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Christ and the Jewish Law
Robert Mackintosh



Chapter 1. The Jewish Law and Modern Distinctions
Chapter 2. Christ's Conception of the Law
Chapter 3. Christ's Criticism of the Pharisees
Chapter 4. Christ's Personal Observance of the Written Law
Chapter 5. Ethical Teaching
Chapter 6. Christ's Teaching in Relation to the Ceremonial Law
Chapter 7. Christ's Teaching in its Relation to the Law, Considered as Statute Law
Chapter 8. Christ's Teaching in Relation to the Law, Considered as a Covenant
Chapter 9. The Authority of Christ
Chapter 10. The Value to our Lord of his Jewish Birth


A. The Kingdom of God
B. The Observance of Sunday
C. Christ as Founder of the Visible Church
D. The Question of the Law in the Early Church



The importance of our subject is very generally admitted by competent theologians. Holtzmann, in papers frequently referred to within this work, makes allusion to a late work of Bruno Bauer's, and speaks in that connection of "the high significance, which belongs to Jesus' attitude towards the Law, in regard to His dignity as founder of a religion"; and Bassermann, the author of a brief but laborious commentary on Matthew 5:17-20, expresses himself as follows: "All admit the importance of this question," viz., the question how Jesus felt and taught regarding the Mosaic Law, "not only for a right understanding of the life and person of Jesus, but for a right understanding of the whole Christian religion. Rightly," he adds, "does Weisse call it a vital question for framing our conception of the Divine revelation made to us in Christ." Yet, so far as I am aware, there is no treatment of our subject, either in German or English, on a scale adequate to its importance. Perhaps the following pages may call attention to it.

An apology is due for the absence of textual criticism. This book can make no claim to original scholarship, though I have tried to keep step with the results of scholarship. In Germany, it would be impossible to handle such a subject except in connection, not with textual criticism only, but with critical theories of the origin of the Gospels. And it is most legitimate to determine as exactly as possible the revealing facts and sacred words, on a sounder system than that of Gospel Harmony. But there are drawbacks. The next comer has a new criticism, and sweeps away at a stroke the underpinning upon which the superstructure of his predecessor rests. If we take our stand on the actual Gospel narratives, we cannot be so quickly despatched.

The reader will not need to be told that I am under greater obligations to Ritschl than to any other writer. I have not indeed been able to follow his views upon "Christ and the Mosaic Law" in his Enstehung der altkatholischen Kirche. But from that book, and from his great work on Justification, I have derived suggestions and promptings so numerous that a detailed confession would be tedious. Perhaps it is right to add, that the following pages nevertheless are not an utterance of discipleship. Dr. Ritschl is not to be made responsible for the crudities of my criticism. Nor am I to be held assenting to the negations of his theology.

But, while following the best available guidance, I have not aspired to the cold academic exactness of a monograph. Such correctness is dearly bought by ignoring the questions which lie around every special topic. The importance of our subject is partly apologetic. It constitutes a distinct element in the argument for Christ. But it must also have an outlook towards dogmatic as well as practical questions; and, while it would be senseless to think of deciding such questions incidentally, it would be equally senseless to ignore them. Our contact with the words and deeds of Christ may well help us to restate the pressing problems of theory or of conduct; perhaps it may put the beginnings of a clue into our hands.

I have used the Revisers Greek Text, and generally quoted their version.

R. M.



Baptist Quarterly Review
Volume VIII, 1886
Review of Current Literature

Christ and the Jewish Law. By Robert Mackintosh, B. D., Formerly Cunningham Scholar, New College, Edinburgh. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1886.
An excellent book. It is not necessary to agree with the author in every one of his interpretations, in order to find here a full store of valuable suggestion, for which a student of the Scriptures may well be thankful. With the greater part of his interpretations, however, it is impossible to find fault. He has labored with excellent judgment, and has given us a most interesting and helpful exposition of the relation our Lord sustained to the law under whose institutions He was born.

