“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one[jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
Jesus’ words found in Matthew’s gospel are powerful. The challenge that they present to traditional views of eschatology, of Israel and the Old Law are tremendous. Unfortunately, not enough Bible students are as aware of the issues presented here.
Jesus’ words assuredly say that all of the Law had to pass before even the slightest jot or tittle (the dotting of an “i” or the crossing of a “t”) could pass away. Simply stated, that means that everything in the Tanakh, the Old Testament, had to be fulfilled for the Law to pass away. And since the Old Testament predicted the Judgment, the coming of the Lord and the resurrection, that means that those eschatological tenets had to be fulfilled for the law to pass. It also means that until God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel are fulfilled, that Israel remains God’s covenant people.
To say this is challenging to traditional views of the Law, Israel and eschatology is a huge understatement. The traditional view of Christianity is that the Law passed away at the cross, and that we are still waiting for the Judgment, Christ’s end of the age coming and the resurrection. And except for the Dispensationalists it is widely held that Israel is no longer God’s covenant people, the Lord having fulfilled His promises to create a New People. (While Postmillennialists still look for the salvation of “all Israel” that is not viewed (generally) as a restoration of national Israel)
Preterists generally, and I certainly agree, pay careful attention and focus on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5. The opponents of Covenant Eschatology insist that we totally miss Jesus’ words and distort what he said. The objections to the full preterist view of Matthew 5:17-18 generally take the following form:
1. – When Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law, that means that everything necessary for the passing of the Law was fulfilled in Jesus’ Incarnation. This view is a distortion of what he said and ignores the organic unity between his Incarnation and his parousia.
2.-When Jesus spoke of “the law” he was not speaking of “the prophets” but the moral law. Another twist on that is that when he spoke of the passing of “the law” he was not referring to the moral law but to the co-called “ceremonial law,” i.e. the sacrifices, the feast days, etc..
3.- When Jesus said that none of the law would pass until it was “all” fulfilled, he did not truly mean ALL, but just the parts that had to be fulfilled, i..e the moral law, but again, not the ceremonial law.
Just recently, on YouTube, a poster who commonly interacts with my videos took issue with my view on Matthew 5:17-18. He insists that if he destroys the preterist view of Matthew 5:17-18 that the entire house of preterism falls to the ground. (This is a false claim). He made this boast several times, claiming he had a list of things that have to be proven about Matthew 5:17-18. Yet he never posted his arguments until I finally insisted that he do so. After all, if he can refute the full preterist view, he needs to do so. With that in mind, he finally set forth his seven arguments that he claims refute Covenant Eschatology, insisting that we must prove several things about the text to establish our case. Let it be noted that in some cases, his claim is true, for instance #1. Below, I have enumerated his arguments and placed my response to them.
You need to take your own advice and first “prove” your view of Matthew 5:18, before you filter all other eschatology through that verse.
#1 -You need to prove that the word ALL is used in the absolute sense, when it seldom is elsewhere in scripture.
Response: Jesus said “not one jot or one tittle of the law” would pass until it was ALL, fulfilled. That “All” is inclusive of every jot and every tittle. So, Partial Preterist, can you tell us what is involved in “not one jot or one tittle”?
The term “The law” is used to refer to the Psalms, the prophets and the Decalogue. So, what is your exegetical, contextual, justification for excluding any portion of “the Law” from “All”? After all, if the prophets were called “the law” (1 Cor. 14:20ff), then since Jesus said that not one jot or one tittle of “The law” could pass until it was all fulfilled” then you have to show how the prophets, which were called “the law” are excluded from Matthew 5:17-18.
For instance, you admit that the Old Covenant animal sacrifices are no longer valid. Ok, that means that they have passed away. But you see, the “animal sacrifices and fleshly circumcision” were a huge part of “the law.” Thus, you have a lot of jots and tittles being annulled, while Jesus said that not one jot or one tittle could pass until it was ALL fulfilled. The question is: how do you reject the definition of ALL, as inclusive of “every jot and every tittle”?
Let me remind you: A primary rule of hermeneutic is that a word is to give its normal definition unless and until context demands otherwise.
