Jesus and the Jewish sages Part 1

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:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
He who is merciful to men, toward him God is merciful in heaven. (b. Shabbat 151b)

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
You must not suppose that only he who has committed the crime with his body is called an adulterer, if he commits adultery with his eyes he is also called an adulterer. (Leviticus Rabbah 23:12

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:37)
The ‘Yes’ of the righteous is a yes, and the ‘No’ of the righteous is no… (Ruth Rabbah 7:6)

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)
Do not worry about tomorrow’s trouble, for you do not know what the day will bring. Tomorrow may come and a man will be no more so he has worried about a world which never belonged to him. (b. Yevamot 63b)

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?

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