Chapter 9 “One Letter yud Shall not Pass Away from the Law”: Matthew 5:17 to Bavli Shabbat 116a–b

In: Religious Identities in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages
Holger Zellentin
Search for other papers by Holger Zellentin in
Current site
Google Scholar
Open Access


In a famous passage of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:17–20) Jesus proclaims that he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. The Gospel of Matthew was probably written for a Jewish audience, and its author presumed that Jews continue to obey the legal obligations of the Torah. The passage seems to claim that legal observance is necessary for salvation, which disturbed many of its later Christian readers. The article analyzes how the saying influenced both Western and Eastern Christian legal thought in late antiquity. Through the satirical Talmudic story (Bavli, Shabbat 116ab), which refers specifically to Matthew, the article also shows how rabbinic legal understanding modifies Christian traditions of the passage.

This article first briefly summarizes previous arguments that Matthew, especially in the famous passage Matt 5:17, urged Jewish followers of Jesus to keep the commandments of “the Law,” i.e. the entirety of Biblical law as applicable to them, and that he modifies the Law only by placing it within a moral framework he considered to be stricter than the one he associates with his Pharisaic opponents.* The study will then focus on how the passage was received, on the one hand, in Greek and Latin and, on the other hand, in Syriac and Aramaic communities, and how it shaped Late Antique Christian legal thought. It will argue that the Matthean passage was understood as affirming the Law throughout late antiquity, as evidenced by the vehement attempts by many church fathers to deny just such a reading. The chapter will place special emphasis on those works—such as Faustus’s Disputationes in Latin (as transmitted by Augustine), the Clementine Homilies in Greek, and the Didascalia Apostolorum in Syriac—that understood Matthew as confirming legal observance as necessary for salvation, and it will trace the relationship of Matt 5:17 to the development of the notion of satanic falsification of Scripture. The study will conclude by arguing that the Babylonian Talmud, in Shabbat 116a–b, restates and transforms aspects of both Eastern (i.e., Syriac) and Western (i.e. Latin and Greek) Christian traditions based on Matt 5:17.

1 Matthew 5:17–18 in the Greek, Latin and Syriac Gospels

Numerous scholars, myself included, have suggested that Matthew’s gospel was originally written from within an ethnically Jewish framework, which includes gentiles, if at all, only as a secondary audience—with some exceptions such as the gospel’s plausibly secondary ending.1 Matthew, in this view, presupposes that Jews must remain obedient to “the Law,” i.e., to the entirety of the legal obligations which the Hebrew Bible imposes upon the Israelites—even if Jesus is portrayed as questioning Pharisaic additions to this law, especially when it comes to Kashrut and Shabbat observance.2 While the consensus on the matter seems to be moving towards the view that Matthew wrote within a Jewish law-affirming context, Matthew’s Christian readers, by contrast, long understood his polemics against Pharisaic law as directed against all of Jewish law, and some continue to do so.3 We will see that most hermeneutical positions occupied by contemporary academics have at least a close parallel already among Matthew’s late antique readers.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew presents Jesus as summing up his legal philosophy. The passage Matt 5:17–20 is densely structured through a series of repetitions, here rendered in italics:


Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets,

mē nomisēte oti ēlthon katalusai ton nomon ē tous prophētas,

I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.

ouk ēlthon katalusai alla plērōsai.


For truly, I tell you,

amēn gar legō umin,

until heaven and earth pass away,

eōs an parelthē o ouranos kai ē gē,

not an iota or a dot will pass from the Law

iōta en ē mia keraia ou mē parelthē apo tou nomou

until all is accomplished.

eōs an panta genētai.


Whoever then dissolves one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so,

os ean oun lusē mian tōn entolōn toutōn tōn elachistōn kai didaxē outōs tous anthrōpous,

shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven,

elachistos klēthēsetai en tē basileia tōn ouranōn,

but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

os d’an poiēsē kai didaxē outos megas klēthēsetai en tē basileia tōn ouranōn.


For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,

legō gar umin oti ean mē perisseusē umōn ē dikaiosunē pleion tōn grammateōn kai pharisaiōn,

you will never enter the kingdom of heaven

ou mē eiselthēte eis tēn basileian tōn ouranōn.4

A literary as well as a literal reading of Matthew’s message, if understood within a Jewish context, suggests that Matthew meant what he wrote: Jesus teaches that Jews must uphold what the Law and the prophets command.5 Matthew seems to be aware that Jesus’s criticism of Pharisaic law could be misunderstood as implying the dissolution of Biblical law.6 He therefore repeats emphatically: Jesus has not come to abolish to the Law, but to fulfil the Law of the Bible in all its minute commandments, none of which Matthew presents Jesus as breaking, and none of which he demands of gentiles to keep.7 “Until all is accomplished,” in this reading, means that the Torah will last as long as heaven and earth will last (see also Luke 16:17). As some ancient commenters (on which more below) already noted, heaven and earth have not yet passed away: therefore, since “all” has not yet been accomplished, one must not relax any of the Torah’s commandments, not even a minor one, as long as the earth persists.

Matthew’s message is reinforced by a series of parallelisms indicated by italics in the rendering above, which are woven around the five-fold repetition of the verb erchomai, “to come,” thereby linking the transformation of the Law to Jesus’s “coming.” These repetitions culminate and, by repetition and alliteration, point to the dramatic denial of entry to the kingdom of heaven to those who think otherwise: do not think I have come (ēlthon) to abolish; I have come (ēlthon) to fulfil; until heaven and earth have passed (an parelthē); not one iota will pass (mē parelthē); you will not enter (mē eiselthēte). All occurrences of the verb erchomai are based on its e-l-th root, making the alliteration readily audible to the audience. The “coming” of Jesus is thereby connected to the “passing” of the earth and of the Torah at the end of times, highlighting both Jesus’s cosmic significance and the endurance of both cosmos and Law. The repetition of the central verb erchomai, moreover, is embedded in a complex web of further parallelisms that highlight Jesus’s tight connection to the impending kingdom of heaven.8

While the term kataluō clearly indicates that the abrogation of the Torah is denied, the term plēroō has a wide range of meaning. It may well co-note the beginning of a new era in the Pauline sense of the word, yet more centrally to its meaning it clearly denotes legal fulfilment and a specific type of augmentation of law, as the passage’s immediate context indicates.9 Matthew has Jesus insists that the “righteousness” of his disciples exceeds that of the Pharisees, which is achieved by simultaneously reducing Pharisaic additions to the Law and by placing it within a stricter moral framework. Jesus’s disciples, not distracted by misleading additions, can fulfil the letter of the Law with greater exactness than the Pharisees. Throughout the Septuagint and Hellenistic Jewish literature, and also in Matthew, the Greek term he uses to describe “righteousness,” dikaiosyne, signifies the keeping of the commandments; it denotes legal observance and connotes moral integrity.10 Matthew hence insists that his disciples keep the biblical laws with greater stringency, and with greater moral integrity, than the Pharisees.

