“Commandments” in Matthew 5:17-20?

(Posted by Paige)

While puzzling this week over the referent for “these commandments” in Matt. 5:19, I came across two distinct explanations in two of D. A. Carson’s older commentaries. I think they end up in the same place, but they begin quite differently. What do you think?

Here is the familiar passage, from the ESV:

“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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Carson writes this in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World (Baker, 1978; but I have the 1987 edition):

The expression ‘these commands’ does not, I think, refer to the commands of the OT law. It refers, rather, to the commands of the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom mentioned three times in verse 19f. They are the command already given, and the commands still to come, in the Sermon on the Mount…It is worth noting that Jesus’ closing words in Matthew’s Gospel again emphasize obedience: the believers are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded (28:18-20). Jesus’ commands are highlighted, much as in 5:19.” (40, 41; bold added, italics in original.)

And he writes this in his article on Matthew in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (ed. Gaebelein; Zondervan, 1984):

“But what are ‘these commandments’? It is hard to justify restriction of these words to Jesus’ teachings…, even though the verb cognate to ‘commands’ (entolon) is used of Jesus’ teachings in 28:20 (entellomai); for the noun in Matthew never refers to Jesus’ words, and the context argues against it. Restriction to the Ten Commandments…is equally alien to the concerns of the context. Nor can we say ‘these commandments’ refers to the antitheses that follow, for in Matthew houtos (‘this,’ pl. ‘these’) never points forward. It appears, then, that the expression must refer to the commandments of the OT Scriptures. The entire Law and the Prophets are not scrapped by Jesus’ coming but fulfilled. Therefore the commandments of these Scriptures – even the least of them… — must be practiced. But the nature of the practicing has already been affected by vv.17-18. The law pointed forward to Jesus and his teaching; so it is properly obeyed by conforming to his word. As it points to him, so he, in fulfilling it, establishes what continuity it has, the true direction to which it points and the way it is to be obeyed. Thus ranking in the kingdom turns on the degree of conformity to Jesus’ teaching as that teaching fulfills OT revelation. His teaching, toward which the OT pointed, must be obeyed.” (146; bold added)

So…which is it, Dr. Carson? (Anybody have his new edition of the Expositor’s commentary?)

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45 Comments

  1. greenbaggins said,

    March 25, 2011 at 10:20 am

    I have the new edition. The section you quoted from the first edition is completely unchanged in the new edition. I assume that Carson has moved towards a slightly greater degree of continuity between OT and NT.

  2. paigebritton said,

    March 25, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Perhaps so! I find it strange, then, that the direct contradiction of his (apparently) new view was allowed to stand in the 1987 version of his 1978 SOTM book! I’d love to ask him about that.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    March 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Is the 1987 printing a new edition of the book, or is it just a reprinting?

  4. paigebritton said,

    March 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Probably it’s just a reprinting — no notice like “2nd Edition” anywhere. Oh, wait, I just realized — it’s a combo deal, with his SOTM book (1978) and then his Confrontation book (that’s the 1987 one). Whole thing published 1999 with the second printing 2004, which is the copy I have. So many dates!

    Anyway, wish they’d had him look over the ’78 “classic” sometime in there, if he had changed his mind about those commandments! It’s a funny thing to find contradictory statements from the same commentator (I’m used to finding these from different theologians, but not so much in individuals, especially without comment). ;)

  5. Vern Crisler said,

    March 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I think some of the Pharisees were claiming that Jesus did not keep the Law, or was willing to set it aside. It’s likely some other Pharisees were saying that some of the morals of the Law were lesser morals, and that these could be set aside. Jesus may be killing two birds with one stone. The moral principles of the Mosaic law are what Paul called natural law. It doesn’t matter how small the moral principle is, it’s as binding as any of the greater morals. Second, Jesus said these moral principles were binding until the end of the world, and that he had no intention of abrogating them. He must therefore be talking about MORAL principles, not ceremonial or judicial laws all of which have passed away with the destruction of the Old Covenant and Jewish state. We should all be natural law theonomists.

  6. paigebritton said,

    March 26, 2011 at 6:37 am

    I’m inclined to your view on this, Vern, but what to do with Jesus’ qualifications “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law” and his holistic reference to the “Law and the Prophets” that precede the phrase “these commandments”? It would seem to me that we’re shut up to two choices, re. the interpretation of “these commandments”:

    1. Jesus is referring to his own teaching in the SOTM, mainly moral principles (as per D. A. Carson’s first interpretation above), or

    2. Jesus is referring to ALL of the commandments written in the Law, not just the moral ones; but of course these are redefined now because of his fulfillment of the cultic part and his replacement of the civil with the church, so ultimately “keeping” all of these boils down to keeping what Jesus teaches in the SOTM, which is mainly moral law (as per D. A. Carson’s second interp!).

    What fascinates me is that both of Carson’s readings end up in the same place — obey what Jesus teaches — but they begin with two distinct interpretations of “these commandments.”

  7. Vern Crisler said,

    March 26, 2011 at 10:22 am

    I think not one jot or tittle is hyperbole, like where Paul speaks of God’s foolishness. My personal opinion is that Jesus is referring to the ethical aspects of the law, and uses rhetorical overstatement (hyperbole) to make the point as strongly as possible.

  8. brandonadams said,

    March 27, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Here is a lengthy critique of Carson’s comments regarding commandments from Greg Welty:
    http://www.proginosko.com/welty/carson.htm

    The following is a series of comments on D. A. Carson’s exposition of Mt 5:17-48, in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984). D. A. Carson’s interpretation of this crucial text – which includes Jesus’ relation to the law (vv. 17-18) and the nature of his six ‘antitheses’ (vv. 21-48) – is often appealed to by New Covenant Theology (NCT) advocates as emphatically supporting their distinctive teachings concerning the moral law of God, and as undermining the traditionally Reformed view of the same.

  9. paigebritton said,

    March 28, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Thank you so much, Brandon. That’s a very thorough critique from Welty, and I am still plowing through it. Can you (or someone) fill me in on these Q’s?

