§ 20. The New Law

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics

by Bruno Bauer

Volume 1




The New Law.

Matth. 5, 17—48.

In an almost completed, only interrupted at a few points, context, Jesus explains how his relationship to the law should be understood.

Firstly, the question arises whether this fairly long explanation is connected to the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Tholuck answers with yes and no, as befits a theologian. No, namely: “an immediate – but therein lies already the hidden yes! – an immediate connection with the preceding words cannot be easily demonstrated *).” Yes, namely: “until V. 16 the introitus and now – now the yes emerges from its first hiding place – and now follows the originally intended argumentum **).” But we do not know whether there can be a greater and more precise connection than when what follows was already intended in the preceding. More is not needed to see the best, indeed “immediate” connection in a speech; or should there only be a connection if the speaker has first presented the logical division of his speech in advance or if he moves from one part to another with mathematical sequences of consequences? It is enough if it is clear that what follows was already intended in the preceding. But in this speech it is not clear, indeed the opposite is certain. We ask the apologist to study the speech as Luke gives it, to see what connection means. Here the Beatitudes are the appropriate introduction, which is already in internal connection with the matter itself and is also correctly linked rhetorically; here what follows is already intended in the Beatitudes, for the whole speech only develops the thought that believers should strive for kindness and love in relation to the world in general and their fellow believers, and they should do so, says the introduction, even if they are oppressed and confined in the world. They are in opposition and yet should love it and through meekness cause it to no longer be an opposition to them. That’s what you call connection!

*) a. a. O. p. 131.

**) a. a. O. p. 132.


However, if the proclamation of the new law, which now follows, should already have been intended in the Beatitudes of Matthew, then they must have emphasized the difference between the old and new economy with definite emphasis, and the Beatitudes must have been carried out in this sense, which did not happen and could not have happened because Matthew here used the introduction to a speech that did not consider such dialectics.

Moreover, it had just been about the disciples. Does the new law only apply to them, should not all believers hear it, and is it not expressed as if everyone really heard it?

Neander tries it differently. He says: “pointing to the completion of the kingdom of God in verse 18, in which everything was to find its final fulfillment, Christ also (!) points to the ultimate goal in the fulfillment of the promises associated with the Beatitudes, and thus this is connected with what was said earlier *).”

*) a. a. O. p. 160. 161.

Yes! It must be true that humanity still has a lot of time left for its development, so it does not need to hurry! That so much useless torture is written down, admired! And so much time must be wasted to expose their insignificance!

In our text, we read nothing of a “at the same time” of this kind; the correct explanation of this section will also destroy any illusion that there is a relationship to those Beatitudes, and how unclear Jesus would have spoken if he wanted to refer to the Beatitudes and did not mention them at all! In this whole section (v. 17-48), he is solely concerned with the relationship between the old and new law. He begins with the words: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets” – what it has to do with the prophets, we will soon see – he makes the relationship between the old and new law tangible through several individual cases – should we still think of the Beatitudes? We forget them, as the evangelist did.


This section of the New Testament is particularly dangerous for the apologist. They cannot bear to hear anything about the difference between the Old and New Testaments, so they try to silence this speech. Our task is to thoroughly and openly develop the content of this section and free it from the torture to which the apologists have subjected it.

As a reward for our efforts, this section will finally reveal its origin to us.

1. The introduction and the theme.

Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:17.

“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,” says Jesus in Matthew 5:17.

Jesus could have spoken like this only if he had given the impression, through word and deed, that his intention was to abolish the entire Old Testament law. Whether his audience actually had this opinion, as reported by Matthew, is not something we need to question since it is the premise for the entire speech. However, we do not find any traces elsewhere that indicate that this opinion prevailed in Jesus’ environment. It is not clear how people could even have thought that Jesus wanted to abolish the prophets. It was only late, shortly before the journey that would lead to his death, that the disciples recognized him as the Messiah, and only then did he refer to the prophecies of the scriptures, but in a way that could not arouse suspicion that he intended to abolish the prophets in the end. Didn’t he say that he had to suffer, as it was written?


The mention of the prophets is partially to blame for the fact that this entire section dissolves to the extent that it shows it did not come from the Lord.

First of all, it remains the case that Jesus did not give any reason to believe that he wanted to dissolve the prophets. He could not have done so, because he did not always mention the declaration that he was the Messiah, and therefore could not have given rise to comparisons between his actions and the prophecies of the prophets. Later on, in the community, there was indeed a great deal of enthusiasm for searching for the image of the Lord in the prophecies of the Old Testament, but they were so convinced from the outset of the unity of fulfillment and promise that no one thought of a difference between the two, or of the possibility that the Lord might have dissolved the prophetic views.

Furthermore, Jesus only speaks in the following text about the law, its commandments, and how he fulfills them. But he does not mention the prophets at all. Even Tholuck *) must admit: “As far as he fulfilled the prophecies, Christ does not mention it further.” But then why mention the prophets at all and raise the expectation that he would speak more extensively about them and explain that he had no intention of dissolving them? Could he, if he wanted to fulfill his duty as a teacher and if indeed the prejudice existed that he held revolutionary ideas about the prophets, as Tholuck expresses it, only “casually” say that his entry into the world was the fulfillment of the old prophecies? He could not. Neander indeed says: “If Christ had the whole Old Testament in mind in relation to both parts, he could still emphasize one particular relationship afterwards *).” But did it matter what he had in mind at the time? Would not a very dangerous prejudice have led him to make these statements, and would he not have had to oppose it just as extensively, to the extent that it would have harmed the correct appreciation of the prophets? He would have had to do so. But he did not need to, because he did not have to fight against a prejudice of this kind, in short because he simply could not say: “Do not think that I intend to dissolve the prophets.”