Matt 5:17–20, to summarize, presents a key element in Matthew’s view that the Law must be kept strictly, and with moral integrity. Jesus adds to the Law and reduces it at the same time as prohibiting to add to or to reduce the Law. What has perplexed readers for millennia is relatively simple if one distinguishes between God’s Law and the added “traditions of the elders.” Jesus adds to God’s Law by emphasizing moral integrity, but he does not add any new laws. He reduces previous human additions to the legal corpus, but he does not reduce God’s Law. The remainder of the gospel, or at least its manifold discussions of Biblical and Pharisaic law, can be understood as a putting Matthew’s respective teaching into legal practice.11

Most later renderings of the Gospel, unfamiliar with the first- and second century CE discourse on Jewish law, tended to miss, or at least to modify, Matthew’s distinction between Biblical and Pharisaic law and between law as applicable to Jews and to gentiles, and instead read Matt 5:17–20 either as endorsing or abrogating the Law in broader terms.12 Likewise, the later renderings of the Matthean passage in other languages have no means to maintain the full literary complexity of Matthew’s Greek text. The passage’s rudimentary literary form, however, proved central to its reception history, as it can be reconstructed by its translations, its paraphrases, as well as by the many commentaries on it.

Regarding the passages’ translations, it suffices to note that the key translations of Matthew into Latin and Syriac rendered the text in a way that allowed for a law-affirming reading of it, and that they maintained only some the repetitions we find in the Greek. Jerome’s revision of the Old Latin gospels, for example, renders Matthew 5:17–18 as follows:


Do not think that I am come to dissolve the Law or the prophets.

nolite putare quoniam veni solvere legem aut prophetas

I have note come to dissolve but to fulfil.

non veni solvere sed adimplere


For amen I say unto you,

amen quippe dico vobis

until heaven and earth pass away

donec transeat caelum et terra

One iota or one tittle shall pass from the Law

iota unum aut unus apex non praeteribit a lege

until all will be done.

donec omnia fiant.13

Jerome’s Latin rendering does not obviate the potential to understand Jesus as affirming the Law seen in the Greek original. The verb solvere, designating the “dissolution” of the Law, follows the Greek kataluō quite closely; the rendering of plēroō as adimplere, likewise, allows for a reading in terms of the legal fulfilment of any individual obligation, or of the Law as a whole.14 When it comes to the parallelisms, however, the Latin text is much impoverished: Jerome’s repetition of veni and non veni, for example, captures only one of the first repetitions of the Greek verb erchomai, “to come.” Jerome does not connect this “coming” with the “passing,” or “transition” of the heaven and the earth and of the Law, which the Greek text does by repeating the term parerchomai, for which Jerome, in turn, uses two different other verbs—transeo and praetereo.15

Around the fifth-century, the Peshitta became the accepted Gospel in the West Syrian tradition. Like Jerome’s Vulgate, the New Testament Peshitta was a careful revision of a number of earlier Syriac translations.16 The Peshitta equally renders the passage Matthew 5:17 in a way that allows for its understanding as endorsing the fulfillment of the Law, paying slightly more attention to the Greek’s original repetitions than Jerome:


Do not think that I have come to loosen the Law or the prophets

lʾ tsbrwn dʾtyt dʾshrʾ17 nmwsʾ ʾw nbyʾ.18

I have not come to loosen but to fulfil.

lʾ ʾtyt dʾshrʾ19 ʾlʾ dʾmlʾ.20


For truly I tell you,

ʾmyn gyr ʾmr ʾnʾ21 lkwn

Until heaven and earth pass away,

dʿdmʾ dnʿbrwn22 shmyʾ wʾrʿʾ

not even one yud or a dash shall pass away from the Law

ywd ḥdʾ ʾw ḥd srṭʾ23 lʾ nʿbr24 mn nmwsʾ

until all of it is fulfilled.

ʿdmʾ dkl nhwʾ.25

The distinct character of the Peshitta’s translation is best understood by comparing it to earlier Syriac translations, and especially to the second-century Diatessaron, which proved far more central to the Syriac understanding of Matt 5:17, and especially for the Syriac emphasis on the enduring value of the Law. While we do not have the original version of the Diatessaron, a few citations in the works of Aphrahat give us a rough sense of the ancient Syriac reading of the Matthean passage.26 The Peshitta’s version of both Matt 5:17 and 18 is different from the Diatessaron’s likely rendering in few but important ways. Aphrahat renders “I have not come to loosen the Torah or the prophets but to fulfil them” as dlʾ ʾtyt lmshrʾ ʾwrytʾ wnbyʾ ʾlʾ lmmlyw ʾnyn, using infinitive rather than imperfect forms of the same verbs we see in the Peshitta and, importantly, using the term ʾwrytʾ, Torah, rather than the more common term nmwsʾ, “law” we see in the Peshitta.27 Likewise, a citation of the Diatessaron’s rendering of Matt 5:18 can be found in the same passage from Aphrahat: “Not one letter yud will pass away from the Torah and the prophets until all is fulfilled” (dywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ mn ʾwrytʾ wnbyʾ lʾ tʿbr ʿdmʾ dkl nhwʾ), crucially translating as “one letter yud” what the Peshitta had translated as “one yod or dash.”28 Four elements of the Syriac translations of Matt 5:17 found in the Diatessaron, in the Peshitta and in previous translations proved consequential for its history of interpretation.

