In the first part of this series, we took the time to unpack the two-book theory and refute some of its basic tenants. We spent time proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the terms “Book of the Law,” “Book of the Covenant,” “Law of Moses,” “Law of God,” and “the Law” are all used interchangeably throughout the Bible. We showed very specific passages where authors like Joshua and king Josiah called the Book of the Covenant the Book of the Law. We talked about how the Ten Commandments and many other commandments are found in both the BOC found in Exodus 20-24:8 as well as the Deuteronomy second telling of the Covenant, what they falsely separate into a book they term the BOL. We talked about many scriptures in the NT that support the BOL, scriptures that cannot be refuted or twisted to support this false doctrine. In the second part of this series we will talk about the main six pillars that I believe hold up this theory and tackle each one of them, starting with the main pillar, the theory that the BOL was given because of the golden calf incident.
I can see how those who believe this theory believe it. It has a sense of “mystery solved” to it. It offers a solution to the “How do we keep Torah?” question and is very appealing to the knowledge-hungry community within the Hebrew Roots movement. And with the way it’s been put together and articulated, I can see how it could easily be accepted. However, despite all its glitter, this doctrine is not true and I hope to demonstrate the logistical gymnastics necessary to make it make sense. Although I could spend my time defending and correcting over a dozen mistakes and major assumptions made by two-book teachers, I would like to focus on what appear to be the theory’s six main pillars and the points used to defend them. We’ll deal with one at a time:
1. The Book of the Law (BOL) was given to the Israelites because of the sin of the golden calf.
2. These teachers argue that The BOL is a curse as they say “Yahweh gave them up to (Levitical) Statutes that were not good after the BOC breach” (golden calf).
3. They assume that the two-book theory must be correct because no one can keep the Torah today. The authors point to the inability of mere humans to keep the Torah perfectly as if that has any bearing on whether it’s true or not.
4. The BOL stands against us because it was placed on the outside of the Ark as a witness against us. Then they make assumptions about what this means.
5. Those who subscribe to this belief have a faulty understanding of the book of Galatians. They use a traditional, anti-nomianistic Christian interpretation, reading their viewpoint into the text and forcing Paul to reference a concept that didn’t exist during the time the text was written.
6. Hebrews says there is a change in the law and this must mean that the BOL is nullified and the Book of the Covenant (BOC) is now in effect. Again, another assumption that we’ll cover later.
So let’s start with the golden calf and see how far we can get. This might be considered the #1 pillar holding up the entire doctrine: that the BOL was given AFTER the golden calf incident. Let’s go through the events as they unfold in the text and you can decide for yourself how accurate the claim is.
Here are the trips Moses took up the mountain:
Trip #1: In Exodus 19:3 Yahweh tells Moses that if His people keep His covenant they will be a “special treasure” and a “kingdom of priests.” He goes back down to tell the people in Ex. 19:7.
Trip #2: In Exodus 19:9, Moses goes back up to tell the LORD that the people said “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:8) and in 19:14 he goes back down the mountain to tell the people to get ready to meet Him on the third day.
Trip #3: God calls Moses back to the top of the mountain in Exodus 19:20 to tell him to warn the people to not come near (v. 21). Moses goes back down in 19:25 to obey.
Trip #4: While Moses is with the people at the bottom of the mountain Yahweh speaks the Ten Commandments. Moses goes back up the mountain in Exodus 20:21 because the people are afraid to hear Yahweh’s voice. He gives Moses a whole host of commandments from Ex. 20:23 all the way through 23:33 and Moses comes back down to relay them to the people in 24:3.
