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In point of fact this exacting side of His gospel appears to be more fully and studiously developed in the teaching of Jesus than even the announcement of ce. We have it at once in the detavocîte; then it forms the essential content of the Sermon on the Mount, which plainly, whatever circumstances led to its complete formation, in its main content belongs to the earlier period of Jesus' ministry and His, formally, most developed teaching. We are strictly following the Sermon on the Mount when we comprehend the religious and moral demands of the gospel in the idea of righteousness, for that sermon itself repeatedly comprehends in this Old Testament watch word the claims which the kingdom of God makes on all its citizens (Matt. v. 6, 20, vi. 1, and especially vi. 33). Of course, righteousness is not spoken of here as one particular virtue alongside of others, but as a summary of all that is just before God, which is also the fundamental biblical conception of righteousness. What is just, that is, right (originally straight), is that which corresponds to a standard. The standard here spoken of is God's holy nature and will. He who conforms to that is right in God's sight. In this sense Matt. v. 20, vi. 33 set forth righteousness as the essential aim of the efforts of those who wish to belong to the kingdom of God. “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” 1 The consonance of the δικαιοσύνη θεού, proposed as the goal of the seeking in the latter passage, with the well-known fundamental conception of the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. i. 17, iii. 21), should not mislead us into the supposition that Jesus had in His mind a righteousness to be bestowed by God, imputed to faith. The δικαιοσύνη θεού has rather the same meaning here as in Jas. i. 20: οργή γαρ ανδρός δικαιοσύνην θεού oủk épyátetai, that is, does not what is right in God's sight. The idea of a righteousness to be done is not only verbally in the passage Matt. vi. 1, but runs through the whole Sermon on
1 This passage, according to the best witnesses, should be read : (nosite δε πρώτου την βασιλείαν και την δικαιοσύνην αυτού (that is, θεού). It speaks, therefore, of a righteousness of God, and not, as one often hears, of a righteousness of the kingdom of God.
the Mount. The righteousness which is required in v. 20 for the kingdom of heaven is, according to the whole further course of the chapter, not one to be laid hold of by faith, but one to be acquired by a right doing of the divine commandments, as is abundantly confirmed by the exclusion of the εργαζόμενοι την ανομίαν in the closing exhortations of the Sermon on the Mount (vii. 16-19, 20, 21, 23, 24). There can be no doubt at all about the fact that Jesus taught a doing of righteousness as the condition of an interest in the future kingdom of God. To the scribe who asked about eternal life He answered: “Do that, and you will live” (Luke x. 28). He referred the rich young man in all earnestness to the ten commandments when he came to Him with the same question (Mark x. 19). He declared those who did the θελήματα of His Father in heaven to be His brothers and sisters (Mark iii. 35). Consequently, this righteousness is that moral condition of man which corresponds to the divine law. It is indispensable to sharing in the future kingdom of heaven, because the full and blessed communion with the holy God cannot be conceived without a character conformed to God. That is pictorially set forth in the Parable of the Marriage of the King's Son. There is a wedding garment, a habitus fit for God's presence, without which a man may indeed force his way into the heavenly palace, but cannot take part in the king's marriage feast, and must expect rather to be cast forth from it.1
1 An interpretation, as persistent as it is baseless, imports into this parable the idea that it was a custom in Israel to present the marriage guests with a festal garment on their entrance to the festal chamber, and that this free gift is to be thought of as despised by that unworthy guest. Thus men arbitrarily introduce Pauline notions into the teaching of Jesus ; but all appeals to Paul cannot subvert the statement of the Saviour : "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father in heaven.” That alleged custom cannot be proved archæologically; and even if it could, the parable would not simply leave a feature on which so much depends to be read between the lines. The teaching of Paul is not contradicted; but the point in question is not how one may obtain possession of the righteousness demanded, but is simply to emphasise the demand for it.
§ 2. POSITION TOWARDS THE CURRENT TEACHING AND PRACTICE
The people among whom Jesus appeared had not now for the first time, and as something entirely new, to receive the divine demand for righteousness. Israel had Moses and the prophets (Luke xvi. 29). Through Moses, God had given them His law, which, as a holy order, comprehended and governed the whole life of the people; and through the prophets He had again and again enjoined it on them, and expounded it to them in its depth and inwardness. The scribes and Pharisees, indeed, now sat in Moses' seat, and explained the law to the people in a way that was opposed to the prophetic mode of thought. They externalised the divine commandments, and led the people away from demands on the heart, into an enormous amount of external observances which they wished to draw as “a hedge around the law,” as
a a second law orally transmitted for the securing and carrying out of the first (Matt. xxiii. 2, 4). Jesus therefore had to develop His idea of righteousness so as to make its relation to the idea current among the people understood. What then is the position He takes up towards the doctrine and practice of righteousness that prevail among the people? He declares, above all, that they are insufficient to give one an interest in the kingdom of God. Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. v. 20). But He further distinguishes between commandments of God and ordinances of man, between law and prophets on the one hand, and the traditions of the elders on the other, that is, the additional commandments of the scribes and Pharisees. The latter He at once rejects, and, indeed, for the sake of the former.2 Commandments of men have in His estimation no right and no place beside the commandments of God in
? In this comparison the prophets are always (Matt. v. 17, vii. 12 ; Mark xxiit 40; Luke xvi. 29) taken into consideration only as the Godsent preachers of righteousness, not as predictors of the Messianic future.
