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4 VIEWS, March 11, 2015

Gary North (pages 136-158; 93-96)

Comments by Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

North (136): I wrote this chapter on the following assumptions:

Kelly: Assumptions are neither correct nor incorrect. Assumptions are not proven laws. You have many other relevant assumptions not mentioned here. (1) You assume that there is very little difference between the old and new covenants (Heb 8:9), (2) You assume that the Old Covenant laws also apply to New Covenant Christians (Rom 7:4 compared to Rom 8:3), (3) You assume that the Old Covenant was not a conditional covenant exclusively made to the nation Israel until Christ should appear. (Ex 19 all)

North (136): 1. You do not want to rob God.

Kelly: This implies that Malachi 3:8-10 applies to the church. Yet you admit that the tithe of Malachi and Matthew were still only agricultural. Since there is not new covenant post-Calvary command to the Church to tithe, none are robbing God for not tithing.

North (136): 3. You want the blessings of God (Deut 28:1-14).

Kelly: You seem to ignore the fact that the Law was an indivisible whole. Blessings only came from perfect obedience and curses resulted from breaking any one of the 600 plus commands of the law. I would like to know how you explain Galatians 3:10 which quotes Deuteronomy 27:26.

North (136): 4. You want to avoid the cursings of God (Deut 28:15-68).

Kelly: Again, I ask you to explain Galatians 3:10/Deut 27:26. A Hebrew could not be blessed for tithing while breaking other aspects of the law.

North (136): 7. You want to pay your God-required share of the Church’s cost.

Kelly: The tithe is never commanded to tithe. (2 Cor 8 and 9)

North (136): 9. If the Bible says it, you believe it.

Kelly: If the Bible says it to the Church, you believe it. If it is not speaking to you, it does not apply to you.

North (136): 10. If the Bible commands it, you obey it.

Kelly: God commanded old covenant Israel not to share its covenant with others. Tithes were never used to set up mission stations and proselytize others.

North: This article is a summary of my book, “The Covenantal Tithe.”

Kelly: Because Perspective on Tithing is a giant opportunity to put forth your views, you probably included the strongest arguments in this article. It would be illogical to do otherwise.

North (137): A covenant is a binding legal relationship between a self-asserted sovereign and his subordinates.

Kelly: You seem to merge all biblical covenants into one system when they are not mutually convergent: Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic, New. Whereas the exact wording of the Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic and New Covenants is unconditional, the exact wording of the old covenant is limited and conditional (Ex 19:5-7; Heb 8:13).

North (137): To understand how a covenant works in practice, the answers to these five organizational questions are needed:

Kelly: The questions you have omitted reflect your presuppositions.

North (137): (1) Who’s in charge here? (2) To whom do I report? (3) What are the rules? (4) What do I get if I obey or disobey?

Kelly: The answers vary depending on “to whom” “I” refers.

Gal 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, UNTIL the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

North (138): Exodus: This is the book of the covenant (Ex 24:7).

Kelly: It is the book of the conditional (Ex 19:5-6) old (Jer 31:31-36; Heb 8:13). It was only made between God and national Israel (Ex 31:13-17).

North (138): The nation [Israel] then covenanted with God through Moses and Aaron (Ex 19).

Kelly: Yes, the nation Israel and not the Church. Exodus 19:5 has an “if”; it is conditional and ended at Calvary (Gal 3:19).

North (138): Leviticus: This is the initial book of the law. It established four legally binding forms of covenant law: [family, land inheritance, priestly and cross-boundary]. The first three were tied exclusively to God’s national covenant with Israel. The fourth category is universal.

Kelly: North dissects the law and keeps only what he chooses. In fact the law was an indivisible whole.


Forty-seven (47) times God’s Word states that His Law is an indivisible whole. One either obeys ALL or is guilty of transgressing all as a set of instructions (Deut 28-29).

No Hebrew, Jew or inspired Bible writer defined only the Ten Commandments as the moral law and downgraded the statutes and judgments to become disposable parts of the law.

Ex 19:5; 23:22; 24:3, 7; Lev 19:37; 20:22; 26:14-15; Numb 15:40; Deut 5:1, 29, 31; 6:2, 24-25; 8:1; 11:8, 22, 32; 12:14, 28; 13:18; 15:5; 17:19; 19:9; 26:16-19; 27:1; 28:1, 15, 45, 58; 29:29; 30:2, 8; 31:12; 32:46; Josh 1:7-8; 22:5; 23:6; 1 Kg 2:3; 6:12; 8:58; 9:4; Jer 7:23; 1:4; 2 Chron 33:8; Matt 5:19; 22:40; Gal 5:3; James 2:10.