It is at this point that Moses first mentions the covenant as the “Book of the Covenant” and that it’s blood-ratified (Ex. 24:7-8). This example could not be more apropos given the fact that Yahweh is Israel’s Husband and she is His Bride. What we see in Exodus 19:5-8 is Yahweh asking His Bride if she is willing to be betrothed with the initial offer and the Bride saying, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” She accepts engagement. He then tells her to prepare for the “wedding ceremony” that will happen on the third day. On that day, the Bridegroom gives the initial covenant vows; they’re ratified in Exodus 24:8. The same pattern is seen in the death and resurrection of Christ. But as we will see, this is only the beginning of the marriage covenant. Let’s continue:
Trip #5: In Exodus 24:12 Moses is called back up the mountain while his leadership team waits half way. The glory rests on Mt. Sinai for six days and on the seventh Moses is called for out of the midst of the cloud. He then stays for forty days and forty nights (v. 18).
The first thing Yahweh tells Moses is to start raising funds for the house they are to live in, so to speak, as He then gives the instructions for how to build the tabernacle. Two-book teachers would have you believe that none of what follows in chapter 25 and beyond is part of the BOC because they believe that nothing can be added after ratification. They say it must be the dreadful BOL that was given to the people because of the sin of the golden calf (even though that event hasn’t happened yet (we’re still on day one of the forty days and forty nights)).
I say “dreadful” because those who teach this doctrine have been quoted as saying, “Yahweh gave them up to (Levitical) Statutes that were not good.” These “Levitical Statutes” are what they consider the BOL, as they point out several times. This is what I consider the second pillar holding up this false doctrine: the demonization of the BOL. They pull this from a false interpretation of Ezekiel 20:25-26 which says, “Therefore I also gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live; and I pronounced them unclean because of their ritual gifts, in that they caused all their children to pass through the fire, that I might make them desolate and that they might know that I am Yahweh.”
The people are pronounced unclean because of their “ritual gifts,” which are defined in the next phrase as child sacrifice. This is why He gives them over to statutes that are “not good.” The two-book theory claims that God gives the people the BOL because of the sin of the golden calf, but here the text has God giving them these “not good” statutes because of child sacrifice. We know for a fact that there was no child sacrifice at the golden calf event and that this statement was made 900 years after it. We also know that during the time of this prophecy there WAS child sacrifice, which is why the prophet is referring to it.
Although the context suggests that Yahweh is going to give His people over into captivity, we are led to believe by two-book theorists that their punishment for child sacrifice and their sin of breaking the BOL is giving them the BOL? There isn’t a credible scholar anywhere who would entertain this as a possible interpretation. Yahweh is giving His people up to captivity and the “not good” statutes of foreign governments “by which they could not live.” This phrase is a Hebrew idiom that is talking about bringing life. “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does he shall live by them” (Lev. 18:5). They bring life to those who live by them and death to those who don’t. So we’re told that the BOL is “not good” but yet this very “not good” book is said to bring life, blessing, and even eternal life according to Yeshua (Mt. 19:16-22) to all who keep it by faith? It sounds to me like it’s only “not good” to those who break it!
I could spend much more time proving that Ezekiel is not referring to God’s law but to the statutes of other nations that were “not good,” but the two-book teachers would do well to concede this mistake here since their own interpretation cripples their entire theory. Think about the ramifications of saying that the entire BOL is “not good.” It’s blasphemous! Are any of you reading this right now prepared to say that ALL the blueprints that were given for the construction of the tabernacle, and later temple, are “not good” because they’re found in what they call the BOL? Would any of you be so bold as to say that the menorah, the Table of Showbread, the Altar of Incense, or even the Ark of the Covenant were “not good” when all of it points prophetically to Yeshua? If the statutes and instructions to build the tabernacle are not good, then doesn’t that make the original blueprint in the heavens not good? The logic is so flawed it would force us to believe that the heavenly temple in Revelation also only exists because of the sin of the golden calf.
Furthermore, are we to believe that the Sabbath is “not good” since it’s found in Exodus 31, which they say is the BOL? These teachers suggest that Deuteronomy is part of the BOL yet it contains even the Ten Commandments. Are the Ten Commandments “not good”? Since they’re listed in the original BOC in Exodus 20-24 as well as in Deuteronomy are they not in both books? Or is it more likely, as I suggest, that it’s all one book with a more detailed second telling? This would explain why Moses uses the terms BOC and BOL back and forth throughout as I point out in great detail in part 1 of this series.
