The Basic Argument
The controversy over Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John turns on the basic argument that Jesus lived His life under the Law of Moses and therefore could not have given any commands that would uniquely go into the New Testament before His death. To do so, it is thought, would create a dilemma for Jews who were told, on one hand, to keep the Law of Moses and, on the other hand, to keep Jesus’ commands (that sometimes seem to contradict the Law of Moses). For example, it is reasoned that Moses’ teaching on divorce and remarriage could not be kept up to the time of the cross, and at the same time follow Jesus’ instructions on divorce and remarriage. To keep Jesus from confusing the Jews before the cross, and to keep Him from putting Jews into a situation of “spiritual adultery,” it is reasoned that Jesus did not teach any new laws for the New Testament (NT) age before the cross. To do so would cause them to attempt to be following Moses and at the same time following Jesus’ counter commands, thus causing them to be torn between two husbands.
It is reasoned that He could not do so, He did not do so, and instead, He merely explained the law and gave the true meaning and intent of the law. To allow for the other portions of Jesus’ teachings, it is claimed that anything that looks new is merely a “prophecy” with no binding quality unless it is quoted after the event of the cross, and more specifically, after the church/kingdom began on Pentecost (recorded in Acts 2). Thus, the content of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (MML&J) will fall into just a few categories:
- Law of Moses,
- prophecies that have no binding quality unless reaffirmed again after Acts 2, and
- parables of the kingdom.
The basic argument of this position was set forth on a discussion email list in these probing and convincing words:
To me it doesn't make any difference about what is in the NT or in the OT. The thing we need to know is at what point did the law of the Lord go forth. At what point did Jesus cease to teach the Law of Moses and begin to teach His will? I do not believe that He mingled them together, for that would be pouring new wine in old wineskins and making spiritual adulterers of those He was expecting to obey His words. I don't think we ever see a time in the Bible when two contradictory laws are being taught at the same time.
This statement encapsulates most of the major arguments put forth in defense of the position that MML&J are Old Testament books or NT books that contain no binding commands for us today. For this reason, we will consider this summary argument first before getting into more detail. In the following sections, we will dissect this statement into its basic propositions.