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Matthew 5:17


Vridar
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"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Mt 5:17

 

What was Jesus saying?

 

Was he correcting the Pharisees? Was he saying he was here to put Torah in the true light (his true light)? What is your interpretation? I'm more interested in members thoughts than concordance quoting but am interested in whatever creates a discussion.

 

Ron

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Ron,

 

Without reference to some authoritative source, I would not be able to give a worthwhile answer as to whether he really said it, whether the English translation is representative, or what he meant. Hopefully, others can be more illuminative.

 

However, looking at the context and the following verses, he seems to me to be advocating going beyond the letter of the law and practicing the spirit of the law which sets a much higher standard.

 

George

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Matthew's gospel is believed by most bible scholars to have been written for a Jewish Christian community. In early Christianity, there was a debate among the early Christians as to whether or not Christians should still follow the old law. The Gentile church of Saint Paul thought Gentiles shouldn't have to follow the old law and were under the grace of Jesus. Matthew's gospel represents the positions of a Jewish Christian community which likely held that Christians should still follow the old law. What must be understood is that the gospels represents the religious beliefs of the communities they were written for as much as they contain historical sayings of Jesus.

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"he seems to me to be advocating going beyond the letter of the law and practicing the spirit of the law which sets a much higher standard."

 

George,

 

You hit upon where I'm headed. My recent readings are leading me in this direction. Let's see if others have insight.

 

Ron

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...The Gentile church of Saint Paul thought Gentiles shouldn't have to follow the old law and were under the grace of Jesus. Matthew's gospel represents the positions of a Jewish Christian community which likely held that Christians should still follow the old law...

 

Neon,

 

So, Matthew (c. 70s) says Jesus's Sermon on the Mount (c. 30s) is suggesting Gentiles taught by Paul (c. 50s) should get back to the law? If this is so, and I understand it correctly, I'd suggest there is some anachronism.

 

I think we are on the same vein here. Possibly, Jesus's speech indicates he's here to clarify the Torah and Prophets, maybe?

 

Ron

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Matthew's gospel is the most pro-Jewish of the gospels with John being the least pro-Jewish. You can tell this by how frequently Matthew always cites Jewish prophecy to prove Jesus is the messiah throughout the gospel. When Jesus gave the commandments on the Sermon on the Mount, he didn't supersede the old law like Protestants have traditionally interpreted it, rather Jesus made the laws tougher to follow. You can see this in Jesus' contrast in the example of marriage where Jesus says Moses allowed divorce in the case of adultery but Jesus says don't even lust in your heart, let alone think about getting a divorce. Moses interpreted the law in terms of crime and punishment whereas Matthew's Jesus says don't even think about breaking the law to begin with. Having said that, I think Paul's grace-centered version of Christianity is just as legitimate of a form of Christianity as Matthew's Jewish Christianity is as both Matthew and Paul are writing about their beliefs of what they think Jesus would have said as much as they are including historical quotes from Jesus. I don't think we can know for certain what the historical Jesus would have thought about Gentiles following the law because that controversy didn't appear until after his death and everyone writing accounts about Jesus are writing in the context of decades after his death in their own times and culture.

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...When Jesus gave the commandments on the Sermon on the Mount, he didn't supersede the old law like Protestants have traditionally interpreted it, rather Jesus made the laws tougher to follow...

 

Neon,

 

Now I know we are on the same vein. Some of my current readings are leading me to believe Jesus's religion may not be what has come down to us. He may have been more steeped in the traditional Judaism than we are led to believe. Did Paul usurp Jesus's religion and turn it to something Jesus didn't/wouldn't recognize or appreciate?

 

Ron

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Whoever wrote these words seems to me to be trying to 'sell' Jesus to a Jewish audience by insisting that Jesus is not a threat to Judaism, but complimentary. The writer is portraying Jesus as an example of the Law & the Prophets, not one who wants to turn everything on its head, but who wants to push the religion further along its path - a path started by the Law & Prophets and now extending further.

 

That's my take anyway.

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Whoever wrote these words seems to me to be trying to 'sell' Jesus to a Jewish audience by insisting that Jesus is not a threat to Judaism, but complimentary. The writer is portraying Jesus as an example of the Law & the Prophets, not one who wants to turn everything on its head, but who wants to push the religion further along its path - a path started by the Law & Prophets and now extending further.

 

Paul,

 

You"re thinking Jesus didn't say those words? Knowing later interpolations did happen, it could be. Do you think Jesus "wants to turn everything on its head"? This may be what came down traditionally, but, is it really what Jesus was preaching? That's really my questioning. I'm not sure we have it accurately what Jesus's intention was. Was he really changing things or concerned the direction Judaism was heading?

 

I'm thinking the Jesus Seminary attributes the Sermon on the Mount to Jesus. I don't have my Five Gospels at hand to check. George, do you have yours? Did JS give them Red on the Sermon?