  • First, the verb sh-r-y, used both by the Diatessaron and the Peshitta (in the paʿel and peʿal form, respectively), does not quite correspond to the Law’s “dissolution” in the Greek text, in as far as it can be understood more easily in terms of gradual “loosening” the Law, as well as in shared sense of “breaking,” or “destroying” the Law—an important difference in light of the respective Syriac interpretation of Matt 5:17 that reads Jesus as effectively “diminishing” the Law, which we will discuss below.29

  • At the same time, the verb m-l-ʾ, used for the Law’s “fulfilment,” both in the Diatessaron and in the Peshitta (in the infinitive and imperfect paʿel form, respectively) renders the Greek very well, in as far as it allows for understanding Jesus both as fulfilling the Law as a whole and for the fulfilment of individual commandments, thereby offering a firm basis for the Syriac interpretations that saw the “fulfilment” of God’s Law as prerequisite of gaining eternal life.30

  • Moreover, just like Jerome, the Peshitta repeats the verb “coming” (ʾ-t-y), pointing out its importance—without, however, structurally connecting Jesus’s coming to the passing of the heaven and earth by the use of repetitions of the same root, as we saw in the Greek text.31 We cannot be sure whether or not the Diatessaron repeats the verb ʾ-t-y; the extant citations do not suggest that it would.32

  • A final important detail is the Syriac rendering of the Greek “not an iota or a dot,” which the Peshitta translates, precisely, as constituting two elements: “one yud or one dash” (ywd ḥdʾ ʾw ḥd srṭʾ). The Diatessaron, however, along with two other older Syriac versions, understands the latter part of the phrase as describing the former one, and the two elements together become ywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ “one letter yud,” thereby laying the ground for the central Syriac interpretation of the yud in Matt 5:17 as designating the supreme commandment, the ten commandments along with certain additions, and, ultimately, Jesus himself.33

We will see that, overall, the translation of the Diatessaron proved far more important for the development of the Syriac thought on law than the Peshitta. At the same time, it has become evident that there are three elements in the dominant Greek, Latin and Syriac renderings of Matt 5:17 that remained stable across linguistic and cultural boundaries:

  • Jesus is portrayed as orally presenting his role in legal salvation history, by relating his “coming” to the Law, in the first person.

  • This role is then specified by the repetition of the verb “to come.”

  • The statement concludes with a bi-partite statement, first endorsing the Law’s general validity and secondly describing Jesus’s role in qualifying the validity and scope of the Law.

The Greek, Latin and Syriac text of Matt 5:17 thus all allow for a law-affirming reading of the passage, which proved to be troubling for many of its Christian readers. We will explore first the Greek and Latin and then the Syriac range of late antique responses to Matt 5:17 which, in turn, prepared the Talmud’s own renderings of this tradition. We will see that the Jewish version of Jesus’ Matthean saying echoes many aspects of its Christian history of interpretation, yet clearly stand apart from them both as located more firmly in an oral context and as representing unique and unprecedented perspectives on Jesus’s relationship to the Law.

2 Fulfilment or Falsification? Matthew 5:17–18 in the Greek and Latin Tradition

The reading of Matthew as a fully law-abiding Jewish text, needless to say, was not an option usually entertained by his gentile Christian audience.34 We can locate three reactions to Matthew 5:17 in the Greek and Latin Christian tradition.

  • First, most church fathers tended to read Matthew’s term “to fulfil” not in terms of fulfilling legal observances by enacting them, but rather as having “fulfilled” the purpose of the Hebrew Bible as a whole, leading to the abrogation of its commandments by Jesus coming itself. This majority reading should best be understood in reaction to a second option.

  • A minority of Christians throughout late antiquity, such as Marcion and the followers of Mani, as well as the Emperor Julian, understood Matt 5:17 as affirming the Law.35 These readers, at the same time, questioned the passage’s authenticity, and the Christians among them excised it from their Gospel, designating it as a satanic falsification of Scripture.

  • Finally, a minority tendency in the Greek tradition combined the two aforementioned options by reading Matthew 5:17–18 both as a genuine passage and in a law-affirming way—at the same time as using it in order to argue that other Biblical passages are falsifications of, i.e. human or satanic additions to the Hebrew Bible.

Many Christians, moreover, put Matthew 5:17–18 to polemical and heresiological use, often testifying to its meaning as abrogating the Law, the reading which they endorsed, and as affirming the Law, namely by quoting, paraphrasing or referring to the reading which they rejected.

Most church fathers, to reiterate, understood Matt 5:17 in neo-Pauline terms. Already Irenaeus, writing in Greek, in the south of France, in the second half of the second century, seeks to combine his understanding of Matthew’s message with that of his understanding of Paul, thereby establishing the mainstream Greek and Latin Christian understanding of the passage. In his refutation of Marcion (to whom we will return presently), Irenaeus connects the “fulfilment” of the Law not with the keeping of its precepts, but with Jesus’s coming itself. The early Latin translation of the lost original offers the following:

But the servants would have turned out to be false, and not sent by the Lord, if Christ in his advent (adveniens) had not fulfilled (adimplesset) their words and been exactly what had been promised. That is why he said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets (ne putetis quoniam veni dissolvere legem aut prophetas); I have come not to abolish but to fulfil (non veni dissolvere sed adimplere). For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt 5:17–18). By his advent he fulfilled all things (omnia enim ipse adimplevit veniens), and in the Church he still fulfils (et adhuc implet in ecclesia) the new covenant foretold by the Law and will do so until the consummation. To this effect also Paul, his apostle, says in the Letter to the Romans, “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the Law and the prophets,” for “the one who is righteous will live by faith” (Rom 3:21; 1:17, cf. Habakkuk 2:4). This fact, that the righteous shall live by faith, had been previously announced by the prophets.36

Irenaeus’s reading of the passage shows how dramatically the content of Matthew changes if one reads the Gospel without its original ethnic Jewish context. Paul’s letter was originally addressed to the gentile Romans, whom he sought to dissuade from following the Jewish law in its entirety—which, of course conforms to the legal position found in the Hebrew Bible as well as that of some texts in the New Testament (such as Acts) and the later rabbis.37 Matthew, by contrast, addressed at least a predominantly Jewish audience as he tried to disassociate Jesus from a tradition that portrayed the Messiah as dissuading Jews to follow the Law. Matthew’s focus is not necessarily incompatible with that of Paul, as long as one distinguishes between Jews and gentiles. Irenaeus, however, conflates Paul’s address to gentiles with that of Matthew to his Jewish audience, as if both made universal, ethnically homogenizing statements.38 In the ensuing legal tension, it is the Matthean side that gives. The only “fulfilment” that seems reasonable from Irenaeus’s perspective, if fulfilling the Torah’s commandments is not an option, may well be that one must consider the Torah as already “fulfilled” by the coming of Christ.

