JESUS AND THE LAW

 

 

1. Selective Bibliography
2. Introduction
3. Jesus' Criticism of the Pharisaic / Scribal "Tradition of the Elders"
   3.1. The Pharisaic View of the Law
      3.1.1. Josephus
      3.1.2. New Testament
      3.1.3. Qumran Sectarian Texts
      3.1.4. Early Rabbinic Writings
   3.2. Jesus' Critique of Pharisaic Oral Law

      3.2.1. Mark 7:1-13 = Matt 15:1-9
     
3.2.2. Matt 23:16-22
      3.2.3. Matt 23:4 = Luke 11:46
   3.3. Warnings against the Following of the Teaching of the Pharisees
      3.3.1. Mark 8:14-21 = Matt 16:5-12

      3.3.2. Luke 12:1
      3.3.3. Matt 15:14
   3.4. Jesus' Criticism of the Moral Character of the Scribes and Pharisees
      3.4.1. Mark 12:37-40 = Luke 20:45-47
      3.4.2. Luke 11: 39-44, 46-52 = Matt 23:25-26, 23, 6-7, 4, 29-30, 34-36, 13
      3.4.3. Luke 16:14-15
      3.4.4. Matt 23:27
      3.4.5. Matt 23:5, 8-12, 15-22, 24-28, 31-33

4. Jesus' View of the Law
   4.1. Jesus' View of the Law as Having a Center

      4.1.1. Mark 12:28-34 = Matt 22:34-40; Luke 10:25-28 (Followed by the Parable of the Good Samaritan)
      4.1.2. Matt 7:12 = Luke 6:31
      4.1.3. Matt 23:23-24
      4.1.4. Matt 9:13
      4.1.5. Summary
   4.2. Jesus' View of Obedience as Flowing from a Pure Heart
      4.2.1. Mark 7:14-23 = Matt 15:10-20
      4.2.2. Luke 11:39-41 = Matt 23:25-26
      4.2.3. Matt 7:16-20; Matt 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-44
      4.2.4. Matt 6:22-23 = Luke 11:34-36
      4.2.5. Jesus' Objection to Hypocrisy
         A. Matt 23:5-7
         B. Matt 6:1-4
         C. Matt 6:16-18

5. The Possibility of Breaking the Law in Order to Uphold the Law

   5.1. Mark 2:23-27 = Matt 12:1-8 = Luke 6:1-5
   5.2. Healing on the Sabbath
      5.2.1. Mark 3:1-6 = Matt 12:9-14 = Luke 6:6-11
      5.2.2. Luke 13:10-17
      5.2.3. Luke 14:1-6
      5.2.4. John 5:1-18
      5.2.5. John 7:16-24
      5.2.6. John 9:1-34
6. Jesus' Assumption of Authority over the Law
   6.1. Matt 5:33-37
   6.2. Mark 10:2-12 = Matt 19:3-11; Matt 5:31-32 = Luke 16:18
   6.3. Matt 5:38-42 = Luke 6:29-30
   6.4. Matt 5:21-22
   6.5. Matt 5:43-48
   6.6. Matt 5:27
7. Jesus' Commendation of the Scribes and Pharisees as Interpreters of the Law
8. The Validity of the Law
      8.1. Matt 5:17-19
      8.2. Luke 16:17
9. Jesus and the Temple

 

 

1. Selective Bibliography

M. Albertz, Die synoptische Streitspräche: ein Beitrag zur Formgeschichtliche des Urchristentums; R. Banks, Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition, 1975; B.H. Branscomb, Jesus and the Law of Moses, 1930); J. Becker, Jesus of Nazareth, 1998) 271-308; K. Berger, Die Gesetzesauslegung Jesu, 1972); H. Braun, Jesus. Der Mann aus Nazareth und seine Zeit, 1969, 53-62; G.B. Caird and L.D. Hurst, New Testament Theology, 385-93; R. Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount, 1982; H. Hübner, Das Gesetz in der synoptischen Tradition, 2d. ed., 1986; A.J. Hultgren, Jesus and His Adversaries, 1979; D. Kosch, Die eschatologishe Tora des Menschensohnes, 1989; W. Loader, Jesus' Attitude towards the Law, 2002; H. Ljungmann, Das Gestz Erfüllen: Matt 5.17ff. und 3.15 Untersucht, 1954; J. P. Meier, Law and History in Matthew's Gospel, 1976; N.J. McEleney, “The Principles of the Sermon on the Mount,” CBQ 41 (1979) 552-70; D.J. Moo, "Jesus and the Authority of the Jewish Law," JSNT 20 (1984) 3-49; P. Noll, Jesus und das Gesetz, 1968; J. Roloff, Das Kerygma und der irdische Jesus, 52-88; A. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society; A. Sand, Das Gesetz und die Propheten: Untersuchungen zur Theologie des Evangeliums nach Matthäus, 1974; E.P. Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah, 1990; G. Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount, 1973; F. Vouga, Jésus et la loi selon la tradition synoptique, 1988; A. Watson, Jesus and the Law, 1996); S. Westerholm, Jesus and Scribal Authority, 1978.

2. Introduction

Jesus is portrayed in the gospels as as obeying the Law: he attends Jewish festivals, pays the half-shekel temple tax (Matt 17:24-27), and even wears the prescribed tassel on his robe (Mark 6:56; Matt 14:36; 23:5; see LXX Deut 22:12; Num 15:37-39). But Jesus had certain views on the Law, which brought him into conflict with other Jews who had different views. These opponents are described as the scribes and the Pharisees or sometimes the scribes of the Pharisees (see Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30).

The Pharisees were a voluntary religious group within Judaism, while a scribe was an expert in the Law and he made his living from his expertise. A Pharisee was not necessarily a scribe and a scribe was not necessarily a Pharisee; but there seems to be an overlap between these two, which is not surprising, since the Pharisees were dedicated to the proper interpretation and obedience of the Law. When Jesus criticizes the Pharisees, the scribes protest that he insults them also (Luke 11:45). The Pharisees were active in recruiting Jews to their ranks: "You travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte" (Matt 23:15).

In order to understand Jesus' views on the Law it is important to set them in contrast with those of his opponents. The difference between Jesus' view of God's requirements for Jews and that of the Pharisees and scribes comes to expression in those traditions that preserve his legal conflicts with them.

3. Jesus' Criticism of the Pharisaic / Scribal "Tradition of the Elders"

3.1. The Pharisaic View of the Law

Like all Jews, the Pharisees believed that the Law was revealed to Moses by God and that, insofar as they were part of the covenant made with the generation of the exodus, all Jews were obliged to obey the Law (see Sir 10:19; 19:20). The Pharisees differed from other Jewish religious groups, however, in that they held to the authority of the "tradition of the elders," which consisted of ancient customs, expansions and clarifications of the written Law and legal rulings by individuals or courts. At the time of Jesus the "tradition of the elders" was orally transmitted, or at least not officially published. Other Jewish religious groups no doubt interpreted the Law and these interpretations became normative for their members (see Sir 39:1-2). The Sadducees had different interpretations of the Law, which are stated in rabbinic writings (and then repudiated) (see Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, 219-21). The Essenes likewise differed from the other two groups in their interpretation of the Law, and even created new religious festivals, such as the festivals of oil and wine (see Temple Scroll; 4QMMT). But only the Pharisees are said to have had a normative "tradition of the elders." It would seem that the Pharisees attributed to their body of oral tradition a formal authority that the other groups did not. Evidence for Pharisaic oral tradition is as follows.

3.1.1. Josephus

A. War 2. 162: "The Pharisees, who are considered the most accurate interpreters of the laws, and hold the position of the leading sect."

B. Ant. 13. 297-98: "The Pharisees had passed on to the people certain regulations handed down by former generations and not recorded in the Law of Moses, for which reason they are rejected by the Sadducean group, who hold that only those regulations should be considered valid which were handed down (in scripture), and that those which had been handed down by former generations need not be observed. And concerning these matters the two parties came to have controversies and serious differences, the Sadducees having the confidence of the wealthy alone but no following among the populace, while the Pharisees have the support of the masses."

3.1.2. New Testament

A. Mark 7:3, 5 = Matt 15:2-3: The Pharisees and some of their scribes ask Jesus why his disciples do not observe the "tradition of the elders." (See below for fuller exposition of this passage.)

B. Gal 1:14: Paul describes himself as a Pharisee (Phil 3:5; see Acts 23:6) and in Gal 1:14 speaks about "being exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers" before his conversion.

3.1.3. Qumran Sectarian Texts

Antedating both Josephus and the New Testament are polemical references in the Qumran texts directed against Pharisaic extra-biblical tradition (see Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, 249-52). The Qumran community criticizes an unidentified group referred to only as "builders of the wall" (CD 4.19-20); probably this criticism was directed against the Pharisees, who create extra-biblical laws in order to protect the Law with a metaphorical "wall" (see m. Abot 1.1: "And make a fence around the Law") (see also CD 8.12-13, 18; 19.31). By adding to the written Law, the Pharisees saw themselves as metaphorically building a wall of protection around the Law in order to make disobedience more difficult. In addition, the Qumran community makes a derogatory pun on the key Pharisaic term "halakah" (the term halakah is a Hebrew word meaning "the way in which to walk," i.e., a law to be followed). Rather than calling the Pharisees "interpreters of laws" (dorshe halakot) as they no doubt called themselves, the Qumran community referred to them as "seekers after smooth things" (dorshe halaqot), i.e. "interpreters of false laws," which is an allusion to Isa 30:10, where Isaiah criticizes Israel for rejecting the prophetic message of impending judgment and preferring to hear "smooth things." Based on CD 1.18-20, it seems that an original apostate group left the community in order to join or even become the Pharisees: “For they sought smooth things and chose delusions and sought out loopholes...” (see 1QH-a 10.32; 12.10-11). The criticism is that, in creating their oral law ostensively to make disobedience to the Law more difficult, the Pharisees have actually replaced biblical commandments with their own, less-demanding laws ("smooth things").

3.1.4. Early Rabbinic Writings

The early rabbis traced their spiritual roots to the pre-destruction Pharisees; from this it justifiable to conclude some continuity between them. In early rabbinic sources, there is evidence of an oral law that reaches back to the pre-destruction period.

A. M. Abot. 1:1 claims the following about the origin of the Torah, i.e. oral tradition: "Moses received the Torah from Sinai, and he delivered it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets delivered it to the men of the Great Synagogue.” The Pharisees themselves, who lived at an earlier period, may not have believed that the oral law, identical to what the New Testament calls the "tradition of the elders," originated with Moses. Nevertheless, this early rabbinic explanation does presuppose the existence of an authoritative oral law, for which theological justification is sought.

B. Sipre Deut 351: It is reported the R. Gamaliel taught that there were two torot (i.e. Laws), one oral and one written.

C. M. Sanhedrin 11.2: It is said that the Law went forth to all Israel "from the Great Court that was in the Chamber of Hewn Stone." Law in this context must mean the oral Law, as opposed to the written Law in the Torah.

