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Commandment or Law, are they the same?

March 10, 2010

I was originally going to address a few points from this article, but have decided to do a series of studies examining the claims of J. Mark  Martin at exadventist.com.  The article is full of errors and logical fallacies that I wonder how he can seriously sign his name on it,  and much less put it on the internet.   Any serious student of the Bible who cared about their credibility wouldn’t.  He is definitely misleading whatever visitors he gets to his site.  So I will use this series to correct as much of his misrepresentations.

As you’ll see, it requires a whole post to correct a few simple assumptions he makes, and I assume he’s relying that the average Christian can’t be bothered to do their own research and test the facts out for themselves. So my goal here is to do the help you do the digging, and bring out the truth from the mistruth.

Commandment or Law, are they the same?

To answer the title question, I would say: it depends on the context.  Pastor J. Mark Martin of Ex-Adventist.com mistakenly thinks the Greek word for commandment or law means only one thing.  This is what he says:

IS A SABBATH KEEPING CHURCH THE “REMNANT” OR COMMANDMENT KEEPING CHURCH THAT IS SPOKEN OF IN REVELATION 12:17?

Rev. 12:17 says, “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”

In the New Covenant, what are the “Commandments” of God? Does this mean Ten Commandments? NO! The Greek word used for the Ten Commandments is “NOMOS”. That word is not used here. The word used here is “ENTELE” and means “teachings”.

As seen above, he claims Nomos is the only word used for the 10 Commandments, and “Entele” [Entole] refers the the “New Covenant” commandments.  The truth of the matter is, you have to take each word into context, as the words by themselves don’t mean anything.

Here is a classic example:

6 “Teacher, which is the great commandment (entole) in the law (nomos)?” (Matt 22:36 NKJV)

The two are related, you don’t have a “new” or “old” covenant law, Jesus cleared that up.  So let’s  delve into Martin’s arguments point by point.

Martins 1st Point

In the New Covenant, what are the “Commandments” of God? Does this mean Ten Commandments? NO! The Greek word used for the Ten Commandments is “NOMOS”. That word is not used here. The word used here is “ENTELE” and means “teachings”.

 

Firstly, “Entele” is Entole (En-tO-lay).  Here are some definitions according to here:

  • an order, command, charge, precept, injunction that which is prescribed to one by reason of his office
  • a commandment
  • a prescribed rule in accordance with which a thing is done
  • a precept relating to lineage, of the Mosaic precept concerning the priesthood
  • ethically used of the commandments in the Mosaic law or Jewish tradition

Clearly, it could mean a number of things, so for Martin to assign just each word to mean one thing (Old and New) is bad interpretation, and jamming his ideas into Scripture.  Secondly, I don’t see how he can define the word to mean only “teachings” when that is not the case.  Entole can mean order, command, commandment, rules, Mosaic precepts, Mosaic law, but not “teachings” like he claims.  This should raise some flags already.

Martin implies that in the NT, entole refers to a New Covenant or new set of commandments (The Law of Christ), while nomos is only used for the 10 Commandments.  Let’s examine various verses where entole is used:

3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment [entole] of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’[c] Thus you have made the commandment [entole] of God of no effect by your tradition. (Matt 15)

Looks like Jesus is talking about the 5th commandment no?

And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment [entole].  (Luke 23:56)

Sabbath, 4th commandment?

9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,”[a] “You shall not covet,”[b] and if there is any other commandment [entole], are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)

Those sound like the last 5 commandments of the 10. I think you’re getting my point, but we’ll look at one more:

7 Brethren, I write no new commandment [all entole] to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. (1 John 2:7)

Which law has been around since the beginning?  God’s eternal moral law of course.

(To see other uses of “entole” in the NT, see this article here:)

Now lets look at the definition of nomos:

  • anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command of any law whatsoever
  • a law or rule producing a state approved of God 1a) by the observance of which is approved of God
  • a precept or injunction
  • the rule of action prescribed by reason of the Mosaic law, and referring, acc. to the context. either to the volume of the law or to its contents
  • the Christian religion: the law demanding faith, the moral instruction given by Christ, esp. the precept concerning love
  • the name of the more important part (the Pentateuch), is put for the entire collection of the sacred books of the OT

As we can see, Nomos is similar to entole, and can be used in context of both the OT and NT, as the term is related to usage for the Mosaic law, and instructions given by Christ himself.  This is the word that can be partially defined as “teachings”.