Irenaeus inaugurated the reading of Matt 5:17 that remained dominant in the Greek and Latin Christian tradition: Jesus’s coming itself is the fulfilment of the Torah, or, as Irenaeus’s Latinate contemporary Tertullian puts it elegantly, “if the gospel has not fulfilled the Law, even so the Law has fulfilled the gospel (si evangelium legem non adimplevit, ecce lex evangelium adimplevit).”39 Clement of Alexandria, slightly younger than Irenaeus and Tertullian, likewise states that “to fulfil (plērōsai),” i.e. the Laws, in Matt 5:17 “does not mean that it was defective (ouch ōs endeē),” rather, “the prophecies which followed the Law were accomplished through (Christ’s) presence, since the qualities of an upright way of life were announced to people of righteous behaviour—before the Law, by the Word (pro tou nomou dia tou logou).”40 We find a similar reading in Origen in the third century, who sees the Law as “completed in the Gospels and, through the apostles, in the words of Christ” (peplērōtaien tois euaggeliois kai tois christou dia tōn apostolōn logois).41 Other Greek and Latin church fathers could be marshalled to support this reading. John Chrysostom, for example, writing in Eastern Rome in the fourth century, unsurprisingly evoked the passage in his anti-Jewish polemics, and we find similar uses in Eusebius of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil of Caesarea and others.42

The most exemplary of the “Western” understanding of Matthew, however, may be the one church father who seemed to have returned to Matt 5:17 the most often: Augustine, the late fourth and early fifth-century father writing, in Latin, in North Africa, repeatedly invoked the passage throughout his life. As importantly, Augustine preserved the arguments of a Manichean opponent who read Matt 5:17 plainly as confirming the Law—and as a Satanic falsification of Scripture.43

Augustine pushed the earlier readings of his Christian predecessors further and declared, inspired by Paul, that “the Law of the Lord is none but Himself (Lex ergo Domini ipse est), who came to fulfil the Law, not to destroy it (qui venit legem implere, non solvere).”44 Augustine sees Christ as the Law.45 Notably, Augustine also incorporated the view of Christ’s fulfilment of the Law in his understanding of original sin:

Hence it is [not!] gratuitous (non gratis) that Christ died, so that the Law be fulfilled (impleretur) through Him who declared, “I am not come to destroy the Law but to fulfil it” (non veni legem solvere, sed implere Matt 5:17) and the nature that was lost through Adam would be recovered through Him, Who said that He came “to seek and to save what had been lost” (Matt 18:11, Luke 19:10). Even the fathers of old, who loved God, believed in Him who was to come (in quem venturum).46

Augustine thus sees Christ as the Law, and the Law’s fulfilment in turn becomes the redemption from original sin. Augustine can therefore be said to epitomize the dominant reading of Matt 5:17 in the Greek and Latin tradition.

For Augustine, Matt 5:17 remained a statement that related Jesus to God’s law, yet if Jesus became God’s law, then the latter is thereby relegated to a mere type and relieved of any positive soteriological value it may have retained for previous fathers. At the same time, Augustine participated in the broad tendency to put Matthew 5:17 to polemical and heresiological use, as we have already seen in Irenaeus. Both church fathers, namely, polemicize against those Christians who view the verse both as affirming the Law and as spurious—i.e. against the view constituting the second of the three tendencies to read Matthew 5:17 in the Greek and Latin tradition, and the one more important for its Talmudic rendering.

The tendency to use Matt 5:17 for heresiological purposes is already evident in the passage by Irenaeus quoted above, which he formulated “to address all the heretics, and chiefly the followers of Marcion and their likes.”47 Irenaeus’s use of Matt 5:17 against “the Marcionites” is noteworthy since also Tertullian, Irenaeus’s contemporary, claimed that Marcion had indeed “blotted this (i.e., Matt 5:17) out as an interpolation (hoc enim … ut additum erasit).”48 Likewise, Cyril of Jerusalem, in the fourth century, enjoined his audience to use Matt 5:17 against those who sought to excise the Hebrew Bible from the canon, which is the central position the fathers connected with Marcion: “And so, if ever thou hear any heretic blaspheming the Law or the Prophets (blasfēmountos nomon ē profētas), quote that saving word against him: Jesus came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it (ouk ēlthen iēsous katalusai ton nomon alla plērōsai).”49 We should note that if Irenaeus already reacts to Marcion, then the latter’s erasure of Matt 5:17 may well constitute one of the earliest Greek Christian reaction to Matthew. Regardless of the difficult chronology, it seems that a substantial part of the Greek and Latin reading of Matt 5:17 seems to respond to arguments for the rejection of the passage.

There is no clear record of how Marcion understood Matt 5:17, yet he was not the only reader of Matthew to doubt the veracity of the passage, as becomes clear when turning, again, to Augustine.50 Augustine quotes a text composed by his interlocutor Faustus of Mileve, with whom he met around 383 CE. In an arresting passage, Faustus points to the hermeneutical tension inherent in Augustine’s position simultaneously to defend the text of Matt 5:17 and to refute its law-affirming meaning:

1. Faustus said: “ ‘I have come not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it (non veni solver legem et prophetas, sed adinplere Matt 5:17).’ But unless this perhaps means something else, you should know that to believe Christ said this contradicts you as much as it contradicts me. For each of us is a Christian under this assumption: we have taken it for granted that Christ came to destroy the Law and the prophets (in destructionem legis ac prophetarum venisse). This is the reason that you yourself also hold the commandments of the Law and the prophets in contempt (quod legis ac prophetarum praecepta et ipse contemnis); this is the reason that both of us say that Jesus established the New Testament (novum testamentum condidisse). And what else do we imply by that but the destruction of the Old Testament (destructionem … veteris testamenti)? Since this is so, how shall we believe that Christ said these words unless we first …. observe the Law in its entirety along with the prophets (obsequamurque legi de integro ac prophetis), and are careful to observe (curemus, i.e. the commandments) …? When we have done that, then it will at last be true that we believe that Jesus said that he came not to destroy but to fulfil the Law (quia non venerit legem solver, sed adinplere). But now it is not true, because not even you believe what you accuse me alone of.