*) p. 136.

*) a. a. O. p. 159. 160.


The last torture would finally resort to the means of not separating the prophets as heralds of the future from the law, but of setting them with the law as legislators, so that Jesus here in the introduction, as in the following, always only spoke of the law. In vain! When an evangelist speaks of the prophets, he thinks of their prophecies, especially Matthew regards the prophets only as God’s men who prophesied about the Messiah, and it remains that law and prophets should designate the two main parts of the Old Testament, that is, we come to the result that only Matthew made this confusing combination because the formula “the law and the prophets” was too familiar to him, that if he wrote down the first word, he should also immediately add the following. And if he wanted to write down the word “fulfill”, then he had to think immediately of the prophets, whose prophecies he has often demonstrated the “fulfillment” of? Only here can he bring nothing about these prophecies, and only the habit of the formula has put the prophets here.

Now the law stands alone. Jesus says he does not want to dissolve it but to fulfill it, that is, to complete it, to lead it to perfection, and to confirm it in a higher sense than it was given and had been valid so far. Whoever speaks like this assumes that the law, as it is expressed in the Old Testament, has not yet been set in its truth and that it will be raised to its true meaning only through him and his higher and fundamentally transforming confirmation. *)

*) This is also how Weisse understands the matter, II, 31, only that he could not yet eliminate the prophets.


From the elevated standpoint of this consciousness, Jesus later says, when he shows through individual examples how he fulfills the law, namely to lead it to its truth: “You have heard that it was said to the ancients – (through Moses) – but I say to you.”

Nevertheless, Jesus declares in verse 18: “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.” How does this reconcile with the bold statement that through him the law gains its truth, a truth that cannot be achieved unless the old is fundamentally abolished? It reconciles very well! When the law is abolished in its higher confirmation, this is not done superficially, so that a kind of quintessence is expressed from the whole of the law, but the true negation is the most thorough thing that can happen, and it becomes truly, that is, itself the most meaningful position and creation when it gives attention to every determination of the old and incorporates it into the process of higher confirmation. Of course, the letter of the old is not excluded as such, but its idea, but this will now create its own specificity out of itself, which is parallel to the iota and dot of the old.

It is still worthwhile to consider for a moment the double end-date to which this statement refers. Our effort will be rewarded by being led to the source from which the evangelist drew this time. The double indication of the end date is already disturbing, and the fact that both indications are not related to each other. But both are also kept very indefinite. When it is said, until heaven and earth pass away, is it assumed that they will really pass away? Some, like Tholuck, affirm it because it is the teaching of scripture that at the end of time a new heaven and a new earth will be created. However, it must be stated specifically as in 2 Peter 3:13, that the new heaven and new earth will be created when the old is “burned up,” or as in Revelation 21:1, it must be specifically said that “the first heaven and the first earth” will pass away.


And then, “when all is accomplished,” will some jot and some tittle of the law be able to be pushed under the bench? Tholuck affirms it to the extent that there will come a time when God will be all in all and the law will disappear in grace. Of course, it would not help if we were to say that the law is eternal and does not lose its determinative power even if it has become internal. Rather, we ask what the evangelist was thinking. Well, he did not think beyond these end dates. He borrowed this saying – we do not yet want to say the entire theme of this discourse – from Luke’s scripture. Here the Lord says (chapter 16, verse 17): “Is it easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the law to become void.” And Matthew caused those unanswerable questions only when he transformed a case that is given as an example of the impossibility of violating the law into a possible one, albeit one that is in the farthest distance.

We have now reached the critical point where the question can no longer be avoided as to whether Jesus expressed himself in this way about the law. But how did he express himself about it? We have just heard it, but the apologist does not want us to hear it that way. He wants us to hear it differently out of fear that it could cause damage to the Old Testament and the assumption of the unity of revelation. Therefore, we must first heal him of his fear or show him that the Christian principle as such does not want to share it with him.


Tholuck *) claims that “Jesus here is not only dealing with the Old Testament but with its teachings in the form given to it by Pharisaism.” But if Jesus always only contrasts the legal commandment and its fulfillment without ever mentioning parallels to Pharisaic interpretations and traditions, how can he then be fighting against Pharisaism? In these parallels, Tholuck continues, “Christ essentially (!) does not form a contradictory opposition against the Old Testament, but rather everywhere gives the latter its fulfillment.” If not essentially, then at least in words? And is fulfillment without negation even possible? Must not the moment whose sole supremacy hitherto hindered fulfillment be removed and overcome? Must it not cease to be an inner determination, and how is that possible without the most painful operation? We will not follow Tholuck’s principle “that we must consider the statements of Christ as indications of the spiritual meaning of the commandments of the Old Testament,” at least not in the sense in which it is formulated. Jesus does not say, “the spiritual meaning says,” but rather, “but I say to you!” And even if we were to maintain the category of the “spiritual meaning” and say that Jesus drew it from the Old Testament, as noted, this extraction is not so easily achieved as if only an innocent shell were to be removed from the Old, but rather the actual historical determination of the latter must be negated. The seriousness, splendor, and richness of history would otherwise be transformed into child’s play.

*) a.a.O. p. 162. 163.

But then Olshausen **) responds, “an inappropriate sense would arise that Jesus opposed himself and his teachings to the Mosaic.” Well, then, let it be inappropriate like all truth! We have already answered this when we remembered that an earlier standpoint can be recognized as “eternal truth” and yet undergo a penetrating negation in this recognition.

