So some guy wrote:
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks 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. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
This leads me to a few simple conclusions. none of which will make me popular.
Antisemitism is not only hateful and sinful, it is foolish. Because and although the Jews did persecute Jewus and the early church, the Jews are the people of God and through the Law and their witness Christ came who bought salvation to all nations, as promised to Abraham. So we need to pray that the Jews will see Christ as who he is, and we should support them.
The Mosaic law is good. The morality it teaches is true. And we should teach it: we should practice it. We are called to live for the glory of God, and that means that there will be restrictions on our behaviour.
I’m not sure if he was serious about the “popular” part, but at any rate I’m going to question his interpretation.
The Mosaic law is good. The morality it teaches is true.
He says the “Mosaic” law is good and the morality it teaches must be respected. Well, funny, the Gospels are very vague about how closely Jesus followed the Jewish law. Did Jesus care about eating pork? Did Jesus care about weaving garments with two different kinds of thread.
We can be pretty sure that Jesus approved of slavery; even if Jesus didn’t the Mosaic law definitely does. His stance on violence is inconsistent. Sometimes he tells Peter not to slice the ears off of slaves, sometimes he tells his followers to take swords with them, and sometimes he beats up money-changers.
In short, Jesus didn’t spell out his morality in the Gospels. Even if he had, people would have changed it by now, just as Buddha’s followers have elaborated and distorted Buddha’s admonitions.
These pictures will be easier to read if you click to open them in tabs and then zoom in if necessary.
First I looked back before his quoted point to see if there was a simple definition of “righteousness.” There isn’t. Christians – or at least the audience Jesus was addressing in these passages – are supposed to exceed the Jews in “righteousness” – but we don’t know what “righteousness” might be — Abstinence from pork? Abstinence from violence? Whatever God wants at any given moment?
“Not to abolish but to fulfill” – well, that happened at the crucifixion, right? The crucifixion is generally held to be the point where the Jewish law stopped operating, and the Veil of the Temple was ripped top to bottom, right? That was the point where eating pork suddenly became acceptable to God, right? Because by the time the Gospels have ended, the Christians say it’s okay to eat pork!
Not one jot or tittle of the law is supposed to pass away until everything is fulfilled. But all the dietary restrictions of the law did pass away before the end of the 1st century. Therefore everything Jesus wanted done had been accomplished by that point, right? Once any jot or tittle of the Old Testament laws ceases to hold, the entire Old Testament ceases to operate, right? I hope so – I’m wearing clothing made from cotton and polyester.
As for the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus doesn’t call it an afterlife; he seems to be talking about something that can be entered without dying.
And whether you keep or break the law, apparently you can enter the Kingdom of Heaven, without dying. How you handle the details of the law might have some bearing on whether you are called “minor” or “great” within that kingdom, but Christians are supposed to be humble and not seek out praise and glory, right?
In any event, it looks like Jesus is trying to deliver a specific message to a specific audience, and extrapolating from it runs the risk of reading a completely erroneous meaning.
Whatever “righteousness” might be, the Christians are supposed to have much more of it than the grammarians and Pharisees, and if they do, then they can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
It seems impossible to figure out what “righteousness” is, but it’s much easier to figure out “faith.”
For example, when Jesus was walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33), he commanded Peter to join him. Peter had some beginner’s luck, then faltered. Jesus told Peter that Peter did not have enough faith.
In another passage, Jesus said that if anyone had faith even as small as a mustard seed, then that person would work lots of miracles.
Thus the simple test for whether Christians have faith is whether they work lots of miracles. Any Christian who defies the laws of physics on a regular basis probably has faith at least as big as a mustard seed. Any Christian who doesn’t at least walk a few steps on the water before getting discouraged by the wind and the waves is clearly even worse off than Peter.
Wikipedia lists more than one hundred miracle-workers in the Christian tradition, at least one of whom was active as late as 1968. So Christians can’t shuck this responsibility by claiming that the Age of Miracles has passed.