So Martin is wrong for defining “entele” as “teachings”, when the word he needs to make his argument stick is nomos.  Because Entole is the word used in Revelation 12:17:

(KJV)
From the definitions above and cotext, its clear that it is referring to the “the commandments in the Mosaic law or Jewish tradition”.
Let’s look at the other texts he uses:

John clarifies this and actually tells us what the “commandments” are that we are to keep:

I John 5:1-3 says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

Again, the verse above uses entole for commandments. Lets look at the last passage he uses as proof (1 John 3:21-24)

21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us[a] commandment.

24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

Guess what word is used for commandments again?  That’s right, entole.  I also want to highlight another point to show that we are indeed talking about God’s sacred law.  Verse 24 says “Now he who keeps His commandments…”  The word for keeps is tereo, which means to:
  • to attend to carefully, take care of
  • to guard
  • metaph. to keep, one in the state in which he is
  • to observe
  • to reserve: to undergo something
We observe, guard, our laws, but its not something we generally do in regards to “teachings”.
His whole argument is based on the hope that entole=teachings,  however the context and definitions show otherwise.  These verses actually prove the point that the 10 commandments are still valid and binding to Christians today.
Mark Martin is either being sloppy or purposely deceitful in his interpretation of these texts.  Since he’s a Christian, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s the former, but does that mean we can trust everything in that article he’s written?  I doubt it, given the errors in this brief passage.  I would take his words with a grain of salt, and a whole lot of caution.  We’ll soon find out as I examine more of his claims.
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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Jay permalink
    June 14, 2012 8:05 pm

    why didn’t you address his other claims about the sabbath?, that would have been really interesting.

    • June 27, 2012 5:24 pm

      Hi Jay,

      I’ve been really busy… and this blog has sort of fallen to the backburner. The other claims are in my “drafts” folder. I’ll post them up as soon as they finish.

  2. April 16, 2014 2:30 pm

    And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us..

    Hebrews 8:13
    King James Version (KJV)

    In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

    We’re no longer under the law, only grace. The law is done away at the cross. If we have to preserve the 10 commandment then that’s faith plus work. Should we strive to observe the 10 commandment? Sure, but it’s not a salvation issue.

    • Tom permalink
      July 19, 2016 7:21 am

      So, do we nullify the Law by this faith. Heavens no! we uphold the Law. Romans 3:31. Gods Law is eternal, and is applicable to our faith today. We show our faith by our works. Faith without works is dead. Keeping Gods Law is the result of faith. I agree that we are saved by faith and not by keeping Gods Law. God’s Law was never intended to save us. It was intended to teach or instruct us in righteous living. We are to be His set apart people, and keeping God’s Law through faith is what sets us apart from the world.

  3. June 5, 2015 11:54 am

    Take a two edged sword and thrash the word of God into tiny pieces!! Yes, That is what people do that wants to “REWRITE” the bible, the sweet word of God. The word clearly states that we must accept the word like little children! “Clever” ones add and subtract and bisect and rephrase and remove commas and fullstops and “see” the word like they want to see it. Shame hey? The world started with the sabbath when God rested on the seventh day and it will continue untill the end of days. The bible reads very, very, very clearly: REMEMBER the sabbath and KEEP it holy. So, put the bible in a mincer and take out what you like. I accept every word in it! Inspired by the Holy spirit!! So forget obout law or commandmens arguments. God said REMEMBER! And that is that for me,

  4. Brian Hyde permalink
    December 23, 2015 3:50 am

    False assumptions in the above article which lead to the crass error of its conclusions.

    “Moral law” There is no such animal in scripture as “moral” law. Scripture knows of no such definition or division. The RCC invented the division of law and the SDAs copied them.

