Does Jesus’ Teaching Contradict the Teaching of Moses?

From Issue: R&R – Issue 44 #5

The number of those who, over the centuries, have attacked the inspiration of the Bible has been legion. Yet, like an anvil, the Bible has deflected the blows leaving its inspired status unaffected. Not one discrepancy, contradiction, or error has been successfully sustained.1 In Matthew chapter 5, a surface perusal of Jesus’ remarks in His “Sermon on the Mount” causes one to question whether Jesus was disparaging the teaching of Moses in the Old Testament while affirming the superiority of His own teaching.

In verses 17-48 of chapter 5, Jesus cannot be speaking disparagingly of the Law of Moses or setting Himself and His teaching against Moses’ teaching. After all, He authored the Hebrew Scriptures—including the Sabbath (e.g., Matthew 12:8). Why would He then minimize or ridicule them? He knew that Old Testament commandments were “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12) and extremely vital (Psalms 19:7-11; 119). He knew that the Old Testament would continue to function in useful ways for God’s people during the Christian era (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:14-17). Negative attitudes about the Old Law arise from misconceptions concerning the Law’s function.2 Rather than pitting His teaching against Moses’ teaching, in reality, Jesus was contrasting, in pointed and impressive fashion, the difference between God’s original intentions inherent within Mosaic legislation and the pharisaical/scribal distortions of God’s law which had collected over the centuries.3

Throughout His discourse on this matter,4 Jesus does not say, “It is written” or “Moses said” as He did on other occasions.5 Instead, He uses such introductory phrases as “You have heard that it was said to those of old” (5:21) and “You have heard that it was said” (5:38). These ambiguous allusions alert the reader to the existence of a body of rabbinical commentary and interpretation which had gradually accumulated, and which had come to shroud and even contradict original Mosaic legislation. Jesus repeatedly accused the religious leaders of neutralizing the true intent of the Old Law by their misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Scripture (e.g., Matthew 15:3,6; 12:7,12). Consider the following exegetical analysis which shows Jesus did not contradict Moses.

Verses 17-20

Verses 17-20 serve as an introduction to verses 21-48. Verse 20 sets the stage for Jesus’ main point, i.e., that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (their doctrine and practice) was not synonymous with true righteousness that pleases God. The Jews possessed religious ardor and enthusiasm (like many who follow worship fads and false religion), but their practice of religion was fraught with ignorance and misconceptions concerning the actual substance and content of proper religious activity (Romans 10:1-3).

Because His teaching was so different from the prevailing approach to religious teaching by the Jewish hierarchy, popular sentiment no doubt held that the teaching of Jesus contradicted the teaching of Moses as represented by the Jewish leadership. Jesus’ teaching did, indeed, contradict much of the Jewish religion of His day, but His teaching did not contradict Mosaic teaching. Christ’s work was the logical sequel to Old Testament religion.

To clarify this misconception, in one dramatic and sweeping declaration, He reaffirmed His positive relationship to the Old Law: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (5:17). His relationship to the Law was not one of destructive opposition but constructive fulfillment. Jesus’ life and work was, in reality, the logical goal6 of the Law of Moses (Romans 10:4). He brought Old Testament religion to completion and fruition. This obviously meant that Mosaic legislation would soon become “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13) and therefore removed as a legitimate means of approaching God (Hebrews 10:9). But Jesus did not wish to leave the impression that He possessed a negative attitude toward the Old Law. On the contrary, the Old Law was a divine instrument designed to accomplish divine purposes.

We would do well to study carefully three New Testament terms which are used to describe the condition of the Old Covenant. Jesus declared that He did not come to “destroy” (5:17) the Law. Katalusai means “to end the effect or validity of something,” to “set at naught,” “to destroy, demolish, overthrow, throw down.”7 In other words, Jesus’ life and work was not designed to “put down” or “frustrate” the Law’s plan and purpose. Rather, His mission “fulfilled” or completed the Law. On the other hand, the Old Law as a temporary instrument by which Jews could demonstrate faith was “wiped away” (exaleipsas, Colossians 2:14) and therefore invalidated and made powerless (katargesas, Ephesians 2:15).8 In other words, the Old Law did its job during the time period for which it was intended, but since Jesus has come and done His job, the Old Law is now unemployed—out of a job with no further legal efficacy and therefore deprived of its influence and power as a specific means of manifesting faith.9 We no longer need a “supervisor” or “custodian” (paidagogos—Galatians 3:24-25) now that we may be “children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). Verse 18 underscores the fact that the Law would remain intact and fully functional until Jesus fulfilled its purpose by offering Himself as the ultimate antidote for man’s estrangement from God. Not one letter nor one tiny stroke of a single letter would pass before fulfillment was achieved.

