The Gospels, the Law, the Christ and the New Testament

Law of Moses

Law of Moses

The first four books of the New Testament are called the gospels or ‘good news”.  Their focus is the life and times of Jesus and each book showed Him in perspectives peculiar to each author.  Only Matthew can be listed as an apostolic witness to Jesus unless you are convinced that the apostle John wrote the gospel that is traditionally attributed to him; The Gospel of John.  It has been shown by several students in recent time that the internal evidence for the authorship of this letter falls on Lazarus, the disciple whom Jesus loved and not on John.  Nevertheless, both Matthew and Lazarus (John) walked and worked with Jesus, saw his death and subsequent resurrection.  Matthew targets Jewish readers as he relies heavily on the ancient scriptures to prove Jesus as the son of Man, the son of David. Matthew was very careful not to call Jesus the Son of God or to describe the spiritual kingdom that Jesus was to establish, the kingdom of God.  Jews were very sensitive to verbalize the name of God in common language, ergo the need for Matthew to be sensitive to these Jewish traditions.

Matthew writes to the Jews.

Matthew writes to the Jews.

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus ends with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.   Many other internal evidences suggest Matthew was sensitive to the Jewish politico-religious system of government.  Matthew relies heavily on “the kingdom of heaven” as a tool to draw Jewish readers to the text. Use of the kingdom of God may have proved to be injurious to the Jewish sensitivity.  Jews were very careful in using the name of “God” for fear they would be found using it in vain.  The end of the age had come and the fulfillment of God’s promise to his chosen people was to culminate in a new order, a new age, a new kingdom, the age of Messiah.  The old ways of the Law of Moses were fulfilled in Christ.

The gospel of John (Lazarus) greatly lacks the details of the 3.5-year ministry of Jesus, concentrating not on parables spoken to the multitudes but on Jesus’ prayers to God, his love of people, his intimacy with his disciples and his great power over life and death.  Many fine details surrounding Jesus’ last Passover supper, the garden scene, his arrest, trial and death as well as his subsequent resurrection are presented.   Most lessons are in the form of conversations.  Jesus’ relation to the Father as Son and his uniqueness as the Creator made flesh is used to contrast his human nature with his divine nature.

gospel-of-johnThe author of the gospel of Luke is often attributed to a gentile and not a Jew. If this were true it would be against the words of the apostle Paul who clearly attributed all scriptures to the trust of Jewish hands (Romans 3:1).  We accept Paul’s teaching based on the fact that scripture cannot be broken lest it becomes meaningless.  The only argument for Luke as a Gentile would be from the fact that he bore a Greek name.  But this was common among the Jews who were dispersed among the Gentiles. Among those named as “of the circumcision” in Colossians 4, Aristarchus, Marcus, and Justus appear.

luke

They were Jews with Greek names. A number of other scriptures can be noted showing that Luke was most likely a Jew of Jews having much knowledge of the Temple, of Jesus’ mother Mary as a Jewess and his accompaniment with Paul to the certain sections of the Temple which none but Jews could access but let’s save this for another time.   Luke does write for an audience of one, a most Excellent Theophilus.  The title “Excellent” is rarely used in the Bible and in at least one other place refers to a gentile king, not a Jew (Acts 26:25).  Regardless, the gospel account differs in many ways from Matthew.  The genealogy of Jesus is almost entirely different from Matthew’s account (probably because Luke traced the lineage through Mary and not Joseph as he was not the true father of Jesus).  While heavy with parables and lengthy sermons, Luke was very careful with details but he was shy in the use of ancient Jewish scripture.  Matthew used twice as many references to other scriptures.  These he used in order to prove Jesus as the Christ to the Jews.   Jews would need such evidence.  Gentiles would not.

mark

Mark is a short letter and he dramatized the life and teachings of Christ as a man on a mission.  Jesus is powerful.  When he speaks things happen “immediately”.  Mark seems to rush Jesus to the cross as though God wanted to see this through as soon as possible.  God had waited patiently but now for the sake of fulfilling his promise to the last generation, he rushes to usher in the Messianic age of eternal life.