    1. Who is Welty, and where does he fall within the Reformed spectrum?
    2. Who is associated with NCT, and what is the gist of their teaching?

    For those who don’t have time for the critique, Welty’s main complaint is that D. A. Carson thinks Jesus somehow “fulfills” the OT laws by his teaching of the “antitheses” in Matt. 5:21-48, and that this doesn’t make sense because Jesus is critiquing Pharisaical teaching, which has no prophetic import. (It’s telling that Carson takes 5:17 [with pleroo] as his controlling verse for interpreting what follows, while Welty prefers 5:20 [which he says anticipates a contrast with Pharisaical teachings]!)

    It’s also difficult for Welty to see how Jesus’ teaching fulfills anything OT, since in Matthew pleroo only means how Jesus’ life and ministry fulfills prophecy. (Carson, though, does not appear to be talking only about the content of Jesus’ teaching as “fulfillment,” but the fact that he does so with authority, which falls in the life-and-ministry category.)

    Most of the essay is concerned with what’s going on in the antitheses, but Welty does eventually get around to v.19, which I’m most curious about (though of course the whole discussion is hugely important and interesting). I’ll add more thoughts later as I finish it.

  10. brandonadams said,

    March 28, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Q1
    Welty is a 1689 Reformed Baptist

    Greg Welty
    Associate Professor of Philosophy – Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
    B.A., University of California at Los Angeles; M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary in California; M.Phil., D.Phil., Oriel College, University of Oxford
    Teaching at Southeastern since 2010

    Paper’s by Greg Welty

    http://www.proginosko.com/welty/

    Q2
    NCT is limited to baptists (as far as I know). It is a fractured camp, but can loosely be (self)described as those who have problems with both dispensationalism and covenant theology. They are primarily united around a rejection of the 10 commandments in favor of what they call the “Law of Christ” – which happens to be 9 of the 10 commandments.
    Published adherents include Fred Zaspel, Tom Wells, and John Reisinger (brother of the late Ernest Reisinger)

    Here is a very helpful bullet point overview of NCT:

    http://breusswane.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-is-new-covenant-theology.html

    Here is an interview overview with Reisinger:

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=380719327

    Zaspel and Wells published a book on NCT in which they rely very heavily on Carson’s interpretation of Matt 5.

    Sam Waldron and Richard Barcellos at MCTS Owensboro, and James Renihan at IRBS (all Reformed Baptists) have been vocal critics, with Barcellos publishing against the view (“In Defense of the Decalogue”):

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=111605162223

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=10180662149

    Barcellos article refuting NCT’s misappropriation of Owen’s view of the Mosaic Covenant and Decalogue http://www.mctsowensboro.org/mediafiles/barcellos-owens-decalogue-pdf.pdf

    Barcellos review of Zaspel/Wells book http://www.mctsowensboro.org/mcts-blog-original/book-review-of-new-covenant-theology/

    Hope that helps!

  11. paigebritton said,

    March 29, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Hey, thanks, Brandon! That information is very helpful. Fills in the picture of Reformed (and Baptist) thought a little more for me.

    Re. v.19, Greg Welty finds himself baffled by Carson’s train of thought, where “these commandments” start out meaning “OT Scriptures” and end up meaning “Jesus’ teachings” by way of Jesus’ fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. Welty’s own view is that “these commandments” mean nothing less than the OT law. He writes:

    Those who want to revise the obvious reference of ‘these commandments’ to Jesus’ teachings, rather than OT law, are in the grip of a thesis. And those who want to revise the ‘doing and teaching’ of these commandments to eschatological fulfilment, rather than literal obedience, are in the grip of a thesis.

    So now we have several options to think about!

    Carson (early): “These commandments” = Jesus’ teachings in the SOTM

    Carson (late): “These commandments” = OT law, but reinterpreted by Jesus, so really = Jesus’ teachings

    Vern: “These commandments” = just the moral law

    Welty: “These commandments” = the entire OT law, literally to be obeyed (which is a bit confusing, because he’s not a theonomist, is he? If he’s writing polemically against the NCT, maybe he is just thinking about the Decalogue?)

    Any other options? :)

  12. todd said,

    March 29, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Paige,

    As for the discrepancy in the two of Carson’s quotes above, Carson does end up in the same place in both quotes, but I admit he is not very clear, when comparing each quote, as to how he gets there. Greg Welty was a classmate of mine in seminary and we debated infant baptism at a professor’s home; he was wrong then also :-). I am hoping to have time later to show where Carson is right on in his understanding of this verse.

  13. paigebritton said,

    March 29, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Great, Todd! Looking forward to your thoughts.

  14. todd said,

    March 30, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Paige,

    The gist of Welty’s criticism of Carson’s position is that it is nonsensical to speak of OT ethics having an eschatological fulfillment in NT ethics, and that is actually how to understand the antithesis of Matt 5. Welty argues that Jesus in Matt 5 is simply correcting the misinterpretation of the scribes and Pharisees concerning the OT laws. But a look at each antithesis and its antecedent in OT ethics reveals it is the OT laws themselves Jesus is changing because of the kingdom change with the end of typological Israel, the coming of Christ and the establishment of the new covenant.

    A brief rundown:

    Matt 5:21-26 “You shall not murder” is obviously OT Law. In the typological nation there were no punishments for inward hatred of fellow Israelites. But the punishments of the Law pictured final judgment, which will take into account inward hatred of Christians. In the new covenant the OT typology is over, so the ethics of those filled with the Spirit are higher than those who got away with hatred under the OT law, so those who claim the name of Christ will not get away with hating Christians, even though in the OT kingdom they got away with it, in the sense that the Law had no punishments for such.

    Matt 5:27-30 Adultery was punished in the Law- inward lust was not. But in the new covenant those who know Christ and filled with the Spirit will rather suffer (cut off right hand) than live in lust. That is how wonderful the new covenant will be as God pours out his Spirit into all who are the new Israel, and they will truly suffer to live grateful, righteous lives for him.

