This topic came to me after reading what seems to me a ridiculous statement by an otherwise great scholar, Dale Allison, in Matthew: A Shorter Commentary (which is Allison’s updating of the earlier commentary on Matthew by W.D. Davies in the International Critical Commentary series). Regarding Mathhew 5:13-16, Allison says: It is no longer the Torah or the temple or Jerusalem or Israel that is the salt and light of the world.
That hurts. And it is so unnecessary, not to mention wrong. This either-or (“either Jews or Christians”) hermeneutic is completely wrong-headed. It is not true to Matthew. It is an illogical assumption (as I will show), and it is not true to the apostolic teaching (which I believe to be unified so that Matthew and Paul will not have substantial disagreement about any point — but this principle is not generally accepted in academic scholarship (sadly)).
Let me demonstrate the illogic of Allison’s statement by an analogous one: These newly invented flashlights will shine the light in the darkness and no longer candles or torches.
Either a candle or a flashlight? Why? How about BOTH a flashlight AND a candle. The one does not preclude the other.
Therefore, You, disciples of mine, will be salt and light, just as Israel, Torah, Temple, and Jerusalem are light to the world.
There are many examples of both-and in the Bible which people have sadly and traditionally read as either-or.
One greater than the Temple is here, says Yeshua (Matt 12:6). Aha, the Temple is now obsolete and Yeshua is the Replacement Temple, says either-or thinking. But this same Yeshua said the Temple was sacred and its offerings holy (Matt 23:18-22) and even commended the practice of offering animals as long as this was not a substitute for ethical and loving actions (Matt 5:23-24). So how about, “One greater that the Temple is here, so revere both the Temple and the Glory of the Temple, which is me”?
Yeshua said, “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). Aha, Jews worshipped in flesh and untruth but now Christians worship more spiritually! Pews and hymnals are spiritual but temple and altar are lies, diabolical (but didn’t God command the temple and altar?). Oh, maybe the error of unspiritual worship was BOTH in Temple times AND now in the age of synagogues and churches. Oh, maybe true and spiritual worship happened BOTH then AND now.
God’s children now are those who, like Abraham, are of faith, and not those who are under law, some say. But Paul says otherwise: “that the promise may be certain to ALL the descendants—NOT ONLY to those who are under the law, BUT ALSO to those who have the faith of Abraham” (Rom 4:16).
Let’s try a little more Both-And and a little less Either-Or. Either-Or does happen. But it happens when ideas deserve to be contrasted. Law and grace are not a contrast (sorry, Luther), but a complement.
So, while we’re at it, how about realizing the meaning of John 1:16’s “grace upon grace,” which, if you check the next verse (which should not have the adversative “but” in it), means the grace of the Law AND the grace of the Son revealed.
Yes, the photo is of the Weasley twins from Harry Potter, a good illustration of Both-And, don’t you think?