Sunday, October 03, 2010

Paul vs. Matthew: A Christian Conundrum

From Paul's letter to the Romans, circa 58 C.E., chapter 7, verse 6:

But now we are discharged from the Law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

From Matthew's Gospel, circa 85 C.E., from the lips of Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount, chapter 5, verses 17 to 20:

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 accomplished. 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.


Allen said...

I like that, "Christian Conundrum." I fell this may be an ongoing series ... Matthew, written for a Jewish audience who had already been living out the Torah, needed to hear that Jesus had come, not to throw out everything they'd been doing, just "full-fill" it. Romans, written by a Jewish Paul, but to a predominently Gentile audience, needing to hear that despite their unfamiliarity with the Torah, the Spirit was still working. But what about a modern audience? What role does the Law still play if any? Where is the fine line in that relationship between Faith & Works?

Scott said...

This would probably make a good series, although I hadn't actually had anything planned at this point.

In this brief post, I was really trying to make a statement about Biblical infallibility. The issue of whether Christians had to follow Jewish laws and customs was a huge one in the first few centuries of Christian history, and it is reflected not only in extra-canonical texts, but also within the New Testament canon itself.

Paul's view, of course, eventually won the theological battle. Jesus's view didn't.