Matthew 5:17
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
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(17) Here a new section of the discourse begins, and is carried on to the end of the chapter. From the ideal picture of the life of the society which He came to found, our Lord passes to a protest against the current teaching of the scribes, sometimes adhering to the letter and neglecting the spirit, sometimes overriding even the letter by unauthorised traditions—lowering the standard of righteousness to the level of men’s practices, instead of raising their practices to the standard which God had fixed.

Think not that I am come.—The words imply that men had begun so to think. The Teacher who came preaching repentance, but also promising forgiveness, was supposed to be what in later times has been called Antinomian, attacking the authority of the two great channels through which the will of God had been revealed. “The Law and the prophets” were popularly equivalent to the whole of the Old Testament, though a strict classification required the addition of the Hagiographa, or “holy writings,” i.e., the poetical and miscellaneous books.

I am not come.—Better, I came not. The words might be naturally used by any teacher conscious of a mission, but they gain a new meaning when we remember that He who so spake was emphatically “He that should come;” that “He came into the world” not in the same sense as other men, but in a manner absolutely His own.

Not . . . to destroy, but to fulfil.—Explained by the immediate context, the words would seem to point chiefly to our Lord’s work as a teacher. He came to fill up what was lacking, to develop hints and germs of truth, to turn rules into principles. Interpreted on a wider scale, He came to “fulfil the Law and prophets,” as He came “to fulfil all righteousness” (3:15) by a perfect obedience to its precepts, to fulfil whatever in it was typical of Himself and His work by presenting the realities. The further thought that He came to fulfil what are called the Messianic prophecies hardly comes within the range of the words. No one could dream for a moment that the Christ could do anything else, and throughout the whole discourse there is no reference to those predictions. The prophets are named, partly in conformity with usage, partly in their character as ethical teachers, expounding and spiritualising the Law, and preparing the way for a further and fuller development.

It may be noted as a singular instance of the boldness of some of the early heretics, that Marcion, who rejected the Old Testament altogether, maintained that these words had been altered by the Judaisers of the apostolic age, and that the true reading was, “Think ye that I came to fulfil the Law or the prophets? I came not to fulfil, but to destroy.”

Matthew 5:17. Think not that I am come to destroy — To abrogate, annul, or repeal, (which seems to be the meaning of the word καταλυσαι, here,) the law or the prophets — As your teachers do. It is manifest from the following discourse, that our Lord principally spake of the moral law, several of the precepts of which he afterward explains and vindicates from the corrupt glosses of the scribes and Pharisees. For, as to the ceremonial law, though he also came to fulfil it, as the great antitype in whom all the types of it had their accomplishment; yet he came to abrogate and repeal it, blotting out and nailing to his cross the hand-writing of ordinances, as the apostle speaks, Colossians 2:14. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil — He fulfilled in himself all those predictions of the prophets which had been uttered Concerning the Messiah, and he explained, illustrated, and established the moral law, in its highest meaning, both by his life and doctrine; and by his merits and Spirit he provided, and still provides, for its being effectually fulfilled in and by his followers. Our Lord has taught us, that all the law and the prophets are comprehended in these two precepts, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c., and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, Matthew 22:40. St. Paul also informs us, that he who loves his neighbour as himself, hath fulfilled the law, Romans 13:8; and Galatians 5:14, that all the law is fulfilled in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; this love of our neighbour being only found in those who first love God, and being closely connected with, and indeed never separated from, the love of God. Now our Lord was manifested in the flesh, and made a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, that he might give us such a demonstration of his love, and the love of the Father to us and all mankind, as might produce in us those returns of love to God and man, which God should be pleased to accept as the fulfilling of the law. Therefore we read, Romans 8:4, That God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.5:17-20 Let none suppose that Christ allows his people to trifle with any commands of God's holy law. No sinner partakes of Christ's justifying righteousness, till he repents of his evil deeds. The mercy revealed in the gospel leads the believer to still deeper self-abhorrence. The law is the Christian's rule of duty, and he delights therein. If a man, pretending to be Christ's disciple, encourages himself in any allowed disobedience to the holy law of God, or teaches others to do the same, whatever his station or reputation among men may be, he can be no true disciple. Christ's righteousness, imputed to us by faith alone, is needed by every one that enters the kingdom of grace or of glory; but the new creation of the heart to holiness, produces a thorough change in a man's temper and conduct.Think not that I am come ... - Our Saviour was just entering on his work. It was important for him to state what he came to do. By his setting up to be a teacher in opposition to the scribes and Pharisees, some might charge him with an intention to destroy their law, and to abolish the customs of the nation. He therefore told them that he did not come for that end, but really to fulfill or accomplish what was in the law and the prophets.