2. … Do you want to be subject to the Law (sub legem) if Christ did not destroy it but fulfilled it (non tam solvit sed adinplevit)? Do you want to be circumcised …. Do you want to observe the Shabbat rest …? In order to feed the demon of the Jews (Iudaeorum daemonis)—for he is not God—do you want to slay with knives now bulls, now rams, now even goats …? Do you want to regard certain foods from animals as clean (munda) and regard others as unclean and defiled (inmundis et contaminatis), among which the Law and the prophets claim that pork is the more polluted? … But notice that Christ did not himself observe (nec ipsum servasse) the Sabbath and never commanded that it be observed (nec usquam mandasse servandum). Likewise, listen to him saying, with regard to foods, that a person is not defiled by any of the things that enter his mouth … (Matt 15:11). Likewise, regarding sacrifices (de sacrificiis), listen to his frequent statements that God wants mercy, not sacrifice (misericordium velle, non sacrificium, Matt 9:13, 12:7). If these statements are true, where will that saying be that he came not to destroy but to fulfil the Law and the prophets (non eum venisse solvere legem et pophetas, sed adinplere).”51

Faustus’s testimony on his reading of Matt 5:17, is extensive and coherent, and it seems to me that it is most likely representative of his actual Disputationes.52 It may constitute the most fully argued case for the implications of a law-affirming reading of Matt 5:17 preserved from antiquity. Faustus, unaware of Matthew’s distinctions between biblical and Pharisaic law and between Jews and gentiles, reads Matthew like most of his Christian interpreters did after him: he understands Matthew’s criticism of Pharisaic Shabbat rules as the dissolution of the Shabbat, he sees Matthew’s criticism of Pharisaic purity requirements as the abolition of food laws, and so on. Since Faustus, consequentially, can understand Matt 5:17 only as demanding the observances of the Law, including the usual triad of circumcision, Shabbat and Sacrifice, he concludes that the passage must be spurious.53 The response Augustine eventually gives is comparatively tame, and focuses on typology: “Christians do not do the things from the Law and the prophets,” he argues at some length, “that were signs of the things (quibus significate sunt) that they now do.”54

Faustus suggests a different solution to the conundrum Matt 5:17 poses to him: Matthew’s endorsement of the Law lead him to the conclusion that the text must have been corrupted by the forces of evil, according to the Manichean theory of Satanic interpolations of Scripture, as he sets out in the sequel to the passage cited:

3. “And yet Manichean faith (Manichaea fides) has made me safe in face of the difficulty of this passage. For, to begin with, it has convinced me not to believe indiscriminately all the things that we read were written under the name of the saviour but to test whether they are true, sound and incorrupt (si sint … vera, si sana, si incorrupta). For there are many weeds that the sower of the night has scattered in almost all the scriptures in order to spoil the good seed …. I am still permitted explicitly to test whether this comes from the good sower of the day (interdiani satoris et boni) or from that most evil one of the night (an noturni illius et pessimi). But you who rashly believe everything (qui temere omnia credis), who denounce human reason (rationem ex homnibus damnas), which is nature’s gift to us, who are afraid to judge what is true and what is false …. what are you going to do when logic forces you into difficulties over this statement (i.e. Matt 5:17)? I mean when a Jew (Iudaeus) or anyone else aware of this statement asks you why you do not observe the commandments of the Law and the prophets (quid ita legis et prophetarum praecepta non serves), since Christ says that he came not to destroy but to fulfil these same commandments (non se venisse solvere dicat sed adinplere), you are of course forced either to yield to a silly superstition, or to admit that this passage is spurious (aut capitulum profiteri falsum), or to deny that you are a disciple of Christ (aut te Christi negare discipulum).”55

Faustus, like Marcion before him, discounts Matt 5:17 as spurious, yet he emphasizes the more sinister side of the falsification of Scripture: according to Mani’s teaching, even the true Scriptures are interspersed with falsehoods, a teaching that was widespread among Marcionites and Manicheans alike, and will find another iteration in the so-called Clementine Homilies.56 Faustus’s testimony proves crucial for the present inquiry in one further way, namely when highlighting the danger residing in Matt 5:17 in terms of its usefulness for anti-Christian polemics. He asks Augustine how he would answer if “a Jew or anyone else aware of this statement asks you why you do not observe the commandments of the Law and the prophets.” This scenario of “Jews and others” making use of Matt 5:17 was not far-fetched, and indeed remains a central issue for the remainder of our survey of Greek and Latin readings of Matt 5:17. We will turn to Jewish uses of the passage presently; much closer to Faustus in time and place, the neo-pagan emperor Julian had already argued along the very same lines, paraphrasing Matt 5:17 and 19 as follows:

Therefore when He (i.e. Christ) has undoubtedly commanded that it is proper to observe the Law (tērein ton nomon), and threatened with punishment those who transgress one commandment, what manner of defending yourselves will you devise, you who have transgressed them all (oi sullēbdēn apasas) without exception? For either Jesus will be found to speak falsely (pseudoepēsei), or rather you will be found in all respects and in every way not to preserve the Law (ou nomofulakes).57

Julian and Faustus, and before them likely Marcion and Mani, thus agree on the reading of the passage in principle, with one important difference: they all hold the text to demand legal observance, they all hold that this teaching is incompatible with Christian practice, and they all suggest that the passage may well be spurious. The one difference is that while Faustus, along with Marcion and Mani’s likely reading, are certain of the passage’s falsified character, Julian merely evokes the possibility that Jesus may have been speaking falsely.58

