Re: Houtos in Matt 5:19

On Sat, 7 May 1994 21:45:39 -0400 (EDT) you said:
>It seems to me that the major reason for dating James later than Paul is
>precisely to place it late enough to be reacting to Paul.  I don't see any
>reason that James should be dated later than Paul (nor, for that matter,
>much reason to date it anywhere in particular).  It seems to me that the
>propensity of a certain strain of scholarship to place all of the NT on a
>single line of development from the "pure" teaching of Jesus to the
>corruptions by Paul and the later "catholicizing" tendencies accounts for
>not only much dating of NT writings, but also the need to read James in
>relation to Paul at all.  Are they really talking about the same thing so
>that they can be said to be in disagreement?  Matthew is another matter in
>terms of dating, but even if Matthew is a generation or more later than
>Paul, I wonder if there is any particular reason to assume that Matthew is
>reacting to (or even concerned with) Paul.

I would have to agree that there isn't much in the way of internal evidence
for dating the letter of James other than the argument about faith and works
in Chaper 2. Personally, however, I think that is quite enough for supposing
it to be late enough to be a response, not necessarily to Paul's own doctrine
but to a doctrine that Paul himself seems to have realized was a ready
misunderstanding of his doctrine, namely that, SINCE Christ is the end of the
Law, one is no longer subject to moral obligations.

As for Matthew, I think there are plenty of reasons to date it after the
destruction of Jerusalem. The item of major interest here, however, is not so
much the dating of Matthew as the whole tenor of 5:17-20, its insistence that
not one jot or tittle of the Law is to pass away before the Parousia (or how-
ever else one may understand the last clause of 5:18, "until everything has
taken place." I find it difficult to read these four verses without seeing in
them too a challenge, either to Paul's doctrine that "Christ is the end of the
Law," or else--and I think more likely--to the same sort of misundertanding of
Pauline doctrine as I referred to above in the case of James. And it is quite
clear that these statements about the Law are not simply a declaration that
the precise content of the Mosaic Law as written are to remain in effect as
long as this world-age endures, since the "Antitheses" that follow intensify
and explain the intent of the Law as Rabbi Jesus interprets it. 5:20 is surely
the strongest POSITIVE statement about the Pharisees to be found in the NT,
and it seems to me that one might, with some caution, describe the teaching of
Mt 5:17-20 as a "Christian Pharisee" understanding of the Mosaic Law.

Regarding another point, I am far from any such tendency as that referred to
by Professor Grabar, to see a linear development from a "pure" teaching of
Jesus to "corruptions of Paul," etc. etc. I rather suspect that Jesus himself
was a much more complex and nuanced thinker and teacher to be captured in a
"pure" characterization by any one of the gospels or by Paul. I suspect that
adherents of several different Jewish sects found their reasons to become his
disciples and that they did not completely abandon their previous understanding
of themselves and of Jewish tradition when they did so. And I think that there
was probably enough variety (so to speak) in the utterances of Jesus about the
Law to allow for a whole gamut of early Christian attitudes toward the Law,
ranging from an outright rejection or annulment of the Mosaic Law at one
extreme, to a "radically conservative" stance such as I see represented in
Mt 5:17-20, to a much more traditionally conservative stance upholding the
Law as binding forever in both its ethical and its ritual aspects.

Since I am already so far out on that limb, let me speculate a bit further (all
of this, of course, is speculation, but speculation based on a reading and
interpretation of texts) that the inclusion of James and of the passage of
Matthew here under consideration (5:17-20) in the canon, whether or not intend-
ed as such, provides a marvelous corrective against the misreading of Paul's
doctrine that Christ is the end of the Law. I do not believe that there is any
real contradiction between Mt 5:17-20 and Paul's teaching about the Law, but
it does seem to me that this passage in Matthew challenges the adherent to
Pauline doctrine to modify, clarify or elucidate more precisely the matter of
HOW Christ is the end of the Law: as annulment? as TELOS? or, as Matthew would
evidently affirm, as PLERWSIS.

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