To destroy - To abrogate; to deny their divine authority; to set people free from the obligation to obey them. "The law." The five books of Moses called the law. See the notes at Luke 24:44.

The Prophets - The books which the prophets wrote. These two divisions here seem to comprehend the Old Testament, and Jesus says that he came not to do away or destroy the authority of the Old Testament.

But to fulfil - To complete the design; to fill up what was predicted; to accomplish what was intended in them. The word "fulfill" also means sometimes "to teach" or "to inculcate," Colossians 1:25. The law of Moses contained many sacrifices and rites which were designed to shadow forth the Messiah. See the notes at Hebrews 9. These were fulfilled when he came and offered himself a sacrifice to God,

"A sacrifice of nobler name.

And richer blood than they."

The prophets contained many predictions respecting his coming and death. These were all to be fulfilled and fully accomplished by his life and his sufferings.

Mt 5:17-48. Identity of These Principles with Those of the Ancient Economy; in Contrast with the Reigning Traditional Teaching.

Exposition of Principles (Mt 5:17-20).

17. Think not that I am come—that I came.

to destroy the law, or the prophets—that is, "the authority and principles of the Old Testament." (On the phrase, see Mt 7:12; 22:40; Lu 16:16; Ac 13:15). This general way of taking the phrase is much better than understanding "the law" and "the prophets" separately, and inquiring, as many good critics do, in what sense our Lord could be supposed to meditate the subversion of each. To the various classes of His hearers, who might view such supposed abrogation of the law and the prophets with very different feelings, our Lord's announcement would, in effect, be such as this—"Ye who tremble at the word of the Lord, fear not that I am going to sweep the foundation from under your feet: Ye restless and revolutionary spirits, hope not that I am going to head any revolutionary movement: And ye who hypocritically affect great reverence for the law and the prophets, pretend not to find anything in My teaching derogatory to God's living oracles."

I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil—Not to subvert, abrogate, or annul, but to establish the law and the prophets—to unfold them, to embody them in living form, and to enshrine them in the reverence, affection, and character of men, am I come.

There are so many adversaries, Jews, papists, Socinians, Anabaptists, Antinomians, &c., that make their advantages of this text, for the establishing their several errors, that it would require a volume to vindicate it from their several exceptions; those who desire satisfaction may read Spanhemius Dub. Evang. 12.3. The plain sense of the text is this: It would have been a great cavil, with the Jews especially, (who had a great reverence for the law), if either our Saviour’s enemies amongst them could have persuaded people that Christ came to destroy the law and the prophets, or his own hearers had entertained from his discourse any such apprehensions. Our Saviour designing, in his following discourse, to give a more full and strict interpretation of the law than had been given by the Pharisees and other Jewish doctors, prefaces that discourse with a protestation against his coming

to destroy the law, and averring that he came

to fulfil it. It is manifest, by his following discourse, that he principally spake of the moral law, though he also fulfilled the ceremonial law, he being the Antitype in whom all the types of that had their complement, and real fulfilling and accomplishment. Saith he, I am not come to destroy and put an end to the moral law. I am come to fulfil it: not to fill it up, as papists and Socinians contend, adding any new precept to it; but by yielding myself a personal obedience to it, by giving a fuller and stricter interpretation of it than you have formerly had, and by taking the curse of it (so far as concerneth my disciples) upon myself, and giving a just satisfaction to Divine justice for it. The greatest objection urged against Christ destroying part of the law, and adding new precepts to the moral law, is that about the change of the sabbath; but this is none, if we consider that the moral law required no more than one day of seven to be kept as a day of holy rest, not this or that particular day; for the particular day, the Jews learned it from the ceremonial law, as Christians learn theirs from Christ’s and the apostles’ practice. Nor is it any objection against this, that the seventh day from the creation is mentioned in the law, to those who know how to distinguish between the precept and the argument; the seventh from the creation is not in the precept, but in the argument, For in six days, & c. Now there is nothing more ordinary than to have arguments of a particular temporary concernment used to enforce precepts of an eternal obligation, where the precepts were first given to that particular people, as to whom those arguments were of force, an instance of which is in the first commandment, as well as in this: as, on the other side, arguments of universal force are oft annexed to precepts, which had but a particular obligation upon a particular people for a time. Thus in the ceremonial law, we often find it is an argument to enforce many ceremonial precepts, For I am the Lord thy God. Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets,.... From verse 3 to the 10th inclusive, our Lord seems chiefly to respect the whole body of his true disciples and followers; from thence, to the 16th inclusive, he addresses the disciples, whom he had called to be ministers of the word; and in this "verse", to the end of his discourse, he applies himself to the whole multitude in general; many of whom might be ready to imagine, that by the light of the Gospel, he was giving his disciples instructions to spread in the world, he was going to set aside, as useless, the law of Moses, or the prophets, the interpreters of it, and commentators upon it. Christ knew the thoughts of their hearts, that they had taken up such prejudices in their minds against him; wherefore he says, "think not"; he was sensible what objections they were forming, and what an improvement they would make of them against his being the Messiah, and therefore prevents them, saying,

