Saturday, February 20, 2010

Did Jesus Oppose The Law of Moses?

At least some in Jesus’ day claimed that Jesus was attempting to set aside Moses’ Law. And certainly many of Jesus’ Gentile followers thought that he did. On the one hand, Jesus claims to not be opposed to the Law in any way (Matt 5:17). He opposes anyone who lessens the Law (Matt. 5:19). On the other hand, he claims that a law of Moses was given just to appease the children of Israel’s “hardness of heart”. And he seemed to have many instances in which he opposed Moses’ Law. Or did he? Let’s look at some of Jesus’ teachings that seem to contradict Moses:

1. Divorce—
Matthew 19:1-9 v Deuteronomy 24:1
When confronted with Moses’ command to give a certificate of divorce, Jesus claims that the law was a concession to the disloyal hearts of Israelites, and that divorce was never in God’s plan. He uses another part of the Law which confirms that marriage is established by God (Genesis 1:24). Thus, he concludes, divorce should only be allowed if adultery is found—because adultery would break the covenant of marriage even without divorce. While it seems that Jesus is contradicting Moses, on the surface, Jesus is not actually opposing the law, here. The original law was to make a divorce official by having it be written in order to prevent remarriage. Thus the certificate is less about divorce than to disallow remarriage. Thus, Jesus is bringing the law back to its original intent—preventing remarriage, rather than allowing divorce. Jesus then expands the law opposing remarriage in Deuteronomy 24 to include any kind of remarriage except that following adultery, based on Genesis 1. Thus, Jesus is not opposing Moses, but making the law more consistent with itself and God’s plan in creation. The higher law of faithfulness to a covenant and preventing others from sinning trumps the allowance of divorce.

2. Cleanliness—
Matthew 15:10-20 v. Leviticus 5:2
Jesus claims that it is not what one touches or eats that makes one unclean, but the intent of one’s heart. This seems to contradict Moses who says that what one touches can make one unclean. Jesus, however, does not deny the actions that one should do to remain clean in the law—he is not opposed to bathing, but only mandatory washing before meals (which is found in the oral law, not the written). He could be speaking about the “real” cleanness that will matter on the judgement day, not the day to day cleanness that is significant in contemporary human society. Jesus is not contradicting Moses, but highlighting the moral law.

3. Loving enemies—
Matthew 5:42-48 v. Deuteronomy 23:6
The Law tells the Israelites who to hate, while Jesus says to hate no one—to even love one’s enemies. However, the Law is very specific about who one is to hate—Moabites, Amorites and Canaanites. Other nations are not to be “hated” or done evil to, even if they do evil (Edom and Egypt—Deut 23:7). Yahweh rescinded his command about the Canaanites (Deut. 20:17; Judges 2:20-3:6). The separation was later to be not to intermarry with these tribes (Gen. 28:1; Judges 3:5-7;Ezra 9:1-3). The Canaanites survived to the time of Jesus, but he granted them the eschatalogical promise to Israel if they displayed faith (Matthew 15). Thus, Jesus is not contradicting Moses, but taking a basic principle of the law—“Love of neighbor” and applying it more broadly.

4. Oaths—
Matt. 5:34-37; Matthew 23:16-22 v. Numbers 30:3
Rather than just emphasizing the keeping of oaths, Jesus is denying any oath-speech used in a promise. Moses’ law just demands that one keeps the oath one makes. Moses, of course, is not demanding that people make oaths. So Jesus is not contradicting Moses, but heightening the demand. Jesus is emphasizing honest speech for the sake of others in Matthew 5. In Matthew 23, Jesus argues against oath-taking for the sake of devotion. Overall, Jesus is saying that oath-making is less important than integrity and faithfulness to God. Thus, the higher law trumps the allowance of oath-making.

