By Vince Dhimos
My third instalment of the article on Iran as Trump’s bogeyman garnered some impassioned responses (the first being here), and they were so long as to merit a separate response.
The long response from an unnamed person whom we shall call Frank, contains this assertion:
Frank: "Vince, sorry, Nope. He did [intend to start a new religion] and He stated, I came not to change the law but to fulfil it, by His life and death."
Yes, Frank, modern Bible translations do quote Jesus, in Matthew 5:17, as saying “I came not to change the law but to fulfil it.” This word “fulfil” is the translator’s best guess and it is within the range of possibilities.
However, the verb used in the Greek for Jesus’ quote here is πληρώσαι, a variant of πληρόω. This word can mean to fulfil, but it is also used to mean “to complete” or “complement” (see Strong’s Concordance. BTW, by way of confirmation, the older Classical Greek cognate had the same range of meanings as the later koine Greek of the NT) and based on Christ’s Old Testament references in his teachings, the meaning “to complete” or “complement” seems more likely than “fulfil.” After all, Jesus did not question or criticise the passages that He cited in His teachings. So his doctrine was not a fulfilment but it certainly did add to – complement – the contemporary understanding of the scriptures. He certainly supported all the old Judaic scriptures so his early teachings, aimed at the Jews, could not have been taken as a new theology. Therefore, his original intent was not to found a new religion but to complement the old one. In fact, he told his fellow Jews to obey the teachings of the Pharisees but not to do as they do. Thus for Jesus, the sticking point was not the Judaic law itself but the rigid and hypocritical way it was interpreted by the powerful religious leaders – who eventually would kill him.
As I tried to clarify above, I was referring to Christ’s original intent, not to the modified mission He saw for Himself after the Jews rejected him. The disciples did eventually establish a body of doctrine that was by the most conservative measure a new religion and included the gentiles.
The following is a salient example of how, in his early years, Jesus interpreted the scriptures by adding new insight (complemented them) without changing them:
In Luke 10, a Torah scholar asked Jesus what is the most important commandment for achieving eternal life, and Jesus said: What do you think it is? And the scholar said “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus said “Yes, do this and you shall live.”
This passage shows that in Jesus’ view, salvation was possible through the Old Testament law as long as you understood where the emphasis should be – namely, on love. Thus He was still teaching Judaism at that point. But it was a different – or complementary – view of Judaism, with the emphasis placed where it belonged, not on a plethora of rigid do’s and don’t’s taught by the Pharisees. Jesus had completed or complemented – not fulfilled – the teachings of the law simply by shifting the emphasis, making love the priority.
One very serious problem in contemporary Christianity is that most US fundamentalists today base their interpretation on the Scofield Reference Bible notes, and indeed Scofield interprets the passage of Matt 5:17 to mean that Jesus was sent to fulfil the law in the sense that He had come to die for the sins of humanity, thereby vicariously taking the punishment for others’ sins. This is, of course, true and is a remotely possible rendition of that passage. But the problem with these fundamentalists and their sacred Scofield is that this author depends on a consensus of different Bible scholars rather than on sound reason, logic and facts. For example, Scofield, writing during or before 1909, declares in reference to the place names Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 (places that would attack Israel in the latter days), that these names refer to Russia and that “all agree” on this – meaning all Bible scholars agree. But God does not rely on consensus. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Scofield also draws the conclusion that, in that chapter, Meschech is Moscow and Tubal is Tobolsk, based merely on the similarities of the names – thus Scofield was skating on the very thinnest of ice! But beyond this, he reasons:
“Russia and the northern powers have been the latest persecutors of dispersed Israel.”
Of course, 1909 was well before the emergence of the 3rd Reich. If Scofield had commented on this passage after WW II, he would certainly have deduced that Ezekiel was talking about Germany. And more to the point, ancient Assyrian court records, since then discovered by archaeologists, show that Gog and Magog were in what is now Turkey. So much for the sacred opinion that Ezekiel referred to Russia (this misinterpretation surely has contributed much to the current anti-Russia hysteria). My point is that the reasoning methods used by Bible scholars in Scofield’s day were so flawed as to render any comment by Scofield highly questionable if not useless. Yet fundamentalists today rely on his notes, treating them with the same reverence as they do the scriptures themselves. Not far from blasphemy,
Another friend responded to the article on my FB page, arguing that Jesus did not just come for the Jews. But I had said that his original mission – not his ultimate one – was to minister to the Jews and not the gentiles.
In Matthew 15:22-24 Jesus specifically said "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." His original plan was to minister to the Jews, but they rejected Him. All of his ministry is centred on the Torah but also the rest of the Tanakh (OT).
It was not until He saw that the Jews rejected Him that He began to focus on the gentiles.
This discussion is not over, and it should not be. Please add your thoughts below or in the forum here.