Tithing was also important within Judaism163 and became a matter of significant concern for the later rabbis (see especially m. Demai). The shared Matthew/Luke tradition on the subject (Matt. 23.23/Luke 11.42) suggests that there was debate already current in the pre-70 period concerning certain herbs.164 The saying is notable in that Jesus is remembered not as denouncing such concerns as overtrivial or wrong, but, once again, as reminding his hearers that there are more important things to be concerned about — notably 'justice and mercy' — wholly in the spirit of and with a probably intended echo of Mic. 6.8. The saying corresponds to Jesus' attitude implied in the parable of the Pharisee and the toll-collector (Luke 18.9-14): tithing is not criticized any more than prayer, but it does not form a basis or reason for acceptability to God; nor does it serve as a test case of faithfulness to covenant law.166
159. Note the strong echo of this last antithesis in Jas. 5.12, another instance of how the Jesus tradition functioned and was heard within the early communities (see further above, §8.1e). Josephus reports a similar attitude regarding oaths among the Essenes (War2.135; cf CD 9.9-12; 16.7-12; see further B. Kollmann, 'Erwägungen zur Reichweite des Schwurverbots Jesu (Mt 5,34)', ZNW92  20-32). Becker observes: 'Of course, they did not understand this practice as contrary to the Torah. Refusing to do something that the Torah permits is not a violation ofthe Torah' (Jesus 296). See also Westerholm, Jesus 104-13; Holmen, Jesus 176-86.
160. Jeremias, Proclamation 207; Schräge, Ethics 64-65. The law in question, lex talionis, is Exod. 21.24; Lev. 24.20; Deut. 19.21.
161. Text cited above, §8.5d, with Lukan parallel (Luke 6.29-30) and reference to Did. 1.4-5 and GTh 95. See also above, chapter 12 n. 194, and fuller discussion in Davies and Allison, Matthew 1.539-48.
162. See the full and excellent discussion by Betz, Sermon on the Mount 277-84.
163. Lev. 27.30-33; Num. 18.24-32; Deut. 14.22-29; 26.12-15; see further Sanders, Judaism 146-57; a major marker of covenant obedience (Holmen, Jesus 106-11).
164. For further details see Davies and Allison, Matthew 3.293-94.
165. See further Westerholm, Jesus 55-61.
166. Holmen, Jesus 127-28.
h. Filial Duty
The one passage where Sanders is willing to recognize that Jesus 'superseded the requirements of piety and the Torah' is Jesus' command to the would-be disciple, 'Leave the dead to bury their own dead' (Matt. 8.21-22/Luke 9.59-60).167 'Disobedience of the requirement to care for one's dead parents is actually disobedience to God'.168 But if an idiomatic usage is involved, then Sanders here is overreacting as much as those he criticizes in other instances.169 Even so, we can properly speak of Jesus grasping the opportunity of some situation, whose particularities were not deemed important enough to retain in the tradition, to emphasize the absolute priority of God's work. We now may look askance at such uncompromising commitment, but it should be recognized and honoured for what it was.
All this is wholly consistent with the observations already made in §9.9c regarding what might be called Jesus' own Torah piety. He is also recalled as observing the law on leprosy170 and as directing the rich young man who enquired regarding eternal life to the second table of the ten commandments (Mark 10.19 pars.).171 The tradition reviewed above and elsewhere depicts him as basing his own teaching foursquare on the Torah.172 Matthew records a saying in which Jesus assumes continued participation in the Temple sacrifices (Matt. Another passage has him being consulted on an issue of in
167. Sanders, Jesus 252-55: 'the most revealing passage in the synoptics for penetrating to Jesus' view of the law', where he pays tribute to and follows Hengel's treatment (252).
168. Jesus 253; 'a blatant offense against Torah and Halacha' (Becker, Jesus 285); 'a direct to the dominant created orders of classical antiquity. .. . Burial was the moment par excellence to demonstrate expected and applauded filial loyalty. To ignore it, as Jesus proposed, could only reveal great indecency. Jesus was being simply shameless' (Vaage, Galilean Upstarts 90, 93). See also §13.2d.
169. Was the father already dead? Bailey cites the mediaeval commentator
(ca. 1050, written in Syriac): '"Let me go and bury" means: let me go and serve my father while he is alive and after he dies I will bury him and come' (Through Peasant Eyes 26); see again above, Bockmuehl protests against Hengel and Sanders that 'the notion of a spe cial religious duty transcending even basic family obligations is one that would have been culturally familiar to Jesus' audience' and suggests less plausibly a possible Nazirite setting for the saying (Jewish Law 23-48); but if Bailey is right the resolution is to be found more in terms of idiom than of halakhah.