Armed with this realistic and accurate appraisal of the Old Law, Jesus next stressed to His contemporaries the importance of remaining submissive and obedient to God’s laws given through Moses (5:19). The Jewish leadership in particular was reckless, inconsistent, flippant, and outright disobedient in many areas of God’s law. They both practiced disregard for humble and complete obedience and taught others to do the same. This sorry approach to God’s religion under the Old Testament dispensation would naturally carry over into the New Testament dispensation. Jesus declared such individuals would be “least,” i.e., regarded lightly and with contempt. Those who are “great” in the kingdom are those who hold all of God’s commands in highest regard—even those which men deem insignificant according to human estimation. Unlike those who dismiss complete obedience under the guise of “grace,” those who are “great” in Christ’s kingdom are those who manifest careful sensitivity and diligent concern for compliance with every commandment of God.

But who in Jesus’ day would dare to violate New Testament laws and teach others to do likewise? Obviously, the scribes and Pharisees—the religious authorities of the day. How, specifically, were they doing such? By distorting and misinterpreting the Old Testament law for their own selfish purposes (cf. Matthew 15:1-9). Consequently, in order for Jesus’ contemporaries to be acceptable to God, their “righteousness,” i.e., their religious practice, was going to have to surpass the righteousness of their religious leaders (5:20). That is, those who wished to be pleasing to God were going to have to interpret Mosaic Law properly and act in harmony with it.

Beginning in verse 21, Jesus proceeds to illustrate what it means to “exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.” He does so by alluding to some of the “thicket” that had grown up around original Mosaic legislation. He then delineates the divine intentions underlying several Old Testament issues, depicting the original intent of God’s will on several Mosaic matters.

Jesus fully understood the absolute goodness of God’s laws (cf. Deuteronomy 10:13; Psalm 119). As God Himself, He knew God’s laws in every period of human history have been designed to promote spirituality in those who would submit in humble obedience. God’s laws have always been calculated to engender holiness and purity of heart. Jesus’ contemporaries felt that their external, civil emphasis on the Old Law was sufficient, but Jesus maintained that such anemic compliance made void (i.e., neutralized and extricated the original intent and force of) the Word of God through Moses. As a result, Jesus continually condemned mere external observance of divine laws (e.g., Matthew 23). He never minimized obedience to the specifics of Mosaic law during His time on Earth. Such an approach is not “legalism.” Jesus’ contemporaries perverted true religion by emphasizing external observance to the exclusion of internal intention.

Verses 21-26

Jesus next offered another contrast. The matter of murder was dealt with in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17). The reference to “danger of the judgment” is not found in the Old Testament. Jesus combines these two quotations in order to emphasize the fact that legislation against murder eventually came to be construed as merely a prohibition against the outward act. Jews, therefore, felt justifiable when they held resentment and anger in their heart toward another just as long as they did not outwardly act on the anger to the extent of murdering. They felt they could comply in action and ignore attitude. But, obviously, God’s law through Moses was not intended only to forbid murder while permitting murderous anger to be harbored within the heart. As a matter of fact, the Old Testament repeatedly condemned feelings of anger and hatred (Leviticus 19:17; Proverbs 24:12,17-18,29; 25:21-22). Thus verses 22-26 constitute Jesus’ exegesis of the meaning of God’s original legislation concerning murder without the distortion of years of rabbinic commentary. [NOTE: Observe that the common claim that the Law of Moses addressed only the outward action, while Jesus’ laws went further by addressing the heart and motives behind the outward action, is an erroneous claim. Read Leviticus 19:17-18; Proverbs 4:23; 25:21-22 (quoted by Paul in Romans 12:20).]