Two-book teachers cannot have it both ways. They say that nothing can be added after the ratification of the BOC and then they say that the statutes in the BOL are “not good.” Do they not realize how many statutes are duplicated in what they call the BOL? If they’re “not good” in the BOL then are they good if they’re found in the BOC? To say that the statutes and laws within the BOL are “not good” is an accusation that not only cannot be sustained through Scripture (one ambiguous scripture in Ezekiel is not enough to make a charge of this magnitude), but would not pass even the common sense test as just described.
Okay. Let’s get back to the text. Moses goes up the mountain for his first 40-day stay and the first thing YHWH gives him is the instructions on His new house so He can dwell with His new bride. He also goes over the Sabbath laws again.
So far, here are the facts:
1. Moses is on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
2. He receives what two-book theorists say is the BOL as the BOC is already ratified in Exodus 24:8, which they say cannot be added to.
3. Yahweh starts giving commandments in chapter 25, immediately after the text says Moses went up on the mountain, and He doesn’t stop until the golden calf incident.
The above is critical to understand in order to pin down the timeline of the golden calf event. Take a look at the text in Exodus 32:1: “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down the mountain, the people gathered together with Aaron…” So we can see that it was quite some time before the golden calf incident happened while Moses was away. As a matter of fact, it actually happened on the very last day of his forty-day trip. Take a look at this revealing passage:
Exodus 32:5 “So when Aaron saw it (the golden calf), he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.'” (Parenthetical insertion mine)
We know that the golden calf party happened the day after this proclamation. All we have to do now is discover when “tomorrow” actually was to put it on the timeline of events. Verse 7 and following gives us our answer as Yahweh tells Moses to get out of His way because He is going to destroy the Israelites for what they’re doing at the base of the mountain. Moses begs for Him to relent and then we get to verse 17 where Joshua hears all the noise of the people as they’re partying (because this is the “tomorrow,” the day of the feasting for the golden calf). Moses finally makes it down the mountain, breaks the tablets with the commandments written on them, and destroys the golden calf. So what day is it? Since we know for a fact that Moses was on the mountain for forty days, it has to be day forty or forty-one since he is now at the base of the mountain. This means that the golden calf incident happened AFTER all of the commandments were given and NOT before as the two-book theory states.
The only way to get out of this textual fact is to say that the story isn’t written in chronological order, which is exactly what these theorists have stated. They’re being forced to manipulate the text to fit their theory, which is what every false doctrine must do. If a doctrine is true it is true on its face. It doesn’t need to do acrobatics to make it fit. To say that the golden calf incident didn’t take place when the clear timeline says it did is to cast a doubt on the entire timeline! How do we know that anything happens in any kind of order if we can remove such an obvious part of the biblical account? There isn’t one single part of this story that even suggests that the golden calf incident didn’t happen exactly as it’s recorded. As a matter of fact, as I just laid out, it suggests quite the opposite. If we want to try to move the event to a different part of the timeline, we’d have to do the following:
1. Disprove that it happened at the end of the forty-day time period as the text suggests.
2. Show where it does fit into the text. These teachers cannot say it’s not chronological just because it doesn’t fit their theology. Without any proof, and without having a plausible place to put it on the timeline, the theory cannot stand up.
Regarding #2: if the event goes somewhere else, where does it go? It can only go one place and that’s at the very beginning of the forty-day journey. Why? For two reasons:
1. Because to put it in the middle of God giving more commandments would put commandments before the incident, which these theorists say can’t be in the BOC. This would put it in a whole other book, making now three books.
2. Because there is no other place it can go. It can only go before, during, or after the forty days. And we know it can’t go in the beginning because the text says that the only reason the Israelites created the calf in the first place was because Moses had “delayed” for a long time. In other words, it had been a long time since he’d left.
