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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 6: Matthew 5:21-7:29, by Kevin M. Williams

This also seems compliant with Paul’s teaching, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Anyone seeking justification through acts of the Torah or the traditions of man fail to understand what Yeshua was teaching in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Torah, the Bible, is less about what we do and far more about what we are.

An interesting exercise might be to examine what a traditional, Orthodox Jewish rabbi might have to say about the fifth chapter of Matthew. Fortunately, we have such a rabbi upon which to draw. Jacob Neusner is a rabbi of distinguished acclaim with over 500 books on Judaism bearing his name. He is one of a handful of rabbis within Orthodox Judaism permitted to read the New Testament. His goal is not to accept or refute the messianic claims of Yeshua, but to use the New Testament as a tool to understand Judaism in the 1st and 2nd Centuries. Here are just a few examples of how this modern sage—a man outside the Christian faith—reads and understands Yeshua’s words:

Here is where he tells people how things are, what they should do, how God wants us to live. And Jesus’ torah is substantial and, by his own word, controversial too. So he invites arguments and opens the way to contention, as every teacher does who wants to change people’s minds—not to say, their lives too.

When we first hear from Jesus, rather than merely about him, he is telling people about God’s kingdom. This is for me a homely concern, one that the Torah has made mine too. When I accept the yoke of commandments of the Torah and do them, I accept God’s rule. I live in the kingdom of God, which is to say, in the dominion of Heaven, here on earth. That is what it means to live a holy life: to live by the will of God in the here and now.

By way of assurance, I hear, “Think not that I have come to abolish the Torah and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” And what this must mean is that if there is rejection or persecution it is not because anything I hear from him conflicts with what I hear from Sinai.

It is right and proper, therefore, for this sage both to receive but also to hand on meaning, to take over the heritage of Sinai, and also to hand over to the next generation something that this sage has added to the heritage of Sinai.

We have to distinguish the substance of what Jesus is saying from the form that he gives to his statements. The message justifies my confidence but, of course, leaves me more puzzled than ever about what can be controversial in what are wise and deep readings of Torah-statements: a torah—the teaching of a master—that finds a comfortable place in the Torah—the revelation of God to Moses and Mount Sinai, a revelation that makes a place for the teaching of acknowledged sages through all of time. For what Jesus accomplishes in these saying is to point at the center and heart of the Torah’s message.7

One of contemporary Judaism’s most prolific and respected teachers does not realize any conflict with what Yeshua taught about the Law and what his own faith professes.8 For him, there is no conflict. For him, he brings the Torah to fulfillment in a Hebraic context.

Yet many Christians today feel the Torah’s instructions are incompatible with a faith in Yeshua. If Rabbi Neusner is any example, the promised Messiah of Israel still speaks to the heart of Hebrews!


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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2002

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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