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Q&A

Theologically speaking, how does the Roman Catholic church decide which parts of the pre-Christian bible are binding?

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My understanding, which must be overly simplified, is that the founders of Christianity held that even though the pre-gospel books of the bible (the Hebrew bible or what Christians call the old testament) are holy, the commandments therein are not binding after the coming of Jesus. This is why Christians don't follow the dietary laws, require circumcision, and so on, even though the books that give these commandments are part of the Christian bible.

However, from what I have seen, Christianity does teach that the 10 commandments are binding, and teaches that they are binding because they are the 10 commandments, not because there are other reasons to follow them. It appears that some of the sexual laws and I think tithing also have elevated status. There are probably others.

I'd like to understand what principles of theology guide the decisions about which of these laws are or are not applicable. I can't very well ask about all of Christianity (too broad!), so this question is specifically about how the Roman Catholic church decides. I'm asking about the RC church in particular because they have a long history of legal literature and canon law, so perhaps they have articulated these principles therein.[1]

I understand that anything that Jesus taught would have special status, but I don't think that covers everything so I suspect there's something more to it.

I ask this question as an outsider and hope I have not mischaracterized anybody. If I've made errors, and particularly if they offend, I would very much like to be corrected.


  1. I might have related questions later. I suspect the orthodox churches also have a rich body of work here. ↩︎

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I unfortunately don't know Latin rite (Roman Catholic) canon law (and my knowledge even of the Byzantine rite and Orthodox canons is weak, although I do intend to take a course in this soon as it's part of the program I'm enrolled in). However, you may find it helpful to consult this (fairly brief) section of the Roman Catholic Catechism: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a1.htm while awaiting a fuller answer. laserkittens‭ 18 days ago

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