This week in worship seems to pull us out of the convoluted twists and turns of biblical meaning and places us in the unmistakable ruling of Christ on God's law. Finally! right? Maybe. With scripture, I'm never so optimistic.
As usual, I'll try to leave some for Sunday; but one can never go wrong with questions. As a matter of fact, I tend to agree with philosophers that our answers are only as good as the questions we ask. That's because, I believe--especially in faith--, we're always dealing with revelation. What's concealed, which raises the question initially, is actually there to be unconcealed in the very question.
Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐῤῥέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις...
Ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν...
Unless you're schooled in Koine Greek, the above clauses make no sense. However, if you've read Matthew 5.21-48, then you've probably already figured out how they translate into English:
You've heard that it was said to the ancients...
But I, I say to you...
What does it mean that this clausal formula repeats in verses 21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, and 43-44?
In biblical scholarship, this section (this clausal formula found only in the Gospel of Matthew's version) is known as the "antitheses." But notice how this clausal formula isn't used as a typical antithesis. Generally, an antithesis goes something like this:
It is thought P1 + P2 = C.
But (I say) P1 + P2 = ~C.
Notice: that's not what Jesus is doing here at all, so "antitheses" may be a misnomer. Jesus is not saying, "You've heard it said to those of old, 'Don't murder,' but I say to you, 'Murder folk.'"
What is Jesus really up to in these "antitheses"?
Each Gospel is unique in its message and portrayal of Jesus. So, when we consider this clausal formula, we notice its emphatic, redundant use of the first-person-singular; and it begs the question, "Who?"
Who exactly is this person assuming the authority to posit such interpretations of God's law?
Lastly, being that we're dealing with a very structured writing here, we must look for a big resolution to the use of this clausal formula. It was opened around verses 5.17-20, so where does it close? Seems the logical place would be verse 7.12. Imagine Matthew 7.12 functioning like a harmony note that's played simultaneously with 5.21-26, 5.27-30, 5.31-32, 5.33-37, 5.38-42, and 5.43-48.
It just might be that Matthew 7.12 is the root note and the others are harmonizers.