The English phrase “Law of Christ” only occurs once in the entire corpus of the New Testament.1 It is translated from the Greek phrase τὸν νόμον τοῦ Χριστοῦ. In Gal. 6:2, it is written,
2 Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
Βʹ Ἀλλήλων τὰ βάρη βαστάζετε καὶ οὕτως ἀναπληρώσατε τὸν νόμον τοῦ Χριστοῦ
While there is no other mention of “the law of Christ” (Christ’s law) in the remainder of the New Testament corpus, there is mention of it in extra-biblical Jewish literature.
According to Midrash Kohelet Rabba, it is written,2
The Law that man learned in this world is vanity in the presence of the Law of the Messiah.3
תורה שאדם למד בעולם הזה הבל היא לפני תורתו של משיח
Elsewhere in Midrash Kohelet Rabba, it is written,4
Rabbi Chizkkiyah said in the name of Rabbi Simon bar Zavdi, “All the Torah that one learned in this world is vanity in the presence of the Torah that is [learned] in the world to come. In the presence of the Torah that is in this world, a man learned Torah and forgot, but in the world to come, what is written there (Jer. 31:33), ‘I will put My Torah within them.’”
ר' חזקיה בשם רבי סימון בר זבדי אמר: כל התורה שאת למד בעולם הזה, הבל הוא לפני תורה שבעולם הבא. לפי שבעולם הזה אדם למד תורה ושוכח, אבל לעתיד לבוא מה כתיב תמן: (ירמיה ל"א) נתתי את תורתי בקרבם.
As the midrash states, the Torah that is in this world, that is, the Torah of Moses, is vanity in the presence of the Torah that is in the world to come, that is, the Torah of the Messiah, also known as the Law of Christ.
Elsewhere in the midrash, the rabbis admit that there will be a new law (Torah) in the world to come.
For example, in Midrash Vayikra Rabba, it is written,5
Rabbi Avin bar Kahana said, “The Holy One blessed be He said, ‘A new Torah will go forth from Me.’” [He interpreted this to mean] a renewal of the Torah will go forth from Me.
אמר רבי אבין בר כהנא: אמר הקב"ה: תורה חדשה מאתי תצא, חדוש תורה מאתי תצא.
Why did the rabbis interpret Isa. 51:4 to be speaking of a “new Torah” (תורה חדשה)?
In Isa. 51:4, it is written,
4 Attend to Me, My people, and give ear to Me, My nation, for a law will proceed from Me, and I will establish My judgment for a light of the people.
ד הַקְשִׁיבוּ אֵלַי עַמִּי וּלְאוּמִּי אֵלַי הַאֲזִינוּ כִּי תוֹרָה מֵאִתִּי תֵצֵא וּמִשְׁפָּטִי לְאוֹר עַמִּים אַרְגִּיעַ
The Hebrew verb תֵצֵא is conjugated in the future tense from the verb יָצָא. The Hebrew verb יָצָא, when used in the context of an edict or law, means “to issue; be promulgated.”6 In other words, Yahveh says that He will promulgate or issue a law in the future (“a law will proceed from Me”). How could Isaiah be referring to the promulgation of the Law of Moses if the verb תֵצֵא is conjugated in the future tense? Rather, the prophet Isaiah prophesies of a law that will be promulgated in the future—a new law.
Likewise, in Isa. 2:1–3, it is written,
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amotz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And it will occur in the last days – the mountain of the house of Yahveh will be established in the top of the mountains, and it will be exalted more than the hills, and all nations will flow unto it. 3 And many people will go and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of Yahveh, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for from Zion will proceed a law, and a word of Yahveh from Jerusalem.”
א הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר חָזָה יְשַׁעְיָהוּ בֶּן אָמוֹץ עַל יְהוּדָה וִירוּשָׁלִָם ב וְהָיָה בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים נָכוֹן יִהְיֶה הַר בֵּית יַהְוֶה בְּרֹאשׁ הֶהָרִים וְנִשָּׂא מִגְּבָעוֹת וְנָהֲרוּ אֵלָיו כָּל הַגּוֹיִם ג וְהָלְכוּ עַמִּים רַבִּים וְאָמְרוּ לְכוּ וְנַעֲלֶה אֶל הַר יַהְוֶה אֶל בֵּית אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב וְיֹרֵנוּ מִדְּרָכָיו וְנֵלְכָה בְּאֹרְחֹתָיו כִּי מִצִּיּוֹן תֵּצֵא תוֹרָה וּדְבַר יַהְוֶה מִירוּשָׁלִָם
Using the same verb תֵּצֵא that occurs in Isa. 51:4, the prophet Isaiah prophesies of a law (not “the law”) that will proceed from Zion, another name for Jerusalem. Since the Law of Moses had already proceeded (in the past) from Mount Sinai, perhaps 700 years before Isaiah lived, the prophet Isaiah could not have been referring to it, but rather, a new law that would proceed or be promulgated in the future from Jerusalem.
