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Announcement: I Have Changed My Understanding of “New Law”

Peter Ditzel

January 2019: I recently revisited some articles I wrote several years ago and made some necessary changes. These center on what Jesus was doing when He gave His “But I say unto you” statements in Matthew 5. Or, to put it another way, these changes concern whether Jesus was giving Christians a new law to obey.

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Why Did Jesus Say, “But I Tell You”?

A photo of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Why did Jesus refer to the Old Testament and then say, “But I tell you”? Was He giving us new laws to obey, or was He making an entirely different point? The Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

by Peter Ditzel

The Bible records that Jesus many times used the words, “But I tell you,” or, as the King James Version puts it, “But I say unto you.” He did this after first either quoting the Old Testament or stating a principle from the Old Testament. Then He used what He said from the Old Testament as a springboard to teach a moral principle that sounded even stricter than the Old Testament.

Why did Jesus do this? Was it, as some claim, that Jesus was refuting or correcting Old Testament laws? (See, for example, “Jesus Refuted Old Testament Laws” and “6 Times Jesus Contradicted the Old Testament.”) Or was He merely correcting misinterpretations of the scribes and Pharisees? (For example, see “How to Avoid the Folly of the Pharisees.”) On the other hand, perhaps He was raising the standard of the law and in so doing, He was teaching that we Christians must obey the law more than the scribes and Pharisees. (See “What does Jesus mean when He says, ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed…?’”), and, (“More Righteous Than The Pharisees?“) There are many opinions, but I want to show you from the Bible the plain and simple answer to why Jesus said, “But I tell you.”

The Sermon on the Mount

[This article was revised in January 2019: Further information.]

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has been called the epitome of His ethical teaching, His manifesto, and the key of the whole Bible. To understand the Sermon on the Mount and its relevance for you, you need to know who was Jesus’ intended audience and whether Jesus was correcting the misunderstandings of the scribes and Pharisees, whether He was fulfilling the role of the new Lawgiver by giving a new law, or whether He had an entirely different purpose.

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