    Matt 5:31-32 Easy divorce was the policy of Deut 24:1-4. We are told later this law as given for a “hard-hearted people” (Matt 19:8). This easy divorce law, among other things, was enacted to protect women from abusive men. But in the new covenant, true Christians will not be hard-hearted; they will love and sacrifice for their spouses.

    In each of these antitheses Jesus uses hyperbole to demonstrate the glory of the new covenant and the resulting obedience in God’s Spirit-filled people. “Except for sexual immorality” is hyperbole as much as “tear the right eye out” or “leave your gift at the altar” or “do not take an oath at all,” so they should not be taken in a wooden, literalistic manner, as if taking an oath in court or the military violates Matt 5. This has some vital ramifications for how we deal with divorce in the church, but that’s for another time.

    Matt 5:33-37 The Israelites, because they were not a very honest people, were put under a system of oaths and vows to guarantee their honesty, and to threaten them to tell the truth. God’s new Israel will not need such restraints, but will desire to speak truth from their hearts.

    Matt 5:38-42 “An eye for an eye” was certainly OT law, not a distortion of the law. But in the new covenant, now that the OT typology has passed away, our ethic now is to endure insults and persecution for Christ’s sake.

    Matt 5:43-47 This is usually the place where proponents of the distortion view find their strongest evidence, as they see “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy” a distortion of the Law. But that *was* Israel’s ethic. Wiping out Canaanite men, women and children at God’s command was an act of holy hatred, an act of judgment foreshadowing final judgment. Holy hatred and desire for judgment on Israel’s enemies was a godly OT attribute. Psalm 139:21 “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?”

    Jesus introduced a new ethic for his new covenant people on the cross, when he cried out for God to forgive his enemies instead of judging them. And in this new covenant age of gospel expansion, our mindset toward those who hate God, i.e., the lost, is not hatred and desire for judgment, but mercy and prayer for salvation. So it is not appropriate in this age to declare hatred for those who hate God, nor do we see such declarations in the New Testament.

    So in summary, Carson is correct in seeing the ethics of the Old Covenant law transformed and fulfilled in the ethics of the new covenant because of the end of the typological kingdom, the coming of Christ, and the inception of a non-theocratic age of gospel expansion to all the world.

  15. March 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Todd, I agree that it’s important in this passage to understand the passing away of the theocratic Mosaic Covenant, but I disagree that it therefore means Christ was teaching something altogether new (ie “The Law of Christ”).

    Jesus was not introducing a new ethic. He was correcting a misapplication of OT national law (Mosaic Covenant) to the individual. Pink explains this very well.

    http://contrast2.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/pink-and-nct/

    My concluding thoughts on that link, if it is of any value:

    it’s important to understand that Israelites, under a national covenant with God, were also still descendants of Adam. Thus God did not only relate to them as Israelites, but also as image bearers. As such, they were all by birth under the Adamic Covenant. As Israelites, their required obedience to the Decalogue was outward. But as image bearers, their required obedience was inward. One obedience determined their temporal blessing and cursing as part of the Mosaic covenant, the other obedience determined their eternal blessing or cursing as part of the Adamic Covenant.

    This best fits Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 5. There Jesus contrasts not just the outward and inward obedience to the law, but also the temporal and eternal cursings of the law. “Liable to judgment” at the hands of the courts of Israel, vs “liable to the hell of fire.” This also makes the best sense of 5:38-42. The contrast here is between a legitimate use of the law by a national ruler and the illegitimate application of that law to the individual.

  16. todd said,

    March 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Brandon,

    “but I disagree that it therefore means Christ was teaching something altogether new (ie “The Law of Christ”).”

    “Altogether new” would be an overstatement, and I never suggested such. When Jesus said “a new commandment I give to you that you love one another” it was not an altogether new concept to love one another. Love was the substance of the OT law also. But the love required under the Law has been so fulfilled by Christ, so redefined by his death for us on the cross, so empowered by the pouring out of the Spirit, that the Lord can call this love “new.” The same applies to Matthew 5 and the ethics of the kingdom Christ came to establish compared to the ethics of OT Israel.

    “Jesus was not introducing a new ethic. He was correcting a misapplication of OT national law (Mosaic Covenant) to the individual.”

    Most of the OT laws the Lord dealt with in Matt 5 were for OT individuals under the Law – an eye for an eye, take an oath to tell the truth, divorce, lusting, etc… that your view doesn’t make sense to me.

  17. March 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Ok, thanks for clarifying Todd. Some of the people Welty is responding to in his critique of Carson do say it is something altogether new.

    If you want more explanation of what I meant, feel free to take a look at my link as well as Pink’s exposition of the Sermon on the Mount. I believe VanDrunen has also written similar things in regards to Matt 5, but I have yet to read it.

  18. paigebritton said,

    March 30, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Hey, Todd,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write that out.

    If I can summarize what you are seeing, Jesus is neither correcting the Pharisees by expounding the OT law (Welty’s view), nor explaining what the law really meant (in contrast with what the people supposed it to say) – rather, he is explaining the ethics of the new covenant. Or, to put it another way, he is not teaching the Jews how to be better Jews – he is teaching Christians what the standards are for the Kingdom.

    I think I am confused a little about whether you would say the new ethic is a set of laws, or a description of what the citizens of the Kingdom will (inevitably?) be like. On the one hand you noted that “those who claim the name of Christ will not get away with hating Christians,” implying judgment; but elsewhere you seemed to be describing what God’s people will be like under the new covenant – “in the new covenant, true Christians will not be hardhearted; they will love and sacrifice for their spouses,” and “God’s new Israel will not need such restraints, but will desire to speak truth from their hearts.” Are these ideals that will actually be realized in the “not-yet” time among Christians? Do you think it’s anachronistic to read the antitheses in light of Christ’s death for our failures (even as Christians) to live up to “the least of these commandments”?