In his commentary on Isa. 51:4, David Kimchi wrote,
“For a law will proceed from Me”—like what it said in the beginning of the book (i.e., Isa. 2:3), “For a law will proceed from Zion,” for the King Messiah will teach the nations to walk in the ways of Yahveh, and this will occur after the war of Gog and Magog.
כי תורה מאתי תצא - כמו שאמר בתחילת הספר כי מציון תצא תורה, כי המלך המשיח יורה העמים ללכת בדרכי ה', וזה יהיה אחר מלחמת גוג ומגוג.
In his commentary on Isa. 2:3, David Kimchi wrote,
And the teacher is the King Messiah.
והמורה הוא מלך המשיח.
In his commentary on Isa. 2:2, David Kimchi wrote,
“And it will occur in the last days”—Everywhere that it says “in the last days,” it is the days of the Messiah.
והיה באחרית הימים - כל מקום שנאמר באחרית הימים הוא ימות המשיח.
It is evident that the prophet Isaiah established the precedent for a new law to be promulgated during the days of the Messiah, and by the Messiah himself.
In Midrash Otiyot deRabbi Akiva, it is written,7
And the Holy One, blessed be He, interprets the meanings of a new Torah in their presence which, in the future, the Holy One, blessed be He, shall give them by the hands of the Messiah.
והקב"ה דורש לפניהן טעמי תורה חדשה שעתיד הקב"ה ליתן להן על ידי משיח
The Law of Moses (תּוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה) is also known as “the book of the Law”8 (סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה) and “the book of the covenant”9 (סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית). Written therein are “the words of the Law”10 (דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה) and “the words of the covenant”11 (דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית). In other words, the law is equivalent to the covenant. Specifically, the Law of Moses is the Old Covenant. In Mekhilta deRabbi Yishmaʾel, it is written,12 אין ברית אלא תורה, that is, “There is no covenant except the Law.”
In Jer. 31:31–34,13 it is written,
31 “Behold, the days are coming,” said Yahveh, “that I will cut a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I cut with their fathers in the day that I took their hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them,” said Yahveh. 33 “But this will be the covenant that I will cut with the house of Israel. After those days,” said Yahveh, “I will put My Law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts, and I will be their god, and they will be My people. 34 And a man will no longer teach his neighbor, and a man his brother, saying, “Know Yahveh!” for they all will know Me, from the least of them even unto the greatest of them, for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will no longer remember their sin.”
לא הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים נְאֻם יַהְוֶה וְכָרַתִּי אֶת בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת בֵּית יְהוּדָה בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה לב לֹא כַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אֶת אֲבוֹתָם בְּיוֹם הֶחֱזִיקִי בְיָדָם לְהוֹצִיאָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲשֶׁר הֵמָּה הֵפֵרוּ אֶת בְּרִיתִי וְאָנֹכִי בָּעַלְתִּי בָם נְאֻם יַהְוֶה לג כִּי זֹאת הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר אֶכְרֹת אֶת בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל אַחֲרֵי הַיָּמִים הָהֵם נְאֻם יַהְוֶה נָתַתִּי אֶת תּוֹרָתִי בְּקִרְבָּם וְעַל לִבָּם אֶכְתְּבֶנָּה וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם לֵאלֹהִים וְהֵמָּה יִהְיוּ לִי לְעָם לד וְלֹא יְלַמְּדוּ עוֹד אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ וְאִישׁ אֶת אָחִיו לֵאמֹר דְּעוּ אֶת יהוה כִּי כוּלָּם יֵדְעוּ אוֹתִי לְמִקְּטַנָּם וְעַד גְּדוֹלָם נְאֻם יַהְוֶה כִּי אֶסְלַח לַעֲוֹנָם וּלְחַטָּאתָם לֹא אֶזְכָּר עוֹד
When the prophet Jeremiah prophesied of a new covenant that would be cut in the coming days (i.e., the future), he likewise prophesied of a new law that would be given. According to the prophet Jeremiah, the new covenant would not be like the old covenant Yahveh cut with their fathers, referring to that which was inaugurated at Mount Sinai. Likewise, the new law would not be like the old law, for the old covenant was the Law of Moses.
Regarding the old covenant and the old law, in Exo. 24:7–8, it is written,
7 And he took the book of the covenant, and he read in the ears of the people, and they said, “All that Yahveh said, we will do and obey.” 8 And Moses took the blood, and he sprinkled it on the people and said, “Behold, the blood of the covenant which Yahveh cut with you concerning all these words.”