I accept that premise and principle.
That means, UNLESS CONTEXT DETERMINES OTHERWISE, THAT ALL IN MATTHEW 5:17-18 MEANS PRECISELY THAT– IT MEANS ALL.
Now, since you seem to be the one denying that principle, the burden of proof falls squarely on you to prove that ALL in Matthew 5:17-18 does not mean ALL.
#2- You need to prove that FULFILLED also means to remove.
Response: Why are you misrepresenting me – AGAIN? I never said, have never said, that fulfill means to remove! I explained this in my response to your claims on 1 Cor. 15. When the Law was fulfilled, it would be then that it would be removed. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18. Not one jot or one tittle of the Law would pass UNTIL IT WAS ALL FULFILLED.
FULFILLMENT WOULD RESULT IN PASSING; FULFILLMENT IS NOT THE PASSING!
#3 -You need to prove that UNTIL also means to cease when the point is reached.
Response: I said– with Jesus – that the law would not pass UNTIL it was fulfilled. The normal meaning of “until” is terminal– up to the point of. Jesus said, “not one jot or one tittle would pass from the law until some point was reached. That point was the point of fulfillment. Since the subject is the passing of the Law, and since he said none would pass until a given time came, then the contextual meaning is that at the time of the fulfillment of all the law, the law would pass.
#4 – You need to prove that the “heavens and earth” in that verse are the old covenant system.
Response: Actually, you have proven this for me already! You stated: //I do not believe animal sacrifices and fleshly circumcision are still valid and binding laws today. //
Okay, “until heaven and earth passes, not one jot or one tittle of the law shall pass away.
But, a lot of the jots and tittles of the law have passed away – so says Partial Preterist.
Therefore, since “heaven and earth” had to pass for even one jot or one tittle of the Law to pass, this means that “heaven and earth” have passed away!
So, tell us, Partial, what “heaven and earth” passed away, to allow the passing of the Sabbaths, circumcision, and the animal sacrifices to pass away?
#5 – You need to prove that ALL of the Law, Prophets, and Psalms were included in term “pass away.”
Response: See above on #1.
Here is (seemingly, correct me if I am wrong) your position:
SOME of the Law passed away when SOME of it was fulfilled – a clear cut violation of Jesus’ words.
You have to find, in the context of Matthew 5, where Jesus redefined “the law”: restricted the definition of “the law” to simply moral commands, or in some other way, restricted the “ALL” referent to mean “some”. Remember, YOU are the one denying the normal definition of the word. And APPEALING TO OTHER, UNRELATED CONTEXTS, TO SHOW THAT “ALL” DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN “ALL” THERE DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT DOES NOT MEAN “ALL” IN MATTHEW 5.
But, you also want the text to say, some will pass when some is fulfilled, but some will remain and never pass away. Another clear violation of the text.
#6 -You need to prove that such an unthinkable event had previously been prophesied in the Law, Prophets, or Psalms. Otherwise, Jesus was introducing a “brand new” prophecy, a possibility you have rejected.
RESPONSE: Jeremiah promised a New Covenant. That meant that the Old Covenant had to pass (Jeremiah 31:29ff / Hebrews 8). The Old Covenant promised a New Creation, unrelated to the Old. That Old Creation that was to pass away is the Creation created at Sinai, Torah, the Old Law (Isaiah 51:15-16). Thus, the passing of the Old Covenant system was not “an unthinkable event”– it was clearly and repeatedly foretold in the prophets.
Partial Preterist answered a question that I posed about the continuing validity of the sacrificial and festal observances: //And to answer your simple “Yes or No” question, the answer is No. I do not believe animal sacrifices and fleshly circumcision are still valid and binding laws today. And neither do most of those bible scholars who I agree with. And it’s totally irrelevant unless you can prove you are right and they are wrong on Matthew 5:17-18.//
#7- You must also prove that the word “Prophets” belongs in Matt.5:18, when Jesus clearly left it out.
Response: No, you have to show that the prophets were not called “the law.” But consider this:
Not one iota of “the law” would pass until it was all fully accomplished (Matthew 5:18).