Faustus’s question to Augustine, how he would react if “anyone … aware of this statement asks you why you do not observe the commandments of the Law and the prophet,” was thus based on precedent. This also proves true regarding the more concrete possibility that “a Jew” would ask the same question. Before turning to the Syriac and eventually the Talmud’s view on the matter (which again comes close to this very scenario evoked by Faustus), we should consider the testimony provided by Faustus himself and others regarding “Jewish” readings from within the Jesus-movement. Faustus, namely, goes on to relate that “the Nazoreans” (Nazoraeorum) also insist that Jesus “said that he had not come to destroy the Law” (non se venisse solvere legem), since they, too were “also deceived by this same passage (i.e. Matt 5:17), that is, because Christ said that he had come not to destroy but to fulfil the Law” (decepti etiam ipsi … hoc ipso capitulo … quia Christus non ad solvendam legem se venisse dixerit, sed ad inplendam).59 Faustus emphasizes that he had not actually met any Nazoreans, and his respective testimony cannot be verified. We should note, however, that Epiphanius of Salamis, in his portrayal of this same alleged group he calls Nazareans, made use precisely of Matt 5:17 in order to refute what he considers to be their misguided observance of the Law.60 Epiphanius, moreover, contextualizes his reading of Matt 5:17 in a historical way that proves important also for the way in which his actual (rather than perceived) opponents read the passage:

But they too are wrong to boast of circumcision, and persons like themselves are still “under a curse” (Gal 3:10) since they cannot fulfil the Law (mē dunamenoi ton nomon plērōsai). For how can they fulfil the Law’s provision (plēroun ta en tō vomō eirēmena), “Thrice a year thou shalt appear before the Lord thy God, at the feasts of Unleavened Bread, Tabernacles and Pentecost,” on the site of Jerusalem? (see Exod 34:32 and Deut 16:16). As the site is closed off, and the Law’s provisions cannot be fulfilled (kai tōn en tō nomō mē dunamenōn plērousthai), anyone with sense can see that Christ came to be the Law’s fulfiller (oti christos ēlthen plērōtēs tou nomou)—not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil the Law (ou ton nomon katalusōn alla ton nomon plērōsōn, cf. Matt 5:17)—and to lift the curse that had been put on transgression of the Law (cf. Gal 3:22). For after Moses had given every commandment he (i.e. Moses) came to the end of the book (ēlthen epi to terma tēs biblou) and “included the whole in a curse” with the (Pauline!) words “cursed is he that continues not in all the words that are written in this book to do them” (Gal 3:10, see Deut 27:26). Hence, he (i.e., Christ) came to free (ēlthen oun luōn) what had been fettered with the bonds of the curse. In place of the lesser commandments which cannot be fulfilled (tōn mē dunamenōn plērousthai), he granted us the greater, which are not inconsistent with the completion of the task (ou machomena thateron thaterō pros tēn tou ergou plērōsin) as the earlier ones were. For I have discussed this many times before, in every sect, in connection with the Sabbath, circumcision and the rest—how the Lord has granted something more perfect to us.61

Epiphanius’s argument against the Nazaranes follows that of Faustus quite closely, in as far as he marshals circumcision, Sabbath and sacrifice against those who seek to fulfil the Law. Like his predecessors, Epiphanius combines Matt 5:17 with the letters of Paul, yet Epiphanius adds an important historical perspective: if it is impossible to fulfil the Law because the Temple is destroyed, he argues, it must follow that Christ already had fulfilled it, since one otherwise would unavoidably fall short of the Law’s commandments, incurring the Deuteronomistic curse used so effectively in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

Epiphanius’s historic contextualization of Matt 5:17 thus falls broadly within the parameters set out by his predecessors, yet it stands out in as far as it is closely related to a third instance in which a law-affirming reading of the passage has been recorded in the Western tradition. The reading of the Matthean passage we find in the Clementine Homilies, namely, combines the view of the passage as affirming the keeping of the commandments in principle with the Manichean view of Satanic interpolations—and with Epiphanius’s argument that the destruction of the Temple proves the temporal nature of Sacrifice.

The Clementine Homilies are a fourth or fifth century novel which, unlike any other rendering of Matt 5:17 from within the Jesus-movement, continue to distinguish between Jews and gentiles in a way of requiring diverging law-codes to be followed by each group, in a way comparable to the one we find in the Hebrew Bible, in Acts, and likely in the Gospel of Matthew.62 The Clementine Homilies, like so many of their predecessors paying close attention to that gospel’s repetition of the verb erchomai in 5:17, read the passage in a way that is only partially anticipated by Faustus:

And also that (Jesus) said, “I am have not come to abrogate the Law” (ouk ēlthon katalusai ton nomon, Matt 5:17) and appeared to be abrogate it (fainesthai auton kataluonta), indicates that what he abrogated were not from the Law (oti a kateluen ouk ēn tou nomou). And (Jesus’s) saying, “The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall not pass from the Law (o ouranos kai ē gē pareleusontai iota en ē mia keraia ou mē parelthē apo tou nomou),” indicates that what passes away before the heaven and the earth (ta pro ouranou kai gēs parerchomena) is not from the Law (mē onta tou ontōs nomou, see Matt 5:17).63

Since, then, while the heaven and the earth still stand (ouranou kai gēs eti sunestōtōn), sacrifices have passed away (parēlthan thusiai), and kingdoms, and prophecies among those who are born of woman, and such like, as not being ordinances of God; hence therefore He says, “Every plant which the heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up” (Matt 15:13) … and to those who supposed that God is pleased with sacrifices, He said, “God wishes mercy, and not sacrifices” (Matt 9:13)—the knowledge of Himself, and not holocausts.64

The Clementine Homilies, like Faustus, Epiphanius, and so many others unaware of (or uninterested in) the distinction between biblical and Pharisaic law, hold that Jesus, despite Matthew’s wording, at first sight may well appear to be abolishing the Law in its entirety.65 Like Faustus, the Homilies cite Matt 9:13 against sacrifices, and like Epiphanius, the Homilies argue against them from a historical perspective: sacrifices have passed before heaven and earth have done so, and must accordingly have fallen into Jesus’s purview of abrogation.66 For the Homilies, however, Jesus’s abrogation of the Law largely pertains to sacrifice alone. The simple argument, here as well as in Epiphanius, is that since sacrifice was factually abrogated by the destruction of the Temple, it cannot have been part of God’s enduring law—the similarity of the arguments, indeed, makes one wonder if Epiphanius may have read the Homilies, to which he may make explicit reference, or if the author of the homilies was familiar with Epiphanius’s heresiological exploits, to which the Homilies show intriguing parallels.67

According to Epiphanius, for example, the Ebionites read the Gospel of Matthew as a law-abiding “Jewish” text, yet with noteworthy changes which Epiphanius designates to be “guileful inventions” (ta par autois dolia epinoēmata). Matt 5:17 in the alleged Ebionite version reads “I came to abolish the sacrifices (ēlthon katalusai tas thusias) and if you cease not from sacrifices, wrath will not cease from you.”68 To a degree, this corresponds to the teachings of the Homilies on sacrifice—yet the Homilies, we have seen, do teach that the “standard” Matthean passage is the genuine one, making a direct exchange between this text and Epiphanius less likely.

