Petrus Dathenus (1531-1588) on properly distinguishing between Moses and Christ


The Pearl of Christian Comfort is a dialogue between Petrus Dathenus (1531-1588) and Lady Elizabeth de Grave.  It is based upon letters Dathenus wrote to Elizabeth in 1584 that were later collected and published in 1624.  Dathenus is more mature in the Christian faith and in this dialogue graciously explains to Elizabeth how to rightly distinguish between law and gospel and to find comfort in the work of Christ.  Those familiar with the Heidelberg Catechism will find many echoes of it throughout this wonderful little book. Here Dathenus shows the proper distinction between Moses and Christ:

“Dathenus: I notice that you still cannot properly distinguish between Moses and Christ; you believe that Christ does not drive us to the ceremonies of the law as Moses did to his people.  However, regarding the keeping of the ten commandments are concerned, you believe that Christ and Moses are alike.

Elizabeth: Yes, that has for a long time been my view and understanding.

Dathenus: But in this you are totally deceived (1 Cor. 3:9).  The difference between Christ and Moses is as great as that between life and death.  This is clearly demonstrated by the words of John: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  Likewise we read, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).  Christ says therefore, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust” (John 5:45).

Hereby Christ teaches that as much as the function of an accuser or prosecutor is distinct from that of a mediator, reconciler, or defender, so distinct is also Moses’ function and office from that of Christ (Rom. 4:14-15).  Moses can only bring to us a knowledge of sin, a sense of God’s wrath, and the resulting uneasiness of conscience and fear of damnation.  However, Christ takes away sin, along with the deserved punishment, brings peace and serenity to the conscience, and causes God’s children to be cheerful and of good courage (Rom. 5:1).  Christ gives to His own all that Moses demands from his own.”

– Petrus Dathenus (1531-1588), The Pearl of Christian Comfort, p. 35-36

That last sentence is a true gem. Read it again, and memorize it.


One thought on “Petrus Dathenus (1531-1588) on properly distinguishing between Moses and Christ

  1. Petrus Dathenus (1531-1588) on properly distinguishing between Moses and Christ | Theologia est doctrina Deo vivendi per Christum

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