January 16, 2014

Thoughts on Scripture

We are doing Bible study on the Gospel of Matthew and I find commentary by Warren Carter to be helpful as we think about the interpretation of scripture.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.  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 does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."      
- Matthew 5:17-19 (NRSV)

"This assertion of the scripture's lasting authority is qualified by two temporal clauses. The first evokes the end of the age: "until heaven and earth pass away."  ...  A time limit for the scriptures is set. They are authoritative until God's empire is established in full. Nothing will pass from them until this new creation, the completion of God's purposes.  The second limit is expressed as "until all is accomplished."  The verb "accomplished" regularly means "happen."  It especially refers to the "happening" of what is written in the prophets now in Jesus' existence.   ...  Nothing from the scriptures passes away until everything prophesied "happens" in the existence of Jesus.  That time is underway, so the time of passing away is beginning.

How to reconcile the two limits?  As with God's empire, which is under way now but not yet completed, so with passing from the law. Now that the scriptures are being fulfilled in Jesus' ministry, the passing away begins, but not yet fully because heaven and earth have not yet passed away.  This process means that Jesus, through his fulfilling and interpreting of the scriptures, determines that some parts pass away, but others do not.

... Jesus' position in regard to the scriptures has been established. They are to be read in relation to him.  He is the key to interpreting them, to determining what is already passing from the law and what is not.   ...  The task of teachers is to ensure the doing of the scriptures as fulfilled by Jesus."