GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
As you can see there is a lot to discuss. I tried to break it down to make it clear into five main points. I will look at the relationship between the old and new law and then each one of the antitheses. So let’s work through those one at a time. Number one. Jesus begins this section by saying that he has “not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” Now the standard Jewish name for the Scriptures at this time was The Law and The Prophets — that's how they referred to the two major portions of the Old Testament. This was a common name, they didn’t use the word Bible yet, but that's what Jesus means, he was referring to the Jewish Scriptures. So what he's saying here is that everything he is about to say, when he is going to set his teaching in opposition to Moses, isn’t intended to abolish the law of Moses, it's intended to fulfill the law of Moses. The Greek word there for fulfill, plēroō, literally means to make complete, to bring to perfection. So what Jesus is revealing here is he is showing us that there are aspects of the Old Testament that are not perfect. In other words, they are not what God ultimately wants for his people. They are, as we saw last time, like the Ten Commandments that were given at the bottom of the mountain. They were a standard of righteousness, but they were a lower standard of righteousness. Here Jesus wants to perfect that law of righteousness and bring the disciples up to the top of the mountain where he's going to give them the new law, the Gospel, that's not going to break the old law, but is going to transform it. It's going to transfigure, it's going to transcend it, and bring them up to the level of the kingdom of heaven.
That's what he means when he says that “their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.” That if it is not greater than that of the Pharisees — which we are at the level of the law of Moses at the bottom of the mountain — they will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
So this stands in stark contrast to a temptation that there has been throughout the history of the Church to reject the Old Testament.
This goes back to a heretic known as Marcion, who regarded the Old Testament as coming from a different God, a lesser God, than the New Testament.
The Church has always rejected that because Jesus rejected it.
He made very clear that his mission, the new law, is fulfilling the Old Testament, not abolishing it.
In fact when he says there, if you look at the verse, he says “not an iota, not a dot, will pass away until it's all accomplished.”
The word there for iota, he's referring to the Hebrew letter yod
which is a y, it's the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
And then we says not a dot will pass, the dot is a reference to a horn — it is called keraia
It is just like a tiny extra mark on the edge of certain letters.
So what Jesus is basically saying is not the smallest Hebrew letter and not even the smallest part of the Hebrew letter from the law and the prophets is going to pass away.
It's all inspired and it's all going to be accomplished, it’s all going to be fulfilled and he's going to be the one to fulfill it of course.
So that's the main point.
He's basically beginning with a caveat that the antitheses he is going to give are not undoing the law, they are fulfilling it.
With that said let’s work through each one of them.
The first antithesis has to do with anger and insults.
Basically what Jesus is teaching in this one is a contrast.
In the Old Testament, the book of Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments, Moses forbade murder.
“You shall not kill.”
In the new law of the Gospel, Jesus forbids anger and insults, so he goes far beyond murder to forbid anger and insults.
It is interesting in the passage here that I read that it says “whoever insults his brother” — that is the Revised Standard Version — but literally in the Greek it says “whoever says raca
to his brother shall be liable to the council.”
Now what does that mean?
Well we are not really quite sure. Raca
was an Aramaic word that seems to have meant something like brainless, numbskull, empty headed or worthless.
It was just an insult to say that someone was an idiot.
You can see that in the next insult too when Jesus says whoever says “you fool,” the Greek word there is mōre
and we get the word moron in English from that.
So these are insults that we would make against someone out of anger, where you would disrespect them and deride them because of the emotion of anger.
It would be like a curse.
In any case, what Jesus says is “anyone who says you fool shall be liable…” Now the RSV says to the “hell of fire.”
This one is a little tricky.
The New American Bible is better on this.
It says “liable to the Gehenna of fire.”
Gehenna is in fact the word in Greek.
It is a word that comes from the expression meaning the Valley of Hinnom.
Hinnom was a valley to the east of Jerusalem where many sacrifices, human sacrifices, and the pagan cults had once dwelt.
It was regarded as defiled and it was basically a garbage dump where they would burn trash and dung and other things there.
It was always on fire, was wreaking and smoking so it became a kind of earthly image for the realm of the damned, for the realm of spiritual fire and spiritual punishments.
