The Most Ignored NT Verses: Matt 5.17-18

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

These words seem to go largely ignored by almost everyone.  Jesus is quite clear; the statutes of the Hebrew Bible are still in effect until heaven and earth pass away–which means they will never be irrelevant (since heaven is eternal, even if the earth is not).  Yet it seems many Christians have adopted heretical viewpoints about this text.  Indeed, it is as if Marcion had risen instead of Jesus for many denominational Christians who have completely forgotten about this verse.

A friend of mine had told me her priest had recently said, during a prayer group, that Jesus had done away with the laws of the Hebrew Bible and that had been a radical perspective for his day.  But I wonder where the priest is pulling this information from, as Jesus states–directly, in fact–the complete opposite of what this priest is saying.  Marcion, of course, would approve of such a maneuver, since he felt that the laws of the Hebrew Bible were derived from a false God and that such laws were inconsequential to Christians who followed the new laws of Christ Jesus.  Indeed, Tertullian even made note of the fact that Marcion had expunged the verse from his versions of Matthew:

It is, however, well that Marcion’s god does claim to be the enlightener of the nations, that so he might have the better reason for coming down from heaven; only, if it must needs be, he should rather have made Pontus his place of descent than Galilee. But since both the place and the work of illumination according to the prophecy are compatible with Christ, we begin to discern that He is the subject of the prophecy, which shows that at the very outset of His ministry, He came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but rather to fulfil them; for Marcion has erased the passage as an interpolation. (Against Marcion 4.7)

And in case anyone argues Jesus changed the laws or abuse the Sabbath, Tertullian states:

Thus Christ did not at all rescind the Sabbath: He kept the law thereof, and both in the former case did a work which was beneficial to the life of His disciples, for He indulged them with the relief of food when they were hungry, and in the present instance cured the withered hand; in each case intimating by facts, I came not to destroy, the law, but to fulfil it,  although Marcion has gagged His mouth by this word. For even in the case before us He fulfilled the law, while interpreting its condition; moreover, He exhibits in a clear light the different kinds of work, while doing what the law excepts from the sacredness of the Sabbath and while imparting to the Sabbath day itself, which from the beginning had been consecrated by the benediction of the Father, an additional sanctity by His own beneficent action. For He furnished to this day divine safeguards, — a course which His adversary would have pursued for some other days, to avoid honouring the Creator’s Sabbath, and restoring to the Sabbath the works which were proper for it. Since, in like manner, the prophet Elisha on this day restored to life the dead son of the Shunammite woman, you see, O Pharisee, and you too, O Marcion, how that it was proper employment for the Creator’s Sabbaths of old to do good, to save life, not to destroy it; how that Christ introduced nothing new, which was not after the example, the gentleness, the mercy, and the prediction also of the Creator. (Against Marcion 4.12)

So why is this passage ignored?  Why has modern Christianity done away with the hundreds of statutes in the Hebrew Bible which even Jesus followed and commanded his followers to hold in esteem?  It seems as though very half-cocked theological eisegesis is done in order to account for the gagging of these words, as Tertullian might say.  Some argue that since Jesus did fulfill the law, by being crucified and resurrected, that this verse becomes fulfilled and no longer matters.  But one cannot make such an argument since this verse seems to have been very important during the authorship of the Gospels–decades later than when Jesus had lived.  Clearly it was a statement to not only the readers of Matthew’s Gospel as late as the second century CE, but also in Tertullian’s day some generations later!   To say that these words are no longer relevant actually places ones soul in jeopardy (Matt 5:19a):

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…

This is quite the pronouncement!  So the question one must ask is why do Christians ignore this directive from Jesus?  Who do some state that he has abolished the value of the Hebrew Bible and the laws therein?  Why do some claim that the Hebrew Bible should be ignored as a source for ones lifestyle?

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