I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. By "the law" is meant the moral law, as appears from the whole discourse following: this he came not to "destroy", or loose men's obligations to, as a rule of walk and conversation, but "to fulfil" it; which he did doctrinally, by setting it forth fully, and giving the true sense and meaning of it; and practically, by yielding perfect obedience to all its commands, whereby he became "the end", the fulfilling end of it. By "the prophets" are meant the writings of the prophets, in which they illustrated and explained the law of Moses; urged the duties of it; encouraged men thereunto by promises; and directed the people to the Messiah, and to an expectation of the blessings of grace by him: all which explanations, promises, and prophecies, were so far from being made void by Christ, that they receive their full accomplishment in him. The Jews (t) pretend that these words of Christ are contrary to the religion and faith of his followers, who assert, that the law of Moses is abolished; which is easily refuted, by observing the exact agreement between Christ and the Apostle Paul, Romans 3:31 and whenever he, or any other of the apostles, speaks of the abrogation of the law, it is to be understood of the ceremonial law, which in course ceased by being fulfilled; or if of the moral law, not of the matter, but of the ministry of it. This passage of Christ is cited in the Talmud (u), after this manner:

"it is written in it, i.e. in the Gospel, "I Aven", neither to diminish from the law of Moses am I come, "but", or "nor" (for in the Amsterdam edition they have inserted between two hooks), to add to the law of Moses am I come.''

Which, with their last correction, though not a just citation, yet tolerably well expresses the sense; but a most blasphemous character is affixed to Christ, when they call him "Aven"; which signifies "iniquity" itself, and seems to be a wilful corruption of the word "Amen", which begins the next "verse".

(t) R. Isaac Chizuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 10. p. 401. (u) T. Bab. Sabbat. fol. 116. 2.

{3} Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but {g} to fulfil.

(3) Christ did not come to bring any new way of righteousness and salvation into the world, but indeed to fulfil that which was shadowed by the figures of the Law, by delivering men through grace from the curse of the Law: and moreover to teach the true use of obedience which the Law appointed, and to engrave in our hearts the power for obedience.

(g) That the prophecies may be accomplished.

Matthew 5:17.[399] A connection with what precedes is not to be artificially sought out. Jesus breaks off and introduces the new section without any intermediate remarks, which corresponds, precisely to its pre-eminent importance (for He shows how the Christian δικαιοσύνη, having its root in that of the Old Testament, is its consummation). On μὴ νομίς. ὅτι ἠλθ., comp. Matthew 10:34.

