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Jesus has not expressed Himself in detail about it, nor has He illustrated what He means by fulfilment by any example taken from it. It has been disputed whether Jesus makes any distinction at all between ritual and moral commandments; 1 but neither is that altogether correct, nor does it solve the question how He thought of the fulfilment of ritual law. Certainly our formal distinction of moral and ritual law is not to be sought for in His teaching. But He has distinguished great and little, and even least commandments in the law (Matt. xxii. 38, v. 19), and the inward and spiritual character of the greatest commandments allows us to draw a safe inference as to the opposite character of the least. That He regards the ritual commandments as belonging to the latter can scarcely need any proof: “Go and be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift,” marks a plain order of rank (Matt. v. 24; cf. Luke xi. 42). Though Jesus, as was natural, lived with His people in observance of their venerable customs and usages, and left His disciples, and much more the people, undisturbed in them (Mark v. 24, i. 44, xiv. 12; Luke xvii. 14), yet there is no mistaking the fact that these forms had no longer any binding power upon His conscience. He has expressed Himself most exhaustively about the Sabbath—always and everywhere in the sense of freedom of conscience. Though the saying: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark ii. 27), allowed this chief outward ordinance a value as a benefit to man, yet the inference that it need not, on that account, bind man to his hurt, is the keynote, and the telling words follow: “ The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath ” (ver. 28). Other evidences of conscious inner freedom with regard to the outward observances are not wanting. Thus Jesus can accompany the rule of love to one's neighbour (Matt. vii. 12) with this is the law and the prophets.” The ritual com
1 Cf. Weiss, N. T. Theol. i. p. 110 [Trans. T. & T. Clark].
2 That this does not simply mean, as Weiss will have it, that He has the right to explain the Sabbath commandment, a right which the scribes also had, but that He has the right to put Himself above the Sabbath, and release His disciples from its observance, is sufficiently clear from the context. Jesus does not justify Himself by an exposition of the law, but, as the argument from David's eating of the shewbread proves, He frankly admits the violation of the letter of the law.
mandments are to Him so unessential that He treats them in this expression as though they had no existence. Fasting, which is quietly presupposed in the Sermon on the Mount as a pious exercise of the people (Matt. vi. 16, 18), is expressly left an open question to the disciples to be treated according to their spiritual needs (Mark ii. 18). When the temple tax is demanded of Him, and Peter at once recognises the obligation, Jesus makes clear to him that no king taxes his own son. He bids him pay it, not because He did not know Himself to be inwardly free from such imposts, but only “lest we offend ” (give offence to the Jews), (Matt. xvii. 27). When He preaches : “Not that which goeth into a man (food and drink) defileth him " (Mark vii. 15; Matt. xv. 11), He is certainly in the first place opposing Pharisaic ordinances. But in so doing, how could Jesus possibly avoid disturbing people with reference to all Mosaic distinctions of clean and unclean food ? Finally, as to the value of sacrificial commandments, we have from the lips of Jesus the great prophetic quotation: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (Hos. vi. 6 ; Matt. ix. 13, xii. 7), a saying which attests not only the clear distinction of the ethical and ritual part of the law in the mind of Jesus, but also that He traced that distinction to the nature of God, and saw that for Him the ethical had importance, but the ritual had none. But how does all this square with the saying (Matt. v. 18) in which Jesus seems to put His general declaration, not to destroy but to fulfil, in the strongest way, so as to secure the preservation of the ritual commandments: “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled "?i The saying which immediately follows, in which the least commandments are manifestly an exposition of the jot and tittle, gives the explanation. If he who“ breaks one of these least commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven," then the doing away with the ritual commandments seems at first to be a proceeding which does only a subordinate service to the kingdom of God, and therefore confers only a subordinate rank in that kingdom, but yet is not in itself incompatible with participation in the kingdom of heaven. Still more significant is the following statement: “But whosoever shall do and teach them, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” There it is manifest that the doing and teaching of the least commandments which is spoken of, must be altogether of a different nature from that pursued by the Pharisees; for they with their doing and teaching of the least things in the law are not only not great in the kingdom of heaven, but, as the following verse shows, do not get within the kingdom at all. Not therefore a literal, but only a spiritual doing of the least commandments can be meant here. In other words, Jesus must have acknowledged an inner content even in the most external and least things in the law,—an idea which only is to attain its true value, its fulfilment, in His kingdom, And He can only have done so with regard to the ritual commandments by conceiving them symbolically, by applying circumcision to the circumcision of the heart, sacrifice to the sacrifice of the heart, etc., as He had already done in particular constructions of the Old Testament. Thus, for example, in Luke xxii.
1 Weiss, N. T. Theol. i. p. 111, says, “ that from the historical point of view it is inconceivable and incapable of proof that Jesus considered the legal order of life and worship as defective in itself, or ascribed to Himself in principle freedom to deal with it as He pleased.” The proof that He really did so has been adduced above. And as to the conceivability, I for my part could not conceive, just from a historical point of view, Jesus as inwardly contented with Mosaic ceremonial, or bound by His own feeling to things which did not follow from the love of God as such. But Weiss appears to me to contradict himself in this matter. For when, as he recognises, Jesus expected the speedy destruction of the temple, and with it of the sacrificial worship, and held the perfected theocracy no longer bound to the Old Testament ritual, He must have seen the latter to be defective, and have ascribed to Himself in principle freedom to deal with it as He pleased.
