Matthew 5:17 and The Beatitudes

I suppose we are all familiar with the Beatitudes, or as they are also known, the “Be-Attitudes”.

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Many are also familiar with Matthew 5:17, which is where Yeshua says he did not come to change the law, but fulfill it.

The problem with most traditional teaching is they end the verse here, but that is not the end of the verse- Yeshua went on to say nothing in the law will change, not a single stroke or yud until all things have come to pass. This part they like to leave out because it defeats the improper interpretation that Christianity has imposed on their members, that being that to fulfill the law meant it was completed, and thereby, done away with.

So let’s look at that verse in Matthew and identify the true meaning.

First off, whenever we interpret something from the Bible we need to use three tools of exegesis: Hermeneutics, Circles of Context, and the proper historical and cultural usage of the words and terms used.

Hermeneutics is, simply stated, the idea that whatever it says in the Bible here, it also says the same thing there, and everywhere. For example, we are told that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the one and only true God, which is confirmed, hermeneutically, because this is stated again and again throughout not just the Tanakh, but the entire Bible.

If, at some point, someone quoted a verse from the Bible and interpreted that as proving there was another God (not a man-made statue, but an honest-to-goodness real God different from Adonai) then, hermeneutically, we could argue against the validity of that interpretation.

The tool called Circles of Context means that when we interpret a verse or passage, it must be done so within the context of the sentence, the context of the paragraph, and of the entire passage.

With regard to the Epistles in the New Covenant, we also have to include the context of who is writing the letter, to whom, and why.

The third tool, proper cultural usage of the words and terms, brings us back to Matthew 5:17 and the word, “fulfill“.

During the First Century, when the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes talked about “fulfilling the law” it had nothing, whatsoever, to do with performance. It meant interpreting the law correctly.

Just as the use of the word “trespassing” with regard to the law had nothing to do with actually walking on someone’s property, but to misinterpret the law.

In the worst-case scenario, to trespass the law meant to sin.

In this message, I am saying my interpretation of Matthew 5:17 is that Yeshua said he came to properly interpret the law. And, that proper interpretation has nothing to do with performance but to give the people a deeper, spiritual understanding of the law.

Now, I have to justify that interpretation culturally, contextually, and hermeneutically.

Culturally, as I explained above, the word “fulfill” in this usage meant to interpret the law by teaching its spiritual meaning, and had nothing to do with the performance of the law.

Next, let’s look at the context of what Yeshua was saying. Matthew 5 begins with the Beatitudes, where he is telling the people that the meek and the humble will be blessed. Also, those who make peace and who suffer as a result of their pursuit of righteousness.

One very important (contextually, that is) statement Yeshua makes is Matthew 5:6, which says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will also be blessed. This is important because the use of “fulfill” as a spiritual understanding of the law would, by its very nature, make the desire to obey part of one’s inner being. It would be more than just performance, it would be a deep, spiritual desire: it would feel like a thirst and hunger to obey.

Lastly, a hermeneutic justification can be found in Jeremiah 31:33, where we are told that the Torah will be written on our hearts. As such, the desire to obey would be integral to our being, like our heart pumping blood or breathing.

Not only that, but in Matthew Yeshua goes on to teach about adultery and murder, stating that we heard it said not to do these things, but he went on to say we shouldn’t even WANT to do these things.

Yeshua also talks about how uncleanliness comes from the heart, not what we eat (Mark 7:18), again teaching the law from a spiritual understanding and not just some physical activity.

Can you see how the meaning of “fulfill” in Matthew 5:17 makes sense when we consider it to be the spiritual understanding of the law? Yeshua’s statement about fulfilling the law as meaning he will teach us the proper, spiritual understanding is demonstrated throughout his teaching during the Beatitudes and is confirmed by the prophecies in the Tanakh (Jeremiah 31:31 and Ezekiel 36:26), as well as Mark 7:18 and other places throughout the Gospels.

Hopefully, going forward when you hear people say that Yeshua completed and did away with the law in Matthew 5:17, you will be able to help them see the truth. Culturally, hermeneutically, and contextually it is obvious that Yeshua taught the Remes, the deeper, spiritual meaning and understanding of the Torah. That is why so many people said no one ever talked as he did, and that he talked like someone with authority.

There are three types of authority: legal, technical, and assumed.

Yeshua was the son of God and the Messiah- that covers the legal authority.

He knew the Torah, inside and out, and not just what it says but why it says it- that’s as technical as you can get.

And finally, he had an assumed authority because he did miracles that only someone empowered by God could do.

As you continue to study the Bible, no matter how long you have already been at it, if you aren’t already very familiar with the tools I have talked about today (and I would also include learning the Jewish system of exegesis called PaRDeS), then please go to my website and look under the Blogs tab called Series Teachings for a lesson I posted a while ago about how to properly interpret the Bible.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, buy my books and join my Facebook group called Just God’s Word (please make sure to read and agree to the rules).

That’s it for today so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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