Matt. 5:17-20 (Part 2)

IRENAEUS: And that the Lord did not abrogate the natural precepts of the law, by which man is justified, which also those who were justified by faith, and who pleased God, did observe previous to the giving of the law, but that He extended and fulfilled them, is shown from His words. “For,” He remarks, “it has been said to them of old time, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I say to you, that every one who has looked upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” And again: “It has been said, 'Do not kill.' But I say to you, every one who is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.” And, “It has been said, 'Do not forswear yourself.' But I say to you, do not swear not at all; but let your conversation be, 'Yes,' 'yes,' and, 'No,' 'no.'” And other statements of a like nature. For all these do not contain or imply an opposition to and an overturning of the precepts of the past, . . . but they exhibit a fulfilling and an extension of them, as He does Himself declare: “Unless your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” For what meant the excess referred to? In the first place, we must believe not only in the Father, but also in His Son now revealed; for He it is who leads man into fellowship and unity with God. In the next place, we must not only say, but we must do; for they said, but did not do. And we must not only abstain from evil deeds, but even from the desires after them. Now He did not teach us these things as being opposed to the law, but as fulfilling the law, and implanting in us the varied righteousness of the law. That would have been contrary to the law, if He had commanded His disciples to do anything which the law had prohibited. But this which He did command—namely, not only to abstain from things forbidden by the law, but even from longing after them—is not contrary to the law, as I have remarked, neither is it the utterance of one destroying the law, but of one fulfilling, extending, and affording greater scope to it. . . .
And for this reason did the Lord, instead of that commandment, “Do not commit adultery,” forbid even lust; and instead of that which runs thus, “Do not kill,” He prohibited anger; and instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, He told us to share all our possessions with the poor; and not to love our neighbors only, but even our enemies; and not merely to be liberal givers and bestowers, but even that we should present a gratuitous gift to those who take away our goods. For “to him that takes away your coat,” He says, “give to him your cloak also; and from him that takes away your goods, do not ask for them again; and as you would that men should do to you, do likewise to them:” so that we may not grieve as those who are unwilling to be defrauded, but may rejoice as those who have given willingly, and as rather conferring a favor upon our neighbors than yielding to necessity. “And if any one,” He says, “shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two;” so that you may not follow him as a slave, but may as a free man go before him, showing yourself in all things kindly disposed and useful to your neighbor, not regarding their evil intentions, but performing your kind offices, assimilating yourself to the Father, “who makes His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sends rain upon the just and unjust.” Now all these precepts, as I have already observed, were not the injunctions of one doing away with the law, but of one fulfilling, extending, and widening it among us; just as if one should say, that the more extensive operation of liberty implies that a more complete subjection and affection towards our Liberator had been implanted within us. For He did not set us free for this purpose, that we should depart from Him (no one, indeed, while placed out of reach of the Lord’s benefits, has power to procure for himself the means of salvation), but that the more we receive His grace, the more we should love Him. Now the more we have loved Him, the more glory shall we receive from Him, when we are continually in the presence of the Father. Against Heresies, 1.477-478.

IRENAEUS: He said, “Do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets; I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall not pass from the law and the prophets till all come to pass.” For by His advent He Himself fulfilled all things, and does still fulfill in the Church the new covenant foretold by the law, onwards to the consummation of all things. To this effect also Paul, His apostle, says in the Epistle to the Romans, “But now, without the law, has the righteousness of God been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; for the just shall live by faith.” But this fact, that the just shall live by faith, had been previously announced by the prophets.34 Against Heresies, 1.511.

