Did Jesus do away with the Law (1) Matt 5:17?
Many of us today wonder whether the law (the Torah) has been done away with, you sometimes might hear a response such as, “Jesus fulfilled the whole law of God, so I don’t have to.” Or “Jesus did away with the commandments of God.” Many turn to the Sermon on the Mount to point to “conclusive proof” that Jesus retired, annulled and abolished the Ten Commandments en masse by fulfilling our need to keep them any further after His death. But in fact, far from doing away with the law, the torah, the sermon Jesus gave, is a confirmation, endorsement and deepening of the understanding of the intent of all of God’s holy (set-aside) commandments.
Jesus stated unequivocally in His sermon: “Do not (2) think that I came to destroy the Torah (the Law) or the Prophets. I did not (2) come to destroy but to fulfil,” (Matthew 5:17). The Greek word pleroo, here translated “fulfil,” actually means “to make full,” “to fill to the full,” “to make complete in every particular,” “to render perfect” or “to carry through to the end” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 2005, Strong’s number 4137).
Far from destroying or abolishing the law, as some interpret this verse, Jesus said He came to fill the Torah (the Law as it is translated) to the fullest – to complete and perfect it – a very, far-cry from today’s current, mainstream pulpit rhetoric. In fact interpreting “fulfil” as meaning that the Torah is no longer applicable makes absolutely no sense even gramatically in light of the next two verses in which it is stated nothing will change until heaven and earth disappear, pass away.
18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot (the yodh, tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, or iota in Greek) or one title (the small decorative spur or point on the upper edge of the yodh called the taggim) will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
19 Whoever, therefore, breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
If we choose the word “fulfil” in verse 17 to mean that the whole law of God, the torah (first five books of the Old Testament, or Tanakh) is no longer going to be applicable to believers, here’s what we have Yeshua saying:
In verse 17, “I come not to destroy the law but to make it no longer applicable.”
Verse 18, “but until heaven and earth pass, every jot or title of the law still stands.”
Verse 19, “even though the law of God is no longer going to be applicable as stated in verse 17, anyone teaching that the whole law of God is no longer applicable will be least in the kingdom.”
The definition of fulfil in verse 17 just doesn’t seem to work in any way possible, which must mean “fulfil” in Matthew 5:17, the Greek word being “pleroo (3),” must then mean, to fully preach, make full, fill to the brim or fully teach the law (torah, or instructions) of God and cannot teach that any part of the Law of God is no longer applicable because it would then render verses 18 and 19 as irrelevant.
Obviously Yeshua did not say in verse 17 that He intends to fulfil the whole law of God so that it is no longer applicable and immediately proceed to tell us that it is applicable to us, at least until heaven and earth pass away. Then, as if that was not enough, the very next verse says that there are eternal consequences to the believer for teaching and practicing that even the least of the Commandments are no longer applicable. How could the law of God be removed and not be removed at the same time?
And, if the law of God was removed by Him fulfilling it, then why would there be negative consequences that would result if someone teaches and practices that some commandments no longer apply? Obviously, that does not make sense, so the answer is clear. This is about as easy as it gets, despite what one might believe about Paul and we already know that Peter said that Paul is perhaps the most difficult teacher to understand as it relates to matters of God’s law, His Torah. Yet, how many want to run to his writings thinking they understand Paul taught the whole law of God is no longer applicable? Meaning this, Yeshua did not come to destroy the law or make it no longer applicable. Instead, He came to fully teach us the law of God. This should make much more sense considering the fact that Yeshua spent His whole ministry teaching and practicing and living what Moses already wrote as the Father’s Word. Not convinced yet? Let’s take a look at the same text but from the book of Matthew written in Hebrew – a real red-letter moment.
Here is Matthew 5:17 from George Howard’s English translation of Hebrew Matthew:
The two words, a) al tachshevu are stout words. Zechariah 7:10 has an exact parallel of the same two words that Yeshua used in Matthew 5:17 which reads, ‘do not think’ in our English Bibles:
And do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and ‘do not devise’ a) al tachshevu evil in your hearts against one another.
Please also see: Zechariah 8:17; Job 6:26; Nahum 1:9. The NASB translates these two words as do not devise. It isn’t just a matter of do not think. Rather I imagine Yeshua putting his hand up and saying, “Y’all stop devising a scheme there or plan that is within the heart of man. Just don’t go there!”
The next two key aspects of this verse is b) le’hafer used eight times in the Big Book in this exact form and in its basic root form 51 times meaning to split, divide, or break. I think you are getting the drift!
Yeshua continues in this radical, red-letter verse to offer a contrast based on the next two Hebrew words he puts together, c) elah lehashlim meaning but to pay or better yet, to perform, this then can now be read as follows:
Do not devise in your mind – I came not to break, or divide Torah (instructions), but rather to perform it!