Incidentally, Luke was a physician.  Matthew was a tax collector.  If Lazarus authored the gospel of John, he seemed to be independently wealthy, living with two sisters and the three of them often supporting Jesus’ ministry, opening their home frequently and always available when needed.  Mark was the missionary partner of Barnabas and is called the son of Peter (1 Peter 5:13).   If Peter was actually his father, Mark may have been a fisherman like Peter; at least for a while.

Are the Gospels Old Testament Literature or New Testament Literature?

cross 2

This is an important question as many have been misled to think that what is taught by Jesus in the Gospels is New Testament teachings.  This confuses God’s fulfillment of the law in the life of Christ with Christ’s establishment of a new age – the Messianic age.  Some think the gospels are entirely Old Testament teachings and fail to see that all Old Testament teachings pointed to the Messianic age just as the Gospels did.  Though silly to argue, it is important to understand that Jesus’ purpose was to turn the hearts of the Jews back to God in order fulfill for them the promises of a new kingdom; a kingdom restored and everlasting.  This New Kingdom was supposed to be the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:19-21), as Luke understood it. This would not be possible until Christ had fulfilled the purpose of his coming in both his teaching for the people to return to the law and his death which created an avenue of relief from the consequences of failing to keep that law.  The consequences being judgment and death.  Only then would his resurrection have the meaning it holds for believers today.

To keep the matter in a biblical perspective, let’s look at the times in which Jesus lived.  Then let’s look at the words he spoke and those who confirmed his teaching.  Finally, let’s look at what he accomplished.

The life and time s of Jesus the Christ:

Jesus’ life was predicted from Genesis through to Malachi. There are few books of the Old Testament that did not foreshadow some aspect of the Christ’s coming or his kingdom.  The war between the offspring of the first woman, Eve, and the offspring of the serpent, evil men, were the first of these prophetic utterances.  Note Genesis 3:14-16, “The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

The ancient utterance pointed to the wicked men who would crucify Christ (the seed of the woman, and the son of God) or poetically, “Bruise his heel”.  But Christ would bruise the serpent’s head.  The implication is that Christ would crush the serpent’s power over death, as we will see in NT scriptures.

By the time we reach Malachi, the last book before the arrival of a new prophet John the Baptist who ushered in Christ’s ministry, 400 years would pass. We find these warnings and these signs that usher in the arrival of Messiah, the chosen one:

John prepares the way.

John prepares the way.

Malachi 3: 3 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. [This was John the Baptist]. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts [this is Jesus the Christ]. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. [Jesus would turn many to the Law of Moses and by that please God by their obedience].

5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

The messenger of the covenant was John the baptizer.  He would prepare the way for the Lord.  The Lord would come to the Temple but who would endure his coming; a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s soap, a purifier of silver, one to make the priests righteous once again, and one who would come for final judgment.  And note his work:

Malachi 4:  1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

The Day of the Lord was announced by John the Baptist and was recorded by Matthew 3.  The call was to remember the Law of Moses, the statutes and the rules commanded at Mt Horeb.  Matthew 3: 1-29, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”

4 Now John wore a garment of camel-hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.””

John warns the stubborn Jewish leaders of the wrath to come.

John warns the stubborn Jewish leaders of the wrath to come.

John understood the times and his role in announcing the Christ.  John was to prepare the Jews before the final judgment. He preached the people to keep the law of God, repent of their sins and prepare for the one who was shortly to follow this message.   Jesus would turn the people back to the Law of Moses and make a remnant of them holy for the judgment to come. He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”).  Paul wrote of this remnant and included himself as one who was destined for this salvation as he quoted from Hosea and Isaiah. (Romans 9:25-29)

25 As he also says in Hosea: I will call those who were not my people,My people,and I will call her who was unloved,My beloved.’”
26 And in the very place where it was said to them,You are not my people,
there they will be calledsons of the living God.’”

27 And Isaiah cries out on behalf of Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel are as the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved, 28 for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth completely and quickly.” 29 Just as Isaiah predicted,

If the Lord of armies had not left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,

and we would have resembled Gomorrah.””

The end of the Old Testament system assured the Jews that restoration back to God was possible.  The Jews of Jesus’ days did not recognize Him as their king. Only a remnant spoken of by the prophets would believe and gain eternal life through His sacrifice. And then the Kingdom would be given over to the Gentiles, not to do with as they pleased, but as a sure entrance into the eternal kingdom of God for all men.

