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Holman Bible Dictionary


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One who gives a code of law to a people (Isaiah 33:22 ; James 4:12 ). The KJV used lawgiver seven times. Modern translations replace lawgiver with sceptor four times (Genesis 49:10 ; Numbers 21:18 ; Psalm 60:7 ; Psalm 108:8 ). At Deuteronomy 33:21 modern translations replace lawgiver with commander (NRSV), leader (NIV), ruler (NAS, REB), or an equivalent. The remaining two cases ( Isaiah 33:22 ; James 4:12 ) identify God as lawgiver. Contrary to popular opinion, Scripture never expressly identifies Moses as “lawgiver.” The earliest Greek translation twice identified God as lawgiver (Psalm 9:21 ; 2 Esdras 7:89 ) and used the verb nomotheteo (to give law) with God as its subject seven times ( Exodus 24:12 ; Psalm 24:8 ,Psalms 24:8,24:12 ; Psalm 26:11 ; Psalm 83:7 ; Psalm 118:1 ). Once the Levitical priests are the subject (Deuteronomy 17:10 ; compare Hebrews 7:11 ). The closest Scripture comes to identifying Moses as lawgiver is the question of John 7:19 (“Did not Moses give you the law?”). The New Testament more often identifies Moses as the intermediary through whom the law was given ( John 1:17 ; Galatians 3:19 ). The Epistle of Aristeas is unique among Hellenistic Jewish literature in expressly identifying Moses as the lawgiver (131,148,312).

Christ is sometimes regarded as the “second Moses” or “second lawgiver,” though the New Testament does not expressly identify Him as such. Rather the New Testament designates Christ as the One who fulfills the law (Matthew 5:17 ) or is the end of the law (Romans 10:4 ; compare Romans 7:4-6 ; Romans 8:3-4 ). Christ does however set a new standard for judgment (Matthew 5:21 ) and gives a new commandment (John 13:34 ; John 14:15 ,John 14:15,14:21 ; John 15:10 ,John 15:10,15:12 ; 1John 2:3-4,1 John 2:7-8 ).

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Lawgiver'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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