Friday, February 17, 2006

Canon # 3

Even when he [Jesus] appears to abrogate the Laws of Moses in some of the so called Antitheses of the sermon on the Mount, he does so in order to bring out what is, in his judgement, their true meaning and intent: The Law says do not murder, Jesus says not to be angry; the Law says not to commit adultery, Jesus says not to lust; the Law says take an eye for an eye, Jesus says turn the other cheek [Matt 5:21-48]. The deep intentions of these laws, for Jesus, are to be followed, not simply their surface meaning. Jesus saw the Law as a direction from God about how to live and worship.[1]

Christians saw Jesus not as the founder of a new religion that cast aside the old, but as fulfilment of the old, who brought something new to an understanding of God that was already anticipated in the Hebrew bible.[2]

[1] Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pg. 232 [2] Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pg. 233

1 comment:

Stephen (aka Q) said...

In my understanding of the issue, the notion of fulfillment implies that Jesus also effected a change in the law.

I remember a metaphor used by Roland Bainton to describe the impact of Martin Luther. He said, imagine a bunch of coloured threads passing through a ring; and as they pass through the ring, they are twisted together and emerge on the other side in a very different pattern.

I think it's like that with Jesus and the law.

Every aspect of the law was fulfilled by Jesus: i.e., not even one aspect of the law bypasses Jesus; it all passes through him.

And it doesn't come out the same way on the other side. The new covenant embodies the essence of the law, yes; but the form the new covenant takes is radically different from the form taken by the old covenant.

We usually express this in capsule form by contrasting law and grace. In other words, we claim that we're dealing with two different systems, not merely an intensification of the old system.

That's my roundabout way of qualifying Ehrman's comment, "Christians saw Jesus not as the founder of a new religion that cast aside the old". I'm not sure that's right. Paul says over and over again, in language that varies from one text to another, that the dispensation of the law ended with the advent of Christ.

Perhaps the old religion was not "cast aside"; but it was revolutionized to a degree that makes Christianity essentially a different religion than Judaism.