Matthew 5:21-48

How Jesus Used the Old Testament in Matthew 5:21-48 (Part 2)

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Fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets includes the prediction that the New Covenant would replace the older Mosaic Covenant.

This does not mean Jesus’ New Covenant instruction is contrary to what Moses said. While God’s moral standards existed before the Mosaic Law was given in Exodus 20, the Mosaic Law represented God’s moral standards for the era between Moses and Jesus. And we should expect continuity of God’s moral standards across human history. This is true for both the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ. But a new era arrived in Jesus and with it a New Covenant and it requirements. Just as Jesus’ superior priesthood has superseded the Aaronic priesthood (see Hebrews 7-8), so too Jesus and the New Covenant supersede Moses and the Law of Moses. 

In sum, with Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus is the ultimate Prophet and Lawgiver who now declares a transition from Moses and the Mosaic Covenant to Himself and the New Covenant. An epochal transition has occurred (see 2 Cor. 3:6-11). This development was not unforeseen. Moses himself predicted a coming Prophet to whom the people would listen (see Deut. 18:15, 18), and that prophet arrived with Jesus (see Acts 3:22-23).

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How Jesus Used the Old Testament in Matthew 5:21-48 (Part 1)

With Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus quoted the OT seven times. Six of these involve an OT command from the Law of Moses followed by the statement “But I say to you .  .  .” A seventh concerns a statement that Jerusalem is “the city of the great King,” a reference to Psalm 48:2 in Matthew 5:35. This latter example, from Psalm 48:2, is a contextual affirmation of the significance of Jerusalem. Our attention, though, focuses on the other six uses of the OT. These reveal how Jesus viewed himself in relation to the Law of Moses. These six uses of the OT by Jesus are:

You have heard … “‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ … But I say to you … .” (NASB, Matt. 5:21-22; quotation of Exodus 20:13).

You have heard that it was said, “‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you… .” (Matt. 5:27-28; quotation of Exodus 20:14).

“It was said, “‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you… .” (Matt. 5:31-32; quotation of Deut. 24:1).

Again, you have heard … “‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you… .” (Matt. 5:33-34; allusion to Lev. 19:12; Deut. 23:21).

You have heard that it was said, “‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you… .” (Matt. 5:38-39; quotation of Exod. 21:24).

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