North (139): Fourth Commandment: No work on the Sabbath. The gift of one day of rest a week is a blessing. It must not be dismissed as of no value.

Kelly: The fourth commanded was Saturday. It lasted from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday. It was not and is not the same as Sunday. Since “when to worship” is not written in the conscience and in nature, it is not an eternal moral principle. Neither is “how much to give” an eternal moral principle for the same reason. (Rom 1:18-20; 2:14-16; John 1:9)

North (140): What is a tithe? A tithe is a payment of 10 per cent of net income, after deductions for capital expenditures.

Kelly: Notice no biblical validating texts are attached to North’s definition of tithe. He has redefined it by his own authority into a modern reapplication and that is wrong! it is a manipulation of the clear word of God.

DEFINING THE TITHE: True biblical holy tithes were always only food from the holy land and herds of Israelites who lived inside God’s holy land, the boundary of Israel. They were the tenth of crops after the full harvest (not the best); they were the tenth increase of clean animals (not the best) (Lev. 27:30-34).

Common sense demands that, if one is going to quote Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Malachi and Matthew to teach tithing, then one should use the exact definition used by Moses, Nehemiah, Malachi and Jesus. Yes, the basic word tithe means tenth. However in God’s Word tithe does not stand alone; its meaning is very limited. Although money existed before tithing, the source of God’s holy tithe for over 1500 years [Moses to Jesus; Leviticus to Luke] was never money (Mal. 3:10; Mt 23:23). The increase was not from man’s hand or ability; the increase was from what God Himself miraculously produced from His own holy land. No holy tithes could come from non-food items, from Gentiles or from unclean pagan lands.

There are 16 verses from 11 chapters and 8 books from Leviticus 27 to Luke 11 which describe the contents of the holy tithe. And those contents never included money, silver, gold or anything other than food from inside Israel! Yet the incorrect definition of tithe as “the first tenth of income” is the greatest error being preached about tithing today! Lev 27:30, 32; Numb 18:27-28; Deut 12:17; 14:22-23; 26:12; 2 Chron 31:5-6; Neh 10:37; 13:5; Mal 3:10-11; Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42. In order to be honest tithe-teachers must honestly use the biblical definition of the holy tithe.

Neither Gary North nor any other tithe-supporter will address this biblical definition of the holy tithe. It is a fundamental flaw in their argument for modern tithing.

North (140): [The tithe] is paid in the new covenant era to the judicial equivalent of an old covenant priest: the local congregation.

Kelly: Again notice North gives no validating texts because none exist!

(1) Later in this article he will state that it is given to the ministers, the equivalents to the Levitical priests.

(2) The “new covenant” is “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers.” In other words, there is no requirement that the new covenant must follow the pattern of the old. In fact, O.T. priests did not tithe but gave freewill offerings; they represented God and were the end of the line for giving (Numb 18:25-29; Neh 10:38; Mal 1:6-14; Jer 31:32; Heb 8:9).

North (140): This payment [of the tithe] is made exclusively on the basis of participation in the ecclesiastical covenant.

Kelly: Again no texts. Perspectives is supposed to be a debate format over what God’s Word says and not a personal opinion forum.

North (140): The collection of the tithe is uniquely priestly.

Kelly: This line of argument is very confusing because it is not biblical.

(1) The tithe received by Melchizedek was not typical of the law and did not set a pattern followed by the law. It was not the “holy” tithe of the law which was limited to food from inside God’s holy land. (2) It source was pagan spoils of war from Sodom and would not have been equated with the holy tithe of Leviticus 27:30-34.

North (141): Melchizedek’s presentation of bread and wine to Abraham [Gen 14:18-20] was clearly a sacramental meal since he presented it as a priest.

Kelly: No texts validate this statement. Bread and wine were also the most common and most plentiful items to eat and drink. Common sense tells us that any priest-king of any culture would have similarly greeted a hero returning with war booty for his treasury.

North (140): Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek began a series of covenantal events that established Israel as a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6).

Kelly: No texts. (1) From Abraham to Moses are many centuries. (2) Stop and read Exodus 19:5-6 and 32; there is a huge conditional “if” included. (3) God wanted Israel to keep His covenant made through Moses, but Israel rebelled when Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments. Only the Levites crossed the line and only the Levites provided the priests. In other word, there was no “nation of priests” created. Yet Gary North will refer to Exodus 19:5-6 many times in this article implying that Israel did indeed become a nation of priests.

North (140): To seal this promise (that Abram’s seed would inherit the land), God required Abraham to sacrifice animals, which is a priestly act (Gen 15:9-10).

