By John Mergel
John G. Reisinger, Tablets of Stone and the History of Redemption (Frederick, MY, New Covenant Media, 2004). Available at Amazon. ISBN-13: 978-1928965145.
This reviewer would say that John Reisinger started out with a bang in chapter 1 with the first heading being “The Necessity of Using Biblical Terminology” and giving us a quick index on where the actual words ‘Ten Commandments’ appear in the Bible and how often (3 times). He then clearly presents to the reader the great significance of Sinai as the setting of the first scriptural occurrence of the words ‘Ten Commandments’. JR then goes on to make it very clear that nowhere in scripture is the TC referred to as the ‘moral law of God’. JR then brings the thought together with- “The only references in the entire Bible to the Ten Commandments as a unit, or a specific document, are the three verses that are connected with Israel at Mount Sinai when the God wrote the Ten Commandments on the tables of stone with his finger and gave them to Israel as the terms of a covenant document. It is essential that the words ‘the Ten Commandments’ always be thought of as a single unit and as a covenant document.”
JR then presents to us five other substitute terms used in scripture for the TC, which was very insightful. And throughout the remainder of Chapter 1 Reisinger continues to press the fact that-
“We are never told or encouraged to think of ‘unchanging moral law’ when we read the words ‘Ten Commandments’ or any of its synonymous terms. We are to think covenant document.”
Chapter 2 then focuses on distinguishing between the actual covenant document (the tablets of stone) and all of the additional laws that make up the law given at Sinai and in Moab. Reisinger then gives us this personal insight-
“Until recently, I would have maintained a total dichotomy between the “tablets of the covenant” and the “book of the covenant,” saying that the “tablets of the covenant,” in and of themselves, actually constituted the totality of the ‘Old Covenant.’ I can no longer do that. It is true that they are clearly viewed as two distinct documents; only the stone tablets were put inside the ark, while the book of the covenant was put ‘along side of the ark.”
JR gives a great breakdown of the how, why and where on the ‘Tablets of Stone’ in Chapter 2 with great clarity by repeating several key points and terms, which is very helpful to this reviewer.
In Chapter 3 Reisinger tackles the topic of “The Problem with Two Versions” in showing us what was written on the original Tablets of Stone (Exodus 20) and the follow up version mentioned in Deuteronomy 5 and why there was a difference in some of the commands with great focus on the ‘Sabbath’ wording.
Reisinger also gives up a layout of what the implications are of having Different versions of the Ten Commandments and why Covenant theologians often ignore this fact of Scripture.
In Chapter 4 Reisinger clearly shows us that despite whatever ‘title’ is used for the Ten Commandments that it is always to be viewed as a Covenant document.
So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. (Deut. 4:13)
In Chapter 5 Reisinger impresses the point that the 10 Commandments “Are a ‘Legal,’ or ‘Works,’ Covenant Document. He astutely points out that-
“The importance that Scripture attaches to the Ten Commandments is always, without a single exception, connected with Israel’s special status before God as a unique nation.”
Reisinger goes on to make the clear point that- “God did not give the Ten Commandments to a ‘redeemed [regenerate] people for their sanctification.’ Such a view is not tenable simply because most of those people were not regenerate believers. God gave the Ten Commandments as a legal covenant of life and death to a nation composed of a mix of mostly proud sinners and a few regenerate believers as a means of driving the former to faith in the gospel preached to Abraham.” Yes indeed.
Reisinger makes a point to focus on the fact that both the beginning and the ending of Israel’s special national standing and privileges are connected with their keeping or breaking the Ten Commandments. And we all know how that worked out.
The focus of Chapter 6 is the truth that The Ten Commandments, as Covenant Terms, Were Given Only to the Nation of Israel. He makes it very clear that no one before or after the giving of these commandments given on Mt. Sinai were under them expect for the intended recipients, Physical Israel.
Reisinger gives us this great insight-
“Actually, Israel ‘had the law’ but they did not have the ‘work of the law’ written in their hearts. Their consciences were seared. The Gentiles did not have ‘the law’ but they did have the ‘work of the law’ in their hearts. The law can only ‘work’ and convict of guilt if the individual has knowledge of the terms of that law. In giving Israel the law as a covenant, God enlightened the mind and sharpened the conscience. He placed conscience under the Old Covenant and its threat of judgment. This caused a very painful death to all hope of eternal life in those who truly experienced the end for which the law covenant was given, namely, genuine conviction of guilt. The same law actually ‘blinded’ the rest of the Jews in their self-righteousness and made them worse off spiritually than the Gentiles.”
Chapter 7 primarily deals with the 7th day Sabbath being the sign of the Mosaic Covenant. I love the way that Reisinger breaks Exodus 31:12-18 into ‘Five Facts’ that these verses establish. He also does a great job of interjecting Colossians 2:14-17 into the conversation on the Sabbath. Chapter 7 gave me a clearer understanding of Covenant signs and their purpose.
The central focus of Chapter 8 is that the Tablets of Stone were the center of Israel’s worship culminating in the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.
Reisinger makes the point that-
“The words ‘covenant,’ or ‘Ten Commandments’ could be interchanged with the term ‘testimony’ in this verse. The ark of the testimony is the ark of the covenant. It is clear in the following passages that the ‘testimony’ in the ark is the Ten Commandments written on the tablets of stone:” referring to Duet 10:1-5.
Reisinger goes on to gives us the reason why the Ten Commandments were placed in the ark of the covenant and why was that box so sacred that human hands were not allowed even to touch it? Great insight from the author.
Chapter 9 gives us great insight on The Tablets of Stone, or Ten Commandments, as a Covenant Document, having a Historical Beginning and a Historical End. Much to the chagrin of Covenant theologians.
In Chapter 10 Reisinger gives us the Biblical significance of the Ten Commandments as he focuses on the fact that nowhere does the Word of God call, or treat, the tables of stone as the ‘unchanging moral law of God.’ It always connects them to Mount Sinai when God made them the basis of the covenant with Israel. Also he makes the biblical point that-
“The life and worship of the church is not built on Moses, his laws, or the covenant terms that established Israel as a nation. The foundation of the church is Christ himself and her life and worship is governed through His laws. Christ, the new Lawgiver, gives those laws through the New Covenant apostles and prophets in the inspired New Covenant Scriptures.”
Reisinger gives us some great application for the great truths he presented in Chapters 1-10 in his ‘conclusion’ presented in Chapter 11.
Appendix A & B are also must read as Reisinger delves into ‘Hermeneutics and the Trinity’ and ‘Is there a “Moral Law of God”?’
In closing I would suggest that a person read this book more than once to get the full impact of these biblical truths presented by Reisinger. I myself have put this book in my top 5 of all-time. Enjoy and may God bless you with these truths.
 John Mergel lives in Mansfield, Ohio. 6 years as Elder at Westwood Alliance Church and also served as Sunday School Superintendent. Authored a 200+ page youth group curriculum entitled ‘Soteriology, God’s plan for Redemption’. Preached at Providence Church in Mifflin Ohio for 3 years as well as serving as Sunday School superintendent.