This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Sermon on the Mount (2)

In this post, i'll give the next 3 reasons why the OT vs. NT view cannot be correct interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount.  

3. Jesus' quotes do not portray the text of the OT accurately.

If Jesus' quotes are meant to be of the OT scriptures, then we're forced to conclude that Jesus both misquotes the OT and also quotes material not found in the OT.  

For instance, he says, 

You have heard that 
it was said to the people long ago, 
'Do not murder, 
and anyone who murders 
will be subject to judgment.'
(Matt 5:21)

'Do not murder' can be taken right out of the ten commandments given in Exodus 20.  'Anyone who murders will be subject to judgment' however is not a quote taken from the OT.  
Again, Jesus says, 

You have heard 
that it was said, 
'Love your neighbor 
and hate your enemy.'
(Matt 5:43)
'Love your neighbor' can be a quote taken from Leviticus 19:18.  But 'hate your enemy' is not a quote from the OT scriptures.  

It seems clear that the author of Matthew intends to present Jesus as the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy---that Jesus fulfills all those prophecies.  Matthew also presents Jesus as having an impressive teaching-prowess.  People were amazed by His teaching (Matt 7:28).  People in the synagogue were amazed by Jesus' wisdom (Matt 13:54).  Matthew presents Jesus as having an uncanny ability to wrestle with the scriptures such that people couldn't answer him and were even afraid to (Matt 22:41-46).  Matthew presents Jesus as able to give startlingly clever answers to difficult questions (Matt  22:15-22). 

Why then would Matthew present Jesus as unable to quote the OT accurately?  This would seem to hurt Matthew's case.  If Jesus is who He claims to be, is it not reasonable to assume that Jesus is perfectly capable of reciting the text of the OT?  Further, Jesus' audience likely knew their OT.  If Jesus went around misquoting the OT, any number of people He encountered could've called Him on it.  

If we interpret Jesus to be referring to the OT here in the Sermon on the Mount, this is quite an anomaly in Matthew's otherwise very clear pattern and theme.  Arguably first, Jesus knew the OT and could quote it accurately.  And second, as i've said, Matthew wouldn't have wanted to portray it any other way.  If we interpret Jesus as referencing the OT, we belittle His abilities and harm Matthew's case. 

4. Some of Jesus' instructions are only applicable to Jews.

Jesus cannot have meant to revoke the commands in the Law of Moses because He gives applications of His teaching that could only be carried out by those who were habitually keeping the commands in the Law of Moses.

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, 
and there remember that your brother has something against you, 
 leave your offering there before the altar and go; 
first be reconciled to your brother, 
and then come and present your offering. 
(Matt 5:23-24)
Jesus here refers to temple sacrifice and worship.  Interpersonal reconciliation, Jesus teaches, should take priority over the timeliness of keeping Moses' commands about sacrificial offerings.  The people who could put this teaching into practicing had to be practicing Jews.  This certainly isn't a teaching aimed at Christians since Christians are never commanded to practice ritual temple sacrifices.  If the teaching is aimed at practicing Jews and not at Christians, then it's hardly the case that Jesus means to revoke or replace the teachings of Moses.  At best this would construe Jesus as teaching people to obey some but not all of the Law (--which, once again, is incompatible with His express intent in 5:17-19).

5. Some of what Jesus affirms is clearly already taught in the OT. 

It cannot be the case that Jesus intends to revoke or abrogate the Law of Moses in the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus enjoins on His listeners instructions that are already taught in the OT.  

For instance, Jesus says,

 You have heard that it was said 
to the people long ago, 
'Do not murder, 
and anyone who murders 
will be subject to judgment.'
But I tell you that anyone 
who is angry with his brother 
 will be subject to judgment. 
Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' 
is answerable to the Sanhedrin. 
But anyone who says, 'You fool!' 
will be in danger of the fire of hell. 
(Matt 5:21-22)

Jesus cannot mean to offer something which differs from what the OT taught in this passage because the OT already taught Jews not to mistreat each other in the way Jesus describes.  Jews were forbidden from hating each other in their hearts (Lev 19:17). Jews were forbidden from bearing grudges and resentments against one another (Lev 19:18).  The writer of Proverbs says that fools vent their anger but wise men keep themselves under control (Prov 29:11).  
Jesus also said,

You have heard that it was said, 
'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 
But I tell you: Love your enemies  
and pray for those who persecute you
(Matt 5:43-44)

Jesus cannot mean to offer something contrastive to the OT because the OT already taught Jews to do good to their enemies. 

If you come across your enemy's ox 
or donkey wandering off, 
be sure to take it back to him.  
If you see the donkey 
of one who hates you 
lying helpless under its load, 
you shall refrain from leaving it to him,
you shall surely release it with him.
(Exo 23:4-5)

If your enemy is hungry, 
give him food to eat;
         And if he is thirsty, 
give him water to drink; 
(Prov 25:21)
The OT already taught Jews to be loving enemies as a personal ethic.  Thus Jesus cannot be offering something different than the OT when the OT doesn't teach something different. Jesus cannot be countermanding, revoking, or abrogating Moses if He ends up telling people to do what Moses already told them to do.  

Based on these 5 reasons, i believe the OT vs. NT view of the Sermon on the Mount is false.

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