About the Bible
Which of the Bible's moral teachings
are still valid today? All...most...some?
The status of biblical moral teachings today:
The Mosaic Code in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) contains 613
requirements and prohibitions that believers were expected to obey. The
Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament) add more.
There exists much disagreement about which, if any, are still valid today.
||Invalid: Christians today generally believe that most of the 613
prohibited and required actions in the Hebrew Scriptures were only applicable to Jews and/or were only significant in
ancient times. That is, modern-day Christians can safely ignore them:|
|Examples of prohibited actions included the eating of shrimp and
pork; the wearing of clothing made of a mixture of textiles (like a
polyester-cotton blend in today's fabrics); men cutting their beards;
receiving a tattoo; sowing a lawn using a variety of species of grass seed;
allowing disabled persons to enter the temple; allowing an illegitimate
child -- or his/her descendents for many generations -- to enter the temple,
and hundreds of others.|
|Examples of required actions included ritual sacrifice of animals
in the Temple; executing some hookers by burning them alive; a man paying
the father of an unmarried virgin 50 shekels of silver if he rapes her;
observing certain specified seasonal days of observance, resting from Friday
at sundown to Saturday at sundown, etc.|
Paul wrote in Galatians 3:10-15-- one of his early epistles -- that those who "... are of the works of the law are under the curse." That is, those who obey the commands and prohibitions in the Hebrew Scriptures are cursed whenever they fail.
Paul continued, saying that:
"The just shall live by faith. ... Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law."
That is, followers of Christ are liberated from the law of the Hebrew Scriptures.
||Valid: The Bible also contains requirements and prohibitions of a
moral and ethical nature that many Christians believe are still valid today.
For example, among the Ten Commandments:|
|Uncertain: Many Christians are uncertain about the validity of
other biblical requirements and prohibitions. Their status is actively debated
within Christian circles. There is often a division within the religion on
conservative/progressive lines. |
Four examples are:
|The book of Proverbs contains many passages requiring parents to
beat their children with a rod as the
preferred method of discipline. Yet many
modern-day studies involving tens of thousands of people have found a
correlation between spanking children and adult problems including clinical
depression, anxiety, drug addiction, alcoholism, etc. Many Christian parents
have abandoned the Bible's teaching and stopped beating, hitting, or
spanking their children.|
||There are six passages in the Bible -- often
referred to as the "clobber" passages -- that are interpreted by most
conservative Christians as condemning all forms of same-gender sexual behavior.
Many progressive Christians believe that these passages condemn rape,
bestiality, sexual abuse of children, heterosexuals going against their
basic nature and engaging in same-sex orgies, etc; they are believed to be
unrelated to today's loving, committed same-sex relationships between two
homosexuals and/or bisexuals.|
||The Bible has many conflicting rules concerning
divorce. The Hebrew Scriptures teach that a man could freely divorce his
wife. In the Christian Scriptures, one passage has Yeshua of Nazareth
banning divorce entirely; in another, he allows divorce in case of sexual
immorality. Paul did not allow Christian couples to separate or divorce.
However, he did allow a Christian spouse to separate or divorce if the other
spouse is a non-Christian and has left. The result is a wide diversity of
current opinion about the Bible's rules concerning divorce in Christian circles.|
|There are several biblical passages that condemn
transsexual behavior. However, many Christians note that they were
written millennia before gender identity and other aspects of human
sexuality were actively studied scientifically; they doubt the validity of
these passages. |
A comment by Episcopal Bishop J.S. Spong:
John Shelby Spong is an author and retired bishop of the Episcopal Church,
USA. "KJ" from Minnesota, a subscriber to Spong's weekly Emails,
1 asked him why the media frequently describe the anti-gay
position as biblical while describing the those in favor of equal rights for
persons of all sexual orientations as being against Bible teaching. Bishop Spong
"...secular journalists ... tend to accept uncritically the oft-repeated
Evangelical Protestant and Conservative Roman Catholic definitions that the
Bible is anti-gay. If these people were honest, they would have to admit
that the Bible is also pro-slavery and anti-women."
"There is also a widely accepted mentality that if the Bible is opposed, the idea
must be wrong." 2
Bishop Spong criticizes the belief that just because the Bible condemns a
practice, it must be forbidden it in today's culture. The condemnation might
have been intended to refer to only a single culture and/or a single era. It may
not be valid a few millennia later, halfway around the world.
In support of the authority of the Bible:
Many believers accept the entire Bible as authoritative:
|They believe that God inspired the authors of the Bible to write
inerrant text -- free of error.|
|They often refer to the Bible as the Word of God, implying that nothing
in the Bible violates the will of God for humanity. Since God does not change
his mind, biblical standards remain valid today.|
|They note that since God has not see fit to have extensions to the Bible created, the
historical Bible must be equally valid for for modern-day cultures and for the cultures when it was created.|
|Many Christian denominations and congregations refer to the status of the
Bible in their statement of belief. For example, the Kingston Gospel Temple
in Kingston, ON, Canada states:|
"We believe the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God and that men were
moved by the Spirit of God to write the very words of Scripture. We believe
the Bible to be without error, entirely applicable to life situations, and
necessary for Christian growth." 3
|In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul is said to have written: |
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
(King James Version)
The official canon of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) did not exist
when 2 Timothy was written either:
- By Paul, circa 50 CE (according to
many conservative Protestants) or
- By an unknown author circa 125 CE (some six decades after Paul's
death, according to many progressive Christians).
Thus, the above passage
was probably intended to only refer to the Hebrew
Scriptures. However, most conservative Protestants assume that the verse refers to the entire Bible.
Many results flow from a firm belief in the authority of the Bible. One is
that any biblical passages that are interpreted as opposed to same-sex behavior
-- including that by loving homosexuals and/or bisexuals in a committed
relationship --are still valid today. This motivates many Christian to oppose
equal rights for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals --
including the right for same-sex couples to marry --
as the most important religious concern of the early 21st century.
However, assuming that the validity of biblical statements
continues to the present time is not without problems. A few examples are:
Human slavery was condoned,
regulated, and never condemned by the Bible, yet is rejected as profoundly
Government by dictatorship or theocracy was condoned, and yet
is rejected today.
Women were treated as property in the
Bible and increasingly as equal to men today.
Numerous passages imply or state that punishment for
sinful behavior can be transferred from the guilty
party/parties to the innocent -- a moral concept that is almost universally
Execution in the Bible was
typically done by stoning people to death or burning them alive -- practices
that are considered barbaric today.
The Hebrew Scriptures contain many references to
genocides, including some
ordered by God; none are criticized as immoral. Yet genocide and other
crimes against humanity are often considered the most serious criminal actions
Thus, a good case can be made that just because the Bible says
that some behavior is required or condemned, the passage may not be valid today.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- J.S. Spong, "A new Christianity for a new world," at:
- J.S. Spong, "The struggle among Episcopalians," Email Newsletter,
2009-JAN-28, at: Online at:
- "IDENTITY@KGTchurch," Kingston
Gospel Temple, at:
- From the King James Version of the Bible.
Copyright © 2009 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on
Original posting: 2009-JAN-31
Latest update: 2015-APR-06
Author: B.A. Robinson