  19. todd said,

    March 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Paige,

    You are correct in your summary. I wouldn’t necessarily describe the Sermon on the Mount as a set of laws, but they are the ethics for Christ’s kingdom people. The sermon describes the ethics of believers, but also warns hypocrites (v. 26). These are not just ideals, but true of all true Christians – all true Christians by virtue of the Holy Spirit in them obey God – are poor of spirit, meek, love serving God more than their lusts, are honest from the heart, etc… not perfectly, but as “the law is fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom 8:4).

    As for the least of these commandments, this is how I explain that phrase in my Matt sermon:

    The commandments Jesus is referring to here are the commandments of the new covenant; not only the commandments in the Sermon on the Mount, but the commandments of Christ that his Apostles will further explain in their epistles. They are the commandments for those who have entered the kingdom of heaven.

    So in v. 19 Jesus affirms on the one hand salvation by grace and not works. If a Christian ignores one commandment he is still in the kingdom of heaven. He is not thrown out of the kingdom because he disobeyed one command. As James teaches, under the Mosaic Law, if you were guilty of breaking one command you were guilty breaking all, and under God’s curse. But that is not the case under the gospel.

    But on the other hand, obedience is so important to Jesus that if you ignore one of the least of his commandments as a Christian, you are considered least in his kingdom. Remember that Jesus is using hyperbole here as in the rest of the Sermon. But God saved you to obey him and be like Christ, so he takes seriously willful disobedience to any of his commands, even ones you may consider unimportant.

    So for example, let’s say you tell another Christian that he doesn’t need to be baptized or take the Lord’s Supper. You have loosened a commandment in the kingdom of heaven. You may still be a Christian by God’s grace, and while struggling with ignorance or pride, you may still be going to heaven, but God frowns on you as you take one of his commandments lightly. True, baptism doesn’t save you, yet it is a command of Jesus that you cannot take lightly.

  20. paigebritton said,

    March 30, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you, Todd! I appreciate your exposition of v.19, especially the balance between grace and the importance of obedience. (Hard to get that one quite even!)

  21. Vern Crisler said,

    March 30, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    “Jesus introduced a new ethic for his new covenant people on the cross….”

    I think this is completely wrong. This view actually contradicts what Jesus said. Jesus said he was NOT going to destroy the (ethical teachings) of the Law & the Prophets. He said not one jot or tittle of the (moral) law would pass away until the end of the world. Further, he said that whoever broke even the least (moral) commandment would be least in the kingdom of heaven.

    The contrasts regarding murder, adultry, marriage, oaths, etc., are corrections of narrow interpretations of the Mosaic law, not a repudiation of the spirit of the Mosaic law. If Jesus said he was not advocating a new ethic, but then turned around and advocated a new ethic, he would be contradicting himself.

    The moral laws of God are natural laws. That means they are transcendent, not like the laws of the polis, or of particular communities. As such, they do not change with a change in the covenant, or in the state, but are universal and eternal. Not so with ceremonial or civil laws of the Jewish state.

  22. paigebritton said,

    March 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Jesus said he was NOT going to destroy the (ethical teachings) of the Law & the Prophets.

    I don’t remember that parenthetical qualifier in the Greek! Isn’t there more to “the Law & the Prophets” than ethical teaching? What about the notion that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law & Prophets, but fulfill them? Do you see an eschatological fulfillment here (in that they pointed to him), or only a discussion of ethics?

  23. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    A few questions for anyone:

    (1) What is the relationship of “Law and Prophets” (vv 17-18) to “these commands” (v 19)?

    (2) Does the Sermon on the Mount provide a new set of commands, or is it continuous with the OT Law?

    (3) When is “all fulfilled”?

    (4) Calvin thought that 5.18 was a general metaphor for the stability of the Law, rather than trying to locate a particular moment in time:

    Let it suffice for us to hold, that sooner shall heaven fall to pieces, and the whole frame of the world become a mass of confusion, than the stability of the law shall give way. — Calv Comm 5.18.

    Agree? Disagree?

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Todd: I wouldn’t necessarily describe the Sermon on the Mount as a set of laws, but they are the ethics for Christ’s kingdom people.

    Would you agree or disagree that the SoM makes more clear what it means to love God and neighbor?

  25. paigebritton said,

    March 31, 2011 at 6:05 am

    Thanks, Jeff, for good questions…

    1. What is the relationship of “Law and Prophets” (vv 17-18) to “these commands” (v 19)?

    Exactly what I have been puzzling about. Jesus’ reference to “Law and Prophets” seems to be a holistic statement about a) the OT’s stability as b) pointing to him. Does he then move along to talking about “these commandments” as something proximate to his presence — that is, his own teaching — or in continuity to this reference to the OT — that is, OT laws? (And if the latter, then WHICH laws?)

    Carson answers the question about “these commandments” both ways:

    First (1978) he says Jesus is talking about his proximate teachings, not the OT laws…

    Later (1984) he says Jesus is talking about the OT laws, but since they are “fulfilled” in him, not least because of his authority to restate them, how one “keeps” them is redefined in his teaching. (As to “which laws,” one could either say “the moral ones,” since the most immediate teachings have to do with moral issues; or we could say “all the OT laws,” since they are fulfilled by Christ in all sorts of ways.)

  26. paigebritton said,

    March 31, 2011 at 6:18 am

    3. When is “all fulfilled”?

    I think you mean, from v.18, “When is all accomplished“? Since “fulfill” refers to Jesus (plerosai) in relation to the law, and “accomplished” refers to all things (heos an panta genetai) (sorry I don’t know the Greek markup!). Though of course the “accomplishment” is probably the fullness of Jesus “fulfilling” all the Law & Prophets.

    Is “all accomplished” at the cross? (Interestingly, Jesus’ statement, “It is finished,” is not recorded by any evangelist but John.)

    Is there ambiguity here, like in Eph. 1:10, “as a plan for the fullness of time” — well, has this happened yet, or is there something to be anticipated still?

    “All” doesn’t seem to have been “accomplished” yet…the Law & Prophets still point to Christ, and to his final works (resurrection, judgment, new Heavens & new Earth).

  27. todd said,

    March 31, 2011 at 9:27 am

    “Would you agree or disagree that the SoM makes more clear what it means to love God and neighbor?”