    The article confuses the role or purpose of written law with the intent of God in giving law. Law characterises the Law-giver but it is not a personification of God Himself. Law has no personality; it is not alive; it is a dead letter written list of rules in a codified format. It is a legal instrument. It does not hang in the air in abstract form as do unwritten principles. It is a visible temporal (and thus temporary) written statement and it reflects the will of the law-giver.

    What it proscribes is formal behaviour and nothing else.

    What it requires is determined by it lists, whether positive actions or negative actions

    In the Bible there are many types of law mentioned. The two main ones we should consider for the purpose of our subject here, is statute (written precepts); 1. acts that are considered offensive and harmful by God for and by humanity, such as the ten commandment law (Decalogue) (except the fourth precept which was given to Israel in commemoration of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery – Ex 31:13: Deut 5:15) and 2. Acts that are considered essential and beneficial by God for and by humanity, such as the two royal laws of love — love to God from the heart and to one’s neighbour as to oneself.

    In the Bible, there are written laws (as above) and there are unwritten laws.

    Unwritten laws are laws built into human nature itself; they are values that inform man’s conscience commending or condemning it. They can be accompanied or not accompanied by written definitions (e.g. Gal 5:22-23) but written definitions are not de facto law they are merely expressions of unwritten principles or values and it is important to bear in mind that no ONE definition, or sets of definition, can fully embody and reflect the infinite scope of unwritten law.

    One example of unwritten law is the “law of faith”. Faith is belief and trust in God’s word and results in dependency in His power to perform what He has promised

    Another example of unwritten law is the “law of love” The unwritten law of love is timeless and universal because God, who is Love by essential nature, is timeless and universal. It is essential nature because love is God’s nature. It is a fulfilled by the spirit of the mind because God is love in the spirit of His mind.. By contrast the unregenerate man is not love in the spirit of His mind. His mind is not led by the spirit but by the flesh, hence a “fleshly mind”. The carnal-minded man cannot fulfil this law by the spirit of his mind because his mind is ruled by the desires of his flesh which are in conflict with the desires of his spirit and thus control his spirit. In order for him to fulfil the desires of his spirit he must first be set free from a carnal nature and be given a spiritual nature. He needs to be transformed by the renewing of his mind. This trans-form-ation is where the mind led by the Spirit of Christ is led from carnality (a mind led by the desires of the flesh) to spirituality (a mind led by the desires of the spirit). This is the “new birth” which Christ spoke of which results in the fulfilment of the “spirit of law”.

    The Law of Moses was a letter (written format) of God’s will (hence, written precepts of law). The Spirit of God dwelling in man is where the principles that constitute God’s essential nature (and obviously His will) become the principles that lead man where his will and God’s will become essentially at one or in harmony (hence, “God works in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure” or as Paul describes “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me”).

    In other words, those principles are integrated by man’s spirit. He lives the principles of love in the very spirit of his mind. This is God’s intent for man. This is the “spirit of law”. It is not something you KEEP or OBSERVE, as in “letter of law” (“keep” or “observe” as in not breaking the precepts – hence, “breaking the rules”) but something you BECOME in your mind. So, whereas under the Law of Moses, you “kept” the law by NOT doing any offensive act (listed for example under the ten commandments) or whereas under the Law of Moses, you “kept” the law by DOING an essential act (royal laws of love), now under the unwritten law of God’s love you first become love by VERY NATURE and once having become love by very nature, then, like God or Christ, your attitude and behaviour are love by nature. In this way your behaviour is taken care of and you are not breaking law but are, in fact, establishing the very intent of God’s will. Hence, you do not, like a criminal, need to be controlled by written law, for the law of love is now (idiomatically speaking) “written” in your heart and written in the spirit of your mind.

    • Anonymous permalink
      December 30, 2016 9:29 pm

      But when you break the commandment then you’re t the law breaker. ..
      When you disregard the 7th day as holy to God, as the day set apart for the purpose of congregating of believers, then you break the commandment and you disobey The King.
      The Olive Tree or Master’s Vineyard is a figure for Israel of God.
      Do you think the Israel is free from the Commandments of the Covenant???
      If you think so then you’re a dead branch ready to be tossed away..

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