Abolished or Fulfilled?

The Mosaic Law in Relation to the New Covenant of Christ According to the Fathers of the Church

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The Purpose of the Law

How, then, were the ritual commands of the Mosaic Law, such as animal sacrifice, to be reconciled with the new, everlasting covenant of Christ? What was the original purpose of these commands in the light of the new revelation of Christ? An attempt to answer the first question was made early in the life of the church. Paul, the author of Hebrews, and the author of Pseudo-Barnabas all endeavored to explain the meaning of the Mosaic Law now that it had been fulfilled. However, the effort to address the second question was soon to be tackled by the Church Fathers, starting with Justin, and following through Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius of Caesarea, and others. The various fathers offer multiple, and sometimes contradictory, attempts to the problem. Underlying these solutions were two major interpretive themes. The first is that of divine accommodation. By giving them the ritual laws, God "accommodated" the Jews, because of their "hardness of heart" and in order to lead them out of sin. In the other major theme, the predictive and symbolic elements of the Law are emphasized. Typological, symbolic, or allegorical interpretation would lead to an understanding of the Law’s meaning. Some who took this second position believed that even the Law’s original purpose was symbolic: the ancient Jews should have interpreted it allegorically and not literally. These interpretations interact with and overlap each other, and individual fathers are prone to move between the two: as we have seen, Justin’s division of the Law includes both of these themes. Nonetheless, to understand the fathers’ view of the Mosaic Law, it is necessary to examine both interpretations.

Divine Accommodation

A discussion of a few early church fathers will provide an overview of the pervasiveness of the idea of divine accommodation within the thought of the patristics.(26) Justin, Irenaeus, Eusebius of Caesarea, and John Chrysostom all approach this topic from different viewpoints and in different time periods, thus giving a good sampling of how the idea of divine accommodation was used in interpreting the commands of the Mosaic Law. Of these, Justin was the first to provide a somewhat systematic outline of this approach, and his in-depth interpretation laid a foundation that was to be followed by many other patristics.

Justin Martyr(27)

As was already mentioned, Justin’s third division of the Law consists of "injunctions [that] were laid on you...on account of the hardness of your people’s hearts (sklhrokardion tou laou umwn)"(28) This idea of certain commands being a result of the Jews’ ‘hardness of heart’ has its foundation, of course, in the very words of Jesus. When asked about the law of divorce, he answers, "For your hardness of heart (sklhrokardian umwn) Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (Matt. 19:8) Although never quoting this statement of Christ’s directly, Justin almost certainly knew it, and thus uses it as the basis of his argument. In fact, this third section of the Law forms the core of his argument with Trypho over the purpose of the Law. Justin states the stubborn disposition of the Jews as the very reason for at least the ritual prescriptions of the Law. For example, in Chapter 18 he states, "For we [the Christians] too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you, - namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts."(29) Although Justin also sees a typological and allegorical reason for the Law, the one upon which he heavily relies in explaining the ultimate purpose of the Law is his third division - God’s accommodation to the hardness of the Jews’ hearts.(30)

Why did God need to accommodate Himself to the Jews? Justin explains this in his Dialogue by separately discussing the three major parts of the ritual commandments: the Sabbath rest, fasting and abstention of foods, and animal sacrifices (cf. Dialogue 19-22). Circumcision is not included since it was instituted before Moses.(31) First, God ordained the Sabbath "on account of your unrighteousness, and that of your fathers".(32) The Jews could not retain a "memorial of God"(33), so God instituted the Sabbath in order for them to be able to keep God in their thoughts. God knew the evil inclination of Israel to forget Him, so the Sabbath was commanded, not as a work of righteousness, but rather as a result of the Jews’ "unrighteousness".

Justin sees the command of fasting and abstention of certain foods in much the same light. He states, "you were commanded to abstain from certain kinds of food, in order that you might keep God before your eyes while you ate and drank, seeing that you were prone and very ready to depart from His knowledge..."(34) Israel, even after seeing the miracle of God’s providence in the manna, still refused to follow Him and instead worshipped a golden calf. Thus, God, according to Justin, had to enjoin on them certain dietary prescriptions to remind them that God is the provider of all food, thus creating a yoke to keep their eyes on Him.