After noticing some important differences between our modern views of the Jewish law and the conceptions of it which were possible in the days when it was still in force, he proceeds to discuss our Lord's own conception of that law. It is found in direct statements on the subject, and is confirmed by what he said to the Pharisees in criticism of their views and methods. Here quotation is the best means of understanding: "Jesus gives two definitions of the contents of the law. In one it is said to command love to God and men; the other, more briefly expressed, speaks only of unselfishness among men; we know it as the golden rule. ... These two passages tell us what Jesus thought of the law; since He saw in it the revelation of a rule of love, it is easy to understand how He should have affirmed that while heaven and earth lasted, one jot or tittle should in no wise pass away from it. We feel by instinct that that statement could not have been affirmed of the ceremonial details of the law; now we see how superfluous it is to bring it into any connection with them. If Jesus habitually thought of the whole law and prophets as commanding what He says they commanded, ceremony was as good as non-existent for Him. It is plain, too, in what sense Jesus was come to fulfil every jot and tittle of the law. He was come to live a life of love, perfect in the patience of its detailed obedience, faithful in that which was least as well as in that which was great—a life of love with all the heart and soul and mind toward the Father—a life of absolute self-surrender for the good of men. And evidently, if this be Christ's fulfilment of the law, there is no reason why such a fulfilment should end the law. As a divine example, and as a constraining moral power, Christ's fulfilment is fitted to reproduce itself till heaven and earth pass away." (pp. 20, 21.)

Here is wide departure from the current exegesis regarding Christ's fulfilling the law (Matt. v. 17). The idea of " completing" the law, or revealing its true meaning, or bringing it to its destined perfection, drops out of sight. At first thought, Mr. Mackintosh's interpretation seemed untenable; but it must be confessed that it improves upon acquaintance, and has simplicity in its favor. On the main point, as to our Lord's actual conception of the meaning of the law, he seems certainly to be right. With him the law was doubtless a genuine revelation, so far as it went, of the mind of God, and ceremonies were external to its true meaning.

It follows, of course, that he intended to remove from divine revelation the limitations of the old Testament, and bring it to its fulness. Thus Mr. Mackintosh's interpretation of the fulfiling comes around, after all, to very nearly the same result as the old. It is next claimed that in thus leading on from the old dispensation to the new, our Lord respected all the arrangements of the old while He was with them; in other words, that He was no law-breaker, but was obedient to the written law, as a faithful Hebrew. From this point Mr. Mackintosh goes on to unfold the characteristics of Christ's ethical teaching, and to illustrate from His life His attitude toward legal ceremonies. He then discusses His relation to the law regarded as statute, and considered as a covenant. The authority of Christ, which is recognized as spiritual, and the value to our Lord of His Jewish birth, are the subjects of the closing chapters. Four appendices follow, of which the first contains a brief but noble ex- hibition of the kingdom of God, as practical, ethical, and distinct from the church, and the last traces the labyrinth of modern theories regarding the question of the law in the church of the Apostolic period. Another speaks of the Lord's day, and places the observance of it on grounds that correspond to the general doctrine of the book.

In all this the reader will find the steady unfolding and application of high spiritual views regarding the nature of Christ and His work. Ht will also find noble and helpful sentiments on a great variety of Scriptural subjects. The author is a thoughtful expositor, and a genuine Christian thinker. His views of the nature of the kingdom of God in relation to the needs of modern times, and of the manner in which Christ fulfilled prophecy, may be mentioned as examples of rich and profitable matter, which all students of divine things would do well to ponder.

One other quality of the book must not be passed without a word of recognition. It is the very striking and satisfactory union of candor and conservatism that one observes in these pages. The book is written from the point of view at once of a student and of a believer. The student is fully aware of the difficulties in the study of the gospels that many would have us consider inconsistent with Christian belief. He admits many of the facts upon which doubt is supposed to be founded, and uses his documents in honest recognition of them. He admits and frankly acts upon as many of them as he considers to be proved, and he would admit as many more as might become established by valid evidence. He writes upon no antiquated or unscholaily theories of the gospels. Yet he evidently believes that the portraiture of Christ is its own evidence, and that the questions at which so many stumble are really matters of detail, rather than of foundation. He holds to Christ without the shadow of a doubt, and believes that in Him the absolute and final revelation of God has come into the world. The calmness with which he holds his faith, and is willing to adjust the details of his belief in the light of evidence, may well be a lesson to many troubled souls in our time. Would that all students and all preachers might learn the secret.

W. N. Clarke.


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