Friday, May 06, 2016

Jesus and Torah

Does Jesus break the Torah? Does He encourage others to do so? Here, in this guest post, my friend Chuck McKnight makes some very insightful observations which I believe are on the right track.

Jesus and Torah
Guest post by Chuck McKnight

I made this list a while ago of just a few examples where Jesus deliberately breaks Torah. Take it or leave it.

According to Torah, the Israelites were commanded by Yahweh to swear in his name.

"You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name." - Deuteronomy 6:13

Jesus not only contradicted this command, he said that it came from the evil one, which certainly means that it did not come from Yahweh 

"But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." - Matthew 5:37

According to Torah, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" was an absolute mandate. The Israelites were commanded to "show no mercy" in carrying it out:

"Show no pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." - Deuteronomy 19:21

But Jesus directly contradicted this mandate, commanding his followers not to follow Torah's instructions:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." - Matthew 5:38–39

According to Torah, adultery was to be punished with death. No exceptions were given.

‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death." - Leviticus 20:10

But Jesus broke Torah in order to show mercy to the woman caught in adultery. [See John 8]

According to Torah, no work was to be done on the Sabbath.

"But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do." - Deuteronomy 5:14

But Jesus flaunted his disregard for this particular command on many occasions. Let's look at one of the most direct violations:

When Jesus healed the man by the pool of Bethesda, he not only did so on the Sabbath, but he specifically instructed the man to break the Sabbath with him by carrying his mat.

"Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath" - John 5:8–9

This was nothing less than a deliberate contradiction of Jeremiah 17:21–22, which states that Yahweh specified not to carry any burden on the Sabbath. This command wasn't one of the traditions that had been built up as a hedge around the law; it came straight from Scripture.

"This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors." - Jeremiah 17:21-22

If Jesus was merely concerned with healing the man, he would have simply done so, but he went out of his way to go against the law in the process, [by asking the man to take up his mat and carry it] and that action was what specifically raised the ire of the Jews:

"...and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” - John 5:10

So, what are we to make of this? I [Keith] have a few thoughts:

First, Jesus himself was the first one to point out the differences between the Old and the New Covenant realities: "You've heard it said....[quoting Moses and the Old Covenant]...but I say to you...[speaking a new way of living under the New Covenant]."

Second, the New Testament writers document these two realities and wrestle sometimes with the ways that the New replaces and modifies the Old in the book of Acts, and in Galatians and Romans, for example.

Third, Jesus is the clearest picture we have of who the Father is, and what the Father is like. The prophets were men like us, but Jesus was, and is, the Word of God made flesh. He is God the Son. So whenever there are apparent contradictions, we take Jesus and apply what He says, not what those ancient prophets said through a veil that is only removed by Christ. 

Finally, Christians are never instructed to keep the Torah or the Law. So it doesn't really matter if Jesus and the Torah are in conflict. We follow Jesus, not the Torah. Christianity is not Judaism with a cross on top. It's based on Jesus and who He is and what He commanded us to do. 

The Old Covenant is "obsolete". [Heb. 8:13]
It is "fading away and vanishing". [2 Cor. 3:7-11]
We should "get rid of it" [Gal.4:30]
Jesus is "the end of the Law" [Rom.10:4]

I'm very thankful to Chuck McKnight for taking the time to identify the specific ways in which Jesus opposed the Torah and corrected it for us.

We are no longer under the Old Covenant. We are gloriously alive in the New Covenant reality that the prophets longed to see. 

God Himself, and Jesus, His Son, has made a home within us. We are now called His children. We are His beloved. 


Follow Chuck McKnight at his blog: Hippie Heretic



Misplaced Honor said...

Most theologians say that if what you say is true we are all still dead in our sins without a Savior because Jesus cannot be considered the perfect sacrifice if he violated the law and violation of the law is sin. They would nuance what you call a violation of the law by asserting that Jesus never broke Torah as God commanded but broke the traditions that went beyond the law as well as the misunderstandings of the law. In their eyes Jesus didn't violate the law, he corrected misconceptions.

How do you respond?

Keith Giles said...

Bobby - You and I have discussed this over on FB already, but my response is below:

Jesus explains that He has authority to break the Sabbath because He is Lord of the Sabbath.

He says the priests break the sabbath because they have authority the same way cops break speed limit laws to catch criminals.

My perspective on this is that Jesus points out the freedom intended for everyone under the Law, the Sabbath being part of that, and how God's intention was for everyone to observe a day of rest and reflection on how God loved them and had provided for them, etc. But the people turned that into a rule that became more about keeping it religiously and less about enjoying the freedom to stop and reflect. Jesus intended to restore that perspective and did so by breaking their harsh religious rule and pointing out that He is not only Lord of the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was meant all along to be something they could enjoy as a blessing, not a club they could use to oppress one another.

My perspective is also that when Christians attempt to defend the letter of the Law and the authority of the Torah, they sound much more like the Pharisees that Jesus was arguing against rather than like Jesus who argued for freedom and grace in the name of love.

Again, Jesus was doing more than simply fulfilling the Law, he was also bringing it to a close - by fulfilling it - and introducing a new covenant way of living. "You have heard it said...but I say to you..."

Unknown said...

If sin is breaking a legal set of rules (as we understand law in human perspective) then yes he broke it. If sin is a broken relationship with our heavenly Abba (daddy) then the law is there to show us how to live in shalom (harmony) with are fellow human and restore our relationship with God

Marshall Diakon said...

Did Jesus Himself, or any of the New Testament pens, directly claim that He broke/trampled Torah?
Yet Jesus writes that He came to fulfill (bring into effect) the Law and the prophets.
[Matthew 5:17]
intently breaking Torah would be a most contradictory & violent path toward fulfilling, renewing or replacing same.
Checking through the "violations" list here, and with closer examination finding no clear violation.
Possibly Chuck McKnight does not comprehend the similarity he brings with first-century accusations already answered well?

Keith Giles said...

Yes, John confirms that Jesus did break the Sabbath:

"For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
-John 5:16-18

John affirms that Jesus did two things: Broke the Sabbath and made himself equal with God.

He did both things. John confirms.