In Chapter 22 of the Dialogue, Justin sets forth the purpose behind the command for the Jews to offer animal sacrifices to God. At the heart of God’s ‘problem’ was Israel’s constant inclination toward idolatry. This charge Justin uses most frequently against the Jews.(35) It is the key reason that God ordered animal sacrifices: He had to accommodate Israel’s inclination to idolatry by changing the focus of their sacrifices from false Gods to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.(36) The center of this charge of idol-worship is the incident with the Golden calf. As Justin succinctly states:

...until Moses, under whom your nation appeared unrighteous and ungrateful to God, making a calf in the wilderness: wherefore God, accommodating Himself to that nation, enjoined them also to offer sacrifices, as if to His name, in order that you might not serve idols.(37)

The enactment of the ritual commands of the Mosaic Law, according to Justin, was due to the sinfulness and stubbornness of the Jews - especially in their continual inclination for idolatry - as is preeminently witnessed in the incident of the Golden calf.

The underlying argument that Justin is advancing in explaining the original purpose of the Law is the current invalidity of the Law. His reason for positing this argument is to counter Trypho’s original point, which is the Christians’ lack of following the Law. Justin, however, is convinced that after the coming of Christ, major parts of the Law are no longer necessary. To support this claim, he hearkens back to the time before Moses, when the ancient Jews were not bound to the ritual commands (except circumcision).(38) Thus, Justin believes that the Law enacted by Moses was a temporary one. If this was not the case, then either God changes or the God of the righteous before Moses was a different god: conclusions Justin finds absurd.(39) Due to the late entry of the Law into salvation history, Justin concludes that it was clearly meant originally to be temporary. Thus, the coming of Christ invalidates this temporary Law.

Trypho perceives a problem with this argument: if the Law was to be temporary, and Christ has now made it invalid, why did Jesus himself follow its ritual commands?(40) The answer to this, according to Justin, is again divine accommodation:

I have admitted it [that Jesus followed the ceremonial law of Moses], and do admit it: yet I have admitted that He endured all these not as if He were justified by them, but completing the dispensation (oikonomia) which His Father, the Maker of all things, and Lord and God, wished Him [to complete].(41)

Just as part of God’s oikonomia was that He ordained that sacrifices were necessary for the Jews for a time, so also part of that accommodating plan included that Jesus himself would submit to the ritual prescriptions of the Law. In fact, in the Dialogue, immediately after admitting of Christ’s observance of the Law, Justin fires back at Trypho to answer whether or not the righteous before Moses were saved although they did not follow the prescriptions of the Law, thus reemphasizing the Law’s temporary nature.(42)

Christ, then, according to Justin, is the Law (nomoV).(43) He uses Old Testament texts that predict the coming of a new law and applies them to Jesus himself (e.g. Is.51:4-5; Mic. 4:1-7; Ps. 18:8 [LXX]).(44) Justin contrasts the former law as the ‘Old Law’ (palaioV nomoV)(45) as well as a temporary one with Christ as the ‘New Law’ (kainoV nomoV) and the ‘Eternal Law’ (aiwnioV nomoV).(46) The Mosaic Law was never meant to be installed permanently, as can be seen from the Old Testament itself, and the predictions contained there point to the ‘new covenant’ which Justin sees fulfilled in Christ for all eternity.

Other Church Fathers

Justin was the first of the Fathers to write extensively on the concept of divine accommodation in relation to the Mosaic Law. His viewpoint is a good example of how the Fathers attempted to explain this relationship. After him, this concept became ingrained in the thought of many of the patristics. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss in detail all of the major fathers, a brief overview of a few of them would do well to show other perspectives apart from Justin. Each of the fathers selected present a different situation in which accommodation in regards to the Mosaic Law is used. Justin, as we have seen, was writing to a Jewish (as well as pagan) audience; Irenaeus is concerned about refuting the Gnostic heresy; Eusebius is writing in the period of the early Church’s greatest triumph, the rise and conversion of Constantine; and John Chrysostom uses accommodation in the era of the great Trinitarian and Christological debates.


Immediately following Justin, not only chronologically, but also to some extent in thinking, Irenaeus (d. c.198) also discusses the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New. His Against Heresies is a monumental work directed against the strong Gnostic movement of his time. Since the Gnostics denied the continuity between the two testaments, Irenaeus sets forth in book 4 of Against Heresies his refutation by explaining their relationship and ultimate continuity.