So what Jesus is doing here is he is making clear that not only is murder a sin, but anger and insults, even they, are sinful and are liable to judgment.
Now I don't have time to go into this in depth in this video, but one thing I think is important to point out here is that in a first century Jewish context, Gehenna was not simply a realm that was populated by the fire of the damned.
Rabbis also would talk about Gehenna as a place of purgation, purification through fire, for people whose sins were less serious or less weighty and that it could be a temporary place of punishment before someone would enter into the life of the world to come.
In other words,
Gehenna was, in the Jewish tradition, a name for what we would call purgatory as Catholics, a place of spiritual purification that was temporary rather than permanent.
I think that you can see that in this passage here.
I think that's what Jesus means, although there is some debate about this in the tradition between different Church Fathers.
He also talks about going to prison and he says “you'll never get out until you've paid the last penny.”
Well if he was just talking about eternal damnation, it really wouldn’t make sense for him to say that because the damned never get out of the prison of hell, but it does make sense if he’s talking about what we call purgatory, because this would mean a place of punishment where you would pay the debt of lesser sins, like anger and insults, and that you will not enter into the kingdom until you’ve paid the last penny for the debt of those sins.
In any case, as Augustine pointed out in his commentary on this, we need to be clear that in this antithesis Jesus is not not forbidding the emotion of anger — like the involuntary movement of anger that we all experience when something bad happens.
What he is forbidding though is consent to that anger, consent to that emotion which would lead to us acting on the anger, either by insulting someone else or cursing someone else in outbursts and insults — to say nothing of striking someone else or murdering someone else, which is of course what was forbidden by Moses.
So what is Jesus doing here?
He is not undoing the law against murder in the Old Testament, he's driving it much more deep into the human heart and getting to the root cause of murder, which is ultimately wrath and anger and ill will, a desire to hurt someone else because they have done something wrong or because they've hurt us or whatever may be the cause.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
What is this passage talking about? What’s Paul talking about here? Well, as I mentioned in the beginning, he’s continuing this contrast between the worldly wisdom of philosophers—with which the people of Corinth would have been familiar just by virtue of being Greek—with the secret wisdom of God that Paul’s imparting here. And so the first thing I want to highlight here is, when Paul says the word wisdom, sophia
is just the standard Greek word for wisdom. But notice Paul describes Christianity here, in a sense, as a kind of philosophy. He has a wisdom to bring to them. But it’s not a worldly wisdom; it’s a secret wisdom. It’s not a wisdom of this age, but it’s a secret and hidden wisdom of God.
Now why do I make that first point? Well, the one reason I want to emphasize it is because this is not how we think about Christianity today. If you look at most Christian circles today, whether it be Catholic or Protestant...this is not true so much of Eastern Catholics, in Eastern Orthodox. But in the west in particular, we don’t tend to think of Christianity as having a secret wisdom. Did any of your catechism teachers ever tell you, “Okay, now I’m going to tell you the secret wisdom of the Church’s faith”? No. Because for so many of us, the faith is something that we receive from our parents...because our experience of faith is part of the local institution of the parish or the diocese or the Catholic school, those worldly institutions can sometimes give us the impression that Christianity is just one more religion, one more human expression of the religious search for God that happens to manifest itself in western Europe and western Christianity and the United States and western culture. And it’s one of many different traditions—faith traditions—that people have throughout the world, which happens to give allegiance to this man, Jesus of Nazareth...you know, the Christ.
We can think of Christianity as just another religion rather than a secret philosophy, a secret wisdom—that there’s some mysterious element to Christianity, that there’s something hidden about Christianity, that there’s something that’s imparted to the wise that not everybody in the world is going to understand. That’s how Paul conceptualized the Gospel. Of course, he always preached the Gospel to anyone who would hear it, but he also recognized that there were levels of understanding. And he’s going to get to this in the letter to the Corinthians...that some people are still at the level of infants. They have an understanding of the Gospel, but it’s pretty minimal; it’s pretty basic. They’re at the baby level, the infant level.