But, the New Moons, Feast Days and Sabbaths were “the law.” You agree with this, right?
The New Moons Feast Days and Sabbaths, i.e. “the law” were likewise prophetic.
Thus, until every jot and tittle of the New Moons Feast Days and Sabbaths was fully accomplished, not one iota of “the law” would pass.
Keep in mind that Jesus said “the law and the prophets prophesied.” Did you notice what he said? He said “the law” prophesied! How so? Well, in the feast days for sure!
So, unless you can exclude the prophetic element of “the law” from Matthew 5, your objection fails.
So, I have answered each and every one of your Objections and refuted your underlying presupppositions. I have shown that you have to alter the meaning of “all.” You have to show that only “some” of the law had to be fulfilled for the law to pass. I have shown that you admit that some of the law– actually a great part of the Law, has passed away! I have shown that your attempt to exclude “the prophets” from the text is unwarranted and unjustified.
I have shown that all of your Objections are untenable and false. Thus, every jot and every tittle of the Law, inclusive of the prophets, had to be fulfilled for the Law, any jot or any tittle of it, to pass. And since you admit that many of the jots and tittles of the law have passed away, then of necessity, “heaven and earth” have passed away.
First of all, let every one note that Partial has ignored 95% of everything I had to say in response to his seven points on Matthew 5:17-18. Did you notice that he totally ignored the fact that I argued FROM THE TEXT of Matthew 5:17f that the “ALL” is defined by, and controlled by “not one jot or one tittle.” But, Partial wants to limit the definition of “not one jot or one tittle” to just the Decalogue and wants to exclude the Psalms and the Prophets. Where is that found in Matthew 5? It is NOT THERE. I have proven, from Scripture, that the Psalms were called “the law.” I have proven, from scripture, that the prophets were called “the law.” But, none of that proof matters to Partial, because he can find some texts where the word “All” does not truly mean ALL!
Notice one of the many arguments that I have presented that have been totally, 100% ignored by Partial:
The Old Covenant which was to be replaced, INCLUDED THE FEAST DAYS, THE NEW MOONS, FEAST DAYS AND SABBATHS.
Now, Exodus was part of “the covenant”- right? Keep in mind that Jesus said that “the law prophesied”– which you conveniently ignored, 100%.
Did everyone notice how he ignored the words of Jesus?
Anyway, according to Jesus, “the law” i.e. Exodus, prophesied the resurrection: “I am not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Therefore, since not one jot or one tittle of “the law”– which prophesied– could pass until it was ALL fulfilled, then until the resurrection, not one jot or one tittle of “the law” could pass. Agreeing perfectly with 1 Corinthians 15:55-56, which posits the resurrection at the end of the law. And your astounding – totally false- claim is totally falsified, when you say: //I was wondering if you would give up 1Cor.15:56 or Revelation 21:4. It turns out now that you have given up both of them.//
My comments did not give up anything:
The law could not pass until it was all fulfilled.
The law prophesied the resurrection.
Thus, when the resurrection was fulfilled, the law could– and did- pass away.
Did everyone notice that he did not hit a key in response to this?
Let’s note forget also that you have admitted that the sacrificial system has been done away. Well, PP, that sacrificial festal system foreshadowed the resurrection! THAT system could not pass until what it foreshadowed was fulfilled. THUS, WHEN YOU ADMIT THAT THE SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM HAS PASSED, YOU ARE ADMITTING THAT THE RESURRECTION HAS PASSED! To refute this, you have to prove that the new moons, feast days and sabbaths were not shadows of the final salvation and resurrection!
DID EVERYONE NOTICE THAT HE DID NOT HIT A KEY IN RESPONSE TO THIS?
Now, your attempt to avoid the force of Jeremiah goes up in smoke when it is realized that that the entire cultic world of Israel was an integral (foundational even) element of “the covenant.” Thus, the promise of the New Covenant- demanding the passing of the Old Covenant– was in fact the promise of the passing of the prophetic! (You do know, don’t you, that the prophecies of the resurrection are based on the topology of the covenant, don’t you?) Thus, your obfuscatory and illogical argument falls.