D. The early rabbis distinguished between halakot and the Law. In some cases, the former refers to authoritative elaborations on and additions to the written Law, some of which are said to go back to Moses. These are identical to what the New Testament calls the "tradition of the elders," or the oral Law.

E. The Mishnah consists of originally oral traditions organized thematically, some of which are attributed to men known to be Pharisees. This provides evidence that the Pharisees created and passed on a body of oral material intended as an interpretation and supplement of the written Law. A good example of the Pharisaic attempt to make the written easier to obey was their oral laws related to 'erubin, extensions of the ritual limits of one's house in order to allow to carrying of things on the Sabbath outside the walls of a house. The legal tradition of the 'erub made keeping the Sabbath prohibition against working, in this case transportation of objects, easier to fulfil.

3.2. Jesus' Critique of Pharisaic Oral Law

Jesus opposes the Pharisaic oral law, not only because he does not believe that it should be accepted as an authoritative supplement to the written Law, but also because he thinks that the oral law has actually promotes disobedience to the written Law. Jesus agrees with the Essene assessment of the Pharisaic oral law.

3.2.1. Mark 7:1-13 = Matt 15:1-9

Mark 7

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)  5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"  6 He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'  8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." 9 And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!  10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'  11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Korban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.  13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.  And you do many things like that."

Matthew 15

1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 

 

 

2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do they not wash their hands before they eat!"

 

3 Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' 5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, `Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' 6 he is not to `honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.  7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 
8 "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" 

 

Jesus takes exception to the Pharisaic "tradition of the elders" (Mark 7:3) in a gospel tradition that form-critically is classified as a Pronouncement Story. (As indicated above, the Essenes and the Sadducees also rejected the Pharisaic position.) The occasion for Jesus' expression of his anti-Pharisaic views is his being criticized for allowing his disciples to eat without having first ritually washed their hands. It seems that the Pharisees attempted as far as possible to be in a state of ritual purity when they ate their everyday meals; washing their hands would ensure that their food would remain ritually pure. (Mark parenthetically explains the Pharisaic position for his gentile readers [Mark 7:3-4].) In the Law, eating ordinary meals in a state of purity is explicitly required of priests and their families when the food eaten consists of foods dedicated to God (Lev 7:19-21; 22:3-16). But since the Law in general requires that an Israelite as much as possible avoid coming into contact with impurity (Lev 11, 13), the Pharisees apparently reasoned that, when eating, they ought as much as possible to keep themselves ritually pure, thereby preserving the purity even of ordinary food (Gundry, Mark, 358-59; Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah, 228-36). See Pharisaic Haburot. In order to purify themselves ritually before eating, the Pharisees washed their hands. It should be noted that nothing is said in the Law about ritually cleansing hands before eating; probably, the Pharisees extrapolated from the practice of using water to effect ritual purity (see Exod 30:18; Lev 11:32; 15; 16:4, 26; 17:15; 22:6; Num 19). Not surprising, they also used water to purify cooking and eating utensils in extrapolation of the Law's prescriptions (see Lev 11:32-35; 15:12; Num 19:15). Unlike some of the other Pharisaic oral tradition, such regulations would make obeying the Law somewhat more difficult, which is contrary to the Essene accusation of being "seekers of smooth things." The social function of these oral laws, however, is that they served as an identity and boundary marker, distinguishing the Pharisees from their non-Pharisaic compatriots insofar as to follow them would prevent Pharisees from eating with non-Pharisees, an intimate social act. The Pharisees wanted to know why Jesus and his disciples did not abide by their regulations. Jesus' reply to this criticism is to reject outright "the tradition of the elders": "Their teachings are but rules taught by men." In addition, calls the Pharisees hypocrites (quoting Isa 29:13), because their motives in making some of these oral laws was to avoid keeping the written Law.

Mark 7:3 indicates that not only the Pharisees but all other observant Jews practiced hand washing in order to effect ritual purity. There is, however, surprisingly little evidence in second-Temple Jewish sources concerning this general ritual practice: nothing is said explicitly about the ritual washing of hands before eating. (For this reason, Sanders concludes rashly that the real author of Mark, allegedly a gentile, misrepresented Pharisaic practice [Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah, 262].) Priests were required to wash their hands and their feet before sacrificing (Exod 30:18-20; 40:31) and a man with an issue (a zav) was required to rinse his hands before touching anyone (Lev 15:11). In the Greek-speaking diaspora, there is evidence that Jews bathed before praying (Jdt. 12:7; Sib. Or. 3.591-92). Also in the Letter of Aristeas, it is said that Jews washed their hands in the sea as part of their praying (305-6). Nevertheless, in spite of a lack of explicit evidence, it does seem that the ritual cleansing of hands by water was practiced generally is assumed in the mishnaic tractate Yadim (1:1-2:4) (see also m. Ber. 8:1-2 concerning the dispute between Hillel and Shammai on the order of blessing the cup and hand washing). What is not explained in this tractate is the specific purpose of the ritual hand washing. Taken in conjunction with Mark 7:1-4, however, it becomes clear that observant Jews washed their hands before eating in order to remove ritual impurity from them. Doing so would prevent ritual impurity from being transferred from their hands to their food, rendering it impure. It should also be noted that John 2:6 is further evidence that Jews generally practiced ritual hand washing before eating: "Now there were six stone water pots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each." The fact that these stone containers were empty may be explained on the hypothesis that the guests at the wedding feast had already washed their hands before beginning to eat. (Indeed, m. Yad. 1:2 refers to the use of various vessels to hold water for the purpose of ritually purifying the hands.) Thus, it seems that the Pharisees and Jews generally recognized another category of ritual uncleanness: that restricted only to the hands and not extending to the whole body, so that full immersion in a ritual bath (mikveh) was not required. This would be another example of Pharisaic halakah, or, as Mark calls it, "the tradition of the elders." Perhaps, they ruled that in cases of normal daily contact with possible sources of ritual impurity, like objects in the marketplace (Mark 7:4), it is sufficient to wash one's hands only because the ritual impurity was restricted to the hands. It is probable that m. 'Ed. 5:6 defends this halakic innovation against detractors: "But whom did they excommunicate? It was Elazar ben Enoch, because he disputed concerning the cleanness of hands." Apparently, there were some Pharisees who thought that all ritual impurity should be removed by full immersion in a mikveh. The statement in Luke 11:38 "When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that he [Jesus] had not first washed before the meal" probably refers to Jesus' not washing his hands, rather than his not immersing in a mikveh.

Two-Handled
Pottery Jar from Qumran

Dating from the first century BCE to the first century CE, this pot excavated at the settlement at Khirbet Qumran is 37.25 cm high (14 1/2 in.) and 18.7 cm in diameter (7 1/4 in.). It was probably used for the storage of provisions.

According to Josephus, the Essenes also aimed to preserve the ritual purity of ordinary food. In War 2. 129, it is said that they purified themselves by means of full immersion in cold water before eating, and in Ant. 18.22 Josephus explains that, since they had higher purity requirements than non-priests, priests prepared the common meals. The intention to preserve the ritual purity of the common meals also explains why food could only be touched by full members (War 2.139), for only they were assumed to be ritually pure. It was even the case that expelled members of the community would eat nothing, since they were bound by oath not to eat food obtained from non-members (presumably, the oath was to eat only ritually pure food), and so would have died of starvation had they not been accepted back into the community (War 2. 143) (see 1QS 5.13, 16; 6. 16-17, 20-21; CD 10. 10-13, which deal with similar regulations.) The difference between the Essenes and the Pharisees on this issue is that the latter allowed Jews to wash the hands only in order to remove ritual impurity rather than immerse the whole body. It is conceivable that the Essenes accused the Pharisees of making obedience to the Law too easy by permitting the washing of hands only, in keeping with their reputation for being "seekers of smooth things." It is clear from the Temple Scroll that in general the Essenes were more strict than the Pharisees with respect to purity (see Martinez and Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 141-47)

    As a prime example of Pharisaic hypocrisy, Jesus cites the korban tradition. (That Mark 7:9-13 was originally an independent saying that Mark annexed to Mark 7:1-8 for obvious thematic reasons is a possibility [see Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, 49, 329].) The Pharisees allowed someone to vow something of value or money to the Temple, as korban ("a gift"), so that only the owner could benefit from its use, but no one else, including the owner's mother and father. There are instances of Aramaic inscriptions from around the first century that use the word korban (qrbn) to mean "gift," one of which is found on an ossuary (C.A. Evans, Jesus and the Ossuaries, 96-98). Presumably these inscriptions made a record of gifts given to the Temple by an individual either upon his or her death or before death. According to m. Ma'as. Š 4:10, the word korban (qrbn) was written on clay and metal pots to indicate that the container and its contents or simply the contents was a gift to the Temple. Thus to say that something is korban is to say both that it is a gift given to the Temple and that it is forbidden to others (see m. Ned. 3.2: "May they [figs] be korban to you."). It is obvious how this would be open to abuse: a man would dedicate something of value to the Temple, in order that his parents could not benefit from it, thereby violating the commandment of the written Law to honor his mother and father. Jesus' point is that the Pharisaic oral law has been the instrument of evil, or at least has been responsible for the prevention of good from being done. He would agree in this regard with the Essene criticism of the Pharisees as "seekers of smooth things." But it must be noted again that Jesus rejects the Pharisaic oral law, not because it prevents good from being done, but because the "tradition of the elders" is not from God. In this Jesus agrees with the Sadducees and the Essenes (see S. Westerholm, Jesus and Scribal Authority, 81-85; Jeremias, New Testament Theology, 209-10). Jesus only believes that the Torah has authority over a Jew.

In the Old Testament, vows properly taken had to be honored unconditionally (Num 30:2; Deut 23-21-23). A partial parallel to Mark 7:9-13 is found in m. Ned. 5.6, where the case is cited of a son who was forbidden by vow from benefiting his father in any way. The early rabbis, however, disallowed four types of vows: vows of urging, vows of exaggeration, vows made in error and vows made under duress (m. Ned. 3.1). Moreover, they also allowed the annulling of a vow the fulfillment of which would disadvantage the parents of the one who made the vow (m. Ned. 9.1). This exception, however, seems to have come into existence after the time of Jesus; it is clear that in his time the stricter regulation was in place (see Westerholm, Jesus and Scribal Authority, 78).