] never stands for ΚΑΊ (see Winer, p. 410 [E. T. 549 f.]; comp. on 1 Corinthians 11:27), but is always distinctive. Here, to abrogate the one or the other. I have to abrogate neither that nor this. The νόμος is the divine institute of the law, which has its original document in the Pentateuch. The further Old Testament revelation, in so far as its final aim is the Messiah and His work, is represented by οἱ προφῆται, who make up its principal part; accordingly, Ὁ ΝΌΜΟς and οἱ προφῆται summarily denote the whole Old Testament revelation (comp. Luke 16:6), partly as a living divine economy, as here; partly as γραφή, as in Luke 24:27; Acts 24:14; Acts 28:23; Romans 3:21. Moreover, in the expression tow ΤΟῪς ΠΡΟΦΉΤΑς we are not to think of their predictions as such (the Greek Fathers, Augustine, Beza, Calovius, and others; also Tholuck, Neander, Harnaek, Bleek, Lechler, Schegg, and others), as nobody could imagine that their abrogation was to be expected from the Messiah, but, as the connection with νόμος shows (and comp. Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:40; Luke 16:29), and as is in keeping with the manner in which the idea is carried out in the following verses, their contents as commands, in which respect the prophets have carried on the development of the law in an ethical manner (Ritschl, altkath. Kirche, p. 36 f.). In νόμος, however, to think merely of the moral law is erroneous, as it always signifies the entire law, and the distinction between the ritualistic, civil, and moral law is modern; comp. on Romans 3:20. If, afterwards, sentences are given from the moral law, yet these are only quotations by way of illustration from the whole, from which, however, the moral precepts very naturally suggested themselves for quotations, because the idea of righteousness is before the mind. He has fulfilled the entire law, and in so doing has not destroyed the slightest provision of the ritualistic or civil code, so far as its general moral idea is concerned, but precisely everything which the law prescribes is raised to an ideal, of which the old legal commands are only στοιχεῖα. Theophylact well illustrates the matter by the instance of a silhouette, which the painter Οὐ ΚΑΤΑΛΎΕΙ, but carries out to completion, ἀναπληροῖ.

καταλῦσαι] often employed by classical writers to denote the dissolution of existing constitutions (specially also of the abrogation of laws, Isocr. p. 129 E; Polyb. iii. 8. 2), which are thereby rendered non-existent and invalid; comp. 2Ma 2:22; John 7:23; also ΝΌΜΟΝ ΚΑΤΑΡΓΕῖΝ, Romans 3:31; ἈΘΕΤΕῖΝ, Hebrews 10:28; Galatians 3:15.

The ΠΛΉΡΩΣΙς of the law and the prophets is their fulfilment by the re-establishment of their absolute meaning, so that now nothing more is wanting to what they ought to be in accordance with the divine ideas which lie at the foundation of their commands. It is the perfect development of their ideal reality out of the positive form, in which the same is historically apprehended and limited. So substantially, Luther, Calvin (comp. before them Chrysostom; he, however, introduces what is incongruous), Lightfoot, Hammond, Paulus, Gratz, de Wette, Olshausen, Ritschl, Ewald, Weiss, Hilgenfeld; likewise Schleiermacher, L. J. p. 314 ff., and others. Comp. Tholuck (who, however, brings together the too varying elements of different explanations), also Kahnis, Dogmat. I, p. 474, who understands it as the development of what is not completed into something higher, which preserves the substance of the lower. This explanation, which makes absolute the righteousness enjoined and set forth in the law and the prophets, is converted into a certainty by the two verses that follow. The matter is represented by πληρ. as a making complete (John 15:11; 2 Corinthians 10:6), in opposition to καταλῦσαι, which expresses the not allowing the thing to remain. Others (Bretschneider, Fritzsche): facere quae de Messia pre-scripta sunt; others (Käuffer, B. Crusius, Bleek, Lechler, Weizsäcker, after Beza, Eisner, Vorst, Wolf, and many older interpreters): legi satisfacere, as in Romans 13:8, where, in reference to the prophets, πληρ. is taken in the common sense of the fulfilment of the prophecies (see specially, Euth. Zigabenus, Calovius, and Bleek), but thereby introducing a reference which is not merely opposed to the context (see Matthew 5:18 f.), but also an unendurable twofold reference of πληρ.[400] Luther well says: “Christ is speaking of the fulfilment, and so deals with doctrines, in like manner as He calls ‘destroying’ a not acting with works against the law, but a breaking off from the law with the doctrine.” The fulfilling is “showing the right kernel and understanding, that they may learn what the law is and desires to have.”

I did not come to destroy, but to fulfil; the object is understood of itself, but the declaration delivered in this general way is more solemn without the addition of the pronoun.

[399] Special writings upon the passage:—Baumgarten, doctrina J. Ch. de lege Mos. ex oral. mont. 1838; Harnack, Jesus d. Christ oder der Erfüller d. Gesetzes, 1842; J. E. Meyer, über d. Verhältn. Jesu und seiner Jünger zum alttest. Gesetz. 1853. See especially, Ritschl, altkathol. K. p. 35 ff.; Bleek in d. Stud. u. Krit. 1853, p. 304; Lechler, ibidem, 1854, p. 787 ff.; Weiss, ibidem, 1858, p. 50 ff., and bibl. Theol. § 27; Ewald, Jahrb. X. p. 114 ff. The collection of sayings is to be simply regarded as the source of this section, not any special treatise upon the position of Jesus towards that law (Holtzmann); comp. Weiss in d. Stud. u. Krit. 1864, p. 56 f.

