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and thoughts, and at the same time guarantee and realise the whole saving, forgiving, sanctifying love of the Father. Finally, because He brings the life of a higher world into this and victoriously tests it in the conflict with the earthly, the partition-wall between this world and that to come is for Him inwardly abolished, and the whole earthly life placed in the transfiguring light of eternity. But when we deduce all the characteristics of His teaching from His personal unlimited communion with God, and can deduce them only from that, we have traced them back to that very thing which makes Him the personal bearer of the perfect revelation of God among men, and therewith have furnished the positive proof of the revealed origin and character of His teaching.
§ 6. RELATION OF THE TEACHING OF JESUS TO THE
Nevertheless, the teaching of Jesus has one side from which its complete originality may plausibly be called in question, and that is its connection with the Old Testament. Notwithstanding all that we have said about His elevation above the religious parties of contemporary Judaism, are not the sacred documents of His people, are not the “ law and the prophets” to Him divine authorities? And does not that deprive His gospel of part at least of its character as personal revelation, and make it simply a prophetic development and completion of the Old Testament religion of Jehovah ?
Certainly the law and the prophets speak to Him the word of God. He not only appeals to them as Holy Scripture against the people and the scribes, but to Himself they are a lamp to His feet and a light to His path. When the story of the temptation shows Him beating back the assaults of Satan with a text of Scripture, and the narrative of the transfiguration makes Moses and Elias proclaim the decease which He is to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke ix. 31), there lies at the basis of these statements the fact, that in the most painful crises of His life He grasped and held by the words of Scripture, by the law and the prophets. And His belief in them appears so absolute as to make Him declare that “heaven and earth will pass away sooner than one jot or tittle
of the law should fail” (Matt. v. 18; Luke xvi. 17).
; Accordingly, His teaching seems everywhere rooted in the Old Testament; all its ideas and elements spring out of the Old Testament, and if there are many things of importance in it which He does not directly teach, that may be explained by the fact that, in the case of His disciples, He can presuppose them as elements of the Old Testament with which they were familiar. Yet we do not find Him in a relation of constrained slavish dependence on the Old Testament Scriptures. The words about the writing of divorce which was permitted, the commandment that no work should be done on the Sabbath, were in the law, and He did not pay any heed to them; He calmly set against the first the creative thought of God, and against the latter the royal rights of the Son of Man. Nay, if we consider the matter more closely, we shall be astonished at the wide tracts of Old Testament Scripture which have, as it were, no existence for Him, though He manifestly knew them. He has scarcely touched the whole wide region of the sacrificial and ceremonial law, He has at most taken notice of the whole politico-theocratic form of the Messianic idea in order to reject it once for all, and every moral imperfection in the Old Testament, especially the theocratic spirit of revenge, with its words and deeds—even when represented by an Elias—does not for a moment mislead Him as to the law of love and meekness which becomes His kingdom. We see that He read the Old Testament with an independent mind, with a sure test in His heart which made Him distinguish the divine kernel from the human husk, the eternal idea from the imperfect and temporary expression of it, even in the most difficult cases; and this test can only have been the higher and purer religious ideas which He bore in Himself. It is evident therefore that His relation to the Old Testament by no means contradicts or even limits what we have already said about the originality of His doctrinal ideas, as coming from the depth of His own inner life which He lived in God. What then is His relation to the law and the prophets which allows Him to believe in them without binding Him to them? The best answer is Matt. v. 17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” The revelation of God did not first begin with Him; it completes itself in Him, and the law and prophets are just steps towards this completion. It is self-evident, therefore, that the preliminary revelation is not destroyed or abolished, but recognised by Him who comes to complete it. But it is equally self-evident that to Him this preparatory revelation is not the perfect one, and that He has to raise its detected imperfections into the perfect, and that is just the fulfilment to which the above saying refers. Not an actual fulfilment, such as might very well have been asserted of Messiah, but, as the further course of the Sermon on the Mount puts beyond all question, a didactic fulfilment, that is, a perfection and completion in virtue of which the inmost meaning of the law and the prophets is to be set forth and made authoritative, as it had not been in its Old Testament form. Jesus Himself never failed to apprehend that this Old Testament form must herewith as such be exploded, just as the covering of the bud must be burst when the blossom opens out. No jotor tittle of the law was to fail, only in the sense of not being thrown away as an empty husk; there is in every one a divine kernel and germ, which must obtain its due, its unfolding. But when that is secure, what had been husk inevitably falls away, as is clear from the expositions of the law which follow in Matt. v. 17-20; in each of them an imperfect divine idea is fulfilled in spirit whilst it is destroyed in the letter. And as with the precepts of the law, so is it with all Old Testament ideas and views which Jesus turns to account; they are confirmed and transformed in one breath. They are recognised as divine, as surely as they are rooted in the Old Testament, but in such a way that their divine character and vitality for the first time attain their full development; in the mouth of Jesus they seem at once old and new, they are no longer Old Testament, but New Testament ideas.