3.2.2. Matt 23:16-22

16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever takes an oath by the Temple, that is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gold of the Temple is obligated.' 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the Temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And whoever takes an oath by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever takes an oath by the offering on it, he is obligated. 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever takes an oath by the altar, takes an oath both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever takes an oath by the temple, takes an oath both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever takes an oath by heaven, takes an oath both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

    Another example of the possibility of disobedience to the Law resulting from Pharisaic oral tradition (halakah) concerns taking oaths. Jesus begins by criticizing Pharisaic oral tradition regarding oaths as overly complicated casuistically and even contradictory. From what he says, the Pharisees made distinctions between a valid oath and an invalid one. According to the Law, an Israelite was to take an oath only by the name of Yahweh, but never in vain (Exod 20:7). But by the time of Jesus, Jews avoided taking a oath by the name of Yahweh, and instead substituted circumlocutions for the name Yahweh or something sacred associated with Yahweh (see Ant. 2.276; 1QapGen 2.4, 7, 14). Thus there arose the question of which oath-formulas were valid and which were not (see m. Ned. 1.2; 2.2-3; m. Shevu. 4.13). Although nowhere mentioned in rabbinic literature, the Pharisees seemed to have made a distinction between taking an oath by the Temple itself or by the gold in the Temple and taking an oath by the altar or the sacrifice on the altar. In each case, the former option was considered an invalid oath-formula whereas the latter was considered valid. Although the rationale for it is lacking in the text, Jesus finds this halakic ruling to be absurd. In fact, the opposite should be the case: he reasons that the Temple is more important than the gold in it and the altar is more important than the sacrifice upon it, so that, if anything, an oath by the Temple or by the altar should be valid. The effect of such distinction-making with respect to oaths is to allow some Jews to avoid the keeping their oaths on the grounds that their oaths were not valid in the first place. The possibility of invalid oaths leads to looking for legal "loopholes." It would also lead to the possibility of deception: a Jew may deliberately take an invalid oath hoping that the other party does not know that it is an invalid oath, so that he can renege on his agreements without legal consequences. This is no doubt Jesus' real objection to such halakic casuistry (see CD 16.7-8). Jesus adds that a Jew cannot likewise make a distinction between taking an oath by the Temple or the one (God) who dwells in the Temple as well as taking an oath by heaven or the throne of God in heaven.

3.2.3. Matt 23:4 = Luke 11:46

Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees for laying heavy burdens on people, but doing nothing to alleviate the burden: "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them" (Matt 23:4). This is probably a reference to the burdensome nature of the Pharisaic oral tradition, or "tradition of the elders." (Unlike Matthew's version, Luke's version of the saying is in the form of a "woe.") Although many times the Pharisees aimed to make the Law easier to obey by their oral tradition (which is why they were called "seekers of smooth things" by the Essences), the overall effect was the opposite: there were simply too many oral traditions to know and remember for anyone but a Pharisaic teacher. The result was that only those with the opportunity to study with a Pharisaic teacher could ever be fully obedient, as a Pharisee would define it. In addition, the many Pharisaic oral laws served as an identity and boundary marker, separating the Pharisees from other, religiously-inferior Jews. This would promote an elitist attitude towards those Jews who did not know the Pharisaic oral law, commonly called "the people of the land" in rabbinic literature. Jesus views these additional burdens as unnecessary; for him obedience to God ought to be simpler and a matter of the heart.

3.3. Warnings against the Following of the Teaching of the Pharisees

Jesus warns against the teaching of the Pharisees, which, in part, is probably motivated by his rejection of the "tradition of the elders," the Pharisaic oral tradition.

3.3.1. Mark 8:14-21 = Matt 16:5-12

After Jesus feeds the 5,000, he travels with his disciples by boat and says to them, "Be on guard against the 'leaven' of the Pharisees (and of Herod)." The disciples take Jesus literally, misconstruing his statement as a criticism of them for not bringing enough bread along for the journey. Jesus reproaches his disciples for being slow to understand his use of metaphor: the "leaven" of the Pharisees is their teaching. The origin of this metaphor is the impurity of leaven at Passover and the necessity of  its removal, so that Jesus is condemning Pharisaic teaching as "impure." No doubt, he had in mind the Pharisaic oral law.

3.3.2. Luke 12:1

Using the metaphor of leaven, Jesus warns people against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The use of the metaphor of "leaven" is an implicit criticism of the Pharisaic teaching, because their teaching is hypocritical.

3.3.3. Matt 15:14

Jesus calls the Pharisees "blind guides." This refers to the Pharisees' role as teachers, and implies a rejection of the Pharisaic institution of the "tradition of the elders."

3.4. Jesus' Criticism of the Moral Character of the Scribes and Pharisees

As already indicated in the discussion of Mark 7:1-13, Jesus did not think highly of scribes and Pharisees in general. He warned against them because he saw the Pharisaic movement in his day as insincere and hypocritical. Jesus' criticism of the Pharisees is not unique. As already indicated, the Qumran community thought little of the Pharisees, and their criticisms of Pharisaism and Pharisees are similar to those of Jesus. Not only did the Qumran community reject Pharisaic extra-biblical halakot as undermining the written Law, but also accused the Pharisees of lacking true piety, for this explains why they would set aside the commandments of God for their halakot (see CD 4.19-5.15; 8.12-13, 18; 19.31-33; 4Q169 3-4 [Pesher Nahum]). The Essenes would have sided with Jesus.

3.4.1. Mark 12:37b-40 = Luke 20:45-47

Jesus criticizes the scribes for their hypocrisy of taking advantage of the high repute in which they are held by the people to "devour the houses of widows." Jesus probably is criticizing these men for accepting contributions of widows for religious services rendered.

3.4.2. Luke 11: 39-44, 46-52 = Matt 23:25-26, 23, 6-7, 4, 29-30, 34-36, 13

In a series of woes Jesus condemns the Pharisees for their hypocrisy of being observant with respect to insignificant religious details but neglecting what is of real significance. He also criticizes them for their hypocritical enjoyment of the social benefits derived from their reputation for being more righteous than the non-Pharisaic Jew..

3.4.3. Luke 16:14-15

Having said that the Pharisees loved money, Luke reports that Jesus criticized the Pharisees for seeking to be righteous in the eyes of men. He adds that what is valuable in the eyes of men is an abomination before God.

3.4.4. Matt 23:27

Jesus uses the metaphor of a whitewashed tomb in order to describe the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. A tomb was a source of ritual impurity because of the corpse(s) within (see Num 19:16). Since they were sometimes unidentifiable as such, tombs were whitewashed, so that it was evident to all what they were. In this way, Jews could avoid coming into contact with them and thereby incurring ritual impurity, which would last for seven days (Lev 19:11-13; see Luke 11:44). Thus, one could say that, as whitewashed, tombs on the outside were "clean" (because they were white), but on the inside they were still full of "dead men's bones and all uncleanness." Jesus compares the scribes and Pharisees to whitewashed tombs because their behavior conforms to the Law, but their hearts nonetheless are corrupt.

3.4.5. Matt 23:5, 8-12, 15-22, 24-28, 31-33

Matthew provides additional criticisms of Jesus against the Pharisees. Jesus both rejects the Pharisaic "tradition of the elders," and calls into question the motives and the integrity of the Pharisees.

Rule of the Congregation (1QSa)

The Qumran text designated as 1QSa was originally part of the same scroll as The Rule of the Community (1QS). This text provides rules of membership of the members of the community. Of particular interest is the description of the messianic banquet (col. 2.11-22)


Questions 

What is the Pharisees' "tradition of the elders"? On which grounds does Jesus criticize the Pharisees’ “tradition of the elders”?

 

4. Jesus' View of the Law

Jesus views the Law as having a center and a periphery. In addition, for him, obedience to the Law naturally flows from a pure heart, so that, if the heart is pure, nothing else is necessary, including the "tradition of the elders."

4.1. Jesus' View of the Law as Having a Center

The liberal, accommodating view of the Law adopted by those pro-Hellenistic Jews two centuries earlier (called in 1 & 2 Maccabees "men outside the law" or "the lawless men") was no longer an option for Jews in Jesus' time who wanted to claim to be in continuity with their ancestral religion. As a result, Jews viewed the whole Law as the expression of the will of God, so that any part of the Law has as much validity as any other part. This is true of the Pharisees, the Essenes and the Saduccees. It is true that the Pharisees attempted to categorize laws and to subsume some laws under other, more general laws. The Pharisees also addressed situations of conflict when it was impossible to obey two laws at once; in such cases one law had to be ranked as a higher priority than another, and the distinction between "lighter" and "weightier" laws is found in early rabbinic writings (see m. Chullin 12.5; m. Abot 2.1; 4.2; Sipre Num 107; Sipre Deut 96, 115; 186/87, 235). Nevertheless, in the Pharisaic view, representative of all Palestinian forms of Judaism, all the commandments had to be obeyed. Insofar as it was given by God each commandment was binding; only when two or more laws could not be fulfilled simultaneously could one legitimately disobey. Jesus, however, rejects this view of the Law; he differentiates between the center of the Law and that which was peripheral in such a radical way that the Pharisees (and other Jews) could not accept it. Although he continues a tendency already present in first-century Judaism, he comes too close to calling into question the unity of the Law in the view of his opponents..

4.1.1. Mark 12:28-34 = Matt 22:34-40; Luke 10:25-28 (Followed by the Parable of the Good Samaritan)

It is probable that there were two versions of this triple tradition represented by Mark 12:38-40 and Luke 10:25-28 (see G. Eichholz, Gleichnisse der Evangelien, 148-78). In Matthew's version the Lukan version is conflated with the Markan to some extent, resulting in minor agreements between Matthew and Luke. Quoting from Deut 6:4-5 and Lev 19:18, Jesus says that the greatest of all the commandments are "Love the Lord...and your neighbor as yourself." Insofar as this is intended to be a summary statement about Jewish obligation, a Pharisee could possibly agree (see Matt 22:40). A Pharisee, however, could not agree fully with the next statement of Jesus recorded in Mark, that these two commandments "are more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33). The recognition that this is true brings a Jew close to the Kingdom of God [Mark 12:34]). Although the early rabbis distinguished between lighter and weightier laws, a Pharisee and most other Jews would probably be reluctant to posit such an either/or relationship between loving God and neighbor and offering burnt offerings and sacrifices; in fact one expresses one's love to God by so doing. Likewise, even though, according to Philo, they were known for three ethical standards, love of God, love of virtue and love of men, the Essenes would also have criticized Jesus for his apparent disregard for the unity of the Law (Quod omnis probus 83).

4.1.2. Matt 7:12 = Luke 6:31

In a double tradition, Jesus summarizes the Law and the prophets in one principle: "Do to others as you would want them to do to you." In Jesus' view, this ethical principle epitomizes human moral obligation. It is clear that preference is given to what we would call the "moral law," because to do to others as you would like them do to you excludes any ritual obligation. In addition, it reduces all the various (so-called) moral laws in the Law to be an expression of one fundamental law. It should be noted that Jesus' summary of the Law as love towards God and others is not unique. R. Hillel, a Pharisee from the first century CE, is said to have taught that the Law can be summed up in the injunction "Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor" (Šabb 31a in BT). Likewise, Tobit gives the following advice to his son: "Do to no one what you yourself dislike" (Tobit 4:15) and Ben Sira places emphasis on the commandments that pertain to one's neighbor (Sir 17:14; 28:6-7). There are other statements of this twofold love command in Jewish sources (T. Dan 5.3; T. Issachar 5.2; 7.6; Philo, Spec. leg. 2.63; Tg. Yer. I Lev 19:18). Nevertheless, for his contemporaries, Jesus' position was too extreme because he was perceived as denying the unity of the Law by giving preference to one law over others. Because of his view that love defines human moral obligation, Jesus teaches that Jews should even love their enemies (Matt 5:43-44; Luke 6:27-28; 35) and to be merciful (Luke 6:36). Consistently Jesus rebukes John the son Zebedee for asking whether he the disciples to command that fire come from heaven in order to destroy a Samaritan village that refused to provide accommodations for Jesus and his disciples (Luke 9:52-55).