**) Bibl. Comm. l, 218. Similarly, Fritzsche on Matthew, p. 222.


We only draw the sum that results from these apologetic arguments; for one must finally come to this point on these fearful surreptitious paths, that one says, as Bengel does, that the law of Moses did not declare Jesus to be imperfect – imperfecta. There is no difference at all between Moses and Christ, and the law of Moses has not been surpassed by the preaching of Christ *). Or one must finally say with Calvin that God had indeed promised a new covenant for the time of Christ’s coming, but at the same time showed that it would not be different from the first one **).

*) Nulla pugna est inter Mosen et Christum. Mosis legem pon excedit sermo Cbristi.

**) Pollicitus quidem fuerat deus novum foedus Cbristi adveplu, sed simul ostenderat, mipime diversum fore a primo.

So the question is: did Jesus examine this dialectic between the law and the new principle – and let us note that this dialectic is read in this context in Matthew 5:17-48? No! When Luke says, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter in the Law to fail,” he immediately adds an example (Luke 16:18) from which one can see in what sense the law is to remain eternal. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” The law therefore remains eternal, but is also transformed into something else, since under Moses’ law divorce was subject to the unconditional discretion of the husband. Luke took this statement from the Gospel of Mark, since when he explains Jesus’ teaching on divorce, he wisely does not copy the entire story of the Pharisees’ question that led to it. But did Matthew also take this statement from Luke’s Gospel? Indeed! How else would he have included it twice? The first time he borrowed it from Luke’s Gospel, where he found it in the passage about the eternity of the law, which gave him the idea for his parallel between the old and new laws. The second time he wrote it down (Matthew 19:9) was when he came to the story of the Pharisees’ question in the Gospel of Mark. Luke had taken only the point from this story of his predecessor and turned it into a reflection, namely that nothing from the law could perish. Matthew adds only the defensive turn to this reflection, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law,” and just as Luke explains the meaning in which the law will endure forever with one example, so Matthew explains the idea of the duration and completion of the law with a long series of examples.


Jesus had not yet given any reason for a prejudice to arise among the disciples or the people, to which he would have had to respond with the words: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law.” If he had really pursued the dialectic of the Law and the new principle to such an extent, the struggles that Paul had to endure would have been unnecessary and impossible. Only at a later time, when the danger of antinomianism threatened, could it be said: “Do not think, etc.”

If we can no longer see the personal work of Jesus in this parallel between the Old and the New, as drawn by Matthew, we still possess in it the work of his spirit, as he worked in the community. Indeed, as the Gospel of Luke teaches us, Jesus’ saying about the Old Testament determination regarding divorce and the true unity of marriage provided the initial impulse for this parallel, insofar as it only carries out the extraordinary idea of the abolition of the Law in the higher idea of morality in a series of several examples. Just as in the question about the right to divorce, it is possible that Matthew has also used actual sayings of Jesus and worked them into the other points of the parallel. Whether this is the case will be the task of the following investigation to decide. But we can now state with certainty that the dialectical structure that we see in this section is the admirable work of Matthew.


2. The Consistent Value of the Law.

5: 19-20.

Jesus had said that the fulfillment of the law must be carried out so thoroughly that not a single stroke of it should fall away. “Therefore, whoever breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” According to his assumption that we have actual sayings of Jesus before us, Weisse must naturally assert *) that it is not probable that this sentence was spoken “in immediate connection with the preceding one, because such an elaboration of that bold paradox would give the appearance of being more than fair to the literal sense.” But the preceding sentence is not a saying of Jesus, and the present sentence is a free elaboration by the evangelist, and he can be sure that with this elaboration he will not cause any lasting misunderstanding because in the following he explains thoroughly in what sense each individual commandment of the law is to be observed and fulfilled.

*) II, 34. 35

Even the following saying in verse 20: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven,” does not belong to Jesus. How could such an isolated saying, which in itself has no particular point, have been preserved in the memory of the disciples and the community? Was it necessary for this saying to exist before one could know what Jesus thought of the righteousness of the Pharisees? Was it not generally known what Jesus thought of them, and were there not completely different sayings from which it was clear that he considered them worthless? Only from his otherwise knowledge of Jesus’ view, did Matthew form this saying and put it here.


But he has formed it at the wrong time and placed it in the wrong position, even if he also designates it with the particle “for” as a justification for the preceding saying. If he wanted to justify the preceding saying, he should have shown what an infinite value each individual determination of the law has – but what does the reflection on the Pharisees serve for this? Indeed, what do the scribes and Pharisees have to do with this place, where something completely different is at stake, where it is about the dots and strokes of the law? In the following dialectic of the old and the new – as we will prove – no regard is given to the Pharisees and their interpretation of the law, but the law as such is drawn into the dialectic in its historical origin. Only later in chapter 6, 1-18, where a completely new theme is being pursued, is there talk of the righteousness of the hypocrites. So, what do the Pharisees have to do with it already here, where only the law as such is being considered? They do not belong here, the evangelist has thought of them at the wrong time, he has thought of them too hastily, and through an innocent oversight of his pragmatism, by not being able to push the thought of the Pharisees back in a discussion of the law, he has caused false interpretations of a section in which he does not mention the Pharisees and their interpretation of the law with a single syllable.