2 Jesus seems in Matt. xxiii. 3 to recommend the people to observe also the Pharisaic ordinances ; but immediately (ver. 4) contradicts that. Either the saying is inaccurately transmitted, or in it He merely wishes to matters pertaining to God's righteousness. They have a parasitic existence at the cost of the commandments of God, as He proves in a thorough Protestant way to the scribes and Pharisees by reference to the harm they have done in the case of the fourth commandment, and therefore the terse sentence applies to them: “Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted must be rooted out” (cf. Mark vii. 1 ff.; Matt. xv. 1 ff.). This presupposes the imperishableness and full sufficiency of the divine commandments; and the same is implied in the great fundamental declaration of the Sermon on the Mount: “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets : I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt. v. 17). To annul, that would be to do away with them, to declare them transitory, and not binding; how could God's perfect messenger do that with what God has revealed respecting His holy will through His former messengers? Yet nothing is more certain than the fact that Jesus was not content with rejecting the Pharisaic and Rabbinic amplifications or expositions of the law, but that He also amended the Mosaic law. In the examples of His doctrine of righteousness that follow in Matthew, He puts His “but I say unto you” twice against the rules hitherto gathered from Moses and his interpreters, and four times against the very words of Moses. And when He explains the words “ thou shalt not
“ kill” to the effect that unbrotherly anger is a violation of the sixth commandment; when He goes beyond “ thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths,” and says “swear not at all”; when He puts in place of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” the rule, reward not like with like, but evil with good, -He has in all these cases undeniably and consciously annulled the Mosaic letter as such. We have a still more remarkable example of how little He felt Himself bound by that letter: the Mosaic permission of divorce by means of a letter of divorce. He opposes with His own verdict, and refutes the appeal to that positive permission, not by quoting another Mosaic authority, but by the divine idea of marriage, and so puts the ideal law of nature apply the proverb: “Do according to their words, but not according to their works." There can be no doubt about the protesting attitude of Jesus towards the additions of the elders (Mark vii., Matt. xv.).
in the place of the imperfect positive law (Mark x. 2–12 ; Matt. xix. 3, 9). The principle of this notable way of dealing with the Mosaic law must be contained in the Tinpwoa. (Matt. v. 17). That this word cannot mean here the actual fulfilment of the law nor the fulfilment of the prophets as announcers of future things, follows, as already noted, from the whole connection. For the whole argument that follows does not discuss the actual performance of the law or the realisation of the Messianic predictions, but the development of the Mosaic commandments to the fulness of the divine meaning lying at their basis. But the word cannot signify in one and the same breath an actual and a didactic fulfilling, but only the latter; and this is what Jesus (from ver. 21) does with a whole series of legal precepts. He frees them from the imperfection of the letter and reveals the fulness of the divine intention, and so fulfils them, that is, makes them complete or perfect. Only thus can we explain how Jesus is able to say that He does not annul even the least requirement of the law (Matt. v. 18), though He breaks the letter of the law in so many places. The full development necessarily bursts open the imperfect forms in which the divine will was still enclosed in the law of Moses, just as the fulfilment which the bud gains as a blossom inevitably bursts the sheath in which it was enclosed. But that is no annulment in the sense of ver. 17, no doing away with or rejection of any commandment of God as though it were of no further use. It is to give its right value to the law's deepest meaning.
§ 3. RELATION TO THE RITUAL LAW If we now endeavour to follow up this principle of Jesus in its applications, we are met by the difficulty of its relation to the ritual part of the law. For although this very aspect of the law was the most prominent in the life of the people,
1 That Dr. Weiss, in his revision of Meyer's Commentary on Matthew, wishes to replace this exposition of the best expositors by that deduced from Rom. xiii. 8, is certainly no improvement. The intepretation of Tanpows, as making full something incomplete, or imperfect, that is, bringing to perfection, is indisputable and frequent. Cf. Matt. xxiii. 32; Mark i. 15; John iii. 29 ; 2 Cor. x. 6, etc.