5. Harvesting and preparing food on Sabbath—
Matthew 12:1-8 v. Leviticus 25:4
In Matthew, the disciples are plucking and eating grain as they pass through a field on the Sabbath. Harvesting food is forbidden on the Sabbath, according to the law and Jesus is attacked by the Pharisees for allowing them to do it. Jesus, however, gives a number of examples showing in the Scriptures how one law is contradicted and set aside for a greater one: a. David ate the consecrated bread intended by law only for priests (I Samuel 21:1-6; Leviticus 24: 5-9). Thus, the cultic demand is marginalized due to the need of doing mercy to the King's servant b. The priests do not keep the Sabbath, but do their work during the Sabbath. Thus, the Sabbath command is marginalized by the need to maintain the temple pure. Thus, the disciples are innocent of wrongdoing before God, because although they may have technically broken the Sabbath laws against harvesting and preparing food (Exodus 20:10; 31:14-15), but they were living out the law of mercy for the sake of the ministry to a king— even as David did of old. Again, Jesus is not contradicting Moses, but prioritizing the law in an internal conflict

6. Honoring Father and Mother—
Matthew 8:21-22 v. Exodus 20:12
One should always honor one’s parents, and one kind of honoring is to bury the dead. However, when a potential disciple asks Jesus to bury his father, Jesus refuses him, telling him to let the “dead bury their own dead”. This seems to contradict the command to honor one’s parents. However, Jesus is not contradicting it. First of all, Jesus is prioritizing work for God’s kingdom before participating in honoring one’s parents, just as Jesus prioritizes God’s kingdom work over many other necessary things (Matthew 6:33). On the other hand, burying is not so much a sign of honor, unless there is no one else to bury them. The important thing is that the body gets buried, and not left exposed. As long as someone is burying the body—as Jesus says there is—then no dishonor is there.

7. Tithing—
Matthew 23:22-23 v. Leviticus 27:30
Jesus states that tithing is a less significant law than mercy and justice. Jesus is not opposed to tithing in this verse. Rather, he is saying it is a less important matter than mercy, justice and devotion to God. Some tithing might very well display mercy, but not the tithe of herbs, which is what Jesus is discussing. Jesus often opposes the oral Torah (Matthew 15:1-15; 23:16-31—opposing the traditions of the “fathers”), but he usually speaks of obeying the “commands” of God instead—the true Torah.

8. Welcoming sinners into the Eschatalogical blessing—
Matthew 9:10-13; 21:21-22 v. Deuteronomy 28:15
The Law makes it clear that those who are under the law but disobey it will die and not receive the blessings of God (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Jesus, though, is granting God’s kingdom to sinners, and welcoming them through eating with them. However, there is always a place in the Law and prophets for those who regret and repent of their deeds (Deut. 19:1-7; Ezekiel 18; Psalm 51; II Samuel 12). Their repentance displays faith, and so they must be welcomed and forgiven. Forgiveness of sin is not foreign to the Law, even for intentional sins (Genesis 50:17; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14)—Jesus is just emphasizing forgiveness with an eschatalogical spin. Thus, Jesus is in agreement with Moses.

9. Welcoming Canaanites and Gentiles into the Eschatalogical blessing—
Matthew 8:5-13; 15:21-28 v. Deuteronomy 7:1-2
Jesus supports the welcoming of outsiders into the blessing of God in the kingdom. This seems opposed to the Torah (Exodus 34:24; Leviticus 18:24) on the surface, which does not readily grant the blessings of God to Gentiles. Jesus, however, seems to determine that some Gentiles that display true devotion to God and to the coming King deserve a place with Abraham Isaac and Jacob better than some who live within their earthly realm at present (Matthew 8:5-13). This is not opposing the Torah, but making the shift that Isaiah made, determining that the “nations” is anyone who is opposed or unfaithful to God, while the “servants” are those who are faithful to God (Isaiah 65:8-17; 66:17-23). Jesus is not contradicting Moses, but interpreting those who are “inside” God’s kingdom by the standard of faith.

Jesus does not contradict Moses
Jesus does not oppose the Torah in any way. Often Jesus is seen as doing away with Sabbath and cleansing laws of Moses’ law, but he is not doing so. At times he is prioritizing them, so that if they are in conflict, it can be seen which laws should be obeyed in a certain context. At times he is adjusting them, to make them be interpreted in light of compassion and justice. And at times he is heightening them, so they are to be interpreted in light of God’s higher laws. But never does he just say that this law has no place; nor does he set aside any command.


