Master of Arts (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Philosophy; Religion, Biblical Studies; Religion, General; Theology
Recent polemics relating to the use and validity of the Mosaic Law make a reexamination of some of the key Biblical passages imperative as well as a rethinking of the basic framework by which the issue of the Law is discussed. Matthew 5:17-20 is a passage often used by all sides in the Law debate and is here analyzed as to its relevance to the Law issue. This periscope is Jesus' programmatic statement about his mission with respect to the Law. The passage clearly states that the Law is not abolished and this truism serves as the broadest interpretational framework for this thesis. However it is not as clear what Jesus' precise positive mission was with regard to the Law, as indicated by the often debated term plerosai.
This thesis begins by framing the issues at the heart of the Law controversy and then examines the basic historical development of those issues in the history of Christian thought. Then an overall interpretational framework is posited and developed utilizing the concepts of the overlapping and simultaneous aspects of the present and future Kingdom of God - the "now and the not yet". Because the Old Age continues in certain of its aspects but the New Age in Christ has also broken in, the Mosaic Law also must be thought of in a transformed sense, remaining valid but undergoing a change in its use or jurisdiction and in some cases becoming irrelevant. The whole Law undergoes this change and continues in this transformed state until the final consummation of God's Kingdom.
Following the groundwork an exegetical process is begun, including examination of the grammar and syntax of Matthew 5:17- 20, the various contexts, historical and cultural, and the surrounding contexts of the periscope. Also included is a brief analysis of the treatment of and attitude toward the Law by the various New Testament writers. The resultant interpretation of the passage is consistent with the overall interpretational framework, that is, that the Law has not been abolished and continues to serve a useful function in the church, the believer, and the world, but in a transformed sense. The Law of Moses must remain a valid expression of God's will and cannot be thought of as imperfect. But because of the fundamental salvation historical changes, the Law also undergoes changes in its jurisdiction, uses, and applicability to specific situations. For the Law to be fulfilled means to be transformed. The essential kernel remains though the culturally-specific shell becomes irrelevant and non-applicable in certain situations, although, since none of the Law is abolished it may (permissive, not mandatory) be used so long as its use does not attempt to mediate the salvation of men in any way.