The apologists cling to this inappropriate reflection of the evangelist when they claim that in the following parallel Jesus had to deal with “the Old Testament doctrine in the form in which Pharisaism gave it” *). Even Neander, who admits that Jesus in this section “sets up a contrast against the standpoint of the law in general,” must, for the sake of the evangelist’s reflection, once again force the reference to the Pharisees onto the section and say that Jesus “at the same time emphasizes the contrast against the Pharisaic interpretation and application of the law” **). But criticism has freed us from this confusion, and the correct explanation of the following section will confirm this result of criticism.

*) Tholuck, p. 162. Also Bengel, Calvin, Olshausen, Fritzsche, Paulus 1, 580, de Wette 1, 1, 55.

**) ibid. p. 162. 163.


3. Killing.

Matth. 5: 21—26. Mark 11: 25. Luk. 12: 58-59.

To the Old Testament commandment, “Thou shalt not kill, but whoever kills is guilty of judgment,” Jesus opposes his own words: whoever is angry with his brother ***) is guilty of judgment, but whoever says to his brother, “You fool,” shall be liable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says to him, “You madman,” shall be liable to hellfire.

Where is there any trace of Pharisaic determinations here? Yes, says de Wette†), “but whoever kills is guilty of judgment” is “an addition of the scribes,” Paul even calls it a “weakening” addition. As if the law did not command that the murderer be judged, as if Jesus were only adding this legal provision in order to oppose the escalation that goes from judgment to hellfire.

***) The addition “without cause” – εἰκῆ – is certainly added here only later and arose from the fear that too many might fall under Christ’s judgment, even if justified anger was the cause.

†) 1, 1, 58.

††) a. a. O. I. 580.


Whether or not Jesus actually formed and delivered this and similar sayings that we will encounter in this context cannot be decided and is, for the matter at hand, irrelevant. What remains certain, however, is that the infinity of self-consciousness that entered the world with him produced this idea of the infinity of moral determinations. Let us not rely on the fact that the Sanhedrin is mentioned in this saying, for just as easily as a contradiction of the situation could arise if a later reflection were reported as a saying of Jesus, it could also often happen that determinations were included in such a saying that corresponded to the assumed situation and were used with a free consciousness for historical custom, because they were still generally known.

Regarding the meaning of the saying *), we only briefly note that, like all the following sayings that are similar to it, it is meant entirely seriously. But the seriousness is not this awkwardness, as if the meaning were now that someone who calls his brother a fool should be brought before the court; rather, the saying has a complete awareness of this incongruity, but this seriousness and awareness of incongruity are not brought together in the form of a reasonable reflection. But the expression itself is such that in its peak it goes beyond itself and points to an idea for which a single sentence is not sufficient to express and fully present it. Through this dissolution of itself, in which it goes beyond itself, the determined sentence becomes again the appropriate expression of the idea, since it represents in itself the drive towards the infinity of the same and draws the idea into this drive in a lively manner.

*) developed well by Weisse, II, 40. 41.

A new thought follows! One should not only refrain from disturbing the relationship with one’s neighbor, but if it is disturbed, leave everything else and restore it first. “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you – εχει τι κατα σου – leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (v. 23-24). Nothing but further elaboration of the saying in Mark 11:25: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” – ει τι εχετε κατα τινος. Wilke *) says that in the Gospel of Mark, this saying was inserted, originally it must have stood before Matthew 6:14, and the whole of Mark 11:24-26 is a later addition. However, firstly, the hand that transcribed that saying from the Gospel of Matthew would have also taken over the following from the same scripture, and certainly would have retained the same construction of the whole, which did not happen. Furthermore, Matthew repeats the same saying several times, but not exactly the same in one section, which he would have done if Mark 11:25 belonged before Matthew 6:14. Finally, even though Mark, even if he is still so original and mostly delivers a complete composition, is not always correct, and in particular in the speech passages his pragmatism often suffers from the lack of coherence, which is even more striking in the writings of his successors. So this time, the first words that Jesus speaks on the occasion of Mark 11:20-21, which we must leave standing, as we will later see, are alien to the inner nature of the occasion.

*) p. 666.


Without emphasizing that a new idea is being introduced, the speech continues (v. 25-26): “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” The only connection to the previous statement is the idea that one should fulfill their obligation at the last moment when there is still time. In the previous statement, it is when one is about to offer a gift on the altar, and here it is when one is still on the way with their adversary. In both statements, the demand to reconcile a disrupted relationship is also the point, but in a completely different sense. In the first statement, one should leave everything until they have reconciled with their brother, and in this statement, one should not leave it to the decision of formal justice.


It is obvious that there is no connection here: the proof of this lies in the fact that Matthew took a saying from the Gospel of Luke without copying the point of the same. Specifically, Luke (12:58) introduces the same saying, which we read in Matthew, with the words: “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”. This explanatory sentence was left out by Matthew when he included the saying itself in his Gospel, perhaps because that introduction would have interrupted the flow of his presentation.

In Luke, the saying stands in no connection with its surroundings. It is already disjointed that Jesus is speaking to the crowds (v.54), a formula that for us can have no other meaning than if Luke had said: “Now I want to share some of Jesus’ sayings.” What Jesus is saying to the crowds this time is that they know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but not the signs of the times. But if, as in v.58 without further ado, it is to be continued, “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”, then the disadvantages of legal proceedings must have been discussed beforehand. Perhaps the similarity of “judging” and “discerning” ( δοκιμάζετε and κρίνειν v.57) and “deciding” caused this juxtaposition.