4.1.3. Matt 23:23-24

In accordance with the Law, Pharisees—and other Jews—tithed one tenth of their produce as the first tithe, which was to be given to the Levites, who then were to tithe to the priests (Lev. 27:30-31; Num 18:21-32; see m. Maaserot). According to the Law, this is to be done in every year except the sabbatical year. Also in accordance with their understanding of the Law, Pharisees—and other Jews—separated a second tithe, intended for consumption in Jerusalem during the festivals (Deut 14:22-29) (see m. Masser Sheni). This was to be done in the first, second, fourth and sixth years; in the third and fifth years, the second tithe was to be given to the poor (see Deut 14:28; Deut 26:12) (E. P. Sanders, Judaism, chap. 9; Westerholm, Jesus and Scribal Authority, chap. 5). Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for observing the tithing laws with such exactness that they even tithe garden herbs, but neglecting "the weightier matters of the Law, justice, mercy and faith." He thereby distinguishes between parts of the Law that are more important and parts that are less important. He does not counsel the Pharisees to give up tithing, however, but to do both the weighty and the less weighty matters of the Law. Jesus says figuratively that they should not strain out the gnat but swallow the camel, by which Jesus means to be so concerned with less important commandments that one neglects obedience to the more important commandments (Matt 23:24). In order to prevent the inadvertent eating of a ritually unclean insect, Pharisees and other Jews would filter the wine to remove such insects (see m. Šabb. 20.2). The camel is also a ritually unclean animal, but hardly needs strainng from one's glass of wine. To strain a gnat from one's wine but ironically and absurdly swallow a camel may have been a popular idiomatic expression that Jesus uses, although there is no evidence for this in second-Temple sources. Again, although the Pharisees probably also made such a distinction between laws, they would not have set one law in opposition to another in the way that Jesus did. Jesus' view called into question the unity of the Law.

4.1.4. Matt 9:13

In the context of responding to the charge that he ate with sinners, Jesus tells the Pharisees "Go and learn the meaning of this: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice' (Hosea 6:6)" (see Matt 12:7). By citing this precedent from the prophet, Jesus clearly intends to prioritize the commandments, so that mercy (part of the moral law), takes precedence over sacrifice (part of the ritual law). This antithesis would probably not have been accepted by Jesus' opponents.

4.1.5. Summary

It is clear that Jesus makes an implicit distinction between the moral law as the center of the Law and the ritual law as the periphery of the Law. Both were to be obeyed, but the former was the more important. (This notion of a moral law contained within the Law was already recognized in the Letter of Aristeas and is found later in Philo's writings.) Although the Pharisees probably thought in similar terms, in their view, Jesus' position was too extreme and tended to call into question the unity of the Law.

4.2. Jesus' View of Obedience as Flowing from a Pure Heart

Rather than stressing obedience to the individual commandments contained in the Law, Jesus stresses purity of heart, out of which naturally flows obedience to the individual commandments. When the heart is pure, nothing else is necessary.

4.2.1. Mark 7:14-23 = Matt 15:10-20

In the context of Jesus' dispute with the Pharisees over hand washing before meals, Jesus tells a "parable," which in this context is a metaphor, intended to make the point of the relative importance of the state of the heart over obedience to individual commandments.

Matthew inserts into his Markan framework two sayings critical of the Pharisees: 15:13: "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots" and 15:14: "Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit." The second saying has a parallel in Luke 6:39, thereby indicating that it was an independent saying. Matt 15:12 is probably a Matthean creation designed to introduce the two sayings. It is probable that Matthew interpolates these two sayings because he knew that Jesus had made these remarks about the Pharisees in this historical context.

Jesus tells the crowd, "Nothing that is outside of a person can make him unclean by going into him. Rather it is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean" (Mark 7:14; see Matt 15:11). In response to a request for clarification by his disciples, Jesus explains his "parable," by which is meant enigmatic saying: "Do you not see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can make him or her unclean. For it does not go into his heart but into his stomach....What comes out of a person is what makes him or her unclean. For from within, out of people's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a person unclean" (Mark 7:18-23; see Matt 15:12-20). Jesus shifts from the literal meaning of going into a person—eating food —to the metaphorical meaning of coming out of a person—behavioral expressions of a person's heart or inner being. Jesus' point is not that the food laws are obsolete (Mark 7:19b shall be discussed later), but that obedience to the food laws is not as important as having a pure heart. He intends a "that / more" rather than an "not / but" relationship between the food laws and the purity of heart. Semitic idiom permits this interpretation (see Exod 16:2-8; Letter of Aristeas 170-71; 234; Mark 9:37) (Sanders, Jewish Law, 28). What is more important is the state of the heart, not whether a person observes the food laws. A corollary of this is that obedience to the commandments without a pure heart is not true obedience.

4.2.2. Luke 11:39-41 = Matt 23:25-26

In two similar sayings, Jesus uses a metaphor derived from the Pharisaic practice of purifying cooking utensils by washing them to make the point that what is on the inside of a person (the "heart") is more important than what is on the outside (actions). As the saying implies, it is probable that the Pharisees distinguished impurity of the inside of a vessel from impurity of the outside (see m. Kelim, a tractate in the Mishnah dealing with the purity of vessels) (Westerholm, Jesus and Scribal Authority, 88-89) (see Lev 11:35; Num 19:15). According to rabbinic sources, the house of Shammai disputed with the house of Hillel concerning whether a person should wash his hands before handling a cup in case he transmits impurity to the liquid on the outside of the cup thereby rendering the outside of the cup impure. The house of Hillel assumed that the outside of a cup was always ritually impure, but not the inside of the cup (t. Ber. 5.26) (Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah, 39). Jesus then both parodies this type of distinction-making between the outside and the inside of a cup or dish, and uses it metaphorically to make a point: when the inside is clean (i.e., when the heart is pure), then the outside (i.e., actions) is also clean. In Matt 23:26, Jesus says that when one washes the inside of the cup, representing the heart, then the outside of the cup, representing behavior, will be clean. His point is that good actions flow naturally and necessarily from a good heart. The Lukan version of this saying, however, has: "But give that which is within as alms, and then all things are clean for you." Wellhausen is credited with the insight that Luke 11:41 "Give that which is within as alms" (ta enonta dote eleêmosunê) may be a mistranslation of the original Aramaic, since the verb for "cleanse" (dakki) sounds like the verb for "give alms" (zakki) (The verb zakki, however, can also mean "to cleanse morally.") (Schmithals, Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien, 36-37; Black, The Aramaic Approach to the Gospel and Acts, 2; see Fitzmyer, Luke, 947). In this case, Jesus would be saying that the cleanness of the heart makes all actions equally clean. On the assumption that the Greek reflects what he said in Aramaic, Jesus could be making another related point: that the giving of alms would be an expression of a "clean" heart. In this case, the accusative "that which is inside" (ta enonta) would be the direct object of the verb "to give" (dote), so that the "inside" represents something like good intentions that manifest themselves on the "outside" as the giving of alms. It is also possible that "that which is inside" is an accusative of respect: "As far as what is inside is concerned give alms." If so, the meaning would be that a person should take care of his heart, the inside, by doing the right thing on the outside: the giving alms (Marshall, Luke, 495-96).

4.2.3. Matt 7:16-20; Matt 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-45

The literary or tradition-historical relationship between these three passages is difficult and probably impossible to reconstruct. What occurs as a unit in Luke 6:43-44 is found in two different contexts in Matt 7:16-20; 12:33-37.

Luke 6:43 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit" = Matt 7:18 "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." Luke 6:44a "Each tree is known by its own fruit" = Matt 12:33b "For a tree is known by its fruit" (But see also Matt 7:16a "By their fruit you will know them" and Matt 7:20 "Thus, by their fruit you will know them"). Luke 6:44b "For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from a thicket" = Matt 7:16b "Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from briers?" Luke 6:45 "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart" = Matt 12:35 "The good man out of the good treasure throws out good things, and the evil man out of the evil treasure throws out evil things." Matthew also has more material than what is found in Luke 6:43-44: Matt 7:15, 17-19; 12:33a-34. The Gospel of Thomas has another version: "Jesus said, 'Grapes are not harvested from thorn trees, nor are figs gathered from thistles, for they yield no fruit. Good persons produce good from what they've stored up; bad persons produce evil from the wickedness they've stored up in their hearts, and say evil things. For from the overflow of the heart they produce evil'" (45).

Those who assume that Matthew and Luke had access to a single written source, commonly known as the Q-source, sometimes argue that Luke 6:43-44 is closer to the original common source and that Matthew has made free use of this source incorporating it with other material in two different contexts (see Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, 59). It seems more likely, however, that Matthew and Luke had access to different collections of sayings that have some overlap in content and even some verbatim agreement. (Nevertheless, Luke 6:45 = Matt 12:35 are clearly two versions of the same saying; each became attached to similar sayings about a tree and its fruit, Matt 10:33; Luke 6:44.) In the three collections of sayings, the same point is made using the same two metaphors. First, a tree produces fruit in accordance with its species. From this observation Jesus distinguishes two types of people: the good person who metaphorically produces good fruit from his goodness and the wicked person who produces evil fruit from his wickedness (Matt 7:16-18; 12:33; Luke 6:43-44). (The use of fruit as a metaphor for deeds occurs in Hos 10:13; Isa 3:10.) Second, Jesus says that a good man produces from the treasure of his heart good things, and the wicked man produces from the wickedness of his heart wicked things (Matt 12:35; Luke 6:45a, b). What comes from a person's mouth originates in the overflow of the heart (Matt 12:34; Luke 6:45c).

4.2.4. Matt 6:22-23 = Luke 11:34-36

Jesus explains the connection between the "heart," or the moral center of a person, and his actions by comparing it to the relation that the eye has to the whole body. Matt 6:22-23 is parallel to Luke 11:34-35, suggesting that they are two version of the same saying of Jesus.

Matt 6

22a The lamp of the soul is the eye.
22b Thus if your eye is sound, your whole body will be illuminated;
23a But if your eye is in poor condition, your whole body will be darkened

Luke 11

34a The lamp of the soul is your eye.
34b When your eye is sound, your whole body also is illuminated;
34c But when [your eye] is in poor condition, your whole body [will be] darkened.