    Jeff,

    Well, in a sense, but Jesus wasn’t simply clearing up the OC ethics for us, he was explaining NC fulfillment of the OC in light of his own coming.

  28. Vern Crisler said,

    March 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Paige said: “Does he then move along to talking about “these commandments” as something proximate to his presence — that is, his own teaching….”

    This wouldn’t make sense in the context. The whole focus is on the Mosaic law. Why would Jesus stress his commitment to the Mosaic law, then turn around and replace it without a new, proximate ethic? That would undermined they very point he was making. If Jesus was brining a new ethic, then by his own statement, he would be condemned to be the least in the kingdom of heaven.

  29. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 1, 2011 at 5:46 am

    Vern: Why would Jesus stress his commitment to the Mosaic law, then turn around and replace it without a new, proximate ethic?

    Good question.

    I would point out that “these commandments” could be pointing to “Law and Prophets” of the previous sentence, or to the Beatitudes and the commands he is about to give.

    So if I understand Todd, he’s taking the latter approach.

    Another question for all: What is the significance of “You have heard it said … but I say …” refrain of 5.21,27,31,33, 38,43? Does this help us understand the relationship of Jesus’ commands to the Law?

  30. paigebritton said,

    April 1, 2011 at 6:08 am

    I think I am voting for “these commandments” pointing to Jesus’ own teaching (whether immediately or ultimately, as per Carson’s 2nd rendering), because the reference to “the Law & the Prophets” a) in context has to do with Jesus fulfilling the OT Scriptures (eschatologically, in that they point to him) and b) certainly includes, but is not limited to, “commandments” (and restricting this phrase to “moral commandments” seems an extreme limitation in light of the idea of Jesus “fulfilling” the Law & Prophets).

    Maybe another good question would be, What does it mean for Jesus to “fulfill” the Law & Prophets?

    I am reading this eschatologically, like Carson; the Law and Prophets in many, many ways point to and are fulfilled by Jesus. Vern talks about Jesus’ “commitment to Mosaic law,” which sounds like an emphasis on Jesus performing or obeying the law, which makes sense given Vern’s reading of “these commandments” as referring to the moral law. Yes?

  31. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 1, 2011 at 8:07 am

    OK, so to follow up:

    (1) What then is the purpose of ουν, “therefore” in v. 19:

    “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands…”

    Clearly, there is some link in Jesus’ mind between “I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill” and “anyone who sets aside one of these commands.” Can we specify that link?

    (2) How does our understanding of vv 16 – 18 relate to v. 20, “For (γαρ) I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees…”? Is it, for example, related to the “it was said/but I say to you” refrain?

    (3) “…but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” seems provocative to Reformed ears.

    How do we understand this in light of the basic understanding that no-one is righteous, no not one?

  32. Cris Dickason said,

    April 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

    The use of “the Law and the Prophets” (or Law/Moses, Prophets, Psalms) (Luke 24:27, 44-45, Matt 7:12; 22:40) by Christ always has a broader emphasis than the decalogue or the Mosaic/Levitical legislation, even when He is pointing to a summary statement (e.g., all summed as Love God & Love Neighbor).

    So I think initially Jesus is making a statement concerning his ministry, his 1st Coming, setting himself in relation to Scripture and God’s covenant administration in force at his coming. This is after all, still pretty early in the Sermon on the Mount (Intro: Beatitudes; Main Theme: 5:17-20; Detailed Outworking: 5:21-7:27).

    Jesus sets himself both in continuity with and contrast to the OT Canon (the whole of Scripture available at the moment). But what must be recognized and addressed, it that Jesus also sets himself in contrast to and continuity with his Jewish contemporaries. And these continuities and contrasts are qualitatively different; they are not the same.

    Another way to say this is, 1st Century Judaism, or 2nd Temple Judaism, is not to be identified completely with the faith, religion, theology of the OT.

    So Jesus has contrast with the the Old Covt, the old administration of the Covt of Grace, as he is the fulfillment, the reality, the Antitype, not the type, shadow or promise. That very relation also carries along the continuty, Jesus fulfills, does not abrogate or abolish. This allows him to continue to say, whoever annuls, and teaches so, is least in the kingdom. And your righteousness must surpass that of scribes & Pharisees!

    Now I’m not suggesting this makes any particular conclusions automatic or easy, but I think these factors must be born in mind. In the detailed outworking of SOM, esp. rest of ch 5, Jesus is in discontinuity or contrast mostly with 2nd Temple Judaism, not the OT or Old Covt admin of covt of grace.

    Pardon the drive-by nature of this post, as I read and reflect on your comments whilst baby-sitting some operational batch-type processes…Not able to offer repeated interaction.

  33. paigebritton said,

    April 1, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Clearly, there is some link in Jesus’ mind between “I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill” and “anyone who sets aside one of these commands.” Can we specify that link?

    The link could be seen as Jesus himself: he is the one who fulfills; therefore, he is the one who commands. (My preferred reading, I think.)

    Or the link could be seen as the content of the Law & Prophets: fulfilled by Jesus; therefore, obeyed by his listeners. (But the content of the Law and the Prophets is much, much more than things to obey!)

  34. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Cris: Jesus sets himself both in continuity with and contrast to the OT Canon (the whole of Scripture available at the moment). But what must be recognized and addressed, it that Jesus also sets himself in contrast to and continuity with his Jewish contemporaries.

    Yes, this definitely seems to be the subtext.

    Would you press this further and say that the “You have heard it said”s are refutations of Pharisaical teaching, OR are they modifications of OT Law? (I.e.: “said” by the Pharisees, or “said” by God in times past?)

  35. Cris Dickason said,

    April 1, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Jeff @ 34:
    I have always taken (been taught?) the “you have heard…But I say…” as Jesus against erroneous interpretation/application of the OT, not the OT itself. So in terms of Jesus’ contemporaries he is counter Pharisaical additions to or corruptions of the OT teaching.