If we find sayings compiled in the Gospel of Luke that have no internal connection whatsoever, this is not proof that he picked them up individually from other writings and placed them unchanged next to each other. Matthew provides us with enough examples of how a new, larger whole can emerge from a found saying, no matter how small it may be; and Luke has shown us with the saying on divorce how he knows how to provide a new general foundation for a new sentence. He may have worked independently here as well, and if he cannot create a complete connection, it may be because he has not yet learned to arrange the richness of the given material and to combine it with his own literary creations into a whole. *) The kind of pragmatism that melds the facts and teachings, the events and the thoughts that emerge from the speeches into a completed whole seems not to be inherent in Christianity when it comes to producing a larger whole. Even Mark usually fails when he tries to incorporate larger speech material into his narrative. Interest in form and the ability to process content to the extent that it finds the form that makes it a whole and nothing but its necessary self-representation had to come to the Christian spirit from another realm of life. As long as the immediate religious interest prevailed, it could not even feel the need for form; the positive as such had meaning for it, and the mental activity that cannot be absent in any realm revealed its greater mobility only in the transformation and further processing of the individual, which was positively given to each evangelist.

*) The saying about divorce and the eternity of the law is immediately preceded by the saying: “The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every one presseth into it.” Luke 16:16. As far as this, we can see a complete connection, in that the saying about the eternity of the law should specify, restrict, and indicate the thought contained in verse 16, that it is not just the law in the abstract that is over. But with what precedes and what follows, this reflection in verses 16-18 is completely disconnected. Before it, there is a saying against the Pharisees, that they justify themselves before men, but God knows their hearts, because what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Verse 15 is already inappropriate in itself, as the Pharisees are not seen as something exalted, but rather as those who feign moral purity, for only such can be accused of God knowing their hearts. And how does the religious-historical reflection that the law and the prophets extend up to John fit with this accusation against the Pharisees? Why would there be a religious-historical reflection where there was only a sermon against the Pharisees? Finally, after the reflection on the law, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus follows in verse 19, whose first point is that whoever enjoys his own things here will suffer there beyond, and whoever suffers here will enjoy there beyond. Where the lack of coherence is so great, it is not even worth the tiny effort to reject the attempts of those who try to find coherence here. But there is indeed coherence with what is further back, where Jesus warned against watching for temporal treasures, because one cannot serve God and mammon at the same time, verse 13. There is a kind of coherence here, even if it is clumsily executed. The saying about mammon is heard incidentally by the Pharisees, who are described as greedy (φιλάργυροι), and they murmur against it, verse 14. The Lord then speaks against them, but says not a word about their love for wealth, but rather against their self-righteousness. With the occasion that the Pharisees murmur because Jesus had spoken against mammon worship, the speech about the law in verses 16-18 has no affinity. It is only in verse 19 that the speech turns to wealth, but it will never be able to be brought into internal coherence with the occasion, as it is not only irrelevant, but also very unfortunate. For does it really go without saying that the Pharisees and the rich (φιλάργυρος) are one, that the Pharisees must immediately murmur when love of wealth is criticized, and that the parable of the rich man must be directed against them?


This time, Luke did not even need to use a written source for his saying, because what he presented here is nothing else but the principle that one should stay away from secular courts. Jesus had not yet established a particular community and therefore could not have instilled this antipathy against the formal legal system in his followers. That saying only arose from the revolution in which the community drew its members into it.


4. Adultery.

Matthew 5:27-30, Mark 9:43-47.

Jesus opposed the legal prohibition against adultery with the statement that whoever looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

The only basis for this statement was probably the word about the eye that should be plucked out and thrown away if it offends, which Matthew finds in the scripture of Mark (9:47) and copies to this point, even adding the word about the right hand, while later, when he copies the saying where Mark has it, he repeats it in full, also speaking of the foot that should be cut off if it offends.

There is no thought of a supposed addition by which the Pharisees and scribes had deprived the law of its power. But, as de Wette says*, “it should be added that the scribes merely stopped at the accomplished, external adultery.” Well, if they did so, they thought like the law!

*) 1, I, 61

The extraordinary audacity of this saying, which is set against the law, must have appeared too great to the apologists and its sharpness too cutting to let it stand as it is. “The involuntary rising lust,” says de Wette, “is not designated as sin,” but according to the Tertullian it is sin, when “the rising desire is nourished intentionally and repeatedly.” **) But in the context of this section, that which is considered the slightest offense, even no offense at all to humans, should appear as a sin that is to be prohibited and avoided just as strictly as the transgressions that the law punishes. However, intentional cultivation and maintenance of desire is one of the most extreme offenses and is also considered such where only humans live together *). Fritzsche thinks that it is called adultery if someone looks at a woman in the case that they both feel desire for each other **); but that would again be an offense which has always been considered so dirty in human society that it did not need a new legislator to be described as punishable and immoral.

**) Ibid., also Tholuck, a, a. O. 214.

*) Also Fritzsche, Matthew p. 231, disagrees with this explanation: lascivus est, ut irritante libidinis causa feminam intueri velit.

**) Fritzsche, Matthew p. 232: quicunque mulieri oculos adjiciat ad concupiscendum, i. e. ut adsit cupiditas, mutua opinor.


The saying, however, only deals with the man and is so far from designating only deliberately harbored lust as adultery that rather his opinion is: even the lust that arises in a moment at the sight of a woman is to be equated with actual adultery. The expression used by the evangelist is somewhat imprecise and had to be, because it is about the will and this can never be described as something only involuntary and accidental and even if it is involuntarily aroused, it does not cease to be will. According to the evangelist, προς το επιθυμησαι αυτης should not be the same as ωοτε, the accidental result, but also not an abstractly cherished and nurtured intention. Desire is the will that is immediately connected with the sight or arises with it in the same moment.