  1. Reply to the For the Love of God Blog
    Did Jesus Oppose The Law of Moses?

    By Russell Earl Kelly:
    You miss the whole point of Jesus and the Law. He was a Jew living under the full jurisdiction of the Law per Gal 4:4-5. In order to live a sinless life it was essential for Jesus to keep all the law and to teach others to keep all the law before Calvary. It would have been sin for Jesus to do anything else.

    It would have also been for Jesus to teach His Gentile disciples to keep the Law. He could not and did not tell Gentiles whom he healed to go show themselves to the priest and offer the sacrifice Moses commanded. After 1776 the Law of England (good and bad) became null and void in the US and was replaced by US Law.

    Your use of Matthew 5:19 to explain 5:17 is wrong. Matthew 5:19 includes all 613 commands of the Law and 5:20-48 illustrates 5:19 by quoting from the commandments, statutes and judgments. Either we are still under all of the OT Law or none of it.

    1. The law allowed multiple marriages. Do you?

    2. The law discussed cleanliness as a ceremonial ritual. We are not required to be ceremonially clean. Even sexual intercourse made one unclean and unqualified to worship. Do you have sex before church?

    4. The law required some to shave their heads while taking an oath. Do you?

    5. The Sabbath was only for Old Covenant Israel per Ex 31:13-17. Do you worship at sunset Friday as the Law required? Do you let your slaves rest then as the Law required?

    6. Have you ever read all of the Law? Exodus 21:15, 17 commands Hebrews to kill disobedient children. I certainly hope that you have not done that.

    7. Mt 23:23 is in the context of "matters of the law." It is addressed to "you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites." It is before Calvary. It is not addressed to the New Covenant church. Jesus could not have commanded His Gentile converts to tithe either to him or to the Temple system because such was contrary to the law. In Leviticus 27:30-34 tithes are always only food from inside God's holy land of Israel. Although money was common and required for sanctuary worship, tithes are never money or increase from man's hand and cannot come from outside Israel.

    8-9. According to Exodus 19:5-6 and scores of other texts, the Law was given only to national Israel in order to elevate them above other nations. Israel was never commanded to send out missionaries to convert the Gentiles. Only those Gentiles who became circumcised Hebrews could share with them.

    "Jesus does not contradict Moses.
    Jesus does not oppose the Torah in any way."

    Jesus would have been sinning if he did before Calvary.

    Hebrews 8:12 says that the Old Covenant law "vanished" --all of it-- commandments, statutes and judgments.

    Romans 8:2 says that Christians live by "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" --the law of love written in the heart of the new creation in Christ.

    That which God wants his church to obey has been repeated to is after Calvary in terms of grace and faith. Hebrews 1:1,2; John 16:8-9.

  2. I agree with most of your comment. However, I don't agree with your statement that I "miss the point" of what Jesus said about the law. Because you have only read one or two sections of a five part argument about the Law in the NT. So be patient, and then you can see where I'm going with this.

    Interesting stuff, though. Glad you posted.

  3. Hello there!

    I am actually having problems with this issue. I am currently holding a discussion with a Jew who accuses Christians of lawlessness. I as a Sabbathkeeper thought I could do a better job of witnessing to him than Sunday keepers. NOT SO! He says that no Christian church is doing the right thing. He says that Matthew 5:17-19 is teaching the keeping of the whole Torah & the chuch is simply not obeying this command of Yeshua!

    I then quoted Paul in Col 2:14-16 saying that the ceremonial laws have been done away with. He didn't appreciate that & thinks that Paul is a heretic who should be discarded. I said that is impossible as there'd be no Christian church w/o Paul taking the gospel to the Gentiles.

    I simply do not believe that Paul would OPPOSE Jesus.

    So what is the truth about him & Matthew 5:17-19??

