:27, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel;" and Leviticus 26:46 "These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the LORD established on Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses."
The Book of Kings relates how a "law of Moses" was discovered in the Temple during the reign of king Josiah (r. 641-609 BCE). This book is mostly identified as an early version of the Book of Deuteronomy, perhaps chapters 5-26 and chapter 28 of the extant text.
Another mention of the "Book of the Law of Moses" is found in Joshua 8:30-31.
The content of the instructions and its interpretations, the Oral Torah, was passed down orally, excerpted and codified in Rabbinical Judaism, and in the Talmud were numbered as the 613 commandments. The Law given to Moses at Sinai (Hebrew Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai ? ? ) is a halakhic distinction.
Rabbinic Judaism asserts that Moses presented the laws to the Jewish people, and that the laws do not apply to Gentiles (including Christians), with the exception of the Seven Laws of Noah, which (it teaches) apply to all people.
Most Christians believe that only parts dealing with the moral law (as opposed to ceremonial law) are still applicable, others believe that none apply, dual-covenant theologians believe that the Old Covenant remains valid only for Jews, and a minority have the view that all parts still apply to believers in Jesus and in the New Covenant.