[400] Vitringa, who compares נמר, even brings out the meaning “to expound.” The explanation of Kuinoel goes back to the legi satisfacere, but gives as meaning, docendo vivendoque stabilire. Comp. Keim, “to teach the law, to do it, and to impose it.” The older dogmatic exegetes, who explained it by satisfacere, here found the satisfactio activa. See, for example, Er. Schmid and Calovius; recently, Philippi, vom thät. Gehors. Chr. p. 34; Baumgarten, p. 15. On the other hand, B. Crusius and also Tholuck. According to Bleek, p. 304, Christ has fulfilled the moral law by His sinless life, the ceremonial law by His sacrificial death, by means of which the prophecies also are fulfilled. According to Lechler, Jesus fulfils the law as doer, by His holy life and sacrificial death; as teacher, in teaching mankind rightly to understand and fulfil the commandments.


The Apostle Paul worked quite in the sense of our passage; his writings are full of the fulfilment of the law in the sense in which Christ means it; and his doctrine of its abrogation refers only to its validity for justification to the exclusion of faith. It is without any ground, therefore, that this passage, and especially Matthew 5:18 f., have been regarded by Baur (neutest. Theol. p. 55) as Judaistic, and supposed not to have proceeded in this form from Jesus, whom, rather in opposition to the higher standpoint already gained by Him, (Schenkel), the Apostle Matthew has apprehended and edited in so Judaistic a manner (Köstlin, p. 55 f.), or the supposed Matthew has made to speak in so anti-Pauline a way (Gfrörer, h. Sage, II. p. 84); according to Hilgenfeld, in his Zeitschr. 1867, p. 374, Matthew 5:17 is indeed original, but in accordance with the view of the Hebrew gospel; Matthew 5:18 f., however, is an anti-Pauline addition; Weizsäcker sees in Matthew 5:19 only an interpolation; but Schenkel finds in Matthew 5:18 f. the proud assertion of the Pharisee, not Jesus’ own conviction. Paul did not advance beyond this declaration (comp. Planck in d. theol. Jahrb. 1847, p. 268 ff.), but he applied his right understanding boldly and freely, and in so doing the breaking up of the old form by the new spirit could not but necessarily begin, as Jesus Himself clearly recognised (comp. Matthew 9:16; John 4:21; John 4:23 f.) and set forth to those who believed in His own person and His completed righteousness (comp. Ritschl). But even in this self-representation of Christ the new principle is not severed from the O. T. piety, but is the highest fulfilment of the latter, its anti-typical consummation, its realized ideal. Christianity itself is in so far a law. Comp. Wittichen, p. 328; Holtzmann, p: 457 f.; Weizsäcker, p. 348 f.; see also on Romans 3:27; Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21.