Like Justin, Irenaeus views the ancient Jews as heavily prone to idolatry. Because of this, God employed the Law as an educational tool to focus the Jews back to Him.(47) Irenaeus recognizes in the Decalogue certain universal precepts that all men must still follow, but the ritual aspects of the Law are no longer necessary since Christ had fulfilled the Law. As Irenaeus states:

For God at the first, indeed, warning them by means of natural precepts, which from the beginning He had implanted in mankind, that by means of the Decalogue (which, if any one does not observe, he has no salvation), did then demand nothing more of them....But when they turned themselves to make a calf, and had gone back in their minds to Egypt, desiring to be slaves instead of freemen, they were placed for the future in a state of servitude suited to their wish, which did not indeed cut them off from God, but subjected them to the yoke of bondage...(48)

The Jews, according to Irenaeus, were so prone to idolatry (that began in Egypt) that God had to accommodate them with additional precepts beyond the Decalogue so that they would not fall away from Him. This came to predominate patristic thought: the sojourn in Egypt by the Jews lead to their evil inclinations which God had to slowly extract from them. Against the Gnostic dichotomy Irenaeus explains the intrinsic relationship between the actions of God in the Old Covenant and His actions in the New.

Eusebius of Caesarea

Whereas Justin and Irenaeus are good representatives of the pre-Nicene Church, Eusebius of Caesarea (d. c.340) gives a helpful glimpse of the Church of the Nicene years. Eusebius lived in an era that he considered one of the greatest in Church History - the conversion of the Roman Empire - and he views all of salvation history as leading up to this great moment. One of his writings, The Proof of the Gospel, written about 317 is Eusebius’ explanation of the theological and historical relationship between Judaism and Christianity, in which he explains his interpretation of the purpose of the Mosaic Law.

True to his historical leanings, Eusebius divides the story of salvation into three separate periods: before the Law, the time of the Law, and after the Law (the time of Christ).(49) The coming of the Messiah was not the beginning of a new age, but a return to the pre-Mosaic times. As other Fathers both before and after him, Eusebius stresses the fact that the righteous before Moses did not need to keep the Law. However, in the time of Moses it was necessary:

For the old covenant was given as a law to the Jews, when they had fallen from the religion of their forefathers, and had embraced the manners and life of the Egyptians, and had declined into the errors of polytheism, and the idolatrous superstitions of the Gentiles.(50)

However, unlike Justin and Irenaeus, who saw the Law as having a punitive nature, Eusebius interprets it differently. He continues the above statement:

It [the Mosaic Law] was intended to raise up the fallen, and to set on their feet those who were lying on their faces, by suitable teaching.(51)

The Law, therefore, had a positive role to play, not a punitive one. It was to lead the idolatrous Jews away from their sins and to the true God. But this Law only had a temporary task to fulfill; after it had accomplished it, Eusebius concludes in agreement with the other Fathers, the time came for it to be abolished. With the coming of Christ, humanity was to return to the "Old" law that existed before Moses.(52) The abolishment of the Mosaic Law and the return to the pre-Mosaic law is proven by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.:

...the Romans besieged Jerusalem, and destroyed it and the Temple there. At once the whole of the Mosaic law was abolished, with all that remained of the old covenant...and the archetypal holiness of the pre-Mosaic men of God reappeared.(53)

The Mosaic Law’s role in salvation history was to lead the Jews out of their idolatry, but now that the pre-Mosaic time had returned, it no longer had any meaning, and therefore was abolished.

John Chrysostom

Living during the height of the Trinitarian and Christological controversies, the "Father of Accommodation", John Chrysostom (d. c.407), also found himself engaged in much anti-Jewish polemic. Thus, he is quite concerned with the original purpose of the Mosaic Law, its relationship to Christ, and the (in)validity of it in his time. In his Against the Jews, he considers one of the most important aspects of the Mosaic Law: animal sacrifices.