The eye is metaphorically the "lamp of the soul" because through it comes light into the body; so long as the eye functions as it ought then the whole body is illuminated and is not darkened (For the use of "darkness" to mean blindness, see Ps 69:23 and Tg. Onkelos Deut 28:65). The condition of the eye determines whether a person is blind or sees clearly. The eye is a metaphor of the soul because, like the eye, through the soul a person in his totality is determined to be in light or in darkness in a moral sense. (The phrase "your body" corresponds to an Aramaic idiom meaning "you yourself" [Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, 93].) (It is possible that Luke is responsible for hotan.) In Matthew's version, Jesus says, "If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness" (Matt 6:23b). The point is that when the heart is morally defective then everything in a person's life will be affected. In Luke's version, Jesus makes an application to his readers: "See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness." The implication is that the readers or hearers are to examine themselves to determine whether what they consider to be light really is light and not darkness. In other words, it is an self-examination to test the true state of one's heart. Luke 11:36 is unique to Luke's gospel, and is the alternative viewpoint expressed in Matt 7:23b: the person who is full of light is a source of moral light or truth, just as a lamp is a source of light. Manson claims that Matthew omitted his version of Luke 11:36 because of its alleged obscurity (The Sayings of Jesus, 93-94). On the other hand, It is claimed that Luke 11:36 is a Lukan creation, proof of which is his characteristic adjectival use of tis in the phrase mê echon meros ti skoteinon ("And no part of it dark") (Schulz, Die Spruchquelle, 469). Such a conclusion assumes that Matthew and Luke had access to a common written source, the so-called Q source, but it is more probable that Luke had access to the saying in Luke 11:36, whereas the author of Matthew did not.

4.2.5. Jesus' Objection to Hypocrisy

Jesus objects to any conception of what it means to obey the Law that could lead to hypocrisy. Practically this results in a de-emphasis of what is now called the ritual law.

A. Matt 23:5-7: Jesus objects to the Pharisees who appear to be righteous, but are not actually. Because they wear wider phylacteries than other Jews (see Phylacteries) and longer tassels on their robes (see Num 15:38-39; Deut 22:12), people assume wrongly that the Pharisees are more obedient to God in every other respect than non-Pharisees. As a result they give them various honors: "the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues," being "greeted in the marketplaces" and having "men call them 'Rabbi'." In fact, the Pharisees obey the Law primarily in order to receive public acclaim.

B. Matt 6:1-4: Jesus objects to the giving of alms for sake of appearing to be righteous; he recommends that giving be done in private.

C. Matt 6:16-18: Jesus objects to the practice of fasting when it can be done in order to appear righteous; fasting must be done secretly.

 

Synagogue at Capernaum

More than once Jesus visited the synagogue in Capernaum (see Mark 1:21-28; Luke 7:1-10; 8:40-42, 49-56). The excavation of the wall of the fourth-century synagogue reveals that it was built upon the basalt foundation of its first-century predecessor. 


Questions 

What does Jesus view as the center of the Law? What is Jesus' view of the relation between the “heart” and what a person does?


5. The Possibility of Breaking the Law in Order to Uphold the Law

The distinction between the center of the Law and its periphery allows for the possibility of violating a less important commandment in order not to violate a more important one. All examples of this in the gospels relate to the observance of the Sabbath. Sabbath observance is stressed in the Book of Jubilees (Jub. 2.19-33; 50.1-13) and Damascus Document (CD 10.14-11.18), and Jews were known in the ancient world for their practice of keeping of the Sabbath. It tended to function as a sociological identity and boundary marker for Jews who lived among non-Jews. Josephus says that Jews were admired for this practice, and even emulated (Apion 2. 282 ); he also notes, however, that the Jews were derided for their keeping the Sabbath, being accused of being lazy (Apion 2.20-21) (see also Philo, Vit. Mos. 2.21). The early rabbis generally viewed the Sabbath not as a burden but as a gift from God (t. Ber. 3.7; see Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, 152-54). Jews in the second-Temple period generally recognized the possibility of overriding the prohibition not to work on the Sabbath for reasons of exigent compassion, and the Pharisees were probably the most liberal in this. Jesus' position, however, is even more liberal than that of the Pharisees, since he allows for the suspension of the Sabbath ordinance against work not only for reasons of exigent compassion, but also for non-exigent compassion. Different from the Pharisees, Jesus' position stems from his radical distinction between the center of the Law and the periphery.

5.1. Mark 2:23-27 = Matt 12:1-8 = Luke 6:1-5

Jesus' disciples pluck grain and eat it, but, according to the Pharisaic view, this is work (harvesting) and should not be done on the Sabbath. According to m. Šabb. 7.2, which probably reflects the Pharisaic position, "reaping" is one of thirty-nine types of work forbidden on the Sabbath. (According to Mek. Šabbata 2.13-14, Moses gave these thirty-nine classifications of "work" as oral tradition.)

Luke and Matthew make editorial changes to their Markan source, some of which are classifiable as "minor agreements." The significant changes include the following. Luke omits from Mark's account the clause, "They began to make their way" (êrxanto hodon poiein), and adds the clarifying clause "And they ate...rubbing with their hands" (kai êsthion...psuchontes tais chersin). Matthew likewise removes the Markan clause "They began to make their way" but retains the verb "They began" êrxanto and connects it with the two infinitives "to pick...and to eat" (tillein ... kai esthien). Matthew also adds the explanatory clause "His disciples were hungry" (hoi de mathêtai autou eipeinasan). Luke and Matthew agree in removing Mark's adverbial phrase "when Abiathar was High Priest" found in Mark 2:26 (Matt 12:4; Luke 6:4). Luke adds to his Markan source the participle "And he answered" (kai apokritheis) along with the prepositional phrase pros autous ("to them"), which is typical of Lukan style and vocabulary (6:3). Luke also adds the partciple "taking" (labôn) and Luke and Matthew both agree in having tois met' autou rather than Mark's tois sun autou ousin. Matthew and Luke both omit Mark 2:27 "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." It is possible that Matthew and Luke considered that the saying in Mark 2:27 detracted from the saying in Mark 2:28, the climax of the pronouncement story. They may also have considered Mark 2:27 to be redundant since it means the same thing as Mark 2:28 (see Ps 8:4; 80:17 where "man" and "son of man" are likewise in synthetic parallelism). Finally, Luke and Matthew agree in changing the order of the saying in Mark 2:28 (Luke 6:5; Matt 12:8).

Unlike Luke, Matthew has interpolated into his Markan source two sayings that he considers to be supplemental to Jesus' teaching as found in Mark (Matt 5:5, 7). These sayings may have been uttered by Jesus on similar occasions of conflict over the Sabbath. (If so, then Matthew adds the connective "or" [ê] [5:6].) A third saying (5:6) may have already been joined to the previous saying by means of the link-word "Temple" (hieron), and so Matthew includes this also. This saying, however, does not have any direct relevance to the Sabbath controversy. But probably it is the case that Matthew and Luke independently had access to a non-Markan version of this tradition, which contained the two sayings in Matt 5:5, 7 at least and possibly the third saying in Matt 5:6. (Perhaps, however, only Matthew's version had these additional sayings.) This hypothesis has the advantage of being able to explain the greater than usual number of minor agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark (see Schramm, Der Markus-Stoff bei Lukas, 111-12).

Jesus replies by citing the precedcent of David's breaking the Law in time of need, in order to make the point that the intention of the Law is not to lead to hardship (see 1 Sam 21:1-9).

Jesus could be interpreted as identifying Abiathar as the High Priest at the time, and not, as stated in 1 Sam 21:1-2, Ahimelech, the father of Abiathar. Mark 2:26 could be interpreted to mean, however, that Abiathar was alive at the time of the incident, not that he was already High Priest: "in the days of Abiathar, the High Priest." In other words, Jesus' statement is anachronistic. It is unlikely that such an error as confusing Abiathar with Ahimelech would be made and, if made, not corrected in the tradition. Jesus' reference to Abiathar rather than his father was intentional would serve the purpose of stressing the former's more important historical role in Israelite history because of his association with David (Abiathar served as High Priest in Jerusalem and not in Nob).

Jesus would probably have argued that out of love for his hungry disciples, the Pharisees should allow them to pick what grain they need to satisfy their hunger. After all, the Sabbath was not intended to be a burden. If Jesus' accusers say that they would like to do this, but cannot, since the Law forbids it, they will find themselves holding the absurd position that they are more compassionate towards human beings than God is. Jesus' reply that "The son of man is Lord of the Sabbath" probably means that the Sabbath exists for the benefit of human beings and should not for that reason cause unnecessary suffering. In other words, given the context, it seems that the phrase "son of man" is not a messianic title or self-referential, but denotes humanity in general (see son of man) (contrary to Gundry, Mark, 144). (Thus, Mark 2:27 "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" makes the same point.)

    In Matt 12:5, Jesus presents a reductio ad absurdum argument: "Have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the Temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?" His point is that there must be exceptions to not working on the Sabbath, because otherwise priests could not work in the Temple on the Sabbath, which work, of course, is required by the Law. (In fact, the priests are required to offer more sacrifices on the Sabbath than on other days [see Num 28:9-10].) In his view, the halakic question that needs to be addressed is under which conditions work is to be allowed on the Sabbath. Jesus formulates the rather liberal principle that when the Sabbath leads to unnecessary hardship, then the minimum work required in order to prevent that hardship should be allowed. This is consistent with his view that the true intention of the Sabbath is to benefit human beings not cause them distress. Similarly, Matthew provides another saying of Jesus relevant to this halakic conflict over the Sabbath: "If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' [Hosea 6:6 ] you would not have condemned the innocent." Jesus intends Hosea 6:6 as scriptural proof that human need takes precedence over the fulfillment of the ritual law. God never intended the ritual law to cause human suffering, and so Jesus' critics should not interpret the Law in such a manner.

A similar argument to that of Jesus is found in Mek. Šabbata 1.15: "'And you shall keep the Sabbath for it is holy to you'. This is the verse that R. Simon, son of Menasiah, interpreted as saying:  The Sabbath is given to you but you are not surrendered to the Sabbath." Presumably, R. Simon's point is that the Sabbath is supposed to benefit human beings, not bring suffering. The implications of this principle for halakah, however, remains unspecified.

5.2. Healing on the Sabbath

There are several examples of Jesus' healing people on the Sabbath in deliberate opposition to the interpretation of the Sabbath law as prohibiting such activity. In each case, it is Jesus' non-exigent compassion for the sick person that motivates his actions. Jesus is criticized as working on the Sabbath insofar as he healed, even though he did not do any work, at least as defined by m. Šabb. 7.2, since he healed by direct command. It seems that in light of Jesus' activities the Pharisees decided to define all healing, natural or supernatural, as work, thereby modiying their halakah. According to m. Yoma 8.6, which probably reflects the earlier Pharisaic position, "(A case involving) the risk of life supersedes the Sabbath." (Similarly, in m. Šabb. 18:3 it is permitted to do work to help a woman give birth, because without help the child and the woman may die.) In the particular examples of Jesus' healings reported in the gospels, however, Jesus does not heal critical illnesses. In his view, to love one's neighbor always overrides the obligation to keep the Sabbath. The Essenes would also have taken a critical view of Jesus' healing on the Sabbath, since their Sabbath halakot were even stricter than those of the Pharisees; see CD 10.15-11.18; War 2.145-49; Philo, Quod Omnis Probus Liber 12.