Jesus explained that God wanted Jews (and the same carries over for people living today—Christian and non-Christian) to relate to one another in love, harmony, and unity. Verbal expressions of abuse (e.g., “raca” and “fool”) often reflect a heart full of hate. Jesus declared that a hateful attitude is equivalent to murder (cf. 1 John 3:15). “Raca” means “empty head” and is reminiscent of our word “idiot.” Such invectives not only reveal the unkind heart of the user but also deeply injure the individual to whom they are directed. There are certainly times when such words are apropos (e.g., Psalm 14:1; Matthew 23:17). However, Jesus here condemned the harsh, sinful attitude of anger that expresses itself with hostile words of contempt. We humans are so prone to gauge spirituality solely by external action. But God looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He sees from whence ugly language and action arises.

We humans also have a tendency to feel we can be right with God and situated within His good graces while being unjustly estranged from our fellowman. Verses 23-24 extend the teaching on anger by noting that homage paid to God is ineffectual as long as we are out of sorts with our brother. If we cannot love our fellowman whom we have seen, we cannot love God whom we have not seen (1 John 4:20). We must not let the Sun go down on our wrath (Ephesians 4:26). If we have done something to another that we should not have done, God wants us to clear up the matter. He will hold us accountable for such at the Judgment and we may be held accountable in this life if the offended individual decides to go to court and sue (5:25-26). The offender would do well to settle the matter with the offended on the way to the courthouse before the judge rules against the offender and he is tossed in jail! Again, Jesus provided expert commentary on the original import of Mosaic law.

Verses 27-32

Jesus next turned to another legal matter associated with the Law of Moses and Jewish misinterpretation (5:27). In effect, Jesus declared, “You’ve understood the Old Law to forbid merely the outward act of adultery. But I’m telling you that the original law was designed to discourage lust and divorce—items that go hand in hand with adultery.” He then argued (5:28) that when males lust in their hearts after a woman, they’re psychologically committing adultery, the very thing which the Law condemned (cf. 2 Peter 2:14).10 A person would do well to completely amputate the member of his body that facilitates such evil (5:29-30; cf. 10:28). Of course, Jesus was not advocating mutilation of the body. Rather, He stressed the seriousness of sin as it rises from the heart and receives impetus from our physical senses. We simply must put to death our members (Colossians 3:5) in this life or face a far greater hardship: eternal hell.

When the Jews chose to misconstrue Deuteronomy 24 to mean they could divorce their wives for any reason, they were further violating the commandment against adultery (5:31). They were responsible for causing their wives to go to other men and thereby commit adultery (5:32). Since the woman had been put away for some reason other than fornication, whoever married her would be guilty of committing adultery as well. Notice that the guideline of Deuteronomy 24 was not a part of original Sinai regulation. It was a concession evoked by hard hearts (Matthew 19:8) and centered—not upon the legality of divorce—but on the rights of the innocent wife.11

So Jesus was not setting the Law of Moses (“don’t commit adultery”) in opposition to His own teaching (“don’t lust after a woman”). The Old Testament, itself, explicitly forbade lusting after females (Exodus 20:17; Proverbs 5; 6:25; 7:25). Rather, Jesus was explaining that the original law forbidding adultery, by implication, forbade anything that would lead to or contribute to adultery.

Verses 33-37

Next Jesus addressed Himself to His contemporaries’ perversions of the Old Law regarding oaths and swearing. Old Testament passages dealing with oaths12 were calling for honesty and truthful commitment. An oath was merely a formal declaration of intention by the individual. The Old Law possesses no hint whatsoever of differing degrees of determination on the part of the oath-taker. All oaths were to be taken on the basis of God’s presence and culpability before Him.

However, with the passing of time, the Jews had developed an elaborate system of oath-taking which differentiated between levels of intensity based upon various objects (e.g., heaven, Earth, Jerusalem, hair). The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had gotten to the point where the validity of an oath depended—not upon the truthfulness of the individual—but upon the sacredness of the object by which one swore. Jesus condemned such frivolous politicking and reaffirmed the original intent of divine will: tell the truth under all circumstances. After all, God is over every single object to which one might appeal to validate his oath. So all oaths ought to be simply above-board affirmations of truth in light of God’s omnipresence. James echoed the same teaching (James 5:12). Jesus, therefore, was not forbidding judicial oaths that amount to simple “yes” or “no” affirmations of truth. He was forbidding swearing by objects with a view to escaping a straightforward declaration of truth.