But now, let’s take a look at Partial’s feeble attempt to avoid the force of “Not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law until it is ALL fulfilled.” How does he try to avoid what Jesus said in Matthew 5? By running to Joshua!
He cites Joshua 21:43f and Joshua 23. Did you notice what he ever so conveniently failed to share with you, from the context of those passages?
1. He failed (refused) to tell you that the CONTEXT of Joshua 21 is the land promises made to Israel. THOSE LAND PROMISES COMPRISED THE “EVERY GOOD THING THAT THE LORD HAS PROMISED.” Thus, THE CONTEXT DEFINES THE ALL THAT IS IN VIEW.
2. He failed to tell you that the “rest” of Joshua 23 WAS THE REST FROM THEIR ENEMIES! Thus, once again, Partial failed (refused) to honor the fact that THE CONTEXT OF THE PASSAGES HE ADDUCES DEFINE THE ALL THAT IS IN VIEW, AND LIMITS THE SCOPE OF “ALL.”
And he made a blatantly false claim that the fulfillment of all God’s promises mentioned in Joshua was hundreds of years away. Totally false! Folks, just read those contexts! He likewise falsely claims that Peter quotes from these verses in Acts 3. Proof? He gave none.
Did you notice that Partial is essentially claiming that Matthew 5:17-18 is another example of hyperbolic language. He offered not a keystroke of contextual or textual proof. Partial is grasping at broken straws, making argumentum ad desperatum arguments.
But here is the question– and my challenge to Partial:
SHOW US– FROM THE CONTEXT OF MATTHEW 5:17-18, WHERE JESUS LIMITS THE SCOPE OF “THE LAW.” Remember, now, Jesus said “the law prophesied.” And don’t forget that the feast days, an integral part of “the law” likewise foreshadowed the resurrection. Thus, when Jesus said that every jot and every tittle of “the law” had to be fulfilled, that DEMANDS that the resurrection had to be fulfilled for the law to pass, and Partial has not touched this, top, side, or bottom.
Show us, Partial, where “NOT ONE JOT OR ONE TITTLE” IS REFERRING TO A VERY LIMITED REFERENT AS “THE LAW.” Show us that it is simply hyperbolic language.
Show us, FROM THE CONTEXT OF MATTHEW 5, where there is any kind of limitation in the definition of “the law.”
You see folks, Partial is guilty of the worst sort of logically fallacy, a form of Illegitimate Totality Transfer. That is when the definition of one word, in one text and context, is imposed on the same word, in a totally different text in a totally different context! What Partial has done is to find a text (Joshua 21 & 23) where the CONTEXT limits the definition of “all” to a given subject, and imposed that definition on Matthew 5, EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NOT A WORD OF SUCH LIMITATION IN MATTHEW 5! AND PARTIAL HAS NOT EVEN HIT A KEYSTROKE TO SHOW US THAT THERE IS.
Let’s try Partial’s “hermeneutic” and “logic.”
Let’s try this:
The Word ALL, in Joshua does not mean “all” comprehensively speaking- therefore, the word “all” in Matthew 5 cannot mean “all” comprehensively speaking. It is really nothing but exaggeration and hyperbole.
Paul said “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
But, since “all” in Joshua does not mean all, this must mean that “all” in Romans 3:23 does not mean that all men sin! It is simply a hyperbolic expression!
The utter fallacy and falsity of Partial’s argument should be more than obvious.
It is not enough to show that ALL does not mean all in every text, in every context. No one doubts that it sometimes has a limited definition. But, as I pointed out – which Partial totally ignored – one of the primary rules of hermeneutic is that a word is to be given its normal definition, UNLESS THE CONTEXT FORBIDS THAT AND DEMANDS A DIFFERENT DEFINITION.
So, the challenge to Partial is, SHOW US, FROM THE CONTEXT AND TEXT OF MATTHEW 5:17-18 WHERE THE WORD “ALL” IS TO BE LIMITED TO A VERY SMALL BIT OF “THE LAW.” Show us where the “All” is not every “jot and every tittle” is not a reference to ALL the Law.
More of this exchange to come in the next installment