Q&A: Jesus and the Old Testament

Q: Did Jesus agree with everything written in the Old Testament?

A: In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus establishes His purpose as fulfilling the Old Testament:

“Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished.”

Jesus modeled this fulfillment throughout His ministry: He taught accurately concerning the Law, embodied the Law and the story of Israel in His life, death, and resurrection, and was therefore able to say when it was all said and done:

“These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44).

Therefore the Evangelists absolutely want us to understand that Jesus agreed with what was written in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, that is, the Old Testament. Nevertheless, they also show very clearly how Jesus differed with the interpretation of the Law and its handling by the religious authorities, especially the Pharisees and scribes.

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19-20).

Then there come to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying, “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread.”
And he answered and said unto them, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?”
For God said, “Honor thy father and thy mother”:
and, “He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death.”
But ye say, “Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, ‘That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is given to God’; he shall not honor his father.”
And ye have made void the word of God because of your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying,
“This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).

And we have not even discussed Matthew 23:1-36!

JesusPharisees

Thus we see that Jesus’ challenges have less to do with the Old Testament itself and more with the interpretation and practice of the various Jewish sects during the Second Temple Period. We do well to learn from their example and not fall away according to the same pattern of disobedience.

Do you have questions about the Bible or Christianity? We’d love to discuss them!

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