Kelly: North does not believe what he has just written. While it is very clear in Genesis 15 that “the land” only refers to national Israel, North and Reformed theologians teach that national Israel has been replaced by spiritual Israel, the church. They make God a liar through most of the prophets who wrote of an unconditional future Messianic kingdom on Earth. Yes, God sealed His promise to Abram in Genesis 15. H put Abram to sleep and sealed His promise unconditionally by walking among the cut covenant alone. Red Genesis 15 for yourself.

North (143): Jacob’s vow (Gen 28:20-22) was not this sort of conditional vow “If you will not deliver the goods, then I am not bound by my oath.” … It was conditional only in the sense that “If you won’t, then I can’t.”

Kelly: This is theological double talk. Read Genesis 22:20-22 yourself.

North (144): Jacob owed his tithe to a higher priest. Isaac was that priest.

Kelly: No texts. Probably not true. he probably left whatever he gave at altars for the poor. Nobody knows.

North (144): Abraham paid a tithe to a higher priest while he was operating in that priest’s jurisdiction.

Kelly: Abram was not “operating in Melchizedek’s jurisdiction.” He won battle outside of that jurisdiction [near Damascus] and gave him a tithe from pagan spoils of war [from Sodom] as required by pagan law known all over Mesopotamia and confirmed by numerous archaeologists. He paid his local priest-king what was required by the law of the land.

North (144): The Israelites did not tithe to Egyptian priests because they were not priests of the Most High God.

Kelly: No texts. The Israelites gave the Egyptians all of their increase in bricks for building. If one leaves Most High God un-interpreted, it is El Elyon. Research El Elyon. It is a very common title for any god who is worshipped on a high place. That title does not prove who the historical Melchizedek was. And it is irrelevant to the study of tithing. (More later.)

North (144): At Sinai God made a new covenant with them.

Kelly: Yes, yes, yes. It was new. It was not the same as the Abrahamic covenant (Jer 31:32; Heb 8:9). It was only with O.T. Israel and was conditional until Christ (Ex 19:5-6; Gal 3:19).

North (144): This was a covenant renewal.

Kelly: No. No texts. It was “new”; it was not a “renewal” of a former covenant. This is a major flaw of reformed covenant theology.

North (145): The Levites received a tenth of the net output of the rural land as the tribe inheritance. (Numb 18:26)

Kelly: True. This is also found in Neh 10:37-38 and in more detail in Numb 18:20-29. Note this: the Levites were NOT the priests; they were the servants to the priests who performed every other job required at the temple. They were the cooks, guards, musicians, singers, skinners, water carriers, etc. Yet they received the first whole tithe (10%) while the priests (Levite sons of Aaron) received only one per cent (1%) of the Levitical tithe –a tenth of a tenth. This fact is ignored today. Small full-time church pastors could not survive on 1% and the 10% does not go to the ushers, deacons, musicians, singers and treasurer.

North (146): The Mosaic system of tithe applied inside the Promised Land.

Kelly: And only inside the HOLY Promised Land because it was uniquely God’s special land. It could only be that food which God has miraculously increased. There is no biblical change of the description of the HOLY tithe because its covenant and priesthood ended at Calvary.

North (146): Levites could own real estate inside any walled city. (Lev 25:10)

Kelly: While this may be true, it is not true from Leviticus 25:10. The tribe owned the land and only allowed Levites to use part of it.

North (146-149): 2nd and 3rd tithes

North (149): Levites inherited the tithe of net output of rural land.

Kelly: True and that definition of the holy tithe never changed. It is still only food in Malachi 3:10 and Matthew 23:23.

North (150): The language of Malachi refers only to the fruit of the ground. Mal 3:8-12

Kelly: Agreed.

North (150): The tithe was still agricultural as far as the post-exile texts indicate.

Kelly: Agreed.

North (150): Operationally speaking, this tithe came directly to the priests as Levites because there were so few non-Levitical priests. (Lev 10:37)

Kelly: Leviticus 10:37b-38 says that the priests were with the Levites when they (Levites) received the tithe in the cities of Judah (not the Temple).

North (150): Their inheritance was still a tenth of the nation’s net agricultural output.

Kelly: The priests’ inheritance was still only a tenth of a tenth per Neh 10:38; Numb 18:24-28.

North (150): The tithe went to the local priests and Levites and, from there, a tithe of the tithe went to the temple which was the nation’s common storehouse (Mal 3:10).

Kelly: The temple has no facilities for more than one large room (from 2?) to hold tithes for weekly rotations (Neh 13:5; 1 Kings 6:6).

North (150): Was the tithe [of Jesus day] still limited to agricultural output? Mt 23:23-24

Kelly: Yes –over 1400 years after Leviticus 27:30-34.

