One of the teachings of Judaism regarding Messiah (to this day), is that He will come and teach His people the deeper points of the Torah. Jesus does this deeper teaching in the remaining verses of chapter five. He begins with the expression, "You have heard it said." This He does both to draw his audience's attention to a specific point, as well as to make a distinction between His opinion on a matter of Torah and any other(s) of His time. He is offering His authoritative interpretations on how to follow the commandments. In the Judaism of the times of Jesus, these are called halachtic (hah-LAHK-tik) rulings.Such rulings, or specific teachings satisfy not only the question that the crowds had regarding his liberal or strict understanding of the Law, these statements contrasted the superficial obedience of the Pharisees with the heart obedience identified in the 'Beatitudes'.
It is important to realize that Jesus did not come to, "correct all the misguided teachings of the Pharisees." (This thought is commonly expressed in religions that have little understanding of the Judaism of Yeshua's time.)
First, it should be noted that there was no dominating concensus among the Pharisees and other religious groups at that time. A brief look at the Pharasaic writings in the Talmud, show a diversity of opinion, including many that argue against each other. This is called arguing for the sake of HaShem (God). The arguments ranged from what is working on the Sabbath to ideas of the wheels in Ezekiel. This also meant there were many different views on how the Torah was obeyed or what acts violate the Law.
Secondly, Jesus actually supported many Pharasaic opinions on the Torah that eventually were captured in the text of the Talmud. The first collection of these teaching appeared around 200 years after Jesus lived, although they contain teachings from rabbis who lived much earlier. Jesus not only quoted and supported Pharisaic teaching, He also upheld the religious authority of the Pharisees. He told the people to obey the Pharisees, as they "sat in Moses' seat," meaning their authority came from God. (Matthew 23:1-3)
There were two majority schools of Rabbinic thought at that time, the school of Rabbi Hillel and the school of Rabbi Shammai (both of whom had died prior to teh time aJesus lived). Hillel was the grandfather of Gamliel, who was the leader of the Sanhedrin and who taught the apostle Paul. Hillel's teachings were thought to be more liberal than those of Shammai, which were considered more strict. As we will see, throughout the Gospels, Jesus is often agreeing with an already existing Pharasaic interpretation of Scripture.
The main point is that Jesus' comments are within the framework of Pharasaic discussion. Unfortunately, the term "Pharisee" has a totally negative meaning today, even though many Pharisees were Godly men and some followed Jesus - (i.e., Paul, Nicodemus, and the factions mentioned in Acts 15 and Luke 13:31). As uncomfortable as many would find hearing this -- Jesus would have been regarded by many as a Pharisee. When the Pharisees went out to question John the Baptist about who John was, he said that one among THEM (the Pharisees) was the Messiah to come (John 1:26-27).
The Pharisees themselves were highly critical of one another, saying there were "seven kinds of Pharisees," and not all were good. The disciples of Hillel went so far as calling those of Shammai, "sons of Satan," in a similar fashion to what Jesus called some of them.When we see Jesus rebuking the Pharisees, it is very much a "family argument," and needs to be understood as such.
In verses 21-48, Jesus brings up a number of issues surrounding actual commandments. As we will see, he often quotes directly from the Talmudic writings of the Pharisees. He is addressing the "fences" (safeguards) placed around the Torah. Many teachers devised extentions of a specific Law in order to make the Law was obeyed. We see this first with Eve. Adam was told not to eat from the one tree, Eve adds "nor touch". Obviously, if Eve didn't touch the fuit, she cojuld not eat it. in some cases Jesus supported the fence the Pharisees put in place -- in other places he offers His own "fence."
This is a direct commentary on the sixth commandment (which is actually against "murder," and not "killing"). Note that when He says, But I say unto you, He is not cancelling the commandment, as murder is still sin and will bring judgment. Rather, He is showing that in addition to following the letter of the commandments, one should go beyond the minimum requirements as we grow in our relationship with God.
This comment is on the heels of 5:13-21 where Jesus says he is teaching Torah "correctly" (in its fulness) to His Jewish audience, so that they can take this Torah out to the world.
Jesus makes a connection between murder in verse 21, and "speaking evil" of someone in verse 22. This was not a "new teaching," but had been greatly overlooked by that time. Such "evil speaking" is called speaking "Lashon Hara" (Evil Tongue) against a person, and is equated with murder throughout Jewish literature. The book of "James" (Ya'acov is his real name), it also speaks of the subject of "the tongue" to great length.
Jesus is reminding the people that "character assassination" is as bad a "physical assassination" in God's sight. This is the higher level of Torah that He taught -- All part of His greater command to "Love one another."
This is also the first of many examples we will show of Yeshua supporting Pharasaic Talmud:
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