  4. Excellent question, and it is a difficult issue. The way I understand it, and how the early church decided it, is that Jesus' statement to keep every minute aspect of the law applies to only those who were born under the law. If we were not born under the burden of the law, then we should not be saddled with it, even though we are following Jesus. It is enough that we are following the law of Jesus. We are not antinomian if we are following the law of Jesus and not the law of Moses.

    Your Jewish friend might argue that to follow the whole law of Jesus includes this one which tells us to follow every jot and tittle. However, Jesus said that the law would not pass away until "it is all accomplished." Well, Jesus DID accomplish the whole of the law, thus, the law has passed away.

    History confirms this. At this point, it is not possible to obey every jot and tittle of the law. There is no Temple, no priesthood, there are no Levites. We cannot tithe properly, according to the law. We cannot sacrifice, according to the law. We cannot make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, according to the Law. And who is going to bring back stoning of the adulterers or the rebellious sons? There is not a single person alive who can obey every jot and tittle of the law. And that has been true since 70AD.

    Why is this? Because, first, Jesus fulfilled the law and so we, in Him, have the law fulfilled. Secondly, because the authorities of the Law-- the priests and the elders-- are the ones who declared the innocent Son of God to be a liar and a blasphemer and to be worthy of death. They defiled all the temple, all the priesthood, all the sanhedrin, and so they were unworthy to obey. They continued to persecute and martyr the innocent, and so God destroyed these institutions, even as He did in the sixth century BC. And He has chosen not to revive them.

    This is not to say that the current Jewish fulfilling of the law, or yours my friend, is a sin. Absolutely not. It is a positive discipline. But let no one deceive themselves into thinking that they are obeying the law better than one who only obeys Jesus without concern for Moses. No one CAN fulfill the law of Moses today. Most Sabbath keepers recognize that they are only keeping part of the Mosaic law, not the whole. Jewish rabbis recognize that they are only obeying as much of the law as they can, praying instead of sacrificing, but that they are following the oral Torah, not the written, because they are unable to follow the written. Yet Jesus was talking about following the written, not the oral, even as he mentioned the actual writing.

    We can only shake our heads and recognize that we are weak, living in the midst of a weak world. We cannot obey God as we please, as it seems necessary to us. Rather, we must fall upon the mercy of God, and ask for His pardon. Then, in the grace of Jesus, we stand up in the Spirit and love God and love our neighbor with all that we have. And in this, we are obeying the whole of the law.

  5. The problem is you consider yourselves chosen people. Which you will never be. The supposition that Jesus is the great I AM. That came to earth. To be hammered to a cross is nothing short of insane. One that created all simply has no need to be staked out in the hot sun. It is plain common sense. Another problem is you consider a book that has been manipulated in many many ways. To be nothing short of the truth. Its a insult to a people that are told "you will know" to believe. Now when we are told we will know. Then we are told to believe. Obviously "We know". You have to believe.

    Another words we are the ones that know. You are the ones that have to believe. Which pretty much leaves you on the outside of knowing.

  6. Responding to the person that has a problem understanding the difference teaching in Jesus and Paul.

    Jesus calls Paul out after His resurrection:Acts 9;15 But the Lord said unto him,Go thy way:for he is a *chosen vessel* unto me,to bear my name before the Gentiles and Kings,and the children of Isreal.
    Vessel~Person holded as a receiver or containing something.

    The first book that Paul wrote,in Galations 1;11,12 Paul says
    But I certify you,Bretheren,that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.For I neither received it of man,neither was I *taught* it,but by the *revelation* of Jesus Christ.

    What did Paul receive from Jesus Christ?

    Acts 20;24 and the ministry,which I have received of the Lord Jesus,to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

    Romans 16;25
    Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel,and the preaching of Jesus Christ,according to the *revelation* of the *mystery*,which was kept secret since the world began, but *now* is made manifest,and by the scriptures of the prophets,according to the commandments of the everlasting God,made known to all nations for the obedience of *faith*

    Ephesians 2-5
    2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by *revelation* he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the *mystery* of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

    Jesus called out Paul to preach the gospel of grace.After His earthly ministry of the gospel of the kingdom. He explains why in Hebrews 9;16-18 That a person who leaves a will has to die before it can take effect.

