The “Antitheses” of Jesus: Overturning Moses and Torah or Something Else?

All of the first followers of Jesus were Jews. They characterized Jesus in a number of Jewish ways: as Messiah, God’s son, a prophet. The latter designation, prophet, seems an obvious and even insufficient understanding of who Jesus was when compared with the other titles. Nevertheless, this characterization of Jesus is likely based on a prophecy from the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. In the book of Deuteronomy a future prophet like Moses is promised to God’s people (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; see also 34:10).

Some first-century Jews expected that this prophet would arrive to herald the End Times just before God reclaimed his rule over the earth and the people inhabiting it. Some saw Jesus as this very prophet, a Moses-like figure who would, incidentally, perfectly fulfill the Torah that Moses left behind. How best to follow Torah was and continues to be a matter of utmost importance for Jews. But once God’s kingship was established on earth there would be no need for such laws. People would live in perfect righteousness and the earth would return to its original perfect state. In a world like that, laws would no longer be necessary.

According to Jesus’s followers, the herald of the New Age did come. It was Jesus. But the transformation of the earth did not occur as a result. The evil kingdoms of the world were not overthrown nor did the earth become another Garden of Eden. Thus, for Christian Jews, the Torah remained in effect and the debate continued on how best to follow it. Evidence of these concerns can be found decades after the crucifixion as written in the Gospel of Matthew.

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