 

Ron

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Paul,

 

You"re thinking Jesus didn't say those words? Knowing later interpolations did happen, it could be. Do you think Jesus "wants to turn everything on its head"? This may be what came down traditionally, but, is it really what Jesus was preaching? That's really my questioning. I'm not sure we have it accurately what Jesus's intention was. Was he really changing things or concerned the direction Judaism was heading?

 

I'm thinking the Jesus Seminary attributes the Sermon on the Mount to Jesus. I don't have my Five Gospels at hand to check. George, do you have yours? Did JS give them Red on the Sermon?

 

Ron

 

Yes Ron, I'm thinking Jesus didn't say those words, but rather it was the author of Mathew's take on things. I don't think Jesus wanted to turn things on their head, but rather some Jews were threatened by Jesus' message, so to 'sell' Jesus to Judaism, the author of Mathew felt compelled to 'link' Jesus in somehow.

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I’d agree that this passage is about clarifying the received tradition.

Before the sermon on the mount, the Pharisees had probably accused Jesus of undermining some nit-picking rituals and purity codes—e.g., healing on the Sabbath. He is saying that the law’s true intent was an inclusive social vision of justice and compassion, and that his ministry would actually accomplish the goal more effectively than their system. Jesus transformed people from the inside out…instead of feeling threatened, coerced into external obedience, they felt accepted and connected, motivated to fulfill God’s plan for a more humane world. That’s how this verse from Matthew makes sense to me, at least.

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I don't have my Five Gospels at hand to check. George, do you have yours? Did JS give them Red on the Sermon?

 

Now that I have permission to reference a concordance :), the Five Gospels has this colored black (the consensus is Jesus didn't say it). They say that this, "reflects a controversy in the early Christian community over whether the Law was still binding on Christians. Matthew's position is that the most trivial regulation . . . must be observed."

 

My other go-to source for all thing NT (The Early Christian Reader), points out the the "do not think" phrase suggests that the author knows of some who do think that Jesus came to abolish the law.

 

George

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Yes Ron, I'm thinking Jesus didn't say those words, but rather it was the author of Mathew's take on things. I don't think Jesus wanted to turn things on their head, but rather some Jews were threatened by Jesus' message, so to 'sell' Jesus to Judaism, the author of Mathew felt compelled to 'link' Jesus in somehow.

 

It appears most think Matthew might be pacifying the traditional Jews.

 

Ron

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Now that I have permission to reference a concordance :),...

 

My other go-to source for all thing NT (The Early Christian Reader), points out the the "do not think" phrase suggests that the author knows of some who do think that Jesus came to abolish the law.

 

George,

 

My reasoning for asking personal thoughts as opposed to quotes was to get members thoughts. My concerns were unfounded. You can so succinctly cuff me. :P

 

It probably is without question some thought "Jesus came to abolish the law." The Christian traditional thinking is also that, no? Or, at least further it into the messianic era, no? I'm beginning to question His purpose after reading some recent sources, Tabor, Heemstra, Maccoby, Eisenman, Butz and others.

 

Ron

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My other go-to source for all thing NT (The Early Christian Reader), points out the the "do not think" phrase suggests that the author knows of some who do think that Jesus came to abolish the law.

 

George

Mark's Jesus seems to be much more relaxed about following the law than Matthew's Jesus is. There's that whole chapter where the Pharisees confront Jesus and the apostles about harvesting wheat on the Sabbath and Jesus makes the comment about how humanity was made for the Sabbath and not the other way around.
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Mark's Jesus seems to be much more relaxed about following the law than Matthew's Jesus is...

 

Neon,

 

Don’t some scholars feel Mark was written prior to the 2nd Temple’s destruction? And, Matthew’s written just after the fall, or at least during the seige? If this holds, maybe Mark was more “relaxed” in that the Jewish people, both followers of Jesus and traditional Judaism, were not so concerned about being in the best of graces with the Empire. After the destruction, the people were less certain the Messiah was on his way to destroy the “Old Kingdom” and possibly the “New Kingdom” was a dream.

 

Hence, to the point I’m making. After the destruction Judaism was in a more appeasement mode toward the Romans. There was a tension in that traditional Jewish people were in competition with the new Christian Jews for Roman favors. Hence, Matthew wanted Jesus to look less contentious to the Jews. And, maybe this is what most of you are saying. I’m new to this thinking.

That’s a long way to say maybe Matthew put words in Jesus’s mouth to appease the Jews and Romans? After all, the Jewish religion had Rome’s favor, as an antiquated faith, and the new Christian Jews did not.

 

This is not off topic of my intentions of the original topic. Where I'm headed is that Jesus, Paul and the Gospel's authors were living within the economic and political system and were compensating through what they knew at the time - metaphysical intervention (and possible manipulation of the metaphysical intervention).

 

I know I'm getting into blasphemous territory on a Christian forum, but, I'm interested in other's thoughts.