5.  Divorce.

Matthew 5:31-32, Luke 16:18.

When Jesus, with the exception of the case where the woman has broken the marriage by mixing with another, asserts the complete indissolubility of marriage, it was impossible for the apologists to find an addition of the scribes against which he would declare himself here, for the will of man cannot be favored more than it is by the Old Testament law. And yet, says Olshausen, Jesus declares himself here against the Pharisaic interpretation, which “reckoned the legal permission of divorce as part of the essence of marriage” *), as if the will of man were not authorized by the law in all aspects of the marital relationship. This standpoint, which does not recognize the dialectic between the law and the Gospel, then produces such horrific expressions as that of the same apologist **): “The correct view of marriage as an indissoluble soul life was based on the Old Testament” – the Old Testament, which exposed the wife to the immoral will of man!

*) p. 224.

**) Ibid. p. 223.


The Protestant commentator is in a bad position when he wants to justify the admissibility of divorce not in the concept, but in a biblical passage, or perhaps in both. “Since Jesus,” says de Wette ***), “admits one sacrosanct reason for separation, he also admits several others.” Strange! When Jesus, with the words “except for adultery,” declares divorce absolutely inadmissible for all other cases except this one!

***) 1, 1, 63.

How great – truly terrifying! – must be the embarrassment of the apologist when it is perfectly certain that initially there was no case known in which Jesus had allowed divorce, and that only the latest of the synoptics attempted to soften the harsh saying by inserting the clause on his own initiative! Neither Luke (16:18) nor Mark (9:11) say a word about Jesus having allowed divorce in any case; according to their accounts, he simply forbids it. Only Matthew, who pushed and developed the dogmatic reflection in the circle of synoptic storytelling most boldly, took offense at the unconditional prohibition of divorce and added the clause twice when he borrowed the saying from Luke and had to put it back in place on the order of Mark (19:9), that the man could dismiss the woman on the grounds of adultery, i.e., on the grounds of sacrosanct adultery.


6. The Oath.

Matthew 5:33-37.

The law only prohibited perjury and required that sworn vows be faithfully kept; but I tell you, says Jesus, not to swear at all (v. 34), rather let your speech be simply yes or no.

Here, too, we are supposed to see a “addition” by the scribes*) in the words “you shall fulfill your oaths to the Lord!” But it is impossible for us to do so, as it is simply the straightforward commandment of the law that vows taken must be seriously carried out. We find nothing here about the scribes “only looking to see that the vows were properly fulfilled out of preference for the hierarchy, but otherwise letting false swearing go unpunished”**). We find only the contrast between the legal command not to commit perjury and the new command not to swear at all.

*) de Wette, 1, 1, 63.

**) Ibid.

Nor can we find anything in our text to suggest that Jesus only intended to “exclude frivolous swearing” ***). It is equally impossible for us to forget the text so far as to claim *) that because the law allows oaths, even commands them, Jesus must express the same view of oaths here. Finally, if Bengel says **) that in this passage both the false and true ways of swearing are prohibited, but not swearing in general, then our thoughts fail us and we only regain our senses when we return to the holy text and acknowledge that here the abstract postulate of truthfulness is being established, a postulate that has arisen from the revolutionary position of the community in relation to positive worldly conditions.

***) Tholuck, a. a. O. p. 280.

*) For example, Calvin: lex non modo permittit jurare, sed diserte etiam jubet. Itaque (!) nihil sibi aliud voluit Christus, quam illicita esse juramenta omnia, qual sacrum dei nomen abusu aliquo profanant, cujus reverentiae servire debuerant. But can there be stronger words than μη ομοσαι ολωσ? με ολως, Not at all!

**) ulrumque falso et vere jurandi genus, non tamen verum juramentum universaliter prohibet. Verus juramenti usus in lege non modo ut divortium permittitur sed plane stabilitur, neque hic a Christo tollitur!


Indeed, the evangelist has inserted a thought into this saying, which actually does not belong here and has a completely different point, namely the idea that one should not distinguish between oaths as if some were weaker than those made to God and therefore could be neglected with less danger (v. 34-36). Against this distinction, the evangelist has the Lord polemicize in his speech against the Pharisees and scribes and dissolve the hypocritical distinction until it is clear that the oath at the temple or in heaven is not different from the oath made to God because the temple and heaven can only have the meaning of God’s dwelling and throne (Matt. 23:16-22).

In the Sermon on the Mount, the evangelist only adds a new example when he shows, in the case of an oath made on one’s head, that it is made on something that is so little in the control of human beings – for who can make a hair white or black? – that it forms something absolutely fixed for him and the oath made on it is just as significant as if it were made to the Absolute itself.


The evangelist has thus combined different points, but he has woven them into one and completely removed any reason for the apologist not to recognize the prohibition of oaths in this passage.*)  He has the Lord speak in one breath: “But I say to you, do not swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, nor by the earth, etc.” Certainly – to use the word again – the evangelist has not yet achieved perfect unity in his presentation. If he first prohibits oaths altogether, he should have said when transitioning to the second thought: “You must not even  – μηδε – swear by heaven, for it is just as if you were swearing by God.” He has overlooked something in the combination of both thoughts. But it is completely clear that only the one thought, that every oath should be avoided, occupies him, as he closes the dissolution of that false distinction of oaths with the words (V. 37): “Let your word be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’.”

