In continuation of the question of the relationship of the Gospel of Matthew – both the Gospel itself and its anonymous author – to Judaism, I lift from something I wrote somewhere else at some point a while back:


Contrary to what many Christians have thought throughout the ages, for Matthew following Jesus does *not* mean abandoning Judaism and joining a new religion that is opposed to it. It is worth observing that even some Christians in Matthew’s own day appear to have thought that this is what Jesus had in mind, that is, that he sought to overturn the law of Moses in his preaching about the way of God. For Matthew, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The keynote of the sermon is struck soon after the Beatitudes in the striking statement, found only in this Gospel:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all is fulfilled. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (5:17-20).

In Matthew, Jesus is not opposed to the law of Moses.  He himself fulfills it, as seen in the important events in his birth, life, and death, events that are said to be “fulfillments” of the prophecy of Scripture.  But even more, Jesus in Matthew requires his followers to fulfill the law as well, in fact, to fulfill it even better than the Jewish leaders, the scribes and the Pharisees.  Matthew indicates what he means by this difficult saying in the very next passage, the famous “Antitheses” (5:21-48).


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