For those of you who believe this theory, put everything you’ve been told about it aside for a moment (all the “evidence” from Galatians, Hebrews, etc…) and just look at the topic on which the entire theory rests. I’m all for people drashing the Scriptures out and having interpretations that really speak to them, even if they might be a bit of a stretch. I’ve heard a lot of bones creak through those stretches. But THIS is one of the largest stretches to Scripture that I have ever seen. There’s simply nothing within the text that suggests that the golden calf incident didn’t happen exactly as the text states. Are you willing to say that the Torah has been done away with and cause yourself to be called “least in the Kingdom,” according to Yeshua in Mathew 5, with a foundation as shaky as this?
Anyone who has a unbiased mindset that hasn’t been tainted by this theory can easily see that the golden calf incident happened after the forty days on the mountain, or right at the very end, and that the BOL was not given to the Israelites because of their sin but that it was being given while Moses was on the mountain. And if the BOL was not given because of the sin of the golden calf, but was given well before, the entire two-book theory crumbles.
Furthermore, think about the gymnastics that are being done to make this work. Although I could give scores of examples, here are just a few:
In Joshua 8:30-31, Joshua says that the instructions for building the altar are in the BOL when, in fact, they are found in the BOC before it was ratified. This either means that Joshua is mistaken or that the two books are synonymous (really one book). Two-book teachers respond that Joshua knew that the altar law was transferred to the BOL “post Golden Calf breach and the law of the altar and sacrifices have been transferred under an Aaronic administration of the Book of the Law in accordance with Deut. 11.29 and Deut 27.2…” So they say that the law of the altar was switched over to the BOL but with absolutely no evidence to back it up. Let’s take a look at the scriptures they cite:
Deut. 11:29: “Now it shall be, when the LORD your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal.”
Deut. 27:2: “And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime.”
Does anyone see anything in these two verses that remotely suggests that any part of the BOC was transferred to the BOL? All this says is that when the Israelites cross the Jordan that they are to reaffirm the Covenant at Shechem by reviewing the commandments in Deuteronomy (what the two-book teachers consider BOL commandments) and build an altar at the same time, the very altar that is found in the BOC. So we see right here that both covenants are operating at the same time, even though two-book teachers say that the BOC was set aside because of the sin of the golden calf. I apologize for my cynicism, but it’s awfully convenient to move laws around with no scriptural backing to make a theory fit. And like I said before, what do we do with the Ten Commandments themselves and the Sabbath laws that are also duplicated in the BOL?
Before we move on, I would like to address pillars 3 and 4 real quick. Pillar #3 is that these teachers seem to consistently bring up the fact that some who do believe in the Torah as it is originally understood do not keep all the commandments. It’s difficult to understand how this has any relevance to the debate at hand. A believer’s understanding of the commandments or their dedication to the covenant in no way invalidates that covenant. That’s like saying that because the Israelites never kept the covenant that the covenant was never valid. Or that marriage itself is a fabricated idea because so many people break their marriage vows.
This type of argument is superfluous, designed to subtly highlight the very reason why people are drawn to it to begin with: keeping the Torah is too difficult so let’s look for a shortcut. Ironically, this is what God’s people have been trying to do for thousands of years. Led by the enemy every time, they have been compromising and trying to find a way to follow Yahweh and do what they want at the same time. This attempt at destroying the Torah is no different. It’s just better camouflaged.