Verses 38-42

Our Lord’s next allusion was to the lex talionis of Mosaic law which tailored penalties and punishment to fit the crime (5:38).13 The Old Testament passages which treated this matter were originally intended to promote just retribution, prescribing appropriate penalty for crimes committed against one’s fellowman. These prescriptions were, therefore, restraining measures designed to set limits on punishment while demonstrating God’s view of sin and wrong. The lex talionis reflected God’s humane justice and assisted man in nurturing a healthy view regarding what constitutes appropriate response to man’s inappropriate and injurious behavior. In addition, the “eye for an eye” dictum functioned as a deterrent which discouraged a wrong doer from ever risking his own person by inflicting harm upon the person of another.14

In time, Jewish sentiments perceived the lex talionis as a way to “get back” at an assailant. They regarded this law as a way to secure revenge rather than as a merciful, benevolent restriction. In this way, anger and malice were encouraged rather than discouraged as God intended. In much the same way, our society seems gripped by an insatiable desire to sue anybody and everybody for any and everything. The spirit of revenge and greed is rampant in American culture. The misuse and abuse of our judicial system has made a mockery of laws which were originally intended to facilitate just recompense. Now the system thrives on the spirit of vengeful retaliation by the citizenry and the greed of their lawyers—a tragic distortion of justice. We are in need of the same verbal correctives that Jesus issued to the Jews.

Jesus declared what was in God’s mind in the original Mosaic expression. While laws must exist which discourage and punish the perpetual lawbreakers as well as protect the innocent (1 Timothy 1:8-9; Romans 13:1-7), God wants individuals to love and live in harmony with one another, and to forgive one another when mistakes are made. Consequently, the believer ought to “resist not him that is evil” (5:39). By way of explanation for such a bold statement, Jesus cites three specific situations which illustrate what He meant by nonresistance: (1) turn the other cheek, (2) relinquish the cloak, and (3) go the second mile (5:39-41).

Notice that in each of these cases, Jesus was bringing into focus, not so much the specific situation, but the attitude which underlies these three situations. This is precisely where scribal thought was defective. We must capture the attitude of heart inherent in these examples in order to apply properly the teaching which Jesus is here enjoining to the myriad of circumstances which we face throughout life. We tend to want to minimize and diffuse the potency of Jesus’ words in these examples in order to leave ourselves free to take vengeance when we see fit. While we would not deny that there are appropriate times when a Christian can rightfully defend himself (e.g., Acts 16:36-38; 22:25; 25:10-11), we ought to be extremely careful that we do not become guilty of the very spirit which Jesus condemned: the spirit of revenge and retaliation. By the time we get finished explaining what Jesus did not mean by “turn the other cheek,” we may well have completely neutralized what Jesus did mean.

Jesus, Himself, is the supreme and definitive example of what it means “not to resist an evil person” (vs. 39). He gently tolerated the abuse directed against Him personally—a point which Peter drives home with penetrating poignancy (1 Peter 2:21-23). Notice that this pronouncement against resistance is explained by several parallel New Testament phrases: (1) Romans 12:19—“give place to wrath” (i.e, step aside and allow God to retaliate in His own way in His own good time); (2) 1 Corinthians 4:12—“being persecuted, we suffer it” (i.e., we endure or tolerate the mistreatment rather than lash out at our persecutors); (3) 1 Peter 2:19-20—“endure grief, suffering wrongfully” and “take it patiently” (i.e., bear up under unwarranted abuse without retaliating); (4) 1 Peter 2:23—“reviled not….threatened not but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (i.e., Jesus took the blows without reacting spitefully or vengefully); and (5) Romans 12:17— “Recompense to no man evil for evil” (i.e., do not fall prey to natural human inclination to reciprocate when mistreated).

Paul addressed in Romans 12 essentially the same point which Jesus addressed in Matthew 5. To do so, Paul appeals to the Old Testament—further underscoring the fact that Jesus was upholding and defending the Old Law in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21-22 to emphasize to the Christian the same point that God and Christ wanted the Old Testament Jew to recognize, i.e., that vengeance and retaliation are out of harmony with God’s will and that returning good for evil is the appropriate course of action for those who love God.