*) Tholuck, for example, in the same place: “From v. 35-38 it follows that the Redeemer had in mind primarily the oaths of ordinary life με ομοσαι are prohibited and that the oath spoken with due reverence is not included in it.” But even if the evangelist had not woven both points together so skillfully as he has done, if he had thus let the here foreign thought of v. 35, 38 emerge sharply and independently, that would still not be a reason to deprive the other thought – “do not swear at all” – μη ομοσαι ολψε – of its force. Even Fritzsche, in his commentary on Matthew, p. 238, has been led astray by the argumentation in v. 35-36 to the apologetic misunderstanding of this entire passage.


7. Retaliation.

Matthew 5:28-42.

While older interpreters like Bengel, unconcerned about how their explanation fits into the text, simply write that retaliation is the most appropriate punishment *), the modern apologist has to work harder to dispel the appearance that Jesus is in opposition to the Old Testament law. Thus Tholuck **) finds that Jesus “is not addressing the authorities” – but isn’t he speaking about positive law and commandments? – one must therefore “assume that the fleshly sense of the scribes had made that judicial norm of retaliation the norm for ordinary life, even for satisfying uncontrolled revenge.” But to simply write such a peculiar note without any evidence, a couple of citations, and the like, is not enough. The caricature that the apologist unconsciously paints in his anxiety is too extreme!

*) Talio poenarum convenientissima.

**) p. 307.

Jesus is opposing the Old Testament law and fulfilling it by forbidding the desire for revenge and the irritable nature that still characterized the law.

Matthew has returned here to the speech of Luke, which he had left after the Beatitudes, but he does not take it up again at the same point where he had left it before, otherwise he would have had to write down the commandment of loving enemies in Luke 6:27 before the prohibition of revenge. In the speech as it is shared by Luke (Luke 6:27-36), the idea of loving enemies is the dominant one, and it is the perspective under which the individual commandments are placed, so it is appropriate for the transition from the Beatitudes and Woes. “But I say to you” – the transition in verse 27 is meant to impress upon the listeners – although the world stands against you as an enemy force, and you must suffer, love your enemies and do everything possible so that at least from your side the harshness of the opposition will be softened. This is also the basis for the commandment that believers should not retaliate against those who offend and oppress them, and should not respond to pressure with the counter-pressure of revenge, but with the yielding of love (verse 29-30). You should not treat people as they do, but as you would have them do to you (verse 31). And what would you do special if you only wanted to repay love with love; you would only follow the natural self-esteem that even sinners cannot deny. God acts differently, he is also kind to the ungrateful and wicked, so if you truly want to be sons of the Most High, be merciful – do everything on your side that can mitigate the opposition – as your Father is merciful (verse 32-36). And do not judge, do not condemn, forgive! – The speech continues in an appropriate context in verse 37.


To the commandment “Do not judge!” Matthew only returns very late, after he has inserted the sayings that follow in Chapter 6 into his discourse. He even brings the saying “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them” only in Chapter 7, verse 12. Why? In the dialectic of the fulfillment of the law, he is only concerned with the sayings that explicitly refer to the pressure and enmity of the opposition. But for this interest, that saying seemed too general to be inserted in the middle of the dialectical development. Finally, Matthew has separated the sayings that, in Luke’s account, are placed under the aspect of the commandment of love for enemies – and rightly so – into two groups: first (verses 38-42) he has the Lord prohibit the revenge of retaliation, and then (verses 43-48) command the love for enemies. Therefore, he does not start this development, as Luke does, with the words “Love your enemies.”


However, we cannot simply accept Schneckenburger’s *) claim that the section of Matthew 5:38-48 is “much better logically ordered than Luke 6:27-36”. While Matthew has separated more sharply the commandment of loving one’s enemies, which is contained in the prohibition of retaliation, and presented it separately, this does not mean that Luke’s composition is less skillful if he develops both ideas in one context. If Matthew deserves praise for more accurate distinction, Luke should not be denied the credit for presenting the prohibition of revenge in its true meaning, as one and the same as the commandment of loving one’s enemies. As Schneckenburger continues, “since the better logical arrangement cannot simply be attributed to the more systematic redaction of Matthew, we must assume a better tradition that flowed to him.” But where in the world should this tradition come from, which should remember that Jesus separated these two closely related ideas so precisely on this occasion that no longer exists for us? It is Matthew, the later writer, who had the text of Luke calmly before him and could subdivide the given material into more precise subcategories, and it was he who separated them here.

The proof will be completed immediately.

*) Briträge p. 18.


8. Love of Enemies.

Matthew 5:43-48.

Now, here it is clear, triumph the apologists, that the Lord is only “arguing against the carnal interpretation of the Old Testament commandment”! “You shall love your neighbor!” is commanded in the law, but where, asks the victorious apologist, where does it say that you should hate your enemy? “Love your enemy!” is an “addition by the scribes” *), a “false gloss of the Pharisees” **), a “conclusion” that only the Pharisees drew from the Mosaic commandment ***).

*) Tholuck, p. 325.

**) de Wette, 1, 1, 65.

***) Paulus, 1, 582.


Let’s take it easy! When one asks so boldly where in the Old Testament the commandment of hatred is written, we have much more reason to ask where it is reported to us that the Pharisees added this addition to the law. Where is the evidence?

We don’t know them. We only know so much that the Jew in general hates his opponent, who appears to him at the same time as an opponent of Jehovah, and that this hatred is the necessary consequence of the law because in this the love is linked to the natural bond of the national connection, and from the Psalms we see that the sufferers and persecuted speak most eloquently when they invoke all evil upon their opponents, and that they believe they are divinely entitled to their curses and that their prayers will be heard.

