Did Jesus Sustain the Law in Matthew 5? -- By: Roger Douglass Congdon

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 135:538 (Apr 1978)
Article: Did Jesus Sustain the Law in Matthew 5?
Author: Roger Douglass Congdon


Did Jesus Sustain the Law in Matthew 5?

Roger D. Congdon

[Roger D. Congdon, Professor of Bible and Theology, Multnomah School of the Bible, Portland, Oregon.]

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7) it appears that Jesus subtracted from the obligation which Jewish legalists owed to the Law of Moses.

Jesus, by His death on the cross, took away the requirement that Christians be subject to the Law of Moses. But did He, during His life, teach that unsaved Jews were free from the obligation to obey the Mosaic law? What did Jesus really teach in His Sermon on the Mount?

According to many teachers, Jesus quoted six (or seven) passages from the Law, and then proceeded to deny or contradict these passages with new teachings. Is this true?

It should be observed first that Jesus did not say in any of the six passages, “Ye have read what was written….” Instead He said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time,” or some form of this phrase. Though the quotations that follow this phrase are usually associated with the Old Testament, they are not always Scripture quotations.

The First and Second Comparisons (Matt 5:21-22)

Matthew 5:21–22 includes two of the seven questioned quotations: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment; But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

The latter half of verse 21 (“Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment”) never appears in the Old Testament. In the first part of verse 21 Jesus quoted Exodus 20:13 or Deuteronomy 5:17, but He evidently quoted Pharisaical tradition in the last part of Matthew 5:21.

Did He then comment on the quotation from the Law, or the statement of tradition, or both? It is striking that He made no comment on the Old Testament quotations; He commented only on the tradition! And yet He did not deny nor confirm the tradition. Instead He augmented it! By His quoting the Old Testament law, Jesus confirmed it and He approved and augmented the tradition. He did not contrad...

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