ז וַיִּקַּח סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית וַיִּקְרָא בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם וַיֹּאמְרוּ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יַהְוֶה נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע ח וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת הַדָּם וַיִּזְרֹק עַל הָעָם וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה דַם הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרַת יַהְוֶה עִמָּכֶם עַל כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה
Instead, the new covenant was characterized in a variety of ways:
Under the Old Covenant, the words of the covenant were written in a book (scroll) that was placed on the side of the ark of the covenant.
In Deu. 31:24–26, it is written,
24 And it came to pass, when Moses finished writing the words of this Law upon a scroll, until they were completed, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of Yahveh, saying, 26 “Take this book of the Law, and place it on the side of the ark of the covenant of Yahveh your god, and it will be there for a witness against you.”
כד וַיְהִי כְּכַלּוֹת מֹשֶׁה לִכְתֹּב אֶת דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת עַל סֵפֶר עַד תֻּמָּם כה וַיְצַו מֹשֶׁה אֶת הַלְוִיִּם נֹשְׂאֵי אֲרוֹן בְּרִית יַהְוֶה לֵאמֹר כו לָקֹחַ אֵת סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה וְשַׂמְתֶּם אֹתוֹ מִצַּד אֲרוֹן בְּרִית יַהְוֶה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וְהָיָה שָׁם בְּךָ לְעֵד
The Law of Moses is consistently described as being placed or set “before” the Israelite, but certainly never within him.14 However, under the New Covenant, Yahveh would place His Law within Israelites and write it upon their hearts. While various explanantions exist regarding the identity of this law, it seems probable that it refers to the Holy Spirit, for the prophet Ezekiel also prophesied,
36 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you, and I will remove the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
כו וְנָתַתִּי לָכֶם לֵב חָדָשׁ וְרוּחַ חֲדָשָׁה אֶתֵּן בְּקִרְבְּכֶם וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת לֵב הָאֶבֶן מִבְּשַׂרְכֶם וְנָתַתִּי לָכֶם לֵב בָּשָׂר
St. Augustine wrote,15
Therefore, what is God’s law written by God Himself in the hearts, but the very presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the finger of God,16 and by whose presence is shed abroad in our hearts the love17 which is the fulfilling of the law18 and the aim of the commandment?19
Quid sunt ergo leges Dei ab ipso Deo scriptae in cordibus nisi ipsa praesentia Spiritus Sancti, qui est digitus Dei, quo praesente diffunditur caritas in cordibus nostris, quae plenitudo legis est et finis praecepti?
Just as the prophet Isaiah prophesied, the new law, that is, the Holy Spirit, proceeded or was sent forth from Zion, that is, Jerusalem, as it is written in Acts 1:4,20
4 And when he was assembled together [with them], he commanded them to not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father which you have heard from me.
Δʹ καὶ συναλιζόμενος παρήγγειλεν αὐτοῖς ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων μὴ χωρίζεσθαι ἀλλὰ περιμένειν τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ πατρὸς ἣν ἠκούσατέ μου
Augustine (Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis). “On the Spirit and the Letter” (De Spiritu et Littera). Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Series Latina. Ed. Migne, Jacques Paul. Vol. 44. Petit-Montrouge: Imprimerie Catholique, 1865.
Gesenius, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm. Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Trans. Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. London: Bagster, 1860.
Koehler, Ludwig; Baumgartner, Walter. A Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Trans. Richardson, M. E. J. Ed. Baumgartner, Walter; Stamm, Johann Jakob. Leiden: Brill, 2002.
Mekhilta deRabbi Yishmaʾel (מכילתא דרבי ישמעאל). Ed. Friedmann, Meir (Ish Shalom). Vienna: Holzwarth, 1870.
Midrash Otiyot deRabbi Akiva (מדרש אותיות דרבי עקיבא). Jerusalem: Frumkin, 1913.
Midrash Rabba (מדרש רבה). Ed. עריכת זהבה גרליץ. Internet ed. Israel: www.daat.ac.il.
1 Gal. 6:2
2 פרשה יא, ח (Section 11.8)
3 The Greek word χριστός is equivalent to the Hebrew word משיח, both meaning “anointed” and often functioning as the substantive “anointed one.”
4 פרשה ב, א (Section 2.1)
5 פרשה יג, ג (Section 13.3)
6 Gesenius, p. 359; HALOT, p. 425; cp. Hab. 1:4; Psa. 17:2
7 Folio 27 (כז)
8 Jos. 8:34
9 Exo. 24:7
10 Jos. 8:34
11 2 Chr. 34:31
12 מסכתא דפסחא ,פרשה ה
13 Jer. 31:30-33 according to the Masoretic text
14 Deu. 4:8, 11:26, 11:32; 1 Kings 9:6
15 Ch. XXI (222)
16 Luke 11:20
17 Rom. 5:5
18 Rom. 13:10
19 1 Tim. 1:5
20 cp. Luke 24:49; Acts 2:33