Didn’t Jesus fulfil the whole law so I don’t have to?
Yeshua did not fulfil the whole law of God in the sense of actually doing the whole law of God. That would just not be possible. There are commandments that are only for women, and Yeshua could never do those. There are commandments that are only for farmers, and Yeshua was not a farmer. There are commandments for the judges, the Sanhedrin, and the the Levitical Priesthood and Yeshua was not part of them. There are commandments for the Levites, and Yeshua was not a Levite. To say that we do not have to keep God’s law just because “Jesus kept it for us,” simply makes no sense. Yeshua was baptized. Should we say that we should not be baptized because Yeshua was baptized for us? Of course not! We could go on and on.
This may come as a bit of a shock to some of you initially, as it did to me after so many years of ‘reading my Bible’. That His Torah is NOT abolished, NOR annulled! My immediate knee-jerk recourse was a desperate attempt to refer to the gospels and what Christ proclaimed through the lens of Paul. Pastors, preachers, self-proclaimed teachers and traditions of men alike had been the construct of my faith for the last 40-years and I was now falling head long in a paradigm shift desperately grappling for strawmen to verify my previously held doctrinal, comfort zone. Much to my initial dismay, surprise, then wonderment I found 100’s of references how the Apostles in the Gospels and Epistles kept Sabbath, upheld Torah (the law), and observed the Feasts of YHVH – so very unlike orthodox, mainstream Christianity today. This was massive – how come I had never seen this before? What did this mean for me now? Past beliefs and how I had walked, talked, thought and lived came into stark focus. My wife and I were sitting in our hotel room just outside the Old City of Jerusalem and we read the following and then looked into the Greek of a certain text which we have all read so many times . . . Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (lawlessness Strongs 458, anomia).
Surely, as I reflected, could this really be relating to Christians? Believers, like me, those that know His Name, and claimed to have done many great works, how could they be guilty of iniquity? We researched the Strongs (458) Greek for iniquity and to our utter shock it meant – Lawlessness, properly, without law; lawlessness; the utter disregard for God’s law (His written and living Word). From 3551 (nómos) used of: a) the Law (Scripture), with emphasis on the first five books of Scripture, The Torah.
Did this now confirm that He really does NOT change His Word, and that His dietary instructions, the Sabbath, and His Appointed Times, remained just as valid and applicable to us today as the early followers of the first-century believers.
Stay with us, as your faith is renewed and restored as scriptures that have been clouded in misunderstanding, poor translation and faulty gentile interpretation for millennia and left open to refutation by non-believers, and even well-intentioned Bible scholars and teachers are deciphered, chapter by chapter, and restored to their correct context within a first-century understanding and obedience.
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(1) Strong’s #8451 the word torah – means more than just ‘law’, its usual simplistic translation (always ‘law’ in the KJV 219x). It derives from yarah – view larger image yârâh (Strong’s #3384) meaning ‘to shoot out the hand as pointing, to show, indicate’, ‘to teach, instruct’, ‘to lay foundations’, ‘to sprinkle, to water’, ‘to shoot, as an arrow’.
(2) In the Jewish understanding of Scripture, there is no such thing as repetition for its own sake. That is, if a word or phrase is repeated, there is something new being conveyed; it is not simply the same thing said over again for emphasis (which can be eliminated without losing anything). Therefore, Jewish scholars search repeating elements more closely to discover what is different between the two (or more) cases, and what G-d was saying in each occurrence.
“Jesus quoted a Hebrew idiom when He said He came not to destroy the Law or the prophets. He was using a familiar phrase easily understood during Biblical times. Jesus had been accused of misinterpreting the Torah (God’s law), yet He said that He was actually rightly and correctly teaching it. Traditional Jewish writings support this idiom, “Should all the nations of the world unite to uproot one word of the Law, they would be unable to do it,” Leviticus Rabbah 19:2. To understand the meaning of this verse, everything hinges on the meaning of the words “destroy” and “fulfil” in verse 17. What does Jesus mean by “destroy the Law” and “fulfill the Law”? “Destroy” and “fulfil” are technical terms used in rabbinic argumentation. When a sage felt that a colleague had misinterpreted a passage of Scripture, he would say, “You are destroying the Law!” Needless to say, in most cases, his colleagues strongly disagreed. What was “destroying the Law” for one sage was “fulfilling the Law” (correctly interpreting Scripture) for another,” wrote Bivin and Blizzard in their book Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus (Y’shua).
– Original: πληρόω
– Transliteration: Pleroo
– Phonetic: play-ro’-o
- to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full
- to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally
- I abound, I am liberally supplied
- to render full, i.e. to complete
- to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim
- to consummate: a number