North (150): The key words for the purpose of this exposition are “These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”

Kelly: Those words are only the key to some covenant theologians who teach that the Laws of Moses still apply to the Christian Church today. As a sinless Jew, Jesus was required to teach tithing or sin. He could not have taught otherwise while the old covenant was still in full effect. For others the “key” to Matthew 23:23 is “matters of the law.”

North (151): Jesus’ words [in Mt 23:23] indicate that a tithe on the agricultural produce of all the land [10%] went to the Levites and from them to the temple priests [1%]. The leaders of Israel still tithed on what they grew agriculturally.

Kelly: True and not text changes that fact.

North (152): Jesus is a Melchizedekan high priest.

Kelly: To be more exact, Jesus is a high priest after the ORDER or Melchizedek and his ORDER was that of a king-priest. Psalm 110:4 is quoted seven (7) times in Hebrews. It focuses on the ORDER and not the “person” of Melchizedek. Therefore the PERSON of Melchizedek is not the focus.

North (152): This doctrine [of Melchizedek] lays the foundation of the Christian covenantal tithe. (Heb 7:1-2).

Kelly: Hebrews 7:2 says that the historical person of Melchizedek was only a type of Christ “by interpretation of his name.” That is not true of the historical person of Jesus Christ; He was in fact the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace. This is a major flaw in North’s logic.

North (152): The principle of the tithe was established by Melchizedek.

Kelly: No, it never was an eternal moral principle for all peoples living all over the world. And, no, it ended with Melchizedek. Follow the sequence of Hebrews 7:5, 12, and 18. In verse 12 “commandment, tithes, law” first appear in Hebrews. In verse 12 that “law” must be changed. In verse 18 the “change” was its “annulment of the commandment going before.” Verses 13-17 point out that the tithing commandment could not apply to Jesus’ priesthood because He was from the tribe of Judah.

North (152): He [M] possessed ecclesiastical authority over Abram.

Kelly: No. Melchizedek did not tell Abraham how to worship. He was only his judicial ruler in his jurisdiction.

North (152): Only when Abram acknowledged this by paying a tithe of his gains that he had made under Melchizedek’s jurisdiction (Gen 14:17-20) did God make Abram a household priest by covenant (Gen 15, 17).

Kelly: No. As head of his family, Abram was already a household priest who built altars to Yahweh (12:7, 8, 13:1, 18).

North (152): Christians are the heirs of the Israelites as the kingdom of priests (1 Pet 2:9; Rev 1:6).

Kelly: No. First Peter 2:9 does not say that. Even the New Covenant s made primarily to the “house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31; Heb 8:8). The first heirs of the Old Covenant Israelites will be the New Covenant Israelites who will rule with Christ from Jerusalem for one thousand years (Revelation 7 and 20). They will receive the unconditional promises made to national Israel through almost every prophet.

Christians are heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:3 “in thee shall all nations be blessed.” (Rom 8:17; Gal 3:29). Perform a word study on “heirs.”

North (152): The kingdom of priests under the new covenant is also confessional and sacramental: citizens of “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).

Kelly: The phrase “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16 refers to Hebrew Christians who have become part of the Church through faith. The Church as a whole is never called “spiritual Israel’; it is the Body of Christ (Rom 7:4).

North (152) : A kingdom is marked by tithing – from lower priests to higher priests.

Kelly: Notice no texts. This is Gary North’s personal opinion. Many kingdoms exist which know nothing of tithing. In fact, the priests of Israel did not tithe; they were the end of the line for giving. In Malachi 1:6-14 they gave freewill offerings.

North (152): To whom should Christians tithe? … There are no Levites.

Kelly: Christians should not tithe to anybody. That is the whole point. In Exodus 19:5-6 God’s original plan for Israel was that Israel would obey Him and all would become priests. That did not happen and those promises were taken from the nation and given to the tribe of Levi and the house of Aaron instead as exclusive priests. Under the New Covenant all believers are priests; priests do not tithe.

North (152): There is only the functional-judicial equivalent of the tabernacle-temple where the high priest Jesus Christ resides judicially – the institutional church….

Kelly: No. The O.T. temple of stone and wood has been replaced by the New Covenant temple of the believer’s body where the Holy Spirit dwells. The idea of an institutional organization called a church is unknown to the Bible. In fact church buildings were not even legal until A. D. 313. The biblical “church” is an “assembly of believers”; it is never a building or institution. Blame John Calvin for much of the modern idea of an institutional organization.