“To hate your enemy” is a correct conclusion from the legal view, but a statement that, despite all its correctness, is so harshly spoken, as is done here, is hard, awkward in its form – as a positive commandment – and as superfluous in the present context as it is disturbing and dragging. If love of enemies is to be recommended, if it is to be recommended in contrast to the Mosaic law, then the commandment “you shall love your neighbor” would suffice for the parallel, and it would only need to be said: not only the neighbor but also the enemy you must love.

So who made the addition “you shall hate your enemy”? Not the Pharisees, not Jesus, but the same writer who worked out these parallels between the old and new law: the pragmatist whom the church called Matthew. He reads the commandment of love of enemies in the scripture of Luke, he wants to set it in contrast to the Old Testament law, and if he wanted to make the parallel completely and precisely, he certainly did not just need the old commandment of neighborly love, but for the sake of external completeness, he had to write down the other as a consequence of this commandment: “you shall hate your enemy.”


By linking the saying of Luke to the reflection on the Old Testament law, Matthew gave rise to a question that the saying in its original form could not have prompted. According to the law, the neighbor is the fellow countryman, the Israelite in general, and more specifically, the compatriot who is in closer relationship through tribal and urban affiliations. But is the law mentioned in this sense here? Is the new law of love for enemies formulated in such a way that the boundaries of nationality should not limit love? Not in the least! However, it does not follow, as Tholuck concludes *, that Jesus does not want to contrast another law against the Old Testament commandment. Rather, it cannot be denied that Matthew has confused different things. The saying that he opposes to the law does not even consider polemicizing against the limitation of love to the kinship of the people. This limit is already generally overcome in the relationships between neighbor and enemy. Especially when we see how in the original version of the saying, believers are reminded that even “sinners” love those from whom they receive love, that this kind of love is nothing special and basically selfish (Luke 6:32-34), any thought of polemicizing against the national limitation of love fades away. In itself, in the idea of ​​the boundlessness of this love, the boundary of nationalism is indeed overcome, and in this respect, Matthew did not put this idea in an incorrect opposition when he opposed it to the Old Testament commandment of love. On the other hand, it happened involuntarily that he expanded the Old Testament version of the commandment and regarded the neighbor spoken of therein as a friend in general. Otherwise, he could not have opposed the enemy to the neighbor at all. In short, the idea is not as pure and simple in Matthew’s presentation as in the scripture of Luke, where the polemical consideration of the Old Testament commandment is still absent.

*) p. 330.


This is not to be called a change when Matthew (Ch. 5, 45) illustrates God’s kindness and mercy, which he also shows to the evil and ungrateful, by saying that he causes his sun to rise on the good and the bad and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, which is also mentioned in Luke 6, 35. But it is certainly a change when Luke only says that even “sinners” love those who love them back, and Matthew speaks of tax collectors in Chapter 5, 46 and, if we can trust the manuscripts *), also of the Gentiles in verse 47, who demonstrate that the mere love of a friend is not yet an act of morality. This change is interesting and very important for a later question, as it proves how later pragmatism strives to incorporate more restricted local relationships into the historical narrative. At the time when Matthew wrote, the living interest among the Jews in tax collectors and sinners as a class of people no longer existed in the community; but according to Mark 2, 15.16, the formula tax collectors and sinners had become a standard one, and if Matthew now finds sinners mentioned in Luke’s speech, he has nothing else to do but to add the more specific word “tax collectors”.

*) namely, even if they are reputable manuscripts that read so, since from Matthew 18, 17 the combination “heathen and tax collector” became a common formula and the scribes were reminded of the Gentiles by the mention of tax collectors. It is possible that Matthew himself was already one of these scribes, but it is also possible that he was content to substitute “tax collectors” for “sinners”.


The last parallel of the old and new commandment of love is concluded by Matthew (Ch. 5, 48) with the exhortation: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” It cannot be denied that the apologist will take considerable offense at this conclusion. The exhortation to perfection is too general in this context: “perfect” – teletai is also, according to De Wette, “in the immediate context and according to Luke 6:36, in a restricted sense: elevated above hate, to accept” – a meaning that the word can never have. Tholuck has recognized this and says that we must give the sentence a more general turn: “in this, as in all other matters.” But how would this more general reference fit with the section in verse 27, with the section in verse 33? And is not the exhortation to perfection closely linked to the exhortation to love your enemies through “therefore,” οὖν and does it not remain the case that the exhortation, which refers to a specific duty, is expressed in far too general terms, indeed suddenly in the widest generality?

Everything is explained when we turn to the Gospel of Luke. Here, after the exhortation to love your enemies, Matthew reads at the end, and in a transition that is also made with “therefore” – οὖν – the exhortation (Ch. 6:36) that believers should imitate God in the compassion of mercy – γινεσθε ουν οικτιρμονες. He stays with this and leaves this exhortation in its old place, but at the same time feels the need, because he has just listed a long series of commandments of the new law, to give the concluding formula a more general reference. It should be the last exhortation, but it should also impress all the preceding ones once again through the reference to the divine example – from which there was no mention before, of course! – because only at the last point does Luke bring him to this thought of the divine example – the formula should therefore have both a specific and a general reference at the same moment: hence this confusion.


“Indeed”, says Weisse *), “we certainly believe that Jesus expressed in the sense and partly in the expressions of the present discourse a cycle of expanding, limiting, and more definite contrasts against Mosaic laws.”

*) Ibid. II. 39.

We have proven the opposite.

Weisse suspects that in Matthew’s presentation, “the rhythmic structure of the whole may have been lost.”

We have seen that what exists of rhythmic structure was created by Matthew.


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