Paul says this in Romans 11: 1-10  “So I ask, God has not rejected his people, has he? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew! Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left and they are seeking my life!4 But what was the divine response to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand people who have not bent the knee to Baal.”

5 So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was diligently seeking, but the elect obtained it. The rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear,
to this very day.”

9 And David says,

“Let their table become a snare and trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they may not see,
and make their backs bend continually.””

In his warning to the Jews (John 8:12 ff) Jesus made it clear that the end would come on those who would not believe in him as the Son of God.  They would die in their sins.

Daniel’s prophecy concerning the end of the Jewish age was being fulfilled in the lifetimes of John and Jesus and the Apostles.  Daniel saw from a distance of some 500 years before the events that would unfold, to fulfill the promises of God to the Fathers, to close the age of Moses’ legal system and to announce the good news of God’s good will towards men.  The end of that time (age) would be seen with the shattering of the holy people brought on by the Refiner’s Fire (Daniel 12).  The holy people were the ancient Jews. The Refiner was Christ and the fire was his judgment on the unbelieving nation of Israel.

 

Satan is crushed.

Satan is crushed.

Clear to his promise, Jesus established a New Testament which, within 40 years of his death, replaced the Old Testament culminating in the destruction of the Jewish city of Jerusalem, the burning of the Temple and the nation so ravaged that millions perished by the hand of God through the Roman armies (Luke 22:19-21).  The establishment of the NT is still remembered each time Christians eat the bread and drink the wine as they commune with God and one another as a collective body of believers 1 Corinthian 11.

Josephus pleads with the city to surrender to the Romans. 70 A.D.

Josephus pleads with the city of Jerusalem to surrender to the Romans. 70 A.D.

 

 

 

 

 

Did I answer the question?

No, I did not answer the question just yet.  Are the gospel accounts New Testament or Old Testament scriptures?  Christ came to end the Mosaic age, the age of the Jews and brought in everlasting life with reconciliation back to God, for the Jew first and also the Gentile. He did this by his death, the just demand of God’s Law against sinners, to provide an escape to all those who would believe.

The gospel of John recorded this concerning Jesus (God) in chapter one: “10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” John 1:10-13.  Jesus came to his own people.  This was his primary mission, to fulfill the Law and the prophets.  In this way, all the promises to the Jews concerning their redemption and freedom from their enemies might be fulfilled.  Freedom, not from the Romans, but from their own sins. “He (Jesus) answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” Matthew 15:24

“14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’” 16 From his fullness, we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Jesus’ mission was to the Jews only, the sons of Abraham.  Jesus might be said to have neglected the Gentiles but their time had not yet come until the fulfillment of the law.  Jesus taught the Jews to be kind even to their enemies or they were no better than the Gentiles Matt. 5:45-47.  Jesus rejected long empty prayers saying, “Do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard…” Matt 6:7. And when he sent out his disciples on a mission, he made it clear they were not to go to the Gentiles with this good news.  They were not to speak even to the half-Jews, the Samaritans Matt. 10:4-6.  But Matthew quotes from scriptures that the time of the Gentiles would come through Christ at a later date Matt. 10:17-21.

Jesus repeatedly made it clear that his presence was not to benefit the Gentiles and yet he often found greater faith among the Gentiles than among his own people and for them he made an exception to their requests (Mark 7:24-30, Matt. 8:5-13).  After his resurrection, he enlightened his amazed disciples and explained the meaning of the Law of Moses and the words of the prophets proving that his life, death, and resurrection were in fulfillment of those words (Luke 24:36-49). “44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”  From this point forward the gospel would be preached to the whole world.  Jews first, then the Samaritans and then to the whole world of men  [Acts 1:6-9].

During the revelation of the New Testament through the Apostles of the Lord, as the commands and traditions were penned by Paul and Peter and John, it was repeatedly made clear to the Gentiles that Jesus came as a servant or minister to the Jews for, “ 4 Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. Those things were written so that we could have hope. That hope comes from the patience and encouragement that the Scriptures give us. 5 All patience and encouragement come from God. And I pray that God will help you all agree with each other, as Christ Jesus wants. 6 Then you will all be joined together. And all together you will give glory to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other. This will bring honor to God. 8 I tell you that Christ became a servant of the Jews to show that God has done what he promised their great ancestors. 9 Christ also did this so that the non-Jewish people could praise God for the mercy he gives to them. The Scriptures say,

“So I will give thanks to you among the people of other nations;

I will sing praise to your name.”

