Did Jesus come to Abolish the Law of Moses?
The Torah constituted the written law of Moses, revealed to him around 1350 BC. Paul alleged that Jesus came to abrogate Moses' law. Jesus' own words however, thoroughly refute such a concept. We explore these ideas herein.
Jesus’ mission was the regeneration and restoration of all Israel to their condition during Moses’ era:
Mat 19:27-28 KJV Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28...Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
After reading Matthew 23 nobody can claim that Jesus’ mission was anything other than the regeneration of Israel. Jesus blasted the Pharisees for corrupting Moses’ Law that he claimed had left them unrighteous and no more than ritual-performing hypocrites:
Mat 5:20 KJV ...I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus corrected their understanding of the law and explained its underlying wisdom. He also explained the divine system of Government, calling its secrets mysteries.
Further, Jesus testified that he was subject to Moses’ teachings, indicating that Moses as a Lawgiver possessed a higher station than he did. Moses’ supreme authority in prosecuting criminals of his Law, even in Jesus’ generation, supports this principle:
Mar 1:44 KJV And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
Jhn 5:45 KJV Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is [one] that accuseth you, Moses, in whom ye trust.
Jesus' Gospel of Repentance
Though Jesus expressed Moses’ teachings in a simpler form, its substance was purely Judaic. Jesus said that society was rife with hypocrisy due to the way the Pharisees applied Moses’ Law. Therefore, he claimed that God sent him to bring people back to virtue through repentance at his hand. This he termed, the Gospel of Repentance:
Mar 2:17 KJV …Jesus saith unto them: They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance
Jesus claimed to restore Moses’ Law (i.e. the Torah, Books of the prophets and Psalms), to the condition of Moses’ era, through his interpretations. Thus, we find that he explains how what you have heard of Moses’ Law is not Moses’ original, but [what]… I say unto you is. Jesus reinterpreted Moses’ Law to restore it to its original. He never abolished or replaced it. God never sent him to abrogate Moses’ Law, though this was the propaganda of the Pharisees. Nonetheless, the masses knew Jesus purported to correct the understanding of the Law propagated by the Pharisees at the time.
One way he did this was by explaining the principles of how to interpret and implement divine law without hypocrisy and cruelty; namely that mercy, justice, trust in, and fear of God were indispensable:
Mat 23:23 NASB Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
Traditional customs also had an interpolative effect that Jesus condemned since they nullified the law by making it burdensome and impossible to follow. Jesus’ interpretations of the commandments made them easy to practise, i.e. light:
Mat 11:28-30 KJV Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Jesus permitted his followers to follow the Pharisee practices that were consistent with the Torah and his own teachings; however, he forbade them from following their hypocritical ways and burdensome practices:
Mat 23:2-4 KJV Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 Saying the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
Jesus' Purpose—To Uphold & Fulfil the Law
The Pharisees accused Jesus of abrogating Moses’ Law, an allegation Jesus refuted in the most forceful manner. His unqualified negative statement followed by a positive statement tells us exactly what he meant:
Mat 5:17-19 NLT Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God's law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God's laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus says we should construe his words and actions as fulfilling the purpose of Moses’ Law and not destroying it, i.e. abrogating it.
There is no other way to construe his words. Thus, if Jesus denied violating, abrogating, adding to or subtracting from Moses’ Law, the question is, what did he teach? The answer is that he removed the innovations introduced into Moses’ Law over the previous thirteen centuries. Jesus claimed divine authority to correct additions and diminutions introduced by the Scribes and Pharisees over the centuries that served to nullify Moses’ Law. They had done this primarily through Moses’ Oral Traditions and through additional scholarly interpretations that nullified Moses’ Law.
We are required to interpret Jesus’ teachings within the context of his stated mission, i.e. the regeneration of Israel. This included giving the wisdom underlying the Law, which he did in his parables and sermons as detailed further in my book. Jesus thus came to uphold the Law and give spiritual life, echoing Moses’ earlier warning that lawlessness was spiritual death.
Jesus Did Not Abrogate Moses’ Law
God is unchanging and so the similarities between Moses and Jesus reinforce the principle that God sent both to the same people. Any duality between Moses and Jesus would indicate a contradiction in God’s will and person, or Jesus’ disobedience. The first is untenable and Jesus refutes the second:
Jhn 15:10,15 KJV If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love….15Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Actions speak louder than words. The latter can be more easily misinterpreted and interpolated as compared to the former. To those who believe that Paul continued Jesus’ work of abolishing Moses’ Law and establishing a New Covenant, the question is: why did Jesus spend his ministry following Moses’ Law and telling others to follow his interpretations if its abrogation was Jesus’ purpose on Earth? And just where did Jesus call for its abolition? Christians may point to Paul’s Doctrine of Faith, but we ask for Jesus’ actual words. Which Jesus-commandment was divorced from what Jesus called the Law, comprising the Torah, the Books of the prophets and the Psalms? There is not one!
See Man of Lawlessness in this series. Paul knew of this Jesus teaching, but he twisted and spun it using its terminology to disguise his changes:
Tit 3:5 KJV Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Mat 23:1-39 KJV Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay [them] on men's shoulders; but they [themselves] will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, [even] Christ; and all ye are brethren.9 And call no [man] your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, [even] Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. 13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in [yourselves], neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 16 Woe unto you, [ye] blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17 [Ye] fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 [Ye] fools and blind: for whether [is] greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. 21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. 23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier [matters] of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.24 [Ye] blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.26 [Thou] blind Pharisee, cleanse first that [which is] within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men's] bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 [Ye] serpents, [ye] generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and [some] of them ye shall kill and crucify; and [some] of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute [them] from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Obviously, this was not under Paul-concocted atonement and resurrection doctrines where he claimed that Christ's crucifixion ended righteousness under the law. Romans 10:4 KJV For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.
Mat 5:43-44 KJV Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy... 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Mat 5:17-18 KJV Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Jesus may have expressed the teachings in a simpler form but the content has been shown as derived from the Old Testament.
Mat 7:29 KJV For he taught them as [one] having authority, and not as the scribes.
Mat 8:9 KJV For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this [man], Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth [it].
Mat 21:23-27 NLT The Authority of Jesus Challenged 23 When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right? ”24 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. 25 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?” They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe John. 26 But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.” 27 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.
Jhn 5:25-27 KJV Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
Jhn 9:4 KJV I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
See: Regeneration of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and explanation of the Parable of The Labourers Who Came Late later in the series.