1.2 Proposition 2: When Did Jesus Cease Teaching the Law?
The statement was made above as to the importance of: “At what point did Jesus cease to teach the Law of Moses and begin to teach His will?” This is based on the following proposition:
In order for Jesus to reveal NT teaching that applies to us today he would have to cease teaching about the Law of Moses.
Jesus did not cease to teach about the Law of Moses because he lived under it, and it was not set aside until Jesus died on the cross.
No NT teaching that applies to us occurred until after Jesus died on the cross.
We agree with the minor premise. The question, then, is the validity of the major premise.
Let us explore some other possibilities before we address this directly. Is it possible that Jesus could talk to His Jewish enemies about the Law of Moses and at times talk to His disciples about life in His coming kingdom? In talking of other possibilities, we are not building our case on mere “possibilities,” we are suggesting other possibilities because the major premise assumes only one possibility. It assumes that there had to be a point in which Jesus ceased to teach the Law of Moses and began to teach the will of Christ regarding the kingdom. There is no scripture that says it had to be handled that way. Therefore, the major premise is building a case on only one “possible” assumption. This premise can easily be proven false if there are other obvious possibilities.
Is it possible that, to believing Jews, Jesus might address the future kingdom and declare some of the rules He expects to be carried out in His disciples’ lives under His rule while recognizing the Law of Moses that had only about three more years of life (maximum)? In John 6 Jesus stated His will that people are required to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Obviously, it is stated in the present tense, “I am the bread of life.” We realize that the present tense is not always significant. God calls things that be not, as though they were (Romans 4:17). He is not bound to our tenses. Future tenses and present tenses are often used interchangeably to indicate the inevitability of something. However, past tenses seem to be consistently used in reference to the past. For example, “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55). Was His blood available to drink even before the cross? (Recognize here that the body and blood were then and are now the words of truth that he spoke.) If we go strictly by the present tense, we see that it would have been “in effect” right then for them to figuratively eat His flesh and drink His blood. But, would this ever apply to the NT age? Of course! This being the case it is clear that Jesus here “ceased to teach the Law of Moses and began to teach His will?” Surely no one denies that John 6 applies to us today. Jesus is the bread of life and we have to (figuratively) eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life. This was absolutely not an interpretation or explanation of the Old Testament law.
The major premise above is not accurate because it forces the idea that Jesus had to do one or the other (teach the Law of Moses OR teach His New Kingdom will). By reading the NT gospels we can see that this either-or proposition does not hold true. There were times when He taught the Law of Moses and there were times when He spoke of what would be required of those entering and living in His kingdom.
This major premise is also faulty when applied to the other end of the Bible. One might read Genesis 1 - Exodus 19 and ask: “At what point did Moses cease to teach the law of the patriarchs and begin to teach his will?” There were some special commands given to Israel who had known only Patriarchal Law, yet the Passover was commanded in Exodus 12 before the Mt. Sinai law. Did giving a new law that would remain binding upon Israel cause a conflict with their old Patriarchal Law? Of course not! Did giving a new Passover law exclusively for Israel cause them to commit spiritual adultery? No! The major premise is faulty in that it disallows Jesus to talk to an element of Judaism about His New Kingdom will while maintaining the integrity and life of Moses’ law. Yet, it will allow Moses to speak some new commands to Israel while they were still under the law they had been under (Patriarchal Law) before the Sinai law.