TATIAN: Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I did not come to destroy, but to complete. Truly I say to you, Until heaven and earth shall pass, there shall not pass one point or one letter of the law, until all of it shall be accomplished. Every one who shall violate now one of these small commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called lacking in the kingdom of heaven: every one that shall do and teach shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. I say to you now, unless your righteousness abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. The Diatessaron, 9.57.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: But the apostles were perfected in all. You will find, then, if you choose, in their acts and writings, knowledge, life, preaching, righteousness, purity, prophecy. We must know, then, that if Paul is young in respect to time—having flourished immediately after the Lord’s ascension—yet his writings depend on the Old Testament, breathing and speaking of them. For faith in Christ and the knowledge of the Gospel are the explanation and fulfillment of the law; and therefore it was said to the Hebrews, “If you do not believe, neither shall you understand;” that is, unless you believe what is prophesied in the law, and oracularly delivered by the law, you will not understand the Old Testament, which He by His coming expounded. The Stromata, 2.434.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: The Lord is not “come to destroy the law but to fulfill it.” “To fulfill” does not imply that it was defective, but that by his coming the prophecies of the law are accomplished, since before the law the demand for right conduct was proclaimed by the Logos to those also who lived good lives. On Marriage.36

TERTULLIAN: He is the subject of the prophecy, which shows that at the very outset of His ministry, He came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but rather to fulfill them; for Marcion [the heretic] has erased the passage as an interpolation. It will, however, be vain for him to deny that Christ uttered in word what He forthwith did partially indeed. Against Marcion, 3.352.

TERTULLIAN: I can now make out why Marcion’s god was for so long an age concealed. He was, I suppose, waiting until he had learned all these things from the Creator. He continued his pupillage up to the time of John, and then proceeded forthwith to announce the kingdom of God, saying: “The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is proclaimed.7 Just as if we also did not recognize in John a certain limit placed between the old dispensation and the new, at which Judaism ceased and Christianity began— without, however, supposing that it was by the power of another god that there came about a cessation of the law and the prophets and the commencement of that gospel in which is the kingdom of God, Christ Himself. For although, as we have shown, the Creator foretold that the old state of things would pass away and a new state would succeed, yet, inasmuch as John is shown to be both the forerunner and the preparer of the ways of that Lord who was to introduce the gospel and publish the kingdom of God, it follows from the very fact that John has come, that Christ must be that very Being who was to follow His harbinger John. So that, if the old course has ceased and the new has begun, with John intervening between them, there will be nothing wonderful in it, because it happens according to the purpose of the Creator; so that you may get a better proof for the kingdom of God from any quarter, however anomalous, than from the conceit that the law and the prophets ended in John, and a new state of things began after him. “More easily, therefore, may heaven and earth pass away—as also the law and the prophets—than that one tittle of the Lord’s words should fail.”38 “For,” as says Isaiah: “the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Since even then by Isaiah it was Christ, the Word and Spirit of the Creator, who prophetically described John as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord” and as about to come for the purpose of terminating thenceforth the course of the law and the prophets; by their fulfillment and not their extinction, and in order that the kingdom of God might be announced by Christ, He therefore purposely added the assurance that the elements would more easily pass away than His words fail; affirming, as He did, the further fact, that what He had said concerning John had not fallen to the ground. Against Marcion, 3.404.

TERTULLIAN: “A certain man asked him, ‘Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’” Jesus inquired whether he knew, that is, in other words, whether he kept, the commandments of the Creator, in order to testify that it was by the Creator’s precepts that eternal life is acquired. Then, when he affirmed that from his youth up he had kept all the principal commandments, Jesus said to him: “One thing you yet lack: sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Well now, Marcion [the heretic], and all you who are companions in misery, and associates in hatred with that heretic, what will you dare say to this? Did Christ rescind the aforementioned commandments: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother?” Or did He both keep them, and then add what was wanting to them? This very precept, however, about giving to the poor, was very largely diffused through the pages of the law and the prophets. This vainglorious observer of the commandments was therefore convicted of holding money in much higher estimation than charity. This verity of the gospel then stands unimpaired: “I have not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but rather to fulfill them.” He also dissipated other doubts, when He declared that the name of God and of the Good belonged to one and the same being, at whose disposal were also the everlasting life and the treasure in heaven and Himself too—whose commandments He both maintained and augmented with His own supplementary precepts. Against Marcion, 3.410.

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