Whether the child of God faces physical violence, judicial injustice, or governmental oppression, he will “bend over backwards” to accommodate and avoid altercation. He will sincerely and genuinely care for those who mistreat him (cf. Acts 7:60). He will be less concerned for self-preservation and more concerned for the welfare of his fellowman (cf. Luke 10:30-37). Rather than being guarded, defensive, selfish, and “tight” with “our” things, we will be open, liberal, generous, and benevolent (Proverbs 21:26; Luke 6:38). Jesus summarized verses 38-41 by advancing a positive declaration in verse 42: “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” This command is reminiscent of Deuteronomy 15:7-11. Study this Old Testament passage very carefully, for it proves conclusively, not only what Jesus enjoins regarding returning good for evil, but that Old Testament religion also addressed the heart, the attitude, and the motives which underlie our external behaviors.

Verses 43-48

The final paragraph of chapter 5 pertains to the mixture of Mosaic legislation and tradition regarding treatment of enemies. The phrase “1ove your neighbor” is found in Leviticus 19:18 but the formula “hate your enemy” is not found in Scripture and was clearly a distortion of God’s Old Law in order to accommodate human inclination. In fact, kind treatment of enemies is commanded in the Old Testament (Exodus 23:4-5). It is true that God wanted the Jewish nation to execute righteous vengeance upon wicked, pagan societies at various points in history (cf. Romans 13:1-7). But these civil decrees were not intended to endorse, sanction, or promote hatred of people out of personal bias.

On at least two separate occasions, Jesus Himself made clear that the original Mosaic injunction to “love your neighbor” meant that the child of God should seek the welfare of everybody—including his enemy. On one occasion, He identified Leviticus 19:18 as the “second” greatest commandment of the Old Law (Matthew 22:39). On another occasion, He elaborated upon this command by relating the incident of the “Good Samaritan” and showing that our “neighbor” is anyone, regardless of ethnicity, who needs our assistance (Luke 10:25-27). Jesus deliberately selected a Samaritan—a mortal enemy of the Jew—as the “hero” of this narrative in order to emphasize that loving one’s neighbor encompasses even enemies. Stephen (Acts 7:59-60) also epitomized the essence of Matthew 5:44.

Fathers, who have a particularly talented son or daughter who accomplishes some significant feat, are prone to express their pride in their offspring by ribbing a friend with their elbow, pointing at their performing child, and saying, “That’s my son.” In like manner, God’s children (5:45) are those who “do Him proud” by treating the wicked antagonist in a loving manner. Indeed, this attitudinal ingredient is representative of God Himself. The bestowal of His physical blessings (i.e., sunshine and rain—vs. 45; cf. Acts 14:17) are extended even to those who do not deserve them. God is kind even to the unthankful and the evil (Luke 6:35).

Not only does beneficial reciprocation make us like God, it makes us unlike the ungodly. Even the impenitent and willful tax collectors and Gentiles (teloni, ethnikoi) manifest kindness, love, and friendly greetings toward their own kind. That is, the traitorous and greedy tax collector and the non-Jew—both of whom Jesus’ hearers would regard as degenerate—possessed a measure of “love” and good will. But the follower of God goes beyond normal, typical, worldly human inclinations by transcending them to attain the higher place of spiritual living.

Finally, Jesus encapsulates in brief, terse terminology a fitting finish to these thoughts on God’s will regarding love for fellowman. He calls upon the Jews (and Christians today) to be “perfect” in the same fashion that God is “perfect” (5:48). The term teleioi does not refer to perfection in the sense of sinlessness. Rather, “perfect” means “mature,” “full-grown,” “being fully developed in a moral sense.”15 In context, Jesus is opposing the fragmented approach which the Jews were taking in their interpersonal relationships. Their love for neighbor was divided and incomplete. They needed to love their enemies as well as their friends. On this basis, they are admonished to be complete in the same fashion that God is complete. He loves the whole world of humanity—including those who are evil (John 3:16). In like manner, the love which Jews were to have for their fellowman was to be full, whole, and complete. Their love was to be a total love, extending even to enemies.


