The New Testament is often perceived as contradictory to the message that serves as the basis of the Old Testament. The conflict between Jewish officials and Jesus Christ in many of the gospels extricates the perception that the New Testament does not necessarily fall in line with the Old Testament. Jesus asks that we “not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5.17). While the teachings of Jesus Christ conflict with certain habituated beliefs of Jewish officials, his basic ideas are the logical evolution and fulfillment of the law of the Old Testament.
The initial contradiction between the new and old testaments lies in the goal set forth by Jesus and the goals established by leaders of the Jewish community. Because of the different interpretations held by Jesus and the rabbis, conflict necessarily arose and Jesus was criticized for changing the law. The Tractate Avot, which is also known as The Ethics of the Fathers, represents the commonly held beliefs of respected Jewish rabbis, describing how they envisioned the transmission of the Torah from Moses. These men believe the reward in following God’s word lies intrinsically in its virtue, whereas Jesus presents a case for external motivation. Antigonus of Sobo said, “Be not like servants who serve their master because of the expected reward, but be like those who serve a master without expecting a reward....” (Tractate Avot I.3). Here, Antigonus calls for abidance of the law, rejecting the notion of an extrinsic reward as cause for belief. Jesus on the other hand, declares that people “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…” (Matthew 5:12). Jesus’ notion of ...
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Jesus’ bold pronouncement in the New Testament that that he has come to fulfill the law may disagree with the rabbinic understanding of the Old Testament, but a more careful analysis demonstrates his adherence to the law of God and the law’s evolution over time. The initial promise of the Lord to the Israelites came in the form of mortal, tangible rewards. Jesus reveals the existence of something better, the eternal salvation that comes with strict faithfulness to the law. While his opinions caused a stir with the traditionalists of the Old Testament, Jesus truly upholds the same sense of justice that is of paramount importance to everyone who experiences the word of God.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
“The Tractate Avot” in Talmud: Selected Writings by Bokser, Ben Zion. Copyright 1989 by Paulist Press.
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