The watchword about fulfilling the law and the prophets goes beyond the immediate meaning of Matt. v. 17; it expresses the entire relation of Jesus to the Old Testament. He fulfils the law and the prophets, by bringing about what they aim at, the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God. This fundamental conception of Jesus, from which His whole teaching unfolds itself—at least in the first three Gospels—is what we have above all to direct our attention to.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN OR KINGDOM OF GOD
JESUS appeared with the announcement, the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. iv. 17), and His whole preaching from beginning to end may be comprised in His gospel of the kingdom of God (Mark i. 1 ; Acts i. 3). The Sermon on the Mount begins with the promise of the kingdom of heaven to the poor in spirit; the parables revolve around the idea of the kingdom of God; the prophecies refer to its appearance. The other writings of the New Testament are also acquainted with this fundamental conception (cf. e.g. John iii. 3, 5; Acts viii. 1, 2; Jas. ii. 5; Rom. xiv. 17; 1 Cor. iv. 20, xv. 50), and if it does not properly belong to their diction, and therefore appears only now and then, that only makes it the more evidently a reminiscence of Jesus' own mode of teaching. What then does Jesus mean by this His favourite watchword?
§ 1. MEANING OF THE WORD As to the meaning of the word, Baoinela may indicate the abstract kinghood, the royal power and dignity (= Heb.
as well as the concrete realm, the sphere of dominion ( 19). Luther has translated both senses by kingdom, and they so pass into each other, in idea and usage, that in many passages of the Gospels we cannot be certain which is meant. The abstract conception is, however, by far the rarer — it is certainly contained in Luke xxii. 29, xxiii. 42: kåyà διατίθεμαι υμϊν καθώς διέθετό μοι ο πατήρ μου, βασιλείαν; and όταν έλθης εν τη βασιλεία σου. On the other hand, the concrete is the usual conception; it alone suits such expressions as “the least in the kingdom of heaven"; "to enter into the kingdom of God”; “ to inherit the kingdom that is prepared” (cf. Matt. v. 4). This concrete notion of the kingdom is therefore in doubtful cases to be preferred and made the basis of our present investigation. As to the double expression βασιλεία των ουρανών and του θεού, the first belongs only to the Gospel of Matthew, in which it is the
prevailing expression. The rest of the New Testamentapart from the uncertain reading in John iii. 3, 5—has only the βασιλεία του θεού. That both expressions mean the same thing is manifest from the parallels of Matthew on the one hand, and of Mark and Luke on the other; as well as from the absolute expression “ Bao ideia, which is frequently used in Matthew. Both are found alongside each other even in Rabbinic writings. The idea that the expression kingdom of heaven is a twist given to the conception by the first evangelist after the destruction of Jerusalem, with the view of transferring to heaven the appearance of the kingdom that was no longer hoped for on earth, is certainly erroneous. For the first Gospel is the earliest, and was composed before the destruction of Jerusalem; and though in it the appearance of the kingdom is expected from heaven, it is by no means transferred to heaven (iv. 17, xxiv. 30, xxvi. 64). The probability rather is that the expression comes from the oldest source, the Logia of Matthew, and was the one that Jesus Himself preferred to use. Its enigmatic and peculiar Old Testament impress may-as in the case of the expression Son of Man-have hindered its transference to Gentile-Christian usage, and therefore to the second and third Gospels. As to its strict import, we must reject the view which—in accordance with the aversion of the Jews to pronounce the name of God-makes heaven here a mere paraphrase for God. That is never the way of Jesus, who rather disapproves of that speaking of heaven instead of God (Matt. v. 34); even then we would at least expect the singular instead of the plural oúpavớv, which is constantly used. The expression rather appears to have come from the passages Dan. ii. 44, vii. 13, 14, and to have pointed to heaven as the original home of the kingdom of God, the genitive thus expressing the origin, and therefore the attributes which it possesses. This view best answers to the meaning which heaven has in the teaching of Jesus as the kingdom of ideal perfection. When we find in the Lord's Prayer that the petition, “ Thy will be done in earth,” follows immediately that of “Thy kingdom come,”
1 The singular is used in Luke xv. 18, 21 ; this is the only occasion in the New Testament where the common usage of heaven as equivalent for God is put in the mouth of the prodigal son.