North (153): The new law of the tithe is that Christians must pay their tithes to the local church, as the ecclesiastical representative of the high priest. (Heb 7:12)

Kelly: Heb 7:18 “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.” The “necessary change of the law” in Hebrews 7:12 is that the law of tithing from 7:5 was “annulled” in 7:18.

North (153): The transfer of the priestly line from Levi to Melchizedek marked the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant (Heb 7:22-24).

Kelly: Yes, but it was necessary to outside of the law to do that (Heb 7:13-17).The change was to the tribe of Judah and away from carnal commandments (also 7:13-17).

North (153): The Melchizedekan priesthood is the biblical model of the high priest.

Kelly: Only the ORDER of Melchizedek –not his historical person! This extremely important point is ignored by Gary North although it is quoted 7 times in Hebrews. Christ was made a priest “after the ORDER of Melchizedek” –not after his historical person. His ORDER was that of king-priest.

North (153): The tithe is no longer exclusively agricultural.

Kelly: Notice no texts. Contemporary Bible teachers have re-defined the HOLY tithe as it was used by Moses, Malachi and Jesus without permission from God.

North (153): Holy land now encompasses whatever is made holy—set apart—through ownership by Christians.

Kelly: Notice no texts. We are simply to ignore God’s Word and take North’s word for new revelation! It was not Hebrew ownership that made the Old Covenant tithe HOLY; it was God’s miraculous increase from inside His unique HOLY land. Even though inside Israel, that which man devised and made was not tithed.

North (153): That which we redeem –buy back—from the kingdom of mammon is made holy because it is under our lawful jurisdiction.

Kelly: Notice no texts. “Now,” says North, “every THING we own is holy.”

North (153): This is our inheritance from God and it is the inheritance we leave behind to our heirs. Therefore God’s high priest deserves His tithe on the net output of his inheritance.

Kelly: No texts. The Bible does not teach that our worldly gain is our inheritance from God.

North (155): The tithe is paid by recipients of the sacraments to ministers of the sacraments.

Kelly: Earlier he said twice that the tithe is paid to the institution of the church. Our leaders are not priests after the Old Covenant pattern.

North (154-157): [Summary; not proper for debating.]


Perspectives on Tithing, Four Views is a presentation of four views on tithing plus a rebuttal by each of the other positions. Dr. David Croteau of Liberty University (now Columbia International) argued against tithing from his PHD dissertation. The following is Gary North’s rebuttal of David Croteau.

North (93): The tithe has nothing to do with giving. The tithe is the God-mandated payment by the royal priesthood to higher priests who are formally ordained … as surely as the Mosaic temple priests were formally ordained ….

Kelly: No texts. Tell that to Christendom which teaches tithing.

North (94): [Other than his one tithe to Melchizedek, Abram never tithed again because he was also a priest.

Kelly: Croteau would not disagree with this guess.

North (94): [Croteau’s undocumented claim that tithing was practiced in pagan cultures is irrelevant.

Kelly: He stated that because you claimed that it began with Abraham. It is very documented by archaeologists.

North (95): The new covenant tithe goes to the institutional church because the new covenant tithe rests covenantally on the tithe Abraham gave to Melchizedek.

Kelly: Notice no texts. This approach would not do well in a formal debate.

North (95): In refuting Croteau’s statement “the storehouse does not refer to local churches,” North says it is the logical equivalent of arguing against tithes because churches keep their money in banks.

Kelly: No and no texts. The Bible could not possibly equate the O.T. temple storehouse to local church buildings because such were not legal until A.D. 313. Again the concept of “temple” shifted from a building to the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit within believers.

North (95): [North dismisses Mt 23:23 as irrelevant and focuses entirely on Hebrews 7 for new covenant logic.]

Kelly: Wise decision because Matthew 23:23 is a discussion of “matters of the law” before Calvary.

North (95): North attacked Croteau’s motives which is not proper for debates.

North (96): The text’s primary meaning [Heb 7] is that Jesus office as high priest rests on His restoration of Melchizedek’s priesthood.

Kelly: No. Jesus’ office as high priest rests on (1) His eternal nature, (2) His fulfillment of Melchizedek’s type as the ORDER of a king-priest and (3) His perfect sinless life, sacrifice for the sins of mankind and His resurrection and victory over death (Heb 7:13-19).

North (96): The text’s entire argument for the superiority of the new covenant rests on the argument that Levi tithed to Melchizedek through Abram. Tithing is central to this argument.

Kelly: Hebrews 7 is not about tithing. It uses tithing as the vehicle to demonstrate the superiority of Christ’s high priesthood over that of Aaron. The prophecy of Melchizedek in Psalm 110:4 pointed to the eventual end of the Aaronic priesthood from Judah.