Whenever obedience to God's commandments takes center stage in a conversation, Matthew 5:17 always seems to get some air time. So that we cannot be acused of not doing our due diligence, we present some readings from the pillars of Protestant Christian Scholarship in the 20th century.
- 7. A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching
"Our starting point for uncovering Matthew's understanding of the passage must be... the context in which he has placed it. It serves as a preface to the antitheses (vv. 21-48), which present Christ as the God authorized interpreter of the law."
- 6. Matthew 5:17-20 Form/Structure/Setting of WBC - Davies
"Christ' corrections of the mistaken understandings involve the presentation of the true meaning of the Torah, not its cancellation as might at first seem to be the case."
- 5. The Broadman Bible Commentary of the Bible
"In contrast to the Pharisees, Christ brought out the true and deeper meaning of the Law."
- 4. The Greatest Texts of the Bible by Dr. James Hastings
"It is not the Law or the Prophets that Christ proposes to abolish, but the traditional misinterpretations of these authorities. (Quote of Dr. A. Plummer)."
The plhrw/sai of the law and the prophets is their fulfillment by the re-establishment of their absolute meaning . . ." (Quote of Dr. H. A.W. Meyer)
- 3. The Anchor Bible Commentary by Dr. F. A. Albright and Dr. C. S. Mann
"Much hangs on the meaning of the verb (to fulfil). The verb can and frequently does convey the meaning of 'to clarify the true meaning of something'.
Certainly, it can be argued that what Christ is doing in this legal material of Matt 5-7 is trying to restore the original meaning of the Law where this seemed to be obscured by the accretions of commentary."
- 2. Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 33A
" 'Do not think that I came' presupposes the existence of the opinion that is denied. Here it is fair to assume that Christ' sovereign interpretation of the law was so out of step
with contemporary interpretation that it seemed to many that he was going against the law.
It is best to understand plhrw/sai here as 'fulfil' in the sense of 'bring to its intended meaning'.
This view is consonant with the expectation that the Messiah would not only preserve the Torah but also bring about its meaning in a definitive manner (see Davies, Settings, 161-72).
In other words, the law, as interpreted by Christ, will remain valid until the close of this age."
- 1.The International Critical Commentary
"The meaning of the words is clear. Christ did not come to overthrow the authority of the Mosaic Law, which was to be eternally binding upon the hearts and consciences of men.
So long as the world lasted its authority was to be permanent. Commentators have exhausted their ingenuity in attempts to explain away this passage, but it's meaning is too clear to be misunderstood."
I must add that there are more but this sampling clearly reveals that these Scholars understood that since the Greek verb was active
, not passive, the correct way to read it is 'to clarify the true meaning of something
'. Taking that as our starting point, and adding in the collected comments of the Scholars above, I present an expanded translation of Matthew 5:17
Do not suppose that I have any intention of undermining the Torah and the Prophets [through misinterpretation]. My purpose is rather to place them on a firmer footing by interpreting them correctly in terms of God's ultimate will as He originally intended for His commandments to be obeyed.
In addition to Matthew 5:17, Protestant Christian Scholarship constantly write about this subject using verses throughout the New Testament. As another small sampling, I have included the following...
- The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ
Galatians 3:1 - 6:2 by Graham Stanton
As many exegetes have observed, 6:2, with its reference to the law of Christ and its use of avnaplhooun, is closely related to 5:14. Although 'Christ' and 'law' have regularly stood in stark contrast earlier in the letter, in 6:2 they are brought together in a striking and memorable phrase. Since 'fulfilling the law' in 5:14 refers to the law of Moses, the use of the similar verb in 6:2 strongly suggests that 'law' here also refers to the law of Moses - as 'redefined through Christ', as 'redefined and fulfilled by Christ in love' (John Barclay) or, 'as it has fallen into the hands of Christ' (J.L. Martyn).
