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Jesus came not to bring new laws, but to fulfill old laws Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, Feb. 03, 2011 -- 1:00 AM

To the editor:

From the time I was in parochial school 50 years ago, I believed that Jesus replaced the old laws with new laws and gave us two new commands: to love God and one another. But I was wrong.

We frequently hear sermons at Mass that Jesus gave us new commandments, and in Tony Magliano’s article in the December Catholic Herald, regarding what Jesus would do if he were here today. Magliano wrote, “. . . consider John 13:34. Here, Jesus says: ‘I give you a new commandment: love one another.’” Magliano writes that Jesus’ commandment to love one another is new, and is vastly better than the old commandments which required an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

But a thorough understanding of John 13:34 reveals that when Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another,” he did not recite a new commandment, but quoted a 1,200 year old passage prescribed by Moses in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Jesus quoted a core Jewish belief to his disciples in order to explain his divinity: that He was the God who gave Moses the command to love God and one another, recorded in the Old Testament. Jesus, our Living God, is the same God as the God of the Old Testament.

This is reinforced in Matthew 22:39, when, after commanding love of God and one another, Jesus says, “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” The “new” commandments to love God (and one’s neighbor as proof of that love) did not come after, but preceded the Ten Commandments, and in fact, existed since the creation of Adam and Eve. Jesus’ greatest commandments are the first and most important of the Ten Commandments.

Jesus did not come to bring new laws, but to fulfill the old laws, which not only required love, but constant repentance (70 times 7 times) and obedience to all of the commandments.

Even the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” laws are often misunderstood, and were not replaced by Jesus. Those laws protected the person who had caused harm from greater punishment than they had caused, as in, the victim may not take more than an eye for an eye, nor more than a tooth for a tooth.

Some may say that whether or not Jesus gave a “new” commandment or quoted an old commandment makes little difference. I believe it makes a huge difference in our understanding of Jesus, and God.

Jesus quoted Leviticus 19:18 to make the point that He is the God of the final judgment. Jesus’ true nature is recorded in Luke 12:4-5. “I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, be afraid of that one.”

Dave Kuhle, Hazel Green