    I think that has been a consistent understanding on my part. Where I’ve grown over the years is that I was once a theonomist and would have taken the whole paragraph (Matt 5:17-20) as did/does G Bahnsen; I am no longer a theonomist, so I doubt I would follow Bahnsen on what fulfill & abrogate mean. Can’ recall the last time I cracked open Greg’s Theonomy.

    Side note: My Wife visited “Cypress Gardens of South Carolina” 2 weeks back and found the Butterfly House there most amazing. She had never seen so many butterflies! Thought you would appreciate…

    -=Cris=-

  36. paigebritton said,

    April 2, 2011 at 7:05 am

    I have always taken (been taught?) the “you have heard…But I say…” as Jesus against erroneous interpretation/application of the OT, not the OT itself. So in terms of Jesus’ contemporaries he is counter Pharisaical additions to or corruptions of the OT teaching.

    I wonder, though, if we could identify a mix of things going on in the antitheses? So that yes, in some there is an element of addressing Pharisaical or popular additions and misunderstandings; but in others we see Jesus deepening the people’s understanding of the basic command-phrases of the OT law (Carson would say, What the law was pointing to), and maybe even the revising, replacing, or revoking of the OT directly (and certainly Jesus does this elsewhere with the food laws, Mk. 7:19).

    The unifying thing that’s happening, though, is that Jesus is speaking with authority, which is, I think, in keeping with the idea that he has come to “fulfill” the Law & Prophets: it all points to him, so he has the authority to explain, reteach, and even revise or revoke it. Todd sums this up as “New Covenant ethics.”

    Do you guys agree with this breakdown?

    1. “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.”

    Source: OT law.
    Treatment: Deepened understanding of OT law. (Todd would maybe say, “New Covenant standards made clear — anger is subject to judgment as well.”)

    2. “You shall not commit adultery.”

    Source: OT law.
    Treatment: Deepened understanding of OT law. (Or, as Todd would maybe say, “New Covenant standards made clear — lustful looking is subject to judgment as well.”)

    3. “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.”

    Source: OT law (Deut. 24:1-4).
    Treatment: Deepened understanding of OT law (As Carson has it, divorce is the moral equivalent of adultery.)

    4. “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.”

    Source: OT law (various statements condensed).
    Treatment: Polemical, against casuistry; but Carson even sees the revoking of the OT law here — “If oaths designed to encourage truthfulness become occasions for clever lies & casuistical deceit, Jesus will abolish oaths (v.34).” (Expositor’s, 153)

    5. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

    Source: OT law
    Treatment: Polemical, against using this as an excuse for vindictiveness; but Carson goes further to say that “Jesus’ teaching formally contradicts the OT law,” in that he teaches NOT to address such offenses in the courts, as originally provided by the OT law (155). Todd sees this also as an example of New Covenant ethics.

    6. “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

    Source: OT law (Lev. 19:18) and popular perversion of it?
    Treatment: Polemical, against popular extension of the law to hatred of enemies; introduction of explicit New Covenant ethic to actively love one’s enemies.

  37. Vern Crisler said,

    April 2, 2011 at 10:23 am

    “What the law was pointing to), and maybe even the revising, replacing, or revoking of the OT directly (and certainly Jesus does this elsewhere with the food laws, Mk. 7:19).”

    This is evidence that when Jesus is talking about not breaking the least of these commandments, he wasn’t referring to the particularist laws of the Old Covenant, but rather the moral laws. The moral laws are not just the 10 commandments. They are every single law in exhaustive detail in the Old Testament in so far as that law can be universalized, i.e., insofar as that law has what Calvin called “equity.”

    Carson’s idea that Jesus was contradicting the Old Testament moral laws would mean that Jesus should be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Has Carson really thought about where his view leads?

    The idea that Jesus is deepening OT law would mean Jesus was criticizing the Pharisees for not following a higher standard than was given to Moses. That would be most unfair. In actuality, Jesus is merely restating what the law itself teaches, rightly understood.

    The Law and the Prophets is a convenient reference to the Old Testament. Jesus cannot abrogate the Law & the Prophets since he is the embodiment of the Law & the Prophets.

  38. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 2, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Paige, I’m stilling trying to chew on some things. Here are some provisional thoughts:

    (1) It seems that 5.19 and 7.24-27 function as textual bookends that prompt Matthew to comment on Jesus’ “teaching with authority.” Jesus appears to be pointing to himself — and his teaching — as authoritative over against those “who have said” (ch. 5) and over against the false prophets (7.15-20).

    (2) In that light, Jesus’ teaching is discontinuous with rabbinical interpretation of the Law. He is explicitly setting aside the tradition of interpretation of the Law. So in this sense, I would agree with Todd: Jesus is laying out an NT ethic that points to Himself as lawgiver.

    (3) But, 5.17-18 appear to caution the listener against thinking that he is setting aside the OT Law itself. It is not the Law, but the rabbinical traditions, that are being set aside. V. 7.12 appears to confirm this.

    (3a) I think the distinction between Moses and the rabbis explains Jesus’ quotes in the “you have heard it said” refrain. For one thing, he never says “it is written … but I say to you …” The Law given in Scripture is not under revision here, but re-explanation.

    For another, Jesus’ quotes are not all direct Scriptural quotes. The two that stand out are:

    “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” (5.21)

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” (5.43)

    From this, I would tentatively suggest that Jesus is quoting prooftexts used by rabbis, rather than quoting Scripture directly. I’m not an expert here, but it would not surprise me if the teachings he counteracts in 5.21-48 were found in the schools of Hillel or Shammai or both.

    That’s a tentative conclusion, but it would explain the “you have heard” instead of “it is written”, and why 5.21 and 5.43 add to the text of Scripture.

    (3b) Likewise, Jesus’ teachings in SM show continuity with the teachings of the prophets. Compare 5.31-32 with Malachi’s “I hate divorce!” or 6.16-18 with Is 58, or 5.27-30 with Job’s “I have made a covenant with my eyes.” (Job 31.1). The common element is that both Jesus and the prophets are saying, “This is what the Law really means.”