. 16, He has spoken of a fulfilling of the Passover in the kingdom of God, undoubtedly in the sense of a living communion of His people with Him who was slain for them, which He found foreshadowed in the eating (taking into themselves) of the paschal lamb. And in what other way than thisthe opponents of this explanation might be asked-can Jesus have at all conceived the fulfilling promised in Matt. v. 17, even in the case of the ritual commandments ? Thus the
1 The first ws is to be taken in the sense of “sooner may," which does not, like the other at the end of the sentence, apply to a temporal aim (cf. Bleek, Synoptiker, i. p. 249). The word is paraphrased in this sense in Luke xvi. 17.
seemingly so anti-Pauline statement (Matt. v. 18) explains itself in a sense which the Apostle Paul could have unconditionally accepted. The έως αν πάντα γένηται at the close of the verse is manifestly related in meaning to the "shall do " in ver. 19. It is the spiritual fulfilment, the true performance of the ritual commandments. And only till this doing is in every sense complete (éws) shall the axiom hold good, that not one jot or tittle shall pass away from the law. Nothing should pass away till it was done, or fulfilled. But when they have found the highest realisation, the jot and tittle may perish, just as the breaking of the least commandment in ver. 19 is not in itself incompatible with the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly, the positive teaching of Jesus about the ritual law is, that even among these least commandments there is no mere empty vain husk without a kernel to be thrown away. In each there is a divine thought, an imperishable idea, which must come to its rights before the husk of the letter be allowed to perish. Again, what other view of the ritual law is consistent with His free inwardness on the one hand, and His belief in the divine origin of the whole Mosaic law on the other ? 1
§ 4. THE FUNDAMENTAL COMMANDMENTS AS STARTING-POINT
OF THE FULFILMENT
How, then, does Jesus, in consonance with this principle of fulfilment, develop His doctrine of righteousness from the Old Testament law ? Above all, by setting a view of the law, as a living whole, against the prevailing piecemeal view. The scribes and Pharisees conceived the law as consisting of a thousand individual commandments, about whose greater or less importance there might be differences of opinion; and the actual state of the records of the law to some extent justified this. Jesus, on the other hand, finds in the law one principle with two aspects, which unites the whole, two fundamental commandments, on which the entire thousandfold legislation rests. Questioned as to the greatest commandment (Mark xii. 28; Matt. xxii. 34), He selects from the immense number of individual precepts, and from entirely different parts of the law-book, two great commandments, and designates them as the poles, the very summary of the law and the prophets : “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” 1 These are, in point of fact, the two pillars on which a religious ethic, ideally conceived, rests. The formally unreconciled dualism might seem strange; but there can be no doubt that this dualism was reduced to unity in the mind of Jesus, that the two commandments were to Him only the religious and the moral sides of one single idea of righteousness. When He teaches the man at the altar who has injured his brother (Matt. v. 23, 24) 2 to be first reconciled to his brother, and then offer his gift, He does not wish to rank the brother before the heavenly Father, but to remind us of the fact that the Father above all desires to be loved in His visible image, in man (cf. 1 John iv. 20). Again, when He bases the duty of loving our enemy on the imitation of the divine original (Matt. v. 45–48), He thereby indicates that its motive is to
1 The hasty judgment which conceives the passage (Matt. v. 18) in the extreme Judaic sense, and rejects it from the series of genuine words of Jesus, is indeed regarded in many places as the only scientific judgment. But it can neither answer the above question, nor explain the śws äv Távte yévntai, nor give us any information as to how such an extreme Judaic saying could find acceptance in the Pauline Gospel of Luke. But even the puzzling explanation of Ritschl, which Wendt (Lehre Jesu, ii. p. 341) has again revived, that in Matt. v. 18 Jesus does not mean the Old Testament written law, but that which He fulfilled in a New Testament way, is quite impossible. Nópos cannot mean anything else in ver. 18 than what it meant in ver. 17, and we can only speak of jot or tittle in the case of a positive written law, not of an unwritten ideal law.
1 The novelty in the expression of Jesus lies not only, as Weiss will have it, in the fact that He adds to the recognised first commandment the second, but still more in the fact that He designates these two commandments as the pivots of the whole law (Matt. xxii. 39 ; cf. vii. 12). A scribe had indeed already (Luke x.) met Jesus with the combination of these two commandments as the sum of the law. But the scribe either got this from the teaching of Jesus, or the tradition which Luke follows has here inixed up two different events, the first of which is more correctly given in Matt. xii. 28.
2 The fyeo to xata con does not mean merely (as Wendt, Lehre Jesu, p. 278, assumes from the German expression to have something against one) that the brother is angry with him who is about to sacrifice, but that he is justly angry, and has a complaint and grievance against him which prevents God from being satisfied with his offering. Cf. Rev. ii. 4, 14, 20, etc.