4:21b, 5:14, and 6:2 stand in counterpoise to Paul's other references to the law of Moses in Galatians. These verses confirm that in spite of the numerouse negative comments on the law elsewhere in this letter, Paul did not repudiate the law of Moses. [pp. 115-116]
- The Law in Romans 2 by N.T. Wright
Several times Paul says, more or less, that Christians do keep the law. The most obvious passage is Romans 13:8 (not to mention 1 Cor. 7:19, already referred to).
[Then] there is Romans 8:4 - 9, in which it is the mind of the flesh that 'does not and cannot submit to God's law'.
The clear implication is that the mind of the Spirit can and does. [p.137]
And what about the Law in all of this? Pulling the 'law' threads of the discussion together into a quasi-systematic form, we might deduce the following:
- 1. The law, nomoj, in Paul, is the Jewish law. Gentiles do not possess it by birth.
- 2. The law defines Israel over against the nations, and moreover indicates that Israel is designated by the creator God as a light to the nations.
- 3. The law sets the standard by which Israel will be judged; Gentiles will be judged without reference to it. However, there is one class of Gentiles who in a sense will be judged with reference to the Torah. This class consists of Gentile Christians though by birth they do not possess the Torah, they are now in the strange position of 'doing the law', since the Spirit has written the 'work of Torah' on their hearts.
- 4. Israel boasts in her possession of the law; it sets her apart from the nations.
- 5. The boast is not made good, because that could be so only if Israel kept the law perfectly; and this is not the case. Israel is still in exile, still 'in her sins'. She is still guilty of lawbreaking.
- 6. The category of Gentiles mentioned above in connection with the final judgment is invoked again, this time to demonstrate how far ethnic Israel is from being affirmed as she stands. The covenant has already been renewed; its beneficiaries now 'fulfill the law', even though, in the case of Gentile Christians, they do not possess it... As Paul says in Romans 8, 'what the law could not do...God has done'. [p. 149]
The Law in Romans 3-4 by Richard B. Hays
A. The Law Defines the Identity of the Jewish People
In the first instance, the term o nomoj refers in Paul's usage to the Law given by Moses to Israel (Rom 9:4, 10:5). By prescribing distinctive standards of conduct, the Law simultaneously accomplishes two things; it positively discloses the will of God, and it marks off the elect people from other nations. Let us consider each of these points in turn.
First of all, the will of God is revealed in the Law, and the people of Israel are called to obey it unconditionally (cf. Deut 30:11 -1 4) as an expression of their covenant relation to God. To be a member of God's people is to find oneself obligated to adhere to the norms articulated in the Mosaic Torah. That this covenant obligation was understood, within the context of Judaism, not as a burden but as a privilege is clearly recognized in Paul's diatribal address to an imagined Jewish interlocutor who "boasts in the law". (Rom 2:23)
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the Law and boast of your relation to God (kaucasat en qey) and know his will and determine what matters (ta duayeoonta) because you are instructed in the Law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you, then, who teach others, will you not teach yourself? ... You that boast in the law (en ndmy kaucaoat), do you dishonor God by breaking the Law? (Rom 2:17 - 21a, 23).
Knowing the will of God is, to be sure, not an unproblematic condition. Paul's argument challenges the Jewish reader to beware of a complacent sense of security that comes from having a special relation to God through the Law: it is only the doers of the Law who are to be justified (2:13). The mere knowledge of the Law is of no value unless it is accompanied by obedience (cf. 2:25 -29). Nonetheless, Paul never disputes the twin premises that the will of God is authentically revealed in the Law and that the Jew therefore possesses, through the Law, a privileged knowledge of what God requires (cf. 7:7 - 12, 9:1 - 5).
What amazing quotes about the law from Protestant Christian Scholarship. And I've only just begun!!!
As we move forward, I will add numerous other quotes similar in nature to those found above to demonstrate that there is a lot of consensus as regards the law for the Gentile Citizen in the Commonwealth of Israel.