Ron

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Don’t some scholars feel Mark was written prior to the 2nd Temple’s destruction?

 

I checked three sources and they give dates for Mark roughly in the 60-80 CE period which could place it before the destruction of the temple in 70 CE.

 

BTW, there is no "blasphemous territory" here as long as one is not dogmatic or demeaning of other views.

 

George

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"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Mt 5:17

 

What was Jesus saying?

 

Was he correcting the Pharisees? Was he saying he was here to put Torah in the true light (his true light)? What is your interpretation? I'm more interested in members thoughts than concordance quoting but am interested in whatever creates a discussion.

 

Ron

 

Hi Ron, I am enjoying this thread. Thanks for posting.

 

Whether or not Jesus actually said these words, - and I think there is considerable evidence to the contrary - I think that the author of this Gospel was indeed trying to fashion a Jesus that was palatable to the observant Jew, yet left open to debate the strict adherence to The Law. I think there was a movement (Paul) within the Jewish community to abandon the thing that made Jews stick out most [annoyingly so?] to other people; strict observance of The Law.

 

Being Jewish myself, I can tell you that STRICT observance of The Law is a bit of a challenge. I spent some time living with a relative who was Orthodox, and it was no picnic [OY, the washing of sooooo many plates!!]. Don't get me wrong; I think the prayers and ritual symbolism are beautiful testimonies to a lovingly fashioned and ancient faith tradition, but to the average human; it is a bit much.

 

I think that the early Jewish organizers of the emergent Christian faith were savvy enough to realize that the spoiled, wealthy Romans whom they wished to enlist (probably for their money) would NEVER submit to ritual bathing, shunning women during menstruation, and all of the dietary, moral and legal restrictions put upon the faithful.

 

Ron, I think that you are on an exciting tack, and I look forward to further development of this thread.

 

NORM

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I spent some time living with a relative who was Orthodox, and it was no picnic [OY, the washing of sooooo many plates!!]. Don't get me wrong; I think the prayers and ritual symbolism are beautiful testimonies to a lovingly fashioned and ancient faith tradition, but to the average human; it is a bit much.

 

Ron, I think that you are on an exciting tack, and I look forward to further development of this thread.

 

Norm,

 

Thanks for the encouragement. Recent readings have elevated my respect for the Jewish traditions, especially pre- and post-Second Temple traditions. If this thread develops further I'd like to expound on that.

 

Ron

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I heard an interview several years ago with an American Jew (secular, as I recall), who attempted to spend a year complying with all 613 miztvot (commandments). It was not easy, in fact, it was almost impossible to do and live a reasonably normal, modern life.

 

One thing (among many) that I have failed to determine is when Christianity deviated from the agreement at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:19) which requires kosher meats. Both camps of Jesus movement signed up to the deal. I also wonder how modern biblical literalists justify violating this restriction.

 

George

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I have failed to determine is when Christianity deviated from the agreement at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:19) which requires kosher meats.

 

George

 

George,

Your question is very interesting. Could we also ask, when did the Christian Jews make a definitive break from Judaism and became Christians abandoning Jewish tradition such as Saturday Sabbath? Was it gradual starting with the Jerusalem Council? I'm sure scholars have suggestions. Another challenge?

Maybe others will have input.

Ron

PS Maybe we can now open the concordances. :rolleyes:

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I heard an interview several years ago with an American Jew (secular, as I recall), who attempted to spend a year complying with all 613 miztvot (commandments). It was not easy, in fact, it was almost impossible to do and live a reasonably normal, modern life.

 

There are 99 of these Laws that deal with sacrificing animals in the Temple. So, yeah; it would be impossible. Also, there are at least a couple dozen that deal with how to use a mikvah (ritual bath house). Most people don't even know what one is, let alone have access to one.

 

One thing (among many) that I have failed to determine is when Christianity deviated from the agreement at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:19) which requires kosher meats. Both camps of Jesus movement signed up to the deal. I also wonder how modern biblical literalists justify violating this restriction.

 

If one had to point to a single moment when Jews ceased being Jews and became Christians, it would be at the time of this alleged Council described in Acts. Out of 613 Laws, only three escaped the cutting room floor:

 

abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

 

The new members were not even required to be circumcised - a very fundamental commandment (even to this day) for Jews. Also, I would hardly call these minimal dietary restrictions as "keeping Kosher."

 

Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is difficult to put her back. I think it is natural that Christians, over the centuries, drifted further and further from the fundamentals of Judaism. For, Judaism at its heart is an Eastern religion. Christianity is fully Western in philosophy and character. The whole notion of a literal heaven and hell come directly from Greek mythology - NOT Judaism. In fact, belief in an afterlife is a relatively modern notion in Jewish religion. And the apocalyptic message of modern Christianity is about as far from Judaism as you can philosophically get.

 

NORM

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