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Christ and the Law

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22: 34-40

 

 

The first commandment recited by Christ is taken from the Shema, the prayer recited by the Jews morning and night.  All his Jewish listeners would have known it by heart and His choice of it should have been unsurprising to his interlocutors.  They would also have not been  surprised by  his addition of a second commandment which required loving your neighbor as yourself.  The commandment is taken from Leviticus 19: 18.  The great Rabbi Hillel, who died when Christ was a child, stated the commandment negatively:  What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.  Saint Paul, who doubtless was quite familiar with the teachings of Hillel, echoed this teaching:  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Galatians 5: 14.

If the answers of Christ were fairly obvious, why was the question asked?  Probably to test His knowledge.  Did this small town carpenter know the teaching of Hillel?  Perhaps to find fodder to accuse Him of heresy.  Whatever was the motivation, Christ yet again revealed Himself as completely supportive of the heart of the Jewish Law.  Normally Christ opposed it  only in regard to the Jewish ritual purity laws, at least as they had been interpreted.  Where he differed with a Jewish teaching outside of ritual purity, normally He increased the severity of the Law, forbidding divorce for example, or proclaiming that a man who looked lustfully at a woman was guilty of adultery.  Christ would add to the Jewish law and shore it up, but He came not to do away with it, but rather to perfect it.

 

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

Matthew 5: 17

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SCOTUS: 6 Catholics, 3 Jews, Law, Scholasticism and Tradition

I read a comment[1] a few weeks ago on GetReligion.org attempting to explain why John Paul Stevens was the last Protestant in the U.S. Supreme Court which simply said that Catholics and Jews have a tradition of being immersed in law (Canon Law and Halakha respectively for Catholics and Jews as an example).

This struck me as interesting because at first glance it kind of makes sense.

Of course there is much more to why the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, 6 Catholics, 2 Jews, and an Episcopalian, is as it is.[2]

But I thought it was an interesting enough topic to dive into.

Lisa Wangsness of the Boston Globe chimes in with her two cents worth [emphases mine]:

Evangelical Protestants have been slow to embrace, or to feel welcomed by, the elite law schools like Harvard and Yale that have become a veritable requirement for Supreme Court nominees. One reason for this, some scholars say, is because of an anti-intellectual strain within evangelicalism.

As Ronald Reagan would say, there you go again, pushing the liberal theory that Christians are stupid (at least Evangelical Protestants).

Lets get beyond these stereotypes done by liberals to Christians.

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