A careful, verse-by-verse analysis of Matthew 5 demonstrates that, far from denigrating the Law of Moses, Jesus declared to His contemporaries the logical goal of that Law, i.e., Himself. Not only did He not criticize the Mosaic system, He, Himself, conformed to its precepts perfectly (cf. Hebrews 4:15). He urged all other Jews to do the same. Rather than speaking derisively of the Law, or contradicting the Law, Jesus provided masterful commentary on a variety of legal matters that the Jewish hierarchy had distorted and misrepresented in their leadership role responsibilities. He challenged His contemporaries (and all of us) to go beyond the mere mechanical implementation of God’s laws. We are encouraged to realize the full potential of the vibrant, life-giving guidelines of the Creator in our lives. We are called upon to refrain from distorting the will of God and neutralizing divine intent. We are commanded to possess a righteousness that exceeds the petty, diluted, watered-down religion of those who have lost sight of what God intends for our souls. He wants us to be “happy” in a way that people will never be happy—unless they mold their hearts, minds, and lives around the potent and powerful truths of the eternal God. No, Jesus did not contradict or demean the Law of Moses. Rather, He upheld it.


1 See The Anvil Rings series available from Apologetics Press,, as well as a host of books through the centuries that effectively answer the skeptics’ allegations.

2 Cf. Romans 3:19-20; 7:7,12,14; Galatians 3:21. Study Gordon Ferguson’s discussion of the interrelationship of grace, law, and love in Thomas B. Warren and Garland Elkins, eds. (1978), God Demands Doctrinal Preaching (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press), pp. 225-236. Certainly, the Old Law was inadequate (Hebrews 8:7) to accomplish God’s ultimate objective on Earth. As the Hebrews writer declared so often, the New Testament with all of its attendant elements is “better” (Hebrews 1:4; 6:9; 7:7,19,22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16,35,40; 12:24) than the Mosaic system that preceded it. But this is so for the reason that the Mosaic law was not designed to do what Christ’s law could do. The seeming denigrations in the New Testament of the Law are actually directed at the misconceptions and improper attitudes which many of the Jews possessed about the Law. How unfortunate that anyone would latch on to these negative descriptions and then draw the equally false conception that Christians are not under law or obligated to be involved in meticulous obedience.

3 This contrast continues on into chapter 6 where He includes corrective comments pertaining to benevolent giving (6:1-4), prayer (6:5-15), fasting (6:16-18), and materialism (6:19-34).

4 Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:3; 12:26; Luke 24:27; John 3:14; 5:45-46; 7:19ff.

5 The Greek term in Romans 10:4 (telos) refers to the fact that Christ (the plan He implemented) is the “end,” i.e., goal/aim/purpose/climax/target, of the law. In his 1985 Biblico-Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark), p. 541, Hermann Cremer observed that the word “does not, as is commonly supposed, primarily denote the end, termination, with reference to time, but the goal reached, the completion or conclusion at which anything arrives, either as issue or ending, and thus including the termination of what went before,” emp. in orig.

6 Frederick Danker (2000), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago), third edition, p. 522; James Moulton and George Milligan (1930), Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-literary Sources (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982 reprint), p. 329; Robert Mounce (2006), Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), p. 1183.

7 Danker, pp. 344,525.

8 This is not to say that the Old Testament has no value to the Christian. Paul stated emphatically that it is extremely relevant to the Christian Era—Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6,11; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; et al. Rather, the Old Covenant was addressed specifically to the Israelites—not Gentiles—and it reached its climactic pinnacle at the cross. Now, under Christianity, all human beings—Jew and Gentile—are amenable to the terms of the New Covenant.

9 Of course, Jesus was not saying that lust is exactly equivalent to adultery and, thus, grounds for divorce. He was simply noting that lust and adultery are both sinful. The adultery that is just grounds for divorce (Matthew 19:9) refers to the physical act—even as murder refers to the physical act of taking another person’s life.

10 See Jack P. Lewis (1978), “From the Beginning It Was Not So…” in Your Marriage Can Be Great, ed. Thomas B. Warren (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press), pp. 410-419. See also Dave Miller (2020), “Did Moses Command Divorce? (Deuteronomy 24:1-4),”

11 Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 5:11; 23:21-23.

12 “At a deeper level the talion is understood to state an aesthetic principle of poetic justice, in which the core idea is the exactitude of the fit, the perfection of the matching. Let the punishment fit the crime”—William Miller (2006), Eye for an Eye (New York: Cambridge University Press), p. 65.

13 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21.

14 “It shut the door to unlimited revenge and kept the punishment from exceeding the crime”—Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, eds. (2001), “V” in The Oxford Guide to Ideas & Issues of the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press).

15 Danker, pp. 995-996.


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