Chrysostom argues that God did not originally want sacrifices. However, when He saw that the Jews were so intent on offering them (in fact, they already had done so), He does allow the sacrifices in condescension (sugkatabainon) to their infirmity.(54) However, part of God’s plan was always eventually to end the need for sacrifices. To explain this, Chrysostom uses an illustrative analogy:

Suppose a physician sees a man who is suffering from fever and finds him in a distressed and impatient mood. Suppose the sick man has his heart set on a drink of cold water and threatens, should he not get it, to find a noose and hang himself....The physician grants his patient the lesser evil, because he wishes to prevent the greater evil and to lead the sick man away from a violent death....After he has given into the patient’s craving, he gets a drinking cup from his home and gives instructions to the sick man to satisfy his thirst from this cup and no other. When he has gotten his patient to agree, he leaves secret orders with the servants to smash the cup to bits; in this way he proposes, without arousing the patient’s suspicion, to lead him secretly away from the craving on which he has set his heart....Let me make the analogy clear. The physician is God, the cup is the city of Jerusalem, the patient is the implacable Jewish people, the drink of cold water is the permission and authority to offer sacrifices.(55)

God did not want the Jews to sacrifice, but like a good physician he gave the Jews the best overall prescription in order to lead them away from their sinful inclinations.

Writing during the great Christological debates, Chrysostom relates this practice of divine condescension to the Incarnation. If Christ had come other than in the ‘fullness of time’, his lessons would have come to naught. God had to wait until humanity was properly prepared for Christ’s message before He could send him.(56) In fact, in the eyes of Chrysostom, all of God’s actions and communications involve in some form accommodation.(57) We see in Chrysostom a heavy dependence on divine condescension, but this is merely the culmination of the deeply ingrained thought of the Fathers: God, due to our sinful humanity, must accommodate Himself in order to help man on his way to salvation.


Developing simultaneously in patristic thought with the concept of divine accommodation (particularly in the Alexandrian school) was the interpretive theme that viewed the Mosaic Law and most of the Pentateuch in terms of either allegory or prefigurement of Christ. These two themes should not be seen as mutually exclusive of one another; rather, one can observe that many of the fathers integrated divine accommodation and allegory/typology into a holistic interpretive approach. Therefore, it will be helpful to get an overview of a few of the fathers’ use of the allegorical or typological method as applied to the Mosaic Law.

The use of allegory to interpret the Mosaic Law did not originate with Christianity; it was already in use by Jewish interpreters. Although of course only the Christians saw the Law as prefiguring Christ, seeing commands of the Law in an allegorical fashion was common to both Jews and Christians. For example, Philo, in On The Special Laws, considers circumcision to be a symbol (sumbolon).(58) This is not to say that Philo did not also call for the literal practicing of the Law, including circumcision; he simply saw more than one intended meaning within it.

The use of allegory as well as typology in Christian thought has its beginnings in the New Testament itself, especially with Paul. For example, in Galatians 4:21-31 Paul makes explicit use of allegory (verse 24: atina estin allhgoroumena) in his comparison of life under the Law and life in Christ. And in Romans 5:14, he expressly calls Adam a type (tupoV) of Christ. This scriptural use of allegory and typology would be later imitated extensively by the Church Fathers. The Epistle of Barnabas is the first post-New Testament example of this great dependence upon these two interpretive forms. In Chapters 7 and following, Pseudo-Barnabas explains in-depth the typological or "spiritual" meaning behind many of the Mosaic commands, thus bolstering his argument on the invalidity of the Law.

From this foundation the patristics use allegory and typology in a variety of manners. These two constitute either the original purpose of the Law or the purpose of the Law now that Christ had fulfilled it, or both. Most Church Fathers believe that the ancient Jews were justified in following the literal prescriptions of the Mosaic covenant, but even this at times is implicitly disputed. Among the fathers who emphasize the "spiritual" aspects of the Law, the only clear consensus was that now that Christ had come, many parts of the Law are to be seen simply as an allegory for the moral life or as a typological prediction of the Messiah.(59) An overview of a few of the Fathers will give a good example of this view of the Mosaic Law in relation to the Christian covenant. Of the fathers who use this methodology, the Alexandrian fathers, especially Clement and Origen, are the most explicit in their emphasis on the "spiritual" or allegorical sense of the Mosaic dispensation. However, after the victory of Christianity and the ensuing Trinitarian controversies, the use of typology in interpreting the Mosaic Law has a different emphasis. The examples of Anthanasius and Basil will do well to show this new emphasis.