And then there are other people—as Paul mentions here—who are mature. And what he means by that is not just physically mature or intellectually mature. He means spiritually mature. He means that there are aspects of the Gospel that are so mysterious that you really can’t grasp them at the first stages of faith. They need to be imparted to you. You need to have a divine wisdom to grasp these supernatural mysteries—this secret wisdom, this hidden wisdom of God—which is, in a sense, infinitely superior and infinitely transcendent to the human wisdom of the philosophers of this world. And that’s what he wants to impart to the Corinthians. He wants to give them this wisdom of God that’s not of the wisdom of this world, but the secret and hidden wisdom of God which God decreed before all ages for our glorification.
So in other words, it’s similar to the mystery we’ve seen elsewhere Paul talk about. Something that God has been having as part of His plan for the beginning, but which only recently has been unveiled, has been revealed to those who have the eyes to see through supernatural faith.
Okay, so what is that wisdom? Notice what he says, second point:
...it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.
Alright, now buckle up here. I’m trying to keep myself to a minimum. I don't want to go too far. But whenever Paul uses the terminology “this age,” don’t blow past that too quickly. That is a technical term. It’s something that he’s drawing on the Judaism of his day and Jewish cosmology—in other words, just theology of the world—to refer to what I would call the “old creation.”
Okay, what do I mean? Well, as we’ll see over the course of our study of Paul, Paul operates out of a first century Jewish cosmology—a theology of the world—and then first century eschatology, an expectation of the end. And in Jewish eschatology, there was a concept of what scholars call “the two worlds” or “the two ages.” In rabbinic literature, the Hebrew expressions are “this age,” the ha olam haza
, this age….and then the “age to come,” ha olam habah.
It can also be translated as “this world” or “the world to come.” And “this age” or “this world” refers to the present sphere of reality, the visible creation—the heavens, the earth, the land, the sea, the sky, the stars—the visible world that we all live in, but which is fallen, which has sin in it, and which is under the power of wicked forces...like the demonic spirits within the world. That Jewish cosmology of “this age” speaks about this fallen world, this fallen universe.
But then there’s an expectation in Judaism that there is also a future age to come, the “age to come” or the “world to come,” which I refer to as the New Creation, in which God will take this fallen world and make it anew...into a new heavens and a new earth. And so what Paul is doing here is he’s introducing the Corinthians to this idea of “this age” and the fact that the rulers of this fallen age...they have a wisdom, yes, but they don’t understand the mystery of what God has in store for those who love Him. The mystery of the glorification that’s going to take place at the resurrection of the dead and in the New Creation.
So in standard Jewish eschatology, what the expectation was—just as a kind of basic rule—that this age would one day pass away to be replaced by the age or the world to come...and that world to come would be a new creation. And one of the expectations linked with that was the resurrection of the dead. In other words, there would be a final judgment and a final resurrection, and the righteous would live forever in their bodies in a new creation, in a new heavens and a new earth, which would be called the “world to come”—ha olam habah
So what Paul’s doing here in Corinthians is he’s saying to them, “Look, the rulers and the wise of this age, like the kings and the philosophers, they didn’t get it. They missed it. They didn’t understand who Jesus was. What I’m going to tell you is a secret wisdom, a truth that none of the rulers of this world understood, because if they had understood it…
...they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:8b)
Notice here, Paul doesn’t say, “they crucified Jesus of Nazareth” or even “they crucified the Christ.” He says they “crucified the Lord of glory.” And now the Greek word here for “Lord” is kyrios
. And this is the most frequently used term in the Jewish Old Testament and the Greek Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures—for God, for the Lord. So here Paul is using a term that gets frequently applied to the divine Lord in the Jewish Scriptures, but he’s applying it to Christ. Now it is true that that term can also be used to refer to earthly lords. For example, Caesar himself could be called kyrios.
He could be called the lord. So there’s a contrast being set up here between the lords of this world (who didn’t recognize who Jesus was) and then the Lord of glory.
What’s the Lord of glory? He’s the one who’s the ruler of the age to come, the world to come. See, His identity was hidden from the rulers of this age.
For full access subscribe here >