The power of the law (Lk 16:17-16:17)

“It is easier

For heaven

And earth

To pass away,

Than for one stroke

Of a letter

Of the law

To be dropped.”

 

εὐκοπώτερον δέ ἐστιν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν παρελθεῖν ἢ τοῦ νόμου μίαν κεραίαν πεσεῖν.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that it was easier (εὐκοπώτερον δέ ἐστιν) for heaven (τὸν οὐρανὸν) and earth (καὶ τὴν γῆν) to pass away (παρελθεῖν), than for one stroke of a letter of the law to be dropped (ἢ τοῦ νόμου μίαν κεραίαν πεσεῖν).  Nothing in the Law or the Torah could be changed or dropped, plain and simple.  This saying is similar to Mark, chapter 13:31, and Matthew, chapter 5:18, with a few exceptions.  Matthew has this as a great Jesus solemn pronouncement for his disciples (ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν).  The next phrase is the same in Luke and Mark.  Heaven and earth would not pass away (ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ) until the law was fully accomplished (ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου, ἕως ἂν πάντα γένηται).  Matthew, like Luke here, is even more specific with a detailed remark about the fact that not even an iota of the Law or not one stroke of a letter would go away (ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου), before the Law was fully accomplished.  Iota was the Greek word for the Hebrew yod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  Mark indicated that it was the words of Jesus, and not the Law, that would not change.  Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, chapter 3:31, would further expand on this idea of upholding the law.  In Matthew, chapter 24:35, and in Luke, chapter 21:33, Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away (ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ παρελεύσονται), but his words would not pass away (οἱ δὲ λόγοι μου οὐ μὴ παρελεύσονται).  This was a simple statement about the enduring quality of the words of Jesus.  Here, however, it is the words of the law that would not pass away, not the words of Jesus.  Which is more important for you, the law or the words of Jesus?

Do not condemn! (Lk 6:37-6:37)

“Do not condemn!

Then you will not be condemned.”

 

καὶ μὴ καταδικάζετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ καταδικασθῆτε.

 

This unique saying of Luke indicated that Jesus continued to expand on not judging others by telling them they were not to condemn others (καὶ μὴ καταδικάζετε).  Then they themselves would not be condemned (καὶ οὐ μὴ καταδικασθῆτε).  Luke emphasized this mercifulness to a greater degree.  Have you ever condemned someone?

Do not murder (Mt 5:21-5:21)

“You have heard

That it was said

To those in ancient times.

‘You shall not murder!’

Whoever murders

Shall be liable

To judgment.”

 

Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις Οὐ φονεύσεις· ὃς δ’ ἂν φονεύσῃ, ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει.

 

Next Matthew has Jesus expand on the individual commandments. The first of these was killing or murder. Human life was important, as first outlined in Genesis, chapter 4:1-16, in the Cain and Abel story, as well as in chapter 9:5-6, after the Flood. They already knew this basic commandment, since they had heard what had been told to their ancient ancestors (Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις). This was the simple commandment not to murder or kill anyone (Οὐ φονεύσεις) from the Ten Commandments in Exodus, chapter 20:13 and Deuteronomy, chapter 5:17, as well as in Exodus, chapter 21:12-17, where there was a section on homicide. There were consequences for anyone who murdered someone else (ὃς δ’ ἂν φονεύσῃ). They were responsible for their actions. They were liable to be brought to judgment (ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει). This judgment would be before a Jewish court. There were a series of things that had to be done when a murder occurred, as outlined in Deuteronomy, chapter 21:1-9. The law about murder was fairly clear.

The unjust king and his house (Jer 22:13-22:14)

“Woe to him

Who builds his house

With unrighteousness!

Woe to him

Who builds his upper rooms

With injustice!

Woe to him

Who makes his neighbors

Work for nothing!

Woe to him

Who does not give them

Their wages!

Woe to him

Who says

‘I will build myself

A spacious house

With large upper rooms.’

He cuts out windows for it.

He panels it with cedar.

He paints it with vermilion.”

This seems to be a swipe at King Jehoiakim or King Eliakim (609-598 BCE) who was put in charge by the Egyptian king. Apparently, he decided to expand the palace using Egyptian styles, like large upper rooms, lots of windows, paneled cedar, and vermilion paint. Jeremiah seems to censure him for building this great palace with injustice and unrighteousness, since he did not correctly pay the people who did the work.

A reproach against large estates (Isa 5:8-5:10)

“Woe to you

Who join house to house!

Woe to you

Who add field to field!

Finally there is room

For no one but you.

You are left

To live alone

In the midst of the land.

Yahweh of hosts has sworn

In my hearing.

‘Surely many houses

Shall be desolate.

Large houses

Will be without inhabitants.

Beautiful houses

Will be without inhabitants.

Ten acres of vineyard

Shall yield but one bath.

A homer of seed

Shall yield a mere ephah.’”

Next Isaiah issues a series of curses or reproaches to the people of Judah. First of all, he rants about the idea of people wanting too much land. If you add house to house, or field to field, you make it difficult for others. Your huge estate will leave you to live alone on your land. Yahweh had spoken to Isaiah to say that many houses will lay desolate. Large and beautiful houses will be empty. The land will not yield much. 10 acres will only produce about 6 gallons (a bath) of a crop. 6 bushels of seed (a homer) will produce less than a bushel of grapes (an ephah). The more you try to expand your living area and your fields, the more it will come to very little.