Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Matthew 5:17 and the Law of Moses

Here's a message I sent to a friend back in 2002:

First we must point out that the apostle Paul seems to teach that Christians are not obligated to keep the Law of Moses. He writes to the Galatians:

"But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor"
(Gal. 3:24-25). In other words, the Law was a pedagogue leading to
Christ. Now that he has come, Christians are no longer obligated to
keep the Law of Moses; we are now under the new Law of Christ (Gal.
6:1-2). This "law" is predicated upon God's undeserved kindness or
XARIS. But that still leaves us with Jesus' statement in Mt. 5:17. How
does it relate to your question concerning the Torah?

I would say that Jesus did not come to destroy (KATALUSAI) Torah, but
he became flesh in order to fulfill (PLHRWSAI) it. Once Jesus fulfilled
the Law, however, God Himself nailed it to the instrument of Jesus'
death (the STAUROS) for all time. Cf. Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:13-15.

Louw-Nida notes that PLHROW in Mt 5:17 evidently means: "to give the
true meaning to, to provide the real significance of . . . I did not
come to destroy but to give true meaning to [the Law and the
Prophets]" (Semantic Domain 33.144).

I think this definition somewhat gets at the meaning of Jesus'
statement but it lacks something. Nevertheless, this construal might
find some backing in Rom. 8:3.

More satisfactory (IMHO) is BDAG's treatment:

"depending on how one prefers to interpret the context, PLHROW is
understood here either as fulfill = do, carry out, or as bring to full
expression = show it forth in its true mng., or as fill up = complete"
(See BDAG 829 for relevant literature).

Compare Mt. 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 3:15; 4:14; 8:17, etc.

As for the Hebrew that one might expect in Mt. 5:17, while I will
yield to Solomon Landers' expertise, I think that the Hebrew MALE
might be a good candidate in view of the LXX usage of PLHROW in 1
Kings 8:15, 24.


Duncan said...

Jewish new testament in its introduction associated PLHROW with MALA but they argue against it meaning, complete, but rather favor, bringing to full

The idiomatic meaning for "nailed to the stauros" needs to be proven as to meaning. Compare John 19:19. Gal 3:13.

The "decrees" in Col 2:14 has not been dealt with.

Edgar Foster said...


Someone, somewhere, has probhably already discussed "nailed to the stauros." I agree that the idiom could use further study.

As for the "decrees," I know studies/commentaries deal with that issue too. I also made a short post on the "decrees" about which you made comments. If you don't think my short remarks/references were enough, I gave a link to preceptautin which contains plenty of material on Col. 2:14. James Dunn likely makes perceptive observations about the "decrees" in his NT commentary.