Morna D. Hooker
The great majority of the books of the New Testament reflect, to a greater or lesser extent, the controversies between Jews and Christians that marked the emergence of the Christian faith and its separation from Judaism. But to what extent was it Christian claims about Jesus which led to disputes between Christians and Jews regarding the torah or law, and to what extent was it disputes regarding the torah, and Jesus' relation to it, which led to the development and formulation of christological claims? This may well prove to be something of a chicken-and-egg question! Certainly the gospels suggest that controversy over the torah was inextricably linked with the question of Jesus' authority from the beginning. The purpose of this essay is to explore that link. Pressures of space mean that our exploration will be confined to the Synoptics. It is a pleasure to offer the essay as a modest tribute to David Catchpole, whose own work on the Synoptic Gospels has contributed so much to our understanding of them.
There are four distinct ways in which Jesus and the torah are related in the gospels. First, the torah—together with the prophets and the writings—is understood to be fulfilled in Jesus. Each of the evangelists emphasizes, in his own way, that the scriptures point forward to him. Secondly, Jesus is portrayed as himself faithful to the commands of the torah: he fulfils the torah in the sense that he keeps it. In both these approaches, the authority of the torah is assumed; their purpose, however, is not to stress the authority of the torah, but to emphasize the significance of Jesus. Thirdly, the teaching of the torah is from time to time challenged by Jesus, whose authority is demonstrated to be greater than that of the torah. Fourthly, the era of the torah is seen as giving way to the era of Christ. Although these last two approaches might suggest a break between torah and gospel we find, remarkably, that the links are firmly maintained. Seeming challenges to the torah regularly occur in contexts that affirm the validity of the torah; the belief that the old has been replaced by the new arises from the assumption that there is continuity