Allegory in the Alexandrian School

Clement of Alexandria (d. c.214) is the first teacher of the Alexandrian interpretive school with extant writings. This school’s dependence upon Philo and its strong use of allegory is exemplified well in Clement’s works. Clement held that mankind was gradually being educated, both through the revelation received by the Jews and through the philosophy of the Greeks.(60) The purpose of the Law in this divine plan was to prepare the way for Christ as well as to police the Jew’s sinful impulses.(61) As has been mentioned, the former idea is later continued by the likes of Eusebius of Caesarea. According to Clement, however, the Jews only saw the Law in the latter purpose, and not also as a prophet: "They [the Jews] had no faith in the prophetic power of the Law. They followed the bare letter, not the inner meaning; fear not faith....the end of the Law...is Christ, the Christ who is prophesied by the Law."(62) Clement, however, did not believe the Jews should not have kept even the moral aspects of the Law literally, but, inconsistently, he also chastises the Jews for only keeping the "bare letter", and not understanding the spiritual significance of the Law. The chief value of the Law, then, according to Clement, is its prediction of Christ and its moral principles. Both typology and allegory are used by him to explain these important elements. By his strong emphasis on the more important spiritual meaning of the Law as its ultimate purpose, Clement nearly seems to condemn the literal following of the Law by the ancient Jews.

None of the patristics, however, are as seeped in the allegorical tradition as much as Clement’s successor, Origen (d. c.254). This 3rd century giant uses the allegorical approach with unprecedented frequency. Although Origen was imbued deeply with the Philonic tradition of Alexandria, in Contra Celsum he defends his use of spiritual exegesis on Paul’s Hagar-Sarah allegory in Galatians 4:21-31.(63) The conclusions he reaches through his allegorical approach are sometimes extreme, yet an overview of his use of this method will be useful for understanding this approach.

In interpreting any of the Scriptures, Origen saw three possible levels of meaning, corresponding to the division of body, soul, and spirit. Each of these three levels had a certain importance to the believer, and the levels are necessary for the varying levels of spirituality that exist among believers. The truly spiritual man, however, will interpret the Scriptures (and thus also the Mosaic Law) in a totally spiritual manner, allegorizing and using typology to find the true meaning of commands and prescriptions. Origen’s heavy emphasis on the allegorical meaning of the Law led him, like Clement, to come close to denying the legitimacy of a literal observance, even for the ancient Jews. For example, Origen identifies Paul’s contrast between the ‘letter that kills’ and the ‘spirit that gives life’ with a literal and an allegorical interpretation of the Law.(64) The old laws were simply a shadow or a type, which were fulfilled with the coming of Christ. Origen, true to his nature, defends his somewhat radical allegorical approach by the use of an allegory. He states the breaking of the first law by Moses represents that the literal following of the Law was eventually to be broken; the second law that followed represents the superior allegorized Law.(65)

An example of Origen’s explanation of the Sabbath aspect of the Law portrays well his overall interpretation. Origen states that the law of the Sabbath was impossible to keep literally at any time, thus a strict observance of it was always misguided. The two specific prescriptions that Origen singles out as impossible are "Abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day" (Exodus 16:29) and "take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day" (Jeremiah 17:21). Origen claims that these two observances have always been impossible to obey, and were always meant to be seen spiritually.(66) Of course, this argument does not really attack the heart of the Jewish interpretation, since the Jews themselves interpreted ‘place’ and ‘burden’ somewhat liberally, but it shows the methodology Origen uses.(67)

Essentially, the Law, according to Origen, had been a preparation for the Gospel. Origen borrows imagery from Melito of Sardis to explain the relationship between the two:

Just as those whose craft it is to make tokens from copper and to pour statues, before they produce a true work of copper or of silver or of gold, first form figures from clay to the likeness of the figure image - certainly the model is necessary but only until the work that is principal be completed, but when that work on account of which that image was made of clay is completed, its use is no longer sought - understand also something like this in these things which were written or done ‘in a type’ and in a figure of the future in the Law and Prophets.(68)

Now that the figure has served its purpose, the time for it is passed, as is shown by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. However, Origen himself states that many Christians of his time still followed some of the Law literally. He notes three different attitudes toward the Law held by his contemporary Christians:

(1) those who interpret the Law spiritually and therefore have abrogated it;
(2) those who interpret the Law spiritually but still observe the precepts; and
(3) those who do not interpret the Law spiritually, but believe that Christ is predicted therein and keep the Law literally.(69)

The first group is viewed by Origen to be the most spiritual of the Christians, and the mention of the third group shows that there still existed a significant number of Jewish Christians in the 3rd century. In general, Origen sees only some of the moral precepts of the Law as still binding on all Christians, and the rest as only useful in their "spiritual" sense.