From here, I would like to deal with Pillar #4: The BOL was placed on the side of the Ark of the Covenant as a witness against Israel (Deut. 31:26). Two-book teachers theorize that Moses was told to take the BOL and place it as a witness against Israel when they sinned against it. What they fail to see is that there IS no other book but the BOL. One can search the entirety of the Scriptures and only find the Ten Commandments, the jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded inside the Ark. There is no mention of any other book except the BOL. This is significant for two reasons:
1. The entire structure is called the “Ark of the Covenant.” This means that the covenant instructions and bylaws must be connected to it. There must be some reference to the bylaws or the covenant is nullity. And what do we find? The only mention in the entire Bible of any Constitutional bylaws of the Covenant is the BOL that was placed next to the Ark as a witness against them. And why was it a witness against them? Because they were subject to its instructions. They were under its jurisdiction and like a marriage covenant, there are witnesses that stand against them if either spouse breaks the covenant bylaws.
2. Just a few verses earlier in the chapter, this same BOL is called a “Covenant.” In Deut. 31:19 God tells Moses to write down the song He is going to teach him, also as a witness against them, and then He says in verse 20: “When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My Covenant.” This is after the golden calf breach and right in the middle of what the two-book theorists say is the BOL, and Yahweh calls it “My Covenant.” Again, more proof that the BOL IS the Covenant.
According to two-book teachers, when God says “My covenant,” He could not be referencing the BOC because they believe all of Deuteronomy is the giving of the BOL. This means that the text is calling the BOL God’s Covenant. Why? Because there’s only ONE Covenant. God cannot be worried about them breaking His Covenant if they already broke it and are under a new set of instructions called the BOL. The only way out of this contradiction is for them to call both books covenants. But they can’t do that or that would also allow the BOL to be called a Book of Covenant, making the two terms synonymous and destroying the entire premise of their theology.
Furthermore, these teachers make a big deal that the Ark is called the “Ark of the Covenant” and not the “Ark of the Law,” trying to point to the fact that God’s original intent was for us to be in covenant and not under law. These same teachers seem to forget that the entire instructions for the Ark of the Covenant (and all the tabernacle for that matter) were given AFTER the BOC was ratified in Exodus 24:8. The very term “Ark of the Covenant” was given in what they call the BOL. And what is a covenant without any instructions or law, anyway? This is the same traditional straw-man argument that traditional Christians make. When Paul says that we are “no longer under the law but under grace,” he is making the point that we are no longer under the death penalty of the law, but are pardoned by the grace of Christ. We are no longer under its jurisdiction from an administration of punishment perspective, but it is still very much part of the wedding vows and instructions of the New Covenant. I will spend more time on this subject in part 3. Suffice it to say, though, that if the Ark is called the “Ark of the Covenant” and it’s given inside the Book of the Law, then, by default, the BOL is the very Covenant that it is referring to.
My friends, there are so many problems with this doctrine that I would have to write a book just to point them all out. And we haven’t even dealt with all the problems of how Galatians is being interpreted, Hebrews, misunderstanding the apostle Paul, or the fact that these teachers completely ignore scriptures such as Romans 8:6 where Paul says that unless one is “subject to the law” he is against God and not walking in the Spirit. Or 1 John 5 when the author says that the only way to love God is to “…keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (v. 3). Since we know for a fact that this false two-book doctrine did not exist in the first century, we know that the biblical authors could only be referencing what they called the “Book of the Law,” “the Law” for short. We will get into some of these misinterpreted NT scriptures in part 3 of this series.
First, two-book teachers must prove BEYOND a shadow of a doubt with real evidence that the BOL was given because of and afterthe golden calf incident. There can be no ambiguity since the ramifications of such a doctrine being false would be akin to teaching against the smallest of the commandments, making that person least in the Kingdom (Mat. 5). They must also be able to do this without using a single NT scripture as their support since the NT did not exist in the first century. Since they believe that the authors support their view and quote NT scriptures as evidence, they must be able to demonstrate without a shadow of doubt how the NT authors came up with this two-book theory on their own from the only thing they had at that time: what we call the Old Testament. Since their entire argument rests on the BOL being given after the sin of the golden calf, they must be able to prove that using only the OT scriptures. Furthermore, it must be undeniable, able to convince a jury beyond all doubt.