Romans 15:4-9.

It should not be difficult to understand that the life of Jesus, his teachings, and his death occurred to initiate the end of the Old Testament.  This being so we can be confident that the gospels were covering a period of the OT that would bring to an end the Jewish Nation as God’s special people and open the spiritual kingdom of God to all people through the New Testament.  In the words of the Apostle Paul, “4 This is what I am saying: When young children inherit all that their father owned, they are still no different from his slaves. It doesn’t matter that they own everything. 2 While they are children, they must obey those who are chosen to care for them. But when they reach the age the father set, they are free. 3 It is the same for us. We were once like children, slaves to the useless rules of this world. 4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, who was born from a woman and lived under the law. 5 God did this so that he could buy the freedom of those who were under the law. God’s purpose was to make us his children.” [Galatians 4:1-4].

In fact, as Paul taught the kingdom of God to the whole of the Jewish nation those that received his word had a renewed respect for the law.  But in speaking of the end of the Mosaic age and the beginning of the New Testament Paul was thought to be speaking against the Law and against the Temple.  This is not what he was doing though he no doubt spoke of the end of that age and beginning of the Messianic age.  Those Jews who understood that the Law was again being preached in its purity had returned to Jerusalem to learn from the Apostles who this Christ was in detail.  Upon his trip to the Jerusalem Paul was warned that many had returned to the law and where overjoyed that the fulfillments were coming true.  The Messiah had come and was fulfilling all things.  To calm those who had the misconception that Paul preached against the Law, the leaders of the Jerusalem church wanted Paul to show all the Jews in the city that he was true to the Law.  Here is the reading of the story in detail:

Paul preaching to the Jews.

Paul preaching to the Jews.

17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.  Acts 22:17-26.

The gospels literally drew Jews back to the Law of Moses.  Within 40 years, however, only those who believed in Jesus as the Christ became the remnant of Jews that would be saved from the destruction of the Temple, the city of Jerusalem and the Nation as a whole.  This would be the Day of the Lord, the day of fire and of judgment against the enemies of the cross of Christ.  Christianity would be free of the genealogies, the bloody sacrifices, the priesthood, the incense and holy water and the sanctuary where God once held his position.  Instead, a New Jerusalem, a new city and a new way of living would take its place.  This would occur under the guidance of the writings of the New Testament. These started with the book of the Acts of the Apostles and end with the Revelation given to John.

I think we have now answered the question as to whether the gospel accounts represent Old Testament literature and Old Testament teachings, always looking forward for the establishment of a New and Better Testament.  The New Testament had to be ratified by the death of the one who was the owner of the New Testament (Will).  Without his death, Christ could not have ratified the New Testament as a better and more perfect way to relate to God.  He could not have put away the demands of the Law of Moses without first fulfilling the legal obligation that all mankind owed God. It was a sinless life that violated God’s command in the Garden (Adam defied God) therefore only a sinless life could pay the price to redeem the human race.  This was the justice of God.  This was what He required of his Son.  This human sacrifice was Jesus, the only one who lived a sinless life and was worthy to meet the justice required by a just God.

Jesus explains the prophecies that pointed to Him as a suffering Messiah.

Jesus explains the prophecies that pointed to Him as a suffering Messiah.

And so Jesus was born of a Jewish woman, lived under Jewish law, was condemned under Jewish tradition, condemned to death as was required by the Jewish law and at his death, the scripture recorded: “50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” Matthew 27:50-52.  The curtain of the temple separated the most holy place where God’s presence was known to reside with his own holy people.  Christ’s death opened the way into the presence of God  (Luke 22:19-21).  Jesus prepared his disciples before his death asking them to realize the New Covenant each time they ate bread and drank wine.  These would become a tradition of the early church each time they came together… to remember His death in the fellowship with the saints.

19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way, He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” Luke 22:19-20.  And so it has been ever since.

 

remember me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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