Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Examples of Jesus Interpreting the Torah in Accordance with Justice

In my latest reading of Hans Dieter Betz's commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Betz talks about how Jesus (meaning the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount) was interpreting the Torah in a direction that accorded with justice. Jesus banned divorce, except in cases of fornication, because that would prevent adultery. Since Jesus did not believe that divorce nullified the marriage in the eyes of God, he regarded the divorced woman as still married, and so she was committing adultery when she slept with a man other than her husband, and she was causing the man she was sleeping with to commit adultery because he was having sex with another man's wife. Jesus nipped that in the bud by declaring that divorce was a sin. Jesus prohibited oaths because, when there is no oath, there is no violation of the oath, and so Jesus' interpretation of the law, again, was preventing infractions. And Jesus was consistent with the Torah when he prohibited retaliation against evil-doers. For Betz, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount was interpreting the Torah, not devising a new law. And yet, there are all sorts of ways to interpret the Torah. And so Betz says that Jesus was not just interpreting the Torah, but he was doing so in a manner that conformed the Torah with justice, which was independent of the Torah.

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