Matthew 5:17-48. Messianic fulfilment of the law by the setting forth of which Jesus now, after He had made clear to the disciples their high destiny, desired to establish, before all other things the relation of Sis ministry to the religion of the Old Testament, introducing it, indeed, with μὴ νομίσητε, κ.τ.λ.; because the thought of an abrogation of the law by the Messiah (which was actually current among the Jews, upon the basis of Jeremiah 31:31, see Gfrörer, Jahrh. d. Heils, II. p. 341), and therewith a renewal of religion from the very foundation, might easily suggest itself so as to become highly injurious, and might give to the work of the disciples themselves an altogether perverted direction, as it was, moreover, maliciously laid hold of by their enemies in order to accuse the Lord (Matthew 26:61) and His disciples (Acts 6:14; Acts 21:21). The more designedly Jesus introduces and carries through this part (of His discourse), the less does it suffice to assume the occasion thereto as arising from the law retiring into the background in His daily life, and from a neglect of the law thus inferred (Keim); or from this, that Jesus was accustomed to set out, not from the law, but from the universal truths of faith, from testimonies of nature and life (Weizsäcker, p. 346). In this way the twice sharply emphasized “destroy” especially would appear altogether out of proportion.Matthew 5:17-20. Jesus defines His position. At the period of the Teaching on the Hill Jesus felt constrained to define His ethical and religious position all round, with reference to the O. T. as the recognised authority, and also to contemporary presentations of righteousness. The disciples had already heard Him teach in the synagogues (Matthew 4:23) in a manner that at once arrested attention and led hearers to recognise in Him a new type of teacher (Mark 1:27), entirely different from the scribes (Mark 1:22). The sentences before us contain just such a statement of the Teacher’s attitude as the previously awakened surprise of His audiences would lead us to expect. There is no reason to doubt their substantial authenticity though they may not reproduce the precise words of the speaker; no ground for the suggestion of Holtzmann (H. C.) that so decided a position either for or against the law was not likely to be taken up in Christ’s time, and that we must find in these vv. and anti-Pauline programme of the Judaists. At a first glance the various statements may appear inconsistent with each other. And assuming their genuineness, they might easily be misunderstood, and give rise to disputes in the apostolic age, or be taken hold of in rival interests. The words of great epoch-making men generally have this fate. Though apparently contradictory they might all proceed from the many-sided mind of Jesus, and be so reported by the genial Galilean publican in his Logia. The best guide to the meaning of the momentous declaration they contain is acquaintance with the general drift of Christ’s teaching (vide Wendt, Die Lehre Jesu, ii., 330). Verbal exegesis will not do much for us. We must bring to the words sympathetic insight into the whole significance of Christ’s ministry. Yet the passage by itself, well weighed, is more luminous than at first it may seem.B. The Kingdom of Heaven is a fulfilment of the law, Matthew 5:17-48. Stated generally, Matthew 5:17-20.

17. I am come …] Lit. I came.Matthew 5:17. Μὴ νομίσητε, Do not think) An elliptical mode of speech by Metonomy of the Consequent.[182] Do not think, fear, hope, that I am a teacher like those teachers to whom you have been accustomed, and that I, like them, shall set aside the law. He who thinks the former, thinks also the latter.—ἦλθον, I have come) Our Lord, therefore, existed before He came upon earth, which is implied also in ch. Matthew 8:10, by εὖρον, I have found.—καταλῦσαι, to destroy, to abrogate) To the compound verb, καταλύειν, to unloose or dissolve, is opposed πληροῦν, to fulfil; to the simple verb λύειν, to loose, combined with διδάσκειν, to teach, is opposed ποιεῖν, to do, or perform, joined with the same verb διδάσκειν: from which the relative force of the words appears; those are said of the whole law, these of the separate precepts. καταλύειν, to unloose, and λύειν, to loose, both signify to render void.[183]—τὸν νόμον ἤ τοὺς προφήτας, the law or the prophets) Many of the Jews esteemed the prophets less than the law. They are joined also in ch. Matthew 7:12.—πληρῶσαι, to fulfil) By My deeds and words, to effect that all things should be fulfilled which the law requires. See the conclusion of the next verse.[184] The Rabbins acknowledge that it is a sign of the Messiah to fulfil the whole law.

[182] The consequent—that I, like them, shall set aside the law: the antecedent—that I am a teacher like those to whom you are accustomed.—(I. B.)

[183] The Latin verb solvo, which is used in this passage, represents the Greek λύω far more fully and accurately than any English word can. καταλύω is also more adequately rendered by dissolvo than by any English word.—(I. B.)

[184] He was not the founder of a new law; but, by His own obedience, Himself fulfilled the law, and showed how it should be fulfilled by His disciples.—Vers. Germ.Verse 17- Matthew 6:18. - Having spoken of the ideal character of his disciples (vers. 3-10), and of their need of allowing that character to appear (vers. 11-16), our Lord turns to speak of the position that they should hold towards the religion of the day (ver. 17 - Matthew 6:18), of which the Law was the accepted standard. Verses 17-20. -