In further summary, these teachers say that there can be no additions or subtractions after a covenant is ratified. I suggest that this is a very narrow scope of the Hebrew brit process that developed over thousands of years. They’re looking at a well-developed covenant process of the first century and reading that all the way back to the time of creation before there was any death or blood requirement. Yahweh thinks more like a husband and a king so His agreements, treaties, and covenants are Yahweh-centric, all revolving around Him dictating the rules like in a vassal agreement. He proposes to His bride in Exodus 19. She accepts and He goes on to do the big wedding ceremony with lots of fireworks. He then has them build a house and they begin to “live together,” His Presence in their midst. As the marriage continues, as in all marriages, He adjusts and adds more instructions almost from the very beginning. All of the commandments were given in a very short period of time. WE are not allowed to add to or take away from the instructions because we’re the vassals, not the King. The King has the right to make changes to the law as He sees fit within the overall scope of the relationship, especially if those change allowances are built into the brit itself, which they are.
Two-book teachers say that it is not a renewed covenant by relying on the original language as proof. You can’t do this in hermeneutics. Just because the actual word for “renew” isn’t there doesn’t make it any less of a renewed treaty. If I asked “What is green, has a brown trunk, and houses birds’ nests?” you would say “a tree,” yet the word “tree” is not in that statement. If I renew my vows, do I have a brand new marriage covenant? Or is it the old one renewed but with greater understanding? It’s clear that the disciples continued to teach their converts the original Mosaic Law that they’d been teaching for centuries, as James points out in Acts 15:21. He finishes verse 20 by telling them they need only worry about these top four things right now in the Gentile community because they will learn the rest when Moses is taught in “every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” In other words, they would learn the rest of the law every Sabbath when the Torah (Moses) is taught. It doesn’t say that the BOC is being taught like you would expect from the disciples who supposedly understand there are two books now. It says that “Moses” is being read and it is undebatable that the phrase “Moses is being read” is a direct reference to the five books of Moses, called the Torah, or “the Law” in the first century. The synagogues did not teach the BOC as if it was a separate book. They taught all of Moses because it was all one Torah to them. We will cover this in more detail in part 3 of this series along with many more NT scriptures.
We see this in Joshua when Moses tells him to renew the Covenant at Shechem when they cross over the Jordan. If the two-book teachers are correct then what Joshua is doing is making a brand new Covenant, but he’s not. Joshua is simply going over the Covenant that was given at Mt. Sinai because the generation he’s with wasn’t there when it was given. This is exactly what is happening in the New Covenant. The original “Treaty” is being updated and renewed. Yes, it’s technically brand new from the perspective that if you change one thing it is a brand new agreement, but that’s only legally. In reality, and in the way it’s applied, it’s a renewal of our wedding vows to the Creator with a new Mediator and Helper to assist us.
I have no doubt that those who are emotionally attached to this doctrine, who have “put themselves out there” with it, will defend it at all costs, regardless of whether there’s real evidence to back it up. The ego is a powerful thing and has the ability to keep a person deceived even when faced with incontrovertable evidence to the contrary. Friends, let’s take emotion out of this and allow the evidence to speak for itself. There simply isn’t enough evidence in this theory to warrant the conclusions that have been drawn. The evidence is just not there.
Even though the first two parts of this series should be more than sufficient to prove without a shadow of a doubt that this doctrine is false, I will attempt to address many of the NT scriptures that have been misinterpreted to prop the theory up in Part 3. Regardless of whether you’ve heard of this newest attempt by the enemy to undermine the eternal Law of God or not, I believe this series will be beneficial to anyone who takes the time to read it. In Part 3 we will be covering some very difficult verses that have been misunderstood for millennia. Although I cover them in my book Case for the REAL Covenant, which should be out sometime in 2018, I will definitely be hitting some of the major ones out of Galatians and Hebrews that these teachers use to support this theory. In the end, you, the jury, will have to decide what exactly the real evidence is and what it’s actually pointing to.