5.2.1. Mark 3:1-6 = Matt 12:9-14 = Luke 6:6-11

Jesus heals a man with a "withered hand" in a synagogue, probably the one in Capernaum, in deliberate contravention of the Pharisaic Sabbath halakah. (The exact nature of the man's ailment is not clear, except that his hand is dysfunctional. It probably included paralysis and for that reason muscular atrophy.) Jesus heals by direct command, merely pronouncing that the man's outstretched hand is healed. He justifies his action by stating that any interpretation of the Sabbath law that would prevent good from being done must be wrong.

Luke uses Mark as a source, so that there is nothing substantial in Luke that is not found in Mark. He does, however, makes some editorial changes. For example, Luke substitutes the clarifying statement "And it happened on another Sabbath" (egeneto de en heterô sabbatô) (6:6) for Mark's simple "again" (palin) (3:1). He also adds "and he taught" (kai didaskein) clarifying what Jesus is doing in the synagogue. Luke also notes that it was the right hand (dexia) of the man that was affected; how he knew this is unclear. He uses the adjective zêra rather than Mark's present participle exêrammenê to describe the man's "withered" hand (Mark has in zêra 3:3). He brings forward the identification of Jesus' critics as "the Pharisees" (see Mark 3:6), adding for clarification that Pharisaic scribes, or legal experts, were included in the group. Luke inserts a preferred word heuriskô in 6:11, and provides the clarifying statement that Jesus knew what the scribes and the Pharisees were thinking (see also 5:22; 9:47; 11:17). He adds for clarification "and stand" (kai stêthi), notes that the command was obeyed "And he stood" (kai anastas estê) and changes Mark's anthrôpô to andri (6:8). Luke adds the phrase "I ask you" (eperô) in order to introduce Jesus' saying (6:9), and substitutes the compound verb agathopoiein for Mark's agathon poien (see Die Sprache des Lukasevangeliums, 145). Luke omits the statement in Mark 3:5b about Jesus' distress over the hardness of the hearts of the Pharisees (6:10). Finally, Luke substitutes 6:11 for Mark 3:6. (See Schramm, Der Markus-Stoff bei Lukas, 112; Marshall, Luke, 234-36).

In contrast to Luke, Matthew probably had access to another version of this narrative, which he conflated with the Markan account. He follows Mark until 12:11, making only minor editorial changes, such as including the transitional clause "And going on from there" (kai metabas ekeithen), omitting the unnecessary phrase in Mark 3:1 "And there was there" (kai ên ekei), changing Mark's present participle exêrammenê to zêra (This is an example of a minor agreement between Matthew and Luke against Mark.), omitting the accusative pronoun auton ("him"), thereby making Jesus' statement more general. At 12:11-12a, however, Matthew interpolates a saying from another source into his Markan framework. He returns to his Markan source at 12:12b, using the conjunction hôste as a transition. He replaces Mark's agathon poiêsai ("to do good") with kalôs poiein ("to do well"), and omits the second part of Jesus' saying. Like Luke, Matthew omits Mark 3:5b, but includes the phrase "as whole as the other" (hugiês hôs hê allê); he also abbreviates Jesus' saying in Mark 3:6, omitting the reference to the Herodians.

In Mark, followed by Luke, Jesus argues from minor to major against the Pharisees: "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" (Mark 3:4 = Luke 6:9) (To argue from minor to major is an interpretive rule known in early rabbinic exegesis as qal vahomer ["light and heavy"].) In Matt 12:11-12 is found another argument from minor to major against the Pharisees, which Matthew seems to have interpolated into his Markan source. Jesus asks why the Pharisees would allow a man to rescue a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, but not allow a man to be healed. Although the case of rescuing animals from a pit is not addressed in the tractate m. Šabb., Jesus' argument assumes that the Pharisees did allow this exception to abstaining from work on the Sabbath. (In b. Šabb. 128b, one is allowed to help an animal escape from a pit by placing objects in the pit that will be used by the animal to climb out).

5.2.2. Luke 13:10-17

Jesus "heals" a demonized woman on the Sabbath, and defends his action against the head of the synagogue by an argument from minor to major: if one is allowed to water animals on the Sabbath, one should also be allowed to set a woman free from Satan's binding on the Sabbath (see Luke 13). Jesus disagrees with the synagogue ruler, who tells the people to come on a day other than the Sabbath to be healed. In his view, one more day of suffering is not too much to ask in order to keep the Sabbath. Jesus does not agree.

Generally, Jews allowed for the basic care of animals on the Sabbath. In m. Erub. 2.1-4, one may draw water from a well  for one's cattle so long as one transforms the well from public domain to private domain by placing boards around it.  In CD 11.5-6, one is allowed to lead an animal out 2000 cubits (c. 1000 m.) on the Sabbath in order for it to graze.

5.2.3. Luke 14:1-6

In a narrative unique to Luke, Jesus heals a man, and argues from minor to major for the rightness of what he has done against the Pharisees and scribes who are present. He reasons that if one is allowed to rescue an animal from a well on the Sabbath, one ought also to be allowed to heal human beings. The Pharisees must have agreed with the stipulation that rescuing an animal from a well is allowed or else the argument would not be compelling. The Qumran sectarians, who were probably Essenes, however, were even stricter than the Pharisees regarding the keeping of the Sabbath (see Jub. 50.6-13; CD 11.14-11, 18); unlike the Pharisees, they would not allow a person to pull an animal out of pit on the Sabbath (CD 11:13-14; see Luke 14:5 ). One cannot even help a human being out of a pit on the Sabbath (CD 11.16-17). Thus, Jesus' argument from minor to major would not have been effective with an Essene opposition, since they would not have granted him the premise that rescuing an animal from a well on the Sabbath was permissible.

There is evidence of Lukan redaction in Luke 14:1-6. The periphrastic use of kai egeneto ("And it happened") is typical of Luke, and the combination of kai egeneto ("And it happened") with the temporal adverbial phrase en + infinitive and the introductory connective phrase kai idou ("And behold") occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in Luke 5:12 (different from Mark 1:40); 5:17-18 (different from Mark 2:1-3); 14:1-2; 24:4. The use of en ("in") with a temporal sense is typical of Luke as is the phrase en + infinitive with the aorist infinitive to describe a past event. Likewise, the use of the plural tôn archontôn to denote the Jewish leaders, apart from three occurrences in John, is found only in Luke/Acts (Luke 14:1; 23:13, 35; 24:20; Acts 3:17; 4:5, 8; 13:27; 14:5). The use of the participle paraptêroumenoi is redactional since the verb paratêreô (-omai) occur four times in Luke/Acts but only once each in Mark and Paul's writings. The adjectival use of tis in 14:2 is characteristic of the Lukan style, as is the pleonastic eipen...legôn in 14:3. The use of pros + accusative after a verbum dicendi in 14:3, 5 are typically Lukan. In 14:4, the verb hêsuchazô ("to be silent") and the participle epilabomenos (from the verb epilambanonai) are Lukan preferred words. The second use of pros with the accusative after a verbum dicendi is Lukan. The use of the verb ischuô ("to be able") as negated and followed by an infinitive is Lukan. It would be wrong, however, to conclude that Luke 14:1-6 is a Lukan composition because there are also traditional elements in the narrative (Jeremias, Die Sprache des Lukasevangeliums, 235-36).

5.2.4. John 5:1-18

Jesus heals a man who had been unable to walk for thirty-eight years, and he told him to put up his mat and walk. Jesus is criticized for telling the man to carry his mat: "And so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat." But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'" So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?" Of course, Jesus could have told the man to leave his mat and retrieve it the next day, but he did not. This suggests that Jesus intended to provoke a confrontation over the question of Sabbath observance. Later Jesus defends his healing on the Sabbath by claiming to be imitiating God who is always at work. He says, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working" (5:17). He no doubt means that, since God continuously does good to the benefit of his creation, there should be no restrictions placed upon him (and others) with respect to doing good. It should be noted that in calling God his father, Jesus was interpreted as making himself equal with God (5:18).

Wooden Combs from Qumran

These wooden combs, c. six cm. long and made of boxwood, were found at Qumran; they date from first century BCE to first century CE. The side of these combs with more closely-spaced teeth was used for for delousing the scalp, whereas the other side with teeth farther apart was used for combing the hair.

5.2.5. John 7:16-24

Jesus defends his healing on the Sabbath by an argument from minor to major. The Law stipulates that a male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after birth; since no exceptions to this rule are provided in the Law, Jews in the second-Temple period assumed that, when the eighth day fell on a Sabbath, one was justified in violating the Sabbath, in order to fulfill the commandment to circumcise on the eighth day (circumcision was classified as an act of work.) In such a case, both laws cannot be fulfilled, so priority is given to the commandment to circumcise. (There were other exceptions made to the Sabbath law.) Using this valid exception to Sabbath law, Jesus argues from minor to major for the rightness of healing on the Sabbath.  In m. Šabb. 18.3, it is specified that all work relating to circumcision takes precedence over keeping the Sabbath; this halakah was probably Pharisaic in origin. He argues that, since one can circumcise a child and thereby healing a part of the body on the Sabbath and not be guilty of sin, one should also be allowed to heal on the Sabbath and thereby healing the whole body. Jesus likely is using a Jewish tradition that identifies circumcision as an act of healing. Exactly what this is, however, is unclear.

5.2.6. John 9:1-34

Jesus causes offense by healing on the Sabbath a man who is blind. The Pharisees who interrogate the man who was formerly blind pronounce Jesus to be a sinner; probably, the reason for this judgment is that he healed the man on the Sabbath. In their judgment, the fact that he healed did not mean that he was from God.
 

Question 

Under which conditions does Jesus allow for the violation of a commandment?

 

6. Jesus' Assumption of Authority over the Law

In the six anthitheses contained in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus assumes the right to criticize parts of the Law as not being the original and true intention of God; this leads him to change parts of the Law by requiring an even stricter ethical standard (Matt 5:21-48). Jesus is not simply correcting a misinterpretation of the Law, but is calling into question the validity of some of the commandments themselves. In some cases, Jesus uses scripture against scripture: he sets a scriptural principle in opposition to a commandment in order to render it null and void. At other times, no scripture is cited as a basis for his rejection of a commandment; rather Jesus rejects it simply because, in his opinion, it is not an expression of the will of God. Jesus' assumption of authority to scrutinize some of the commands found in the Law is evident  in his use of the phrase "But I say to you" used in contrast to what the Law says (see Matt 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 44). This could be why the people recognized Jesus as teaching with authority, unlike the scribes (Mark 1:22 = Luke 4:32). Jesus' assumption of authority over the Torah would no doubt be offensive to many Jews because they would hold that no one is salvation-historically greater than Moses, the law-giver.

