However much Roman law, Mosaic law, and rabbinic law impacted the lives of Jews living in first-century Israel, many people who followed the religion of Israel lived outside of Palestine and beyond the borders of the Roman Empire. Thus, many of these laws would not have played a big role in their lives.
At the same time, however, anyone professing to be a follower of the God of Israel would have adhered to the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments provide Israel with the moral framework for maintaining it. The metaphor that the Bible uses to express this relationship is covenant. While the metaphor comes from the sphere of international law, it is wrong to understand the commandments merely as a summary of Israel’s obligations toward God. . . . Israel’s obedience to the commandments was not a matter of submission to the divine will as much as it was a response to love.-Leslie J. Hoppe,
Ten Commandments, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000), p. 1,285.
The Ten Commandments surpassed any system of law known to Jews in the first century. Even the Pharisees, who had meticulously memorized the 613 Mosaic laws, recognized the importance of the Ten Commandments. The division of the Mishnah called Tamid (5:1) contains a rabbinic command to recite the Ten Commandments daily. It was believed that all the other laws were contained in the Ten Commandments. In fact, the Jewish philosopher Philo, who was a contemporary of Jesus, wrote an entire book on the central place the Ten Commandments held among all biblical law.
Like their Jewish counterparts, the inspired writers of the New Testament recognized the purpose of the Ten Commandments for God’s people. Although some of the lessons for this quarter will discuss the way in which Christ interacted with other systems of law in His day, the primary emphasis will be on His relationship to the Ten Commandments-what is often known as the moral law.