    When Jesus was walking this earth,He was preaching to the Jews (He promised Himself to them) That was the Kingdom that He promised them.He wasnt here for the Gentiles.Mathew 10;5 He says dont go to the gentiles. Mathew 15;25 He says He was sent *only* to Isreal.Then calls the gentile woman a dog. This is because He had not died for our sin yet.We are not Jews.When we realize that we are gentiles and where we come in and what is being said to *us* it is less confusing.

    Romans around chap 8-9 to chap 12 explains all this.

    At the end of Peters life He says that the things that Paul writes is "hard to be understood" 2 Peter 3;16

    2 Timothy 2;15
    Study to show thyself approved unto God,a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,*rightly dividing* the word of truth.
    Divide~ to seperate into parts,groups, or sections.

    After Praying,asking God to help me understand...this is what He has shown me.
    God Bless!

    Also,Jesus never used the word grace.The first time it was "preached" was through Paul in Acts 15.

  7. A gentile cannot follow the Law of Moses and does not need to. Jesus did not die for Gentiles and according to Judaic interpreation of scriptre which is more genuine than the Gentile Christendom he did not die for Jews because no man or G-d can do this. However the themes that Jesus expresses through the most genuine of the Gospels Matthew, even if he did mis interpret the Hebrew word Alma for Virgin rather than Young Woman but he was usuing the Greek translation, are that a Jew who has waundered away from the path of Torah can come back into relationship through baptism and observing the Torah. Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew tells his disciples he has come for the Lost sheep of Israel and not to go into the towns of Gentiles and Samaria. The gentile Chuch must learn that it is not the true keepers of Jesus because Jesus eas a Jewish Rabbi like very many others in his time. Paul is a flase profit who saw a lucrative opertunity in spreading hus Pagan Judaism to Hellenised Jews and Gentiles and ts Pauline Christianity which Rome accepted asits state religion precisely because it was marketed towards gentiles. The elements decided at a number of Creeds that Jesus is divive and rituals such as the Eurachists are twisted pervertions of Judaism.
    Consider for example the idea of drinking blood. This is a law forbidden by Torah and yet Jesus at Passover suggests to his twelves to consume his blood. even the Gentiles who want to become Christians are told in Acts 15 by James the leader of the Jerusalem Church not to consume blood which has been blatently ignored by gentile Christendom. Check out Psalm 16 which Peter uses as part of his Pentecost speach to justify the resurrection of Jesus. if you read the whole Psalm then around verse 4 the Psalmist says 'he will not partake in the cup offerings of blood'. does this sound familiar? now why are the Isrlites banned from such practices? because its pagan practice. to clarify this point Paul in his epistles realises that pagans have a similar ritual to their own eurachist and desires to distinguish between his 'correct' approach and those of the tables of demons. The problem is Paul can't justify it because it is simply not true.
    Its also very notable that for gentile chrisitanity to justify its position and its twisting of Hebrew scriptures to include their pagan man-god, birth, die and resurrect, cosmic King of the universe they can only use the scriptures of Paul the very twister of Christianity.
    Now to clarify. to be a Jew like Jesus means you must obey the Law of Moses. being a Jew is either through birth or conversion. if you have done neither of these then to follow the same G-d as Jesus then all you have to do is follow a few simple laws that include not eating any blood. these are given to Noah after the flood when he sacrifices the first 'clean' animals as atonement for his and his families sin.

  8. Of course, this is why the church has always drunk wine, not blood. Jesus said, "Whenever you drink THIS cup" by which he refers to the Passover cup.

    Gentiles, according to Acts 15, avoid the drinking of blood, and immorality. In Galatians 1, Gentiles were to give to the poor. Does this mean that we can disregard the rest of Jesus' teaching? That we can do violence with impunity? No, of course we need to follow the basic laws Jesus taught us-- to love our enemies, to do good to those who harm us, to let our yes be yes. As Paul says, these are acts of Love and if we love, then we obey the intent of the law, if not the rule.