(1) With this aim he first states summarily and in nucleus the position that he himself holds towards the Law - a statement which was the more necessary as he had already (ver. 11) claimed to be the object of his disciples' devotion. Verse 17. - Matthew only. Think not. Probably the tendency of his teaching was even already seen to be so different from that of the recognized authorities, that some had in consequence formed this opinion (νομίζω) of him which he now repudiates, and which was near akin to the basis of the charge formulated afterwards against St. Stephen (Acts 6:14). In both cases the tendency of the new teaching (Mark 1:27) to abolish temporary forms was perceived by at least those whose powers of perception were quickened through their opposition. That I am come; Revised Version, that I came (ὅτι η΅λθον). Our Lord, both here and in the next clause, lays stress on his coming as an historic fact. The primary reference is probably to his coming forth from private life (cf. John 1:31). Yet in his own mind there may have been a further allusion to his coming from above (cf. John 8:14; and further, Matthew 10:34). To destroy. The connexion between καταλῦσαι here and λύσῃ ver. 19 (vide note) is lost in the English. The Law or the Prophets. The Phrase,'" the law and the prophets," is sometimes used as practically equivalent to the whole of the Old Testament (Matthew 7:12; John 1:45; Romans 3:21; cf. Matthew 11:13; Matthew 22:40; Acts 24:14),and our Lord means probably much the same here, the "or" distributing the καταλῦσαι (cf. Alford), and being used because of the negative. Such a distribution, however, though it could not have been expressed in an affirmative sentence, has for its background the consciousness of a difference in the nature of these two chief components of the Old Testament. Observe that the third part of the Hebrew Scriptures, "the (Holy) Writings" - of which 'Psalms' (Luke 24:44) form the most characteristic portion - is omitted in this summary reference to the Old Testament. The reason may be either that of the three parts it was used less than the other two as a basis for doctrine and for rule of life, or that it was practically included in the Prophets (Acts 2:30). The essential teaching of the Law may be distinguished from that of the Prophets by saying that, while the Law was the direct revelation of God's will as law for the people's daily life - personal, social, and national - the Prophets (including the historical books and the prophets proper) were rather the indirect revelation of his will for them under the fresh circumstances into which they came; this indirect revelation being seen more especially in God's providential guidance of the nation, and in his explanation of principles of worship, as well as in occasional predictions of the future. It is to his relation to the Prophets in this connexion, as an indirect revelation of God's will under changing circumstances (cf. Weiss) that our Lord here chiefly refers. For he is led to speak of his own relation to them from the bearing that this has on the conduct of his disciples. Many, however (e.g. Chrysostom), consider that he is thinking of his relation to them as containing predictions concerning himself. In answer to this it is not sufficient to say (Meyer, Weiss, Alford) that it was impossible that Messiah could be thought to abrogate the Prophets; for, in fact, to many Jews during his ministry (even if not at this early stage of it), and much more to Jews at the time when the evangelist recorded the words, our Lord must have seemed to contradict the predictions about himself as they were then understood. It is indeed true that the prima facie ground that existed for thinking that our Lord's teaching was opposed, not merely to the religion of the day as dependent on the Law and the Prophets, but also to the predictions of Messiah contained in them, is enough to give a certain plausibility to this interpretation. But that is all. The absence in the context of any hint that he refers to his relation to predictions as such quite forbids our accepting it. It was probably derived solely from a misinterpretation of "fulfil" (vide infra), no regard being paid to the train of thought by which our Lord was led to speak of the subject at all. Our Lord says that he is not come to "destroy" the Prophets as exponents of the will of God. I am not come to destroy; emphasizing his statement by repetition. But to fulfil. By establishing the absolute and final meaning of the Law and the Prophets. Christ came not to abrogate the Law or the Prophets, but to satisfy them - to bring about in his own Person, and ultimately in the persons of his followers, that righteousness of life which, however limited by the historical conditions under which the Divine oracles had been delivered, was the sum and substance of their teaching. The fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets "is the perfect development of their ideal reality out of the positive form, in which the same is historically apprehended and limited" (Meyer). Martensen puts the matter thus: "How can he say that not a tittle shall pass from the Law, since the development of the Church shows us that the ceremonial law, that the whole Mosaic dispensation, has been annihilated by the influences proceeding from Christ? We answer: He has fulfilled the Law, whilst he has released it from the temporary forms in which its eternal validity was confined; he has unfolded its spiritual essence, its inward perfection. Not even a tittle of the ceremonial law has passed away, if we regard the Mosaic Law as a whole; for the ideas which form its basis, as the distinction between the unclean and the clean, are confirmed by Christ, and contained in the law of holiness which he teaches men" ('Christian Ethics: General,' § 125); cf. ver. 18, notes, "till heaven and earth pass," "till all be fulfilled." To destroy (καταλῦσαι)

Lit., to loosen down, dissolve; Wyc., undo.

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