The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings are the three divisions of the Scriptures in the Jewish tradition. Together they are called TaNaK which is actually an acronym for the three: Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). Many times, though, in the New Testament, the terms “Law” and “Prophets” are mentioned to refer to the whole of the Scriptures. Still, sometimes, “Law” becomes a shorthand for “the Law and the Prophets” which is, in effect, still referring to the entire Scriptures. In Latin this is called pars pro toto or “a part representing the whole.”
Jesus is saying that he came “not to abolish [the Law] but to fulfill.” The whole of the Scriptures, in fact, bears witness to Jesus. The Law and the Prophets are replete with pronouncements about the coming of the Messiah. With his coming, Jesus fulfills what was said in the Scriptures. Therefore, how can he abolish the very Scripture that testified to his person? The precepts of the Law recorded in the Scriptures were meant to train the hearts of human beings to authentically seek God and his ways. Jesus teaches his followers to know God and his ways. Therefore, Jesus is right when he says, “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven” (v 19). No, Jesus does not take the Law for granted.
GOSPEL • MATTHEW 5:17-19
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
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