Though it should also be remembered that one of the key points of the story is that keeping all these commandments 'from my youth' proved insufficient; the young man fell short in regard to a more demanding principle (Goppelt, Theology 1.98). Cf. also Rom. 13.8-10.
172. Mark 7.10; 10.6-7; 12.26; 12.29-31 (see below, §14.5).
173. Pace Goppelt: The saying 'did not presuppose that disciples continued to offer gifts in the temple; it had purely metaphorical quality' (Theology 1.96). Note also Mark heritance law (Luke 12.13). And over all, the Jesus tradition's many echoes of Scripture, Isaiah and the Psalms in particular, attest the extent to which 'Jesus lived in the Old Testament'.174 Matthew can even portray Jesus as claiming to have come not to abolish but to fulfil the law and as calling for a strict observation of its commandments (Matt. 5.17-20). There is little doubt that Matthew here impresses his own priorities on the tradition, but had his presentation been totally unfounded and at odds with Jesus' elsewhere remembered teaching,175 it is unlikely that his attempt to redraw the Jesus tradition so radically on this point would have been so successful.176 Here not least we need to remember that the Jesus tradition consists of what Jesus was heard as teaching, and to recall that what is heard and remembered depends as much on the hearer as on the speaker.
Even so, we may conclude that the richer tradition of Jesus in debate with scribes and Pharisees regarding points of law and disputed issues of halakhah stands up well to scrutiny. Whether 'sovereign freedom' in regard to the law and tradition is an appropriate description of Jesus' attitude to the law is less clear. The description may be better applied to Jesus' teaching and debating technique, as one confident in the importance of the fundamental concerns which motivated his own mission. At any rate, the Jesus who is thus remembered as teaching and debating evidently did not set himself antithetically over against the law. Rather his teaching in this area can be characterized in terms of pressing behind the immediate issue to the deeper questions of motive and right(eousness), refusing to take the easy way out in testing cases of applying the most immediately obvious ruling, and digging deep into the law to discern the divine rationale (justice) in its particular To do the will of God
12.41-44 par. (cited above, Contrast Meier's conclusion that 'Jesus clearly accepted the
Jerusalem temple as part of the present order of things' (Marginal Jew 3.500, his emphasis).
174. Jeremias, Proclamation 205-206, with full documentation; see also R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament (London: Tyndale, 1972); Vermes, Religion 50-70; Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus 357-58; contrast Becker: 'Jesus makes no use of the authority of the To-rah when he speaks' (Jesus 254-55; also 278-79, 281).
175. Matt. 5.18, after all, is drawn from tradition common to Luke 16.17 (Q?).
176. On the issue of how much in Matt. 5.17-20 may be referred back to Jesus see especially Banks, Jesus and the Law 204-26; Davies and Allison, Matthew 1.482-503. By 'fulfil' Matthew may have meant 'complete', that is, 'reveal the true meaning of the law and demonstrate it in action', as documented in what follows (see further Guelich, Sermon on the Mount 139-41).
177. Cf. Banks, Jesus and the Law (though his consistent christological focus reflects more the emphasis of the developed interest of the Evangelists themselves); Westerholm, Jesus 130; Becker, Jesus 229-30; Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus 381, 394-95 ('at its centre it [Jesus' ethical preaching] is oriented on the Torah; however, it is oriented on a Torah read in the prophetic spirit'); Bockmuehl, Jewish Law 6, 14.
was still the primary goal,178 even if that will could not be discerned simply by reference to the Torah.179
Moreover, it would appear that on issues of law and halakhah which had become test cases of obedience and loyalty to the covenant, Jesus declined to go down that road. His standing before God did not depend on particular interpretations and applications of Torah. His Jewishness did not require a pattern of observance which marked him off as separate from the dissident or the disobedient. We should not be surprised, then, that the fundamental concerns Jesus enunciated and defended gave stimulus and scope to his subsequent followers to press still further at various points into a rationale for conduct which no longer remained within the boundaries clearly marked out by the law.
Finally, if it remains likely that Jesus' own emphases were determined in large part by his eschatological we should also note that this fac tor has not left many distinctive marks on the tradition at this point. What is commended in all this is not a pattern of conduct necessary for entry into the kingdom, nor an 'interim ethic' (Schweitzer) required only for the interval before the coming of the kingdom, but (by implication) a quality of kingdom life, the character of living appropriate for those who look for the kingdom's coming and who seek to live already in its light.
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