There are parallels to Jesus' intensification of the Law among the Qumran sectarians, who were probably Essenes (see examples listed below). There is also a partial parallel to this in Sipre Deut 122. R. Ishmael says that in three cases the halakah (oral Law or tradition of the elders) circumvents Scripture: "The Law says, 'He shall pour out its blood, and cover it with dust' [Lev 17:13], while the halakah says, with anything that grows plants; the Law says, 'He writes her a book of divorce' [Deut 24:1], while the halakah says, (he may write) on anything that was separated from the ground; the Law says, 'With an awl' [Exod 21:6], while the halakah says, with anything." These cases of altering the Law, however, are minor in comparison to what Jesus advocated. Moreover, these are cases of a relaxing of the Law, unlike Jesusí intensification of it.

6.1. Matt 5:33-37 (see also Matt 23:16-22)

Jesus disallows the taking of oaths (conditional curses), in contradistinction to the Law (Exod 23:13; Deut 6:13; 10:20). The reason is that taking of an oath implies that what is said without an oath is suspect; Jesus insists on the complete truthfulness of all utterances, not just those taken on an oath. He probably believes that the Law's provision for taking an oath is necessary for those who would lie when it was to their advantage unless compelled not to do so by putting themselves under an oath. The higher moral standard that he upholds is refrain from all lying, in which case no oaths are necessary. It seems that the Pharisees had attempted to avoid actually naming the name of God in their taking of an oath, substituting in its place something connected to God (e.g. heaven, earth or Jerusalem) or a part of oneself as God's creation. Probably, the Pharisees considered these as less solemn with less severe penalties for violating them. In his justification of his rejection of all possible objects by which to take an oath as inappropriate because of their sanctity, Jesus alludes to Isa 66:1: "Heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool."

Jesus was not alone in his rejection of the taking of oaths. According to Josephus, the Essenes refused to take an oath, stressing rather the need to tell the truth without having to appeal to God (War 2.135). The Essenes, however did swear an oath upon entrance into the religious community (War 2.139-42; CD 15:5-6 and 1QS 5:7-8 [on the assumption that the Dead Sea Scrolls are Essene documents] ), and were permitted to swear a juridical oath (CD 9.9-12). Jesus' position, therefore, is more radical than that taken by the Essenes. Another motive for the refusal of the Essenes to take an oath except as a condition of entrance into the community or judicially, is the avoidance of any possible profanation of the name of God by not keeping the oath (CD 15:1-2; see Exod 20:7; 1 Kings 8:31-32). According to the Mishnah, which probably reflects a Pharisaic perspective, oaths were permitted; in fact, a tractate was dedicated to the topic (m. Shebuot; see m. Nedarim).

6.2. Mark 10:2-12 = Matt 19:3-11; Matt 5:31-32 = Luke 16:18

There are two versions of Jesusí teaching on divorce, one from Mark and another from the double tradition. (Thus Matthew has a doublet.) In Matt 5:31-32 = Luke 16:18, Jesus teaches that divorce and remarriage is adultery. Matthew includes this tradition as part of Sermon on the Mount, whereas Luke places it among a collection of sayings appended to the parable of the dishonest servant (16:1-8a) and the sayings that follow the parable (16:8b-13): 16:14-15; 16:16-17; 16:18. Although Matthew's version is shorter, lacking what is found in Luke 16:18b, there are no significant differences between the Matthean and Lukan versions of this double tradition, with the exception of Matthew's qualification "except for sexual immorality" (mê epi porneia), which is also found in Matt 19:9, the doublet of this tradition, different from Mark 10:11-12. It seems that Jesus sees adultery as the sole ground of divorce. It is possible that Matthew adds the phrase "except for marital unfaithfulness" (Matt 19:9) based on his version of parallel saying from the double tradition (Matt 5:31-32 = Luke 1:18). In the longer version found in Mark 10:1-12 = Matt 19:1-9, Jesus says that, although it is allowed in the Law (see Lev 21:7, 14; 22:13; Deut 24:1-2), divorce has never been the will of God. Rather, in Mark 10:1-12 = Matt 19:1-12, Jesus explains that divorce was allowed on account of the hardness of the human heart, as the lesser of two evils. Matthew transposes Mark 10:3b-5 and places it after Jesus' teaching about divorce in Mark 10:6-9. He has Jesus' opponents challenge his teaching about divorce by citing what the Law teaches on the subject. Because of this transposition, Matthew adds the clause "Have you not read" (ouk anegnôte) to connect 19:4a to 19:4b. Jesus expects a husband never to send his wife away, except for adultery. He appeals to Gen 1:27; 2:24 in order to establish what the true will of God is. His view is not that Deut 24:1 has been misinterpreted, but that it is a concession to human sinfulness and not the true will of God, a second-best arrangement. So he implicitly takes exception to Deut 24:1 and only allows divorce on the grounds of adultery. It should be noted that in Matt 5:31-32, Jesus contrasts the teaching of the Law (Deut 24:1) with his own teaching: "But I tell you...." In Matt 19:10-11 Jesusí disciples react strongly to the severity of Jesusí teaching:"If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

    The Jewish religious groups in Jesus' day disagreed on the issue of the permissibility of divorce and its grounds, which might explain why the Pharisees came to test Jesus on the issue (Mark 10:2 = Matt 19:3). The Essenes in fact took Jesus' position that divorce was contrary to the will of God, and, like him, cited Gen 1:27 as proof that God's intention was that a man and a woman remain married (CD 4.20-21). In addition, in CD 4.20-21, the fact that Noah brought in animals two by two is interpreted as an expression of the creation ordinance of a lifetime marriage commitment; likewise, the prohibition against the prince's multiplication of wives (Deut 17:17) is connected to Gen 1:27. The fact that David did have many wives and concubines is explained by saying that David did not have the Law when he married all those wives, since it was hidden away in the Ark of the Covenant until Zadok became high priest (see also 11QTemple 56:17-19; 57:17-19). Nothing is said in CD 4.20-21, however, about why God allowed divorce in the Law, unlike Jesus: "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law." The Pharisees, on the other hand, following the Law, allowed for the possibility of divorce. There is a tractate of the Mishnah devoted to this issue, which probably reflects in part the pre-destruction Pharisaic debate on the issue (m. Gittin). According to the m. Gittin 9.10, the school of Shammai interpreted Deut 24:1 ("Because he has found some improper thing in her") to mean unchastity, whereas the school of Hillel interpreted it to mean anything that a husband might find displeasing about his wife. No doubt there were positions between these two extremes. The Essenes and the followers of the Pharisee Shammai would have been sympathetic to Jesus' position, but would not have set Deut 24:1 in contrast to Gen 1:27 and 2:24 and certainly would not have as assumed the authority to stand in judgment of the Law, as he did.

6.3. Matt 5:38-42 = Luke 6:29-30

Jesus rejects the Law principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exod 21:22-25; Lev. 24:19-20; Deut. 19:21). Matthew and Luke preserve two different collections of sayings that give expression to Jesus' teaching on non-retaliation (Matt 5:39b = Luke 6:29a; Matt 5:40 = Luke 6:29b; Matt 5:42 = Luke 6:30). Presumably, Jesus would have said that the law of retribution set out in the Law was intended as a means of controlling vengeance, but that God's true will is that no revenge be taken (Schulz analyses Matt 5:38-42 = Luke 6:29-30 on the assumption that the material in these passages derives from the so-called Q source [Die Spruchquelle, 120-27]. His results seem highly tenuous at times.)

6.4. Matt 5:21-22

On his own authority ("But I tell you..."), Jesus extends the Law's prohibition against murder to include even hatred and verbal abuse of another person. Such a view clearly exceeds what is required in the Law (Exod 20:13; Deut 5:17). A Jew could legitimately argue that the Law prohibits only the taking of another life.

6.5.  Matt 5:43-48

Jesus says that his hearers have heard that they should love their neighbors and hate their enemies. The former refers to Lev 19:18, where the Israelites are commanded to love their fellow Israelites; the latter, however, is not found in the Law, but seems to have arisen as the logical correlation of Lev 19:18: if one is to love one's neighbor, one should also hate one's enemy, which assumes that one's enemy is also God's enemy. In this case what Jesus hearers have heard is both what the Law says and a valid extension of the Law (halakah). The Essenes taught that its members were obliged to hate the "sons of darkness," or the "men of the pit" (see 1QS 1.9-11; 9.21-22). (The Essenes might have appealed to Ps 139:21-22 for justification for their position: "Do I not hate those who hate you, Yahweh? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies".) By contrast, Jesus teaches that the correlation of hating one's enemies does not follow from the commandment to love one's neighbor; rather one should love one's enemies also. He believes that God's true will is to love even those who intend to do one harm and who oppose God and his purposes for creation. In loving one's enemies, one is being like God, who gives his blessings to all without discrimination: "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Jesus requires that his hearers become like God: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." In making this point, he alludes to  Deut 18:13 ("You must be perfect before Yahweh your God"). Only the one who loves indiscriminately becomes eligible for reward, because there is nothing meritorious in loving only those who love you first.

6.6. Matt 5:27

Jesus intensifies the Torah's prohibition against adultery (Exod 20:4) to include the willingness to commit adultery, which is manifested in looking a woman lustfully. In his view, it the fruit is not as important as the tree that produces it (see Matt 7:16-20; Matt 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-44). It is not the act, but the state of the heart that really matters. Jesus' view was shared by some Jews (see Job 31:1; Sirach 23:4-6; Ps. Sol. 4:4-6; T. Iss. 7:2; T. Benj. 8:2; Jub. 20:4 for parallels).

Mount Of Beatitudes

The hill in the photograph is the traditional site of Jesus' sermon of the mount. The hill is called Karn Hattin (or Kurun Hattîn), the Horns of Hattin, a "mountain" named the village situated at its northern base and from the two cones or horns which crown its summit. Whether Jesus actually taught on this hill is unknown.


Questions 

What is Jesus' view of the Sabbath? In which ways does Jesus assume authority over the Law?

 

7. Jesus' Commendation of the Scribes and Pharisees as Interpreters of the Law

Matthew 23:2-3

2 The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

In Matt 23:2-3, one finds a somewhat surprising statement attributed to Jesus. In it, he recognizes the authority of the scribes and Pharisees (probably meaning the scribes of the Pharisees, since not every Pharisee was qualified to function as a scribe) as interpreters of the Law, although he says that they are hypocrites, since they do not practice what they teach others to do. Jesus says, "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them." Taken in the context of Jesus' other statements about the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus must have meant that the scribes and Pharisees ought to maintain their role in Jewish society as interpreters of the Law. Jesus was not giving unqualified assent, however, to the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law, since, as we have seen, Jesus not only took exception to the Pharisaic "tradition of the elders" and also emended parts of the Law itself on his own authority. If Josephus is correct about the Pharisees' being the leading group and exercising informal religious authority over the people (Ant. 13. 297-98; 18.15; War 2. 162), Jesus is advocating that the status quo be maintained. The scribes of the Pharisees are to retain thier judicial and legislative roles, as opposed to the Saduccees. Obviously, Jesus' view of the Pharisees was not exclusively negative.


Question 

What does Jesus say about the role of the scribes and Pharisees in Jewish society?