Typology in the Trinitarian Controversies

After the victory of Christianity over the Roman Empire, the church began to debate within itself the divinity and relationships of the three persons of the Trinity. This new debate changed the context in which the Mosaic Law was discussed. The defenders of the divinity of Christ as well as the Holy Spirit, in order to bolster their claims, use the Old Law in a typological fashion to prove their arguments. The two greatest defenders, Athanasius (in regard to Christ) and Basil (the Holy Spirit), demonstrate this new emphasis.

The defense of the Incarnation, God becoming Man, was the all-consuming passion of Athanasius (d. 373). He spent his life attempting to prove to all - Jews, Greeks, and heretics - the divinity of Christ. To defend the Incarnation against the Jews, Athanasius uses the Hebrew Scriptures to show how they predicted the coming and divinity of the Messiah, and how this was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. This interpretation includes the Mosaic Law. In chapters 33 through 40 of Incarnation of the Word, Athanasius reveals how all of the Old Testament, including the Mosaic commands, predicted his coming both explicitly and in type.(70) Athanasius is also concerned about showing how the Law is but a shadow, instituted to prepare men for the Incarnation. He does this by weaving together the ideas of the Law as a prefigurement and the Law as necessity due to the sins of the Jews. In his 19th Festal Letter (Easter 347) he writes,

Now it appears to me...that not at first were the commandment and the law concerning sacrifices, neither did the mind of God, Who gave the law, regard whole burnt-offerings, but those things which were pointed out and prefigured by them. ‘For the law contained a shadow of good things to come.’ And, ‘Those things were appointed until the time of reformation.’...But they chose to serve Baal, and dared to offer sacrifices to those that have no existence...then indeed, after the law, that commandment concerning sacrifices was ordained as law; so that..they might turn to Him who is truly God...Thus then, being...instructed and taught [to sacrifice to the Lord], they learned not to do service to any one but the Lord. They attained to know what time the shadow should last, and not to forget the time that was at hand, in which no longer should the bullock of the herd be a sacrifice to God, nor the ream of the flock, nor the he-goat, but all these things should be fulfilled in a purely spiritual manner..."(71)

Athanasius thus interprets the command to sacrifice being instituted both to strip the Jews of their evil inclinations as well as a prediction and preparation of the spiritual sacrifice of the Christian. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of the Law, which was to educate the Jews as being a figure of things to come.

Basil the Great (d. 379) followed Athanasius’ defense of the divinity of Christ with his own masterful apology for the divinity of the Holy Spirit. One of the arguments that Basil uses for the divinity of the Holy Spirit is that Christians are baptized with the Trinitarian formula, which makes all three equal and all divine. The response to Basil is that some were "baptized into Moses" (I Cor. 10:2) but Moses is not divine. Basil replies in On the Holy Spirit, chapter 14. Quite simply, according to Basil:

Our answer is that the faith in the Spirit is the same as the faith in the Father and the Son; and in like manner, too, the baptism. But the faith in Moses and in the cloud is, as it were, in a shadow and a type. the nature of the divine is very frequently line of the types; but because divine things are prefigured by small and human things, it is obvious that we must not therefore conclude the divine nature to be small. The type is an exhibition of things expected, and gives an imitative anticipation of the future.(72)

Basil then continues by giving examples of types that are to prefigure Christ: the manna, blood of the sheep, the firstborn, and others. Basil forcefully explains that the type is to prefigure the antitype, and to put your belief in both equally is foolishness. The type by itself can give nothing, and eternal life is only possible by its fulfillment, which is Christ. "What spiritual gift is there through Moses? What dying of sins is there? Those men did not die with Christ; wherefore they were not raised with Him."(73) Basil stresses the importance of seeing the Mosaic Law as only a ‘shadow’, but to put one’s trust in the fulfillment of the shadow.

The Trinitarian controversies gave the Church a new opportunity to interpret the Mosaic Law in light of the coming of Christ and the revelation of the Trinity. This new situation lead a number of the fathers, especially Athanasius and Basil, to emphasize more clearly the Law not only as having been instituted for the sins of the Jews, but also as a prefiguring, a ‘shadow and a type’ of greater things to come.

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