Other than when it comes to sacrifice, the Homilies are a unique text in as far as they continue to hold the view shared with earlier Christian texts, such as the Gospel of Matthew, that Moses’s Law is still incumbent upon Jews. The Homilies also hold that only a concise part of the Law—following an “expansive” reading of the so-called Decree of the Apostles—has always been incumbent upon gentiles, and remains so regardless of the coming of Jesus.69 In this distinction between Jews and gentiles, the Homilies come very close indeed to Matthew’s original view as portrayed above, of which they prove to be a more attentive recipient in both literary and legal terms than many of their predecessors.

The Clementine Homilies’ distinction between Jewish and gentile ethnicity make a mockery of Faustus’s and Epiphanius’s testimony about “Jewish-Christian” Nazoreans or Ebionites, and vice versa. It is the emphatically “gentile” self-identity so dominant in the Western tradition that had made Matthew’s original thinking very difficult to access already since the time of Marcion and Irenaeus. Epiphanius seems to grasp that some of his contemporaries within the Jesus movement do not see themselves as gentiles, and notes the tension between this group and “the Jews” at large, which seems an astute observation in as far as it goes. However, instead of recognizing the clear ethnic distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Christ one can observe within the Clementine Homilies, Epiphanius then projects an ethnic amalgamation onto his Nazoreans, thereby making it nearly impossible to understand, on their own terms, those believers that he successfully recasts as what later scholars would call “Jewish-Christian”. The heresiologists’ arguable invention of Jewish Christianity, namely, proved as consequential as that of the invention of Gnosticism, the internal cohesion of which became understandable only after the finding of the Nag Hammadi texts.70 Epiphanius portrays groups that do not fit his definition of Jewish or Christian orthodoxy as hopelessly embroiled in an unclear grasp of the Law, as standing “in all evil, in the midst of the church and the synagogue (meson ekklēsias kai sunagōgēs)”—a view not so dissimilar from the one we will find in the Talmud.71 The only primary source in Epiphanius’s time that remotely resembles this description to a degree are the Clementine Homilies, which, in partial contrast, argue precisely for a distinction between Jewish and gentile ethnicity and between their respective legal requirements and even faith commitments.72 Intriguingly, just as Epiphanius, the Homilies turn to Matt 5:17, which they consider as genuine, in order to refute their opponent, and just like him, they invoke the evidence of history itself.

At the same time, the Homilies take up the Marcionite and more specifically the Manichean argument that parts of Scripture are indeed the result of their satanic falsification we have already seen in Faustus. They explain satanic falsification of Scripture as fully compatible with God’s omnipotence, holding that “the falsehoods of the Scriptures have been permitted to be written for a certain righteous reason, at the demand of evil” (aitēmati kakias).73 While humans may be the agents of these falsification, they all are initiated by the devil.74 The reason the Clementine Homilies’ indicate is that the “mystery of the books which are able to deceive” (tōn apatan dunamenōn biblōn to mustērion) have been allowed by God in order to test the believers: “nothing happens unjustly, since even the falsehoods of Scripture are with good reason presented for a trial” (pros dokimēn).75 This “test” is constituted by the believers’ misplaced trust on a literal reading of the Bible (quite in line with Faustus’s respective views):

Worthy, therefore, of rejection is everyone who is willing so much as to hear anything against the monarchy of God (tēs theou monarchias). If any one dares to hear anything against God, as trusting in the Scriptures (ei d’ōs grafais tetharrēkōs), let him first of all consider with me that if any one, as he pleases, form a dogma agreeable to himself (oti an tis eulogon eautō dogma ōs bouletai anaplasē), and then carefully search (the Scriptures), he will be able to produce many testimonies from them in favour of the dogma that he has formed (pollas uper ou eplasato dogmatos ap’autōn marturias ferein). How, then, can confidence be placed in them against God, when what everyone wishes is found in them (en ais ē pantōn boulē eiseurisketai)?76

It is within this context that the Clementine Homilies’ reading of Matthew 5:17 can be seen as constituting the third way of reading the passage in the Greek and Latin tradition: the Clementine Homilies, just like Marcion, Faustus and Julian, read the passage as affirming the Law. Yet the Homilies place the passage in three contexts that dramatically changes their understanding of Matthew.

  • First, they maintain Matthew’s original distinction between Jews and gentiles, thereby making the demands for gentile law observance much softer than those for Jews—in line with the Christian tradition of gentile purity law they do not include circumcision or Shabbat.

  • Secondly, the Homilies read the passage within the historical framework shared with Epiphanius, agreeing that Jesus cannot have endorsed sacrifice and must therefore have intended it as the subject of his abolishment of the Torah.

  • Thirdly, the Homilies place their reading within the Manichean-Marcionite framework of satanic falsification of Scripture, which relegates the respective scriptural passages on sacrifice to be of demonic origin. The Homilies, moreover, point out that human readers will find confirmation for erroneous doctrines in these false Scriptures—echoing Faustus rather precisely.

The Homilies thus refute Epiphanius’s argument that the end of sacrifice implies the end of the Law. They equally adopt the teaching of the satanic falsification of Scripture, yet rather than applying it to Matt 5:17, as Marcion and Faustus did, the Homilies apply it to the Torah’s laws on sacrifice and other statements that may question God’s absolute unity or His omniscience or omnipotence.77 The Homilies thereby solve the historical challenge to the observance of the Law after the Temple’s destruction that Epiphanius had levelled against his imaginary—or at least grossly distorted—interlocutors, whom he recast as tantamount to what modern scholars perceive as “Jewish-Christian.” The Homilies, in short, may constitute a minority tradition in the Christian reception history of Matt 5:17, yet they should not be seen as marginal in as far as they combine aspects of the Western majority tradition with that of their Marcionite and Manichean opponents.78 The Homilies thus constitute the one instance in the Western tradition that most fully corresponds to the case evoked by Faustus, namely that of a Jewish reading of Matt 5:17. The Homilies, along with the testimony of Faustus himself and that of Julian, will help us contextualize the ways in which the Talmud will employ the passage. Yet in order to understand their respective readings most fully, we first need to turn to the Syriac Christian tradition of understanding the Matthean passage.