    (3c) So that in this sense, I would agree with Vern and disagree with Todd: Jesus’ teaching is not giving a new command that is different from the OT law, but making clear what the old command required. For example, people who lived prior to Christ were obligated to love their enemies and pray for those who used them despitefully, every bit as much as the NT community (cf. Prov 25.21-22).

    (4) If we view the SM as continuous with the Mosaic law (but discontinuous with rabbinical interpretation), then we can think about uses of the Law in the SM.

    On the one hand, we have the third use. The SM certainly does lay out an ethic for God’s people (thus agreeing with Todd again!).

    But even more fundamentally, we have the first (pedagogic) use. V. 5.20 merits attention here:

    “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    We tend to think of the Pharisees as “the bad guys”; but at their best, they were zealous to keep the commands of God. Jesus’ explication of those commands — to refrain from even the angry word, or lustful look, to keep our ‘yes’s and ‘no’s — surely forces his listeners to realize their inability to truly keep the Law. And thus, to be driven to the One who can.

    Thus, I see a strong Law/Gospel dynamic happening in 5.20 and continuing down to the climax in 5.48: “Therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” HOW?! Alien righteousness is hinted at as the only possible solution.

    To sum up: I see the SM as continuous with the OT law, explaining its true meaning; but discontinuous with rabbinical interpretation.

    Jesus’ intent appears to be two-fold: to give his followers a third-use type of ethic; but more importantly, to expose to his listeners their own failings in following the Law, so that they will come to the one who has fulfilled the Law, the “narrow gate” of 7.14 (cf. John 10). What does entering the kingdom of heaven require? Merely perfection.

  39. paigebritton said,

    April 2, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Jeff –
    Thanks for writing all that out! I’m gonna have to make me a chart to keep track of all the permutations of our interpretations… :)

    Hey, I agree about the “bookends” part, good catch. But I think you are reading “law” from the phrase “Law & Prophets” too narrowly, as if it literally means “laws” or “commandments.” What if it means “Moses,” as in, first five books? This is the way the phrase is normally used in the Gospels, and it then makes sense of “fulfill” in a typological way, since the Pentateuch is only partially commandment-laws.

    So, you write, “It is not the Law, but the rabbinical traditions, that are being set aside.” I agree that the “Law” is not being set aside — Jesus is fulfilling it (not least by speaking with authority here). But I am thinking that it is sometimes individual OT “laws” that are set aside, not just rabbinical traditions (though those, too, sometimes).

    Do you see my distinction between “Law” (= Moses) and “laws” (= individual commands)? As long as the “Law” is pointing to Jesus — and it always will, till all is accomplished — it will not be abolished; and yet, the Jesus that it points to can revise or revoke the individual “laws” recorded in the “Law” as he describes the New Covenant ethic. (So, for example, Mark 7:19.)

    Re. how Jesus doesn’t say, “It is written…but I say…,” notice how the first & fourth of the pericopes begins with “You have heard that it was said to those of old…,” and if this is a colloquialism (like, “He opened his mouth and began to teach them”) then mightn’t it be referring to the written Scriptures? Because they started out being “said to those of old”! And mightn’t the rest of that phrase even be filled in by his listeners’ minds in the other pericopes? I’m not saying that this limits Jesus’ criticism only to the OT, but that it does not limit Jesus’ criticism only to what the rabbis were teaching.

  40. Vern Crisler said,

    April 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Paige, your distinction still leaves Jesus open to the charge that he is to be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. I’m not sure why you are missing this problem in the new ethic approach.

  41. paigebritton said,

    April 3, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Hey, Vern,
    I wasn’t ignoring your criticism there, I just only had time to chew on Jeff’s ideas yesterday.

    You asked earlier:
    Carson’s idea that Jesus was contradicting the Old Testament moral laws would mean that Jesus should be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Has Carson really thought about where his view leads?

    It would seem that your criticism would only stand if Carson believed that Jesus was always contradicting OT moral laws in the antitheses, and also if he believed “these commandments” in v.19 refers to the moral teaching of the OT (so that if Jesus revoked or revised them, he’d qualify for “least”).

    But in his commentary Carson describes a mix of things happening in those antitheses — correction of popular views, polemics against specific rabbinic distortions (e.g., the entire tractate in the Mishnah devoted to casuistry about oaths), AND Jesus’ extending, revising, & revoking of some laws: the common element is Jesus’ authority to do any of those things.

    And Carson has established that, whichever way you slice it, he believes “these commandments” means Jesus’ own teachings. Jesus has authority, so listen to him, whether he clarifies, revises or revokes the commandments of the OT. So, no, Carson’s view does not suffer from the Achilles’ heel of Jesus contradicting himself!

    Re. what you call the problem of the “new ethic approach,” I think I see a distinction between Todd’s reading and mine (which basically follows Carson’s) in this: in Todd’s view, the eschatological “fulfillment” referred to by Jesus in v.17 is larger than just Christological; it includes the new Israel and the new ethics as also fulfilling the typology of the OT. So Todd’s treatment of the antitheses above (#14, 16, 19) largely emphasizes the eschatological implications of the new kingdom ethic.

    While I agree with Todd that these things (Israel, new kingdom ethics) are part of eschatological & typological fulfillment in redemptive history, I think that in v.17 we’re to keep the focus Christological: so in the antitheses I might see less of a contrast between OT ethics and NT ethics than Todd is bringing out, and more of a showcase of Jesus’ eschatologically fulfilling authority.

    Make sense (even if you disagree heartily)?

    :) pb

  42. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Paige,

    But I think you are reading “law” from the phrase “Law & Prophets” too narrowly, as if it literally means “laws” or “commandments.” What if it means “Moses,” as in, first five books? This is the way the phrase is normally used in the Gospels, and it then makes sense of “fulfill” in a typological way, since the Pentateuch is only partially commandment-laws.

    Fair point. I was reading “Law and Prophets” as a metonymy for “the Old Testament”, which is IIRC a common way that Jesus uses this phrase … let’s see … yes, Matt 11.13, 22.40, Luke 16.16.

    But I think you’re right to ask for more precision on this, and I’ll have to chew on it.

