The next thing Jesus said is a whopper, and it’s one of disagreements and controversy. So we’ll see what we can glean from it and understand.
Let’s take this a little chunk at a time shall we?
“Do not think that I came to do away with or undo the [f]Law [of Moses] or the [writings of the] Prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [of the pen] will pass from the Law until all things [which it foreshadows] are accomplished. (Matthew 5 AMP)
A few things to understand in this statement:
- The Law – Jesus refers to the Law in several instances. Jews in Bible time would have known exactly what “The Law” was, it would have been what we know as the first five books of the Old Testament. Bəreshit/Genesis. Shəmot/Exodus. Vayikra/Leviticus. Bəmidbar/Numbers. Dəvarim/Deuteronomy.
- The Prophets – Because I am not a Bible scholar, in regards to the writings of the Prophets I can only share what I found. Scholars agree Jesus would have been familiar with what we call the Septuagint. Many New Testament writers quoted from it when they wrote the Gospels and Epistles in Greek. Some of the original texts which were in the Septuagint are not in our modern day Bible. The “Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches include the Apocrypha in their Bible (except for the books of Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh).” Without more study, I will let you decided exactly who the prophets are Jesus is referring to.
19 So whoever breaks one of the least[important] of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness (uprightness, moral essence) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Who were the scribes and the Pharisees? John Gills says:
“the Scribes, because they were the more learned part of the people, who were employed in writing out, and expounding the law; and the Pharisees, because they were the strictest sect among the Jews for outward religion and righteousness;”
As we continue to see what Jesus says in Scripture, we will get a better picture of what He meant by having “righteousness more than the scribes and Pharisees.” Right now, let’s just say He wasn’t a fan of theirs.
So what can we glean from this passage:
- The Law (first five books of the Bible) and what the Prophets wrote were still in effect when He was speaking. An important thing to distinguish is what was passed down verbally and traditionally is not necessarily what was written as a direction from God. Also, as we move through Scripture, we will find more clarification of what the “until” meant. For now, we’ll just glean this, we won’t try to glean exactly what the laws are.
- We have to have a righteousness more than what the scribes and Pharisees had.
This really isn’t a finished topic, there is much more to learn in order to completely understand the full meaning of what He said here. Like I said in the beginning, this one is a whopper. And I would get indigestion if I try to shove a whole whopper down. lol
Check out this sermon on this topic by Andy Stanley: Part 4 New World Order