 


8. The Validity of the Law

Jesus says that the Law will retain its validity in the Kingdom of God. Presumably, the Law that retains its validity is the Law as interpreted and emended by Jesus to reflect the true intention of God. Despite their many theological differences, Palestinian Jews believed in the permanent validity of the Law. Josephus writes that Jews consider the Law to be eternal (athanatos) and fear the Law more than any despot (Apion 2.277). Likewise, according to m. Abot 1.2, Simon the righteous used to say, "Upon three things is the world based: upon the Law, upon [divine] service, and upon the practice of charity." It is clear that Jesus' position on the Law is not unusual. It is not surprising to find Jesus telling a leprous man whom he healed to present himself to a priest in order to be made ritually purified according to the Law: "But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them" (Luke 5:14; see Lev 13:49; 14:2-32).

8.1. Matt 5:17-19

It is debated how Matt 5:17, 18 and 19 relate to one another tradition-historically. In the gospel, they are found as part of a collection, each part of which is structurally similar—having antithetical or synonymous parallelism—and pertain to the common theme of the Law (Matt 5:20 follows and introduces another related theme, the better righteousness, which is developed in the antitheses in 5:21-48.) Since it is unclear whether they are separate sayings joined together or whether two or more of these sayings were originally conjoined, it advisable to consider the three as independent sayings.

    In Matt 5:17, Jesus says in antithetical parallelism, "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." It seems that he was responding to the accusation that his teaching about the Kingdom of God was in conflict with the Law and the Prophets, so that the authority of the latter was undermined. The verb "to abolish" means to render invalid or to annul (see 2 Macc 2:22; 4:11; 4 Macc 5:33; Philo, Somn. 2.123; Jos., Ant. 16.35; 20.81). Since he rejected Pharisaic oral law, it is understandable how the general accusation that he rejected the Law and the authority of scripture could have arisen, since the Pharisees did not always distinguish their oral laws from the the written laws. No doubt the Pharisees were accustomed to view their teachings as firmly rooted in the scriptures, in confomity with their reputation as "the most accurate interpreters of the laws" (War 2.162). Jesus' response is to deny that his purpose ("I have come") is to abolish the Law and prophets, but quite the contrary: "to fulfil them." While it may be obvious what Jesus meant by abolishing the Law and the prophets, it is not immediately clear what is meant by “to fulfil the Law and the prophets." Given the antithetical parallelism between "to abolish" and "to fulfil," the latter must have the opposite meaning of the former. Using this guiding principle, it follows that Jesus is defending himself by saying that it is his purpose to do all that the Law and prophets really requires, "to fulfil it." (On this interpretation, to fulfil the prophets would mean to accept their authority and to conform to their legal teaching.) In general, Jesus means that he confirms the validity of the Jewish scriptures by conforming his life to the Law and Prophets. A similar antithesis occurs in m. Abot 4.9: "R. Jonathan said, 'Whoever fulfils the Law in poverty shall in the end fulfil it in wealth, and he who disregards the Law in wealth shall ultimately disregard it in poverty'." The verb used is mean "to fulfil" is not ml' but an idiomatic use of the piel form of the verb qwwm, which has given rise to the suggestion that Jesus used a form of the Aramaic verb qwwm. (It is also the case that the Hebrew verb ml' is sometimes rendered by a form of qwwm, thereby establishing a connection between the two verbs, even though the LXX does not translate qwwm with plêroô, but bebaioô or istêmi.) Of course, Jesus would understand his fulfilment of the Law to be according to his modification and intensification of it, which is elaborated in the antitheses in Matt 5:21-48. In other words, his fulfilling of the Law would be according to his understanding of God's true intention for Jews and other human beings.

Many have concluded that the phrase "and the prophets" is a Matthean addition to a saying that originally only referred to fufliling the Law (see Allen, Matthew, 46; Dalman, Jesus-Jeshua, 62; Guelich, Sermon on the Mount, 142-43; Strecker, Weg der Gerechtigkeit, 144; Arens, The ELTHON-Sayings in the Synoptic Gospels, 99-100; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1.484). Matthew's frequent use of the verb "to fulfil" to indicate Jesus' fulfilment of prophecy is cited as evidence that Matthew added the phrase "or the prophets" to his source. But the verb is being used in a different sense than its use to mean the fulfilment of prophecy (passive). The evidence is insufficient to conclude that the phrase is secondary. Also, it is argued that Matthew is responsible for the form of the saying insofar as he adds the "Do not think" (mê nomisete) clause before an original "not-but" (ouk-alla) clause (Strecker, Weg der Gerechtigkeit, 144; Arens, The ELTHON-Sayings in the Synoptic Gospels, 99-100; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1.482-83). Since he allegedly adds "Do not think" (mê nomisete) to the saying in 10:34 (different from Luke 12:51), the conclusion follows that its presence in 5:17 must also be redactional. But it is questionable whether Matt 10:34 is the same saying as Luke 12:51 (Guelich, Sermon on the Mount, 136-37).

    In Matt 5:18, Jesus says that not a jot or a tittle of the Law will pass away until all things have been completed; if one takes this to mean the end of this age—which is probably correct—then Jesus is saying that the entire Law remains valid until then. The presence of two temporal clauses (heos an) is often interpreted as evidence of Matthean redaction; usually the second clause is judged to be redundant and secondary. But one needs to ask why a redactor would do such a poor job redacting so as to leave tell-tale signs of his activity. The two clauses are not redundant and awkward since each performs a different function in the saying. The first "until heaven and earth pass away" is an idiom meaning "never," whereas the second "until all is accomplished " provides the salvation-historical time limit of the validity of the Law: the end of the age.

Of the three sayings in Matt 5:17-19, 5:18 has a parallel in Luke 16:17; on this basis many have sought to determine the original form of the saying (see Schulz, Die Spruchequelle, 114-16; Schürmann, Untersuchungen, 128; Banks, Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition, 213-20; Arens, The ELTHON-Sayings in the Synoptic Gospels, 91-94). But apart from the phrase “one stroke” (mia keraia) and the use of the verb “to pass away” (parerchesthai), there is not enough commonality to justify the conclusion that these are redactions of an original saying (Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount, 143-49; Hüber, Das Gesetz in der synoptischen Tradition, 21-22). In the absence of further evidence it is better to say that Matt 5:18 and Luke 16:17 are two sayings with a similar content. Only the Q hypothesis compels the interpreter to seek to reconstruct the original saying and thereby identify the Matthean and Lukan redaction of it. Without the assumption of Q, it is more natural to hold that there were two similar, but different sayings that no doubt could be traced back to two different Aramaic sayings.

    In Matt 5:19, Jesus warns that one who teaches another to break the least of the commandments will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, implying that Jesus sees the Law as retaining its validity in the time of eschatological fulfillment. Those who have entered the Kingdom of Heaven are expected to obey the Law in its entirety; the Law defines what God requires of his people, even and especially in the Kingdom. The distinction between the least and greatest presupposes distinctions to be made among those in the Kingdom of Heaven based on level of obedience to the Law. It is sometimes said the saying in 5:19 is less severe than the one in 5:18 since it allows some precepts of the Law to remain unobserved without exclusion from the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas the saying in 5:18 states that no part of the Law will pass away (Arens, The ELTHON-Sayings in the Synoptic Gospels, 97). While it is possible that 5:18 and 5:19 were not originally conjoined, it is not true that they are contradictory. One cannot say that 5:18 presupposes anything about exclusion from the Kingdom of Heaven for not obeying the Law in its entirety.

Given his practice of criticizing and modifying parts of the Law, it has been argued that what Jesus is reported to have said in Matt 5:17-19 is inauthentic; rather this complex of sayings stems from the conflict in the early church between the Palestinian Jewish Christians and their Hellenist counterparts (see Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (2 vols.; New York: Scribners, 1951-55) 16, 47, 54; see also Braun, Spätjüdisch-häretischer und früchristlicher Radikalismus, vol 2, Die Synoptiker, 2-61, especially 7, n. 2; 10, n.1). According to Bultmann, these words were spoken by Christians prophets on behalf of the risen Christ. The author of Matthew includes these sayings because he and his community opposed a gentile, antinomial form of Christianity. Many other scholars hold to the position that the sayings in 5:17-19 derive from the Jewish church and are directed against other Christians (see Strecker, Sermon on the Mount, 56-58; Arens, The ELTHON-Sayings in the Synoptic Gospels, 91-116). There is no reason to doubt, however, that Jesus said what the author of Matthew claims for him in Matt 5:17-19; it would be less believable that a Jesus, a Jew who saw himself as proclaiming that the time of Israel's eschatological salvation has begun to be realized, would deny the validity of the Law. It must be kept in mind that the Qumran community also modified the Law without any sense that it was not upholding it; likewise, by means of their halakot, the Pharisees often altered the requirements of the Law, but never saw themselves as rejecting its full validity.

8.2. Luke 16:17

In Luke 16:16-17 are found two sayings about the Law, Luke 16:16, which is parallel to Matt 11:12-13, and Luke 16:17, which is parallel to Matt 5:18. Luke may have conjoined these two sayings or may have found them already conjoined in his source. The second saying concerns Jesus' insistence that the Law remains valid forever. Heaven and earth symbolize permanency, so that Jesus is really saying that the Law is even more permanent than the most permanent things imaginable. Using hyperbole, Jesus says that not even the smallest stroke (keraia = "horn" or "projection") can disappear from the Law; his point again is that the Law is permanent for Jews. (For parallels to Jesus' teaching, see Bar 4:1; 4 Ezra 9:37; 2 Bar 77:15.)


Obverse: Portrait of Tiberius with Inscription: TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS ("Tiberius Caesar son of divine Augustus son of Augustus")
Reverse: Livia, mother of Tiberius and wife of Augustus, as Pax seated, with inscription PONTIF MAXIM ("Pontifex Maximus")

Tiberius Silver Denarius (14-37)

In Mark 12:13-17, in response to the "trick" question of whether Jews should pay Roman taxes, Jesus asks for a silver denarius to make his point: "They brought one. And He said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' And they said to him, 'Caesar's.' And Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's'."


Question

How does Jesus view the Law in relation to the Kingdom of God?

 

9. Jesus and the Temple

Jesus was desirous that the Temple be used in accordance with its intended function, as set out in the Law: it was to be a place of worship. On two occasions Jesus takes exception to there being money changers and livestock dealers in the Temple. He took steps to rectify this, so that that they would no longer detract from the use of the Temple as a place of worship (Mark 11:15-19 = Matt 21:12-17 = Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22). In Mark 11:15, Jesus says, "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." But you have made it 'a den of robbers." (He quotes from Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11.) In John 2:16, Jesus says to the sellers of doves (for sacrificial purposes), "Get these out of here. How dare you turn my Father's house into a market." It is added that later the disciples recalled a line from Ps 69:9 that they took as applying to Jesus: "Zeal for your house will consume me." Jesus also objected to people using the temple as a short-cut, presumably because he believes that even the outer courts should be considered as sacred to God: "He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple" (Mark 11:16).


 
Question

What is Jesus' view of the Temple?

 

 

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