    Paige: But I am thinking that it is sometimes individual OT “laws” that are set aside, not just rabbinical traditions (though those, too, sometimes).

    Do you see my distinction between “Law” (= Moses) and “laws” (= individual commands)? As long as the “Law” is pointing to Jesus — and it always will, till all is accomplished — it will not be abolished; and yet, the Jesus that it points to can revise or revoke the individual “laws” recorded in the “Law” as he describes the New Covenant ethic. (So, for example, Mark 7:19.)

    I’m having trouble seeing it completely. If I understand, you are distinguishing between the body of Law (Pentateuch) as a whole (which is retained), and individual commands (which might be revised or revoked).

    Here are my questions or challenges to that reading:

    (1) Textually, where do we see commands being revoked or revised? In Mark 7.19, Jesus really does revoke the OT food laws. But here, I struggle to find any commands that are revoked.

    Likewise with revision, we *might* be able to read 5.31-32 as revising the divorce laws — but we could just as easily read it as distinguishing between what is permitted under the Law v. what is actually right to do (cf. Matt 19).

    In other words, I don’t get the sense in the text that Jesus is saying, “Before, it was permissible to look at a woman lustfully. But now, I’m revising that. Keep your eyes to yourself.”

    So revocation is really hard for me to see; revision is possible but not obvious.

    (2) Textually again: How do you square the distinction between Law and laws with the “jot and tittle” of 5.18? Wouldn’t setting aside or revising commandments cause jots and tittles to pass away? I say that realizing that the ceremonial law really does pass away, which *does* occur with the coming of Christ. But I’m not sure that’s what’s in view here because of …

    (3) Systematically: Would you agree that each of the commands in Matt 5 – 7 would be classed under “moral law” rather than civil or ceremonial law? And if so, then do we not hold that the moral law continues on without revision or revocation into the NT?

    (4) Systematically again: WLC 136 and 139 take Matt 5 as proof that the 6th and 7th commandments forbid anger and lustful thoughts, respectively. I take that as confirmation that Matt 5 is expounding upon the meaning of the Law (whether in the narrow or broad sense!) rather than revising the meaning of the Law. Agree/disagree?

  43. paigebritton said,

    April 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Hi, Jeff,
    Thanks for your thoughtful response.
    Some ideas, as best I can do:

    1. In the reading I am trying to describe (which is basically Carson’s), I don’t think there is any danger of Jesus replacing or revoking the moral law of the OT. In fact, the parts of the Mosaic law that seem to be clarified (against Pharisaical misteachings or inadequate popular understandings) are the parts that sound most like elements of the Decalogue — murder, adultery, divorce. Here there is continuity with the OT.

    Where Carson points up possible discontinuity with the OT, the actual revoking or changing of commands, it’s at the point of details of praxis: he suggests that Jesus revokes oaths (of the sort that people in those days were wont to make, but based on OT permission to do so), and also that Jesus seems to abrogate “eye for an eye” for his followers by commanding them NOT to pursue their law-given right to take an offender to court and demand just recompense. There’s something different going on here, contra the OT originals.

    2. Re. “jots & tittles,” even if a jot of praxis is revoked for Jesus’ followers, it still remains a part of the OT Scriptures that point to Christ “until everything is accomplished.” It doesn’t go away from the text, but Christians may relate to it differently than Jews. Make sense? (I think the example of the food laws is most clear here, even though it’s outside the SOTM context; you would agree that this “jot” gets revoked for Christians, right?)

    3. Again, I don’t think Carson is suggesting anything that is a threat to the continuity of God’s moral law, nor yet our use of the OT law’s “general equity” to guide our lives. If he is correct about OT-style oaths and “eye for an eye” being revoked for Jesus’ followers, then Jesus IS making authoritative changes to OT teaching; but they are of a sort that do not injure the continuity of the moral law. The point of the teaching would be (in part) that Jesus has the authority to steer that moral river into a different channel.

    4. I agree that in Matthew 5, Jesus expands on the meaning of some OT commands, notably those regarding murder, adultery, and divorce. But I am also noticing that at times he seems to be changing the details of praxis for his followers from OT instructions into something new, so in these antitheses he is NOT ONLY expanding on or clarifying what had been said to the people of old, he is also changing some of it.

    So rather than saying Jesus is ONLY addressing pharisaical misteachings, and rather than saying that Jesus is ONLY correcting (or revising or revoking) OT commandments, I am suggesting that there is a mix of things going on here in his teaching, so that new covenant believers end up with OT morals in a NT context. Continuity and discontinuity both, all under the umbrella of the authority of the one who fulfills all the Scripture.

    pb

  44. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 3, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Thanks, Paige. I think I’ll add one more voice and then retire the field. Thanks for the conversation!

    To avoid a long post, I’ll just commend Calvin’s Commentary from Harm Gospels vol. 1 on Matt 5.17-19 and Matt 5.20-22.

    Here are two provocative teasers:

    It has been a prevailing opinion, that the beginning of righteousness was laid down in the ancient law, but that the perfection of it is pointed out in the Gospel. But nothing was farther from the design of Christ, than to alter or innovate any thing in the commandments of the law. There God has once fixed the rule of life which he will never retract. But as the law had been corrupted by false expositions, and turned to a profane meaning, Christ vindicates it against such corruptions, and points out its true meaning, from which the Jews had departed. — Calv Comm 5.21

    Away, then, with that error, “The deficiencies of the law are here supplied by Christ.” We must not imagine Christ to be a new legislator, who adds any thing to the eternal righteousness of his Father. We must listen to him as a faithful expounder, that we may know what is the nature of the law, what is its object, and what is its extent. — ibid

    It appears that Calvin has both of his two traditional opponents in mind: Catholics and Anabaptists.

    peace,

  45. paigebritton said,

    April 4, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Thank you, Jeff! I’ll dive into Calvin on this (someone was feeling really generous and bought me all of his commentaries recently!!).

    I so appreciate and value your interaction — thanks for sharpening my thinking!

    pax,
    pb


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