We may understand, on a practical level, the Jewishness of Jesus – but do we grasp how far and how conceptually deep that Jewishness goes? Would we be shocked to see the words of Jesus in comparison to the later mishnaic sages of rabbinic Judaism? What does it mean to understand the words and life of Jesus within a Jewish milieu or culture? Let’s compare a few passages from the gospel of Matthew to similar mishnaic writings:
How should we react to these conceptual similarities? If we see one aspect of the ministry of Jesus as a teacher and interpreter of Torah, operating in a Jewish, Torah-centric milieu, then we may see passages such as Matthew 5:17-18 in a different light:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes 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. Matthew 5:17-18 (ESV)
How should we view the relationship of Jesus to Torah in light of these similarities? How does this impact our view of the relationship of Paul to the Torah?