3 Matthew 5:17 in the Syriac Tradition

It is noteworthy how little attention Matt 5:17 has received in the Syriac tradition when compared to the Greco-Latinate record. Still, there is ample evidence to reconstruct a distinct Syriac reading, which since, Ephrem and Aphrahat, placed a somewhat different emphasis on the passage’s legal implications than the Western one, especially when it comes to the enduring value of the Law. At the same time, the mainstream Christian Syriac reading of Matt 5:17, like the Greek and Latin one, took the passage to be genuine, and largely connected Jesus’s coming to the “fulfilment” of the Law, which left it transformed. Moreover, the Syriac fathers, like their Greek and Latinate contemporaries, tended to respond to Marcionism and Manichaeism, along with a refutation of the teachings of Bardaisan, yet they spent far less time quoting and refuting their opponents than the Western traditions.79

In order to comprehend the Syriac attitudes towards Matt 5:17, one needs to understand its views of Israelite ethnicity. Ephrem and the majority of Syriac writers, it is true, consider “the peoples” to have replaced “the People,” just as the Western church understood itself has having superseded Israel. In partial contradistinction to the Western Christian tradition, however, the Syriac tradition retained a view that saw the church as the result of an ethnic amalgamation: after Jesus’s coming, “the nations” have joined rather than replaced “the nation,” a vision close to the Pauline image of the olive tree which has wild branches grafted onto it. This is the view put forward by Aphrahat, which, in the words of Sebastian Brock, “held that that the Church derived from both the People and the Peoples, and constituted a ‘new People.’ ”80 Aphrahat’s model was explicitly retained by the Didascalia Apostolorum (on whose later dating see below), the Syriac tradition that will prove most important for the present inquiry. Moreover, we will see that the Syriac tradition seems to endorse the enduring value of the Law, which it defines in its own way. Most importantly for the present purpose, this tradition uses Matt 5:17 in increasing clarity as a passage to express precisely how much of the Law remained after Jesus’s coming, and how, precisely, Jesus reduced the divine law by partially abrogating some of its punitive aspects. We will briefly consider Ephrem’s views of the Law, which come closest to the Western tradition, and then trace the more conservative approach favoured by Aphrahat, the Book of Steps, and the Didascalia Apostolorum.

Ephrem, writing in the Eastern Roman Empire in the fourth century, stands closest to the Western tradition both when it comes to his views of ethnicity and when it comes to his reading of Matt 5:17. Yet even he points out that Jesus’s “fulfilment” should not be understood as abrogation:

So that the disciples should not think that the perfect commands, which our Lord was introducing, were to dispense from the Law, he first said to them, “If you hear that I am setting forth perfection, do not imagine that I am abolishing the Law. Indeed I am fulfilling it. For I have not come to abolish, but to fulfil” (lʾ gyr ʾtyt dʾshrʾ ʾlʾ dʾmlʾ). For the scribe who completes a child’s education does not engage in contention [that a child should remain with] an instructor, nor does a father wish that his son should always be a child. Or a nurse, that her infant should always ask for milk. Milk is appropriate in its time. But when a child has grown strong, he no longer needs milk.

He said to the scribes and Pharisees who were rising up and seeking a pretext, “I have not come to abolish the Torah and the Prophets, but to fulfil them” (dlʾ ʾtyt dʾshrʾ ʾwrytʾ wnbyʾ ʾlʾ dʾmlʾ, Matt 5:17). This was fulfilment with regard to what was lacking (wmwlyʾ lḥsrywtʾ hw hwʾ). He made it known what kind of fulfilment (mwlyʾ) this was: “Behold we are going up to Jerusalem (lʾwrshlm) so that everything written concerning me may be fulfilled (lshlm)” (Luke 18:31). With regard to those things that were lacking (ḥsyrtʾ), he said “The former things have passed away (dqdmytʾ ʿbr lhwn,” 2 Cor 5:17). Concerning those things which have entered into fullness (dʿl bmlywtʾ), and are absorbed into growth (wʾtblʿ btwsptʾ), and renewed in abundance (wʾtḥdtʾ bytyrwtʾ), he said, “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away (tʿbr) than that one of the letters of the Torah (ḥdʾ mn ʾtwtʾ dʾwrytʾ) be dropped” (Luke 16:17) and “whoever relaxes one of the commandments” (dnshrʾ lm ḥd mn pwqdnʾ, Matt 5:19)—of the New Testament (ddytqʾ ḥdtʾ).81

Ephrem here dismisses the sense that Jesus would abolish the Law in its entirety. Instead, he indicates that the Law serves a specific purpose as preparatory nourishment, evoking Paul’s language of the schoolmaster (see e.g., Gal 3:24) and quoting 2 Cor 5:17 as Jesus’s own words. Ephrem also speaks about the “fulfilment” and the passing away of the Law as a whole through the crucifixion, staying very close to the Pauline interpretation of the term. There is, however, one central difference in emphasis between Ephrem’s interpretation and that of the “Western” tradition: for him, some part of the Torah has remained in what he, uniquely, calls the “commandments of the New Testament,” which must not be relaxed. While he does not specify what these commandments are, his interpretation nevertheless upholds the value of law, and even speaks of the Law’s “growth” and “abundance.” Ephrem thereby opened the door to a distinct Syriac legal tradition that eventually stood apart from the Western one. It is this Syriac tradition which is primarily reflected in the Talmud. The exegetical pathway of this interpretation, however, began not only with Ephrem, but also with Aphrahat.

The early fourth century church father Aphrahat, who wrote in Adiabne, in the north of the Sasanian Empire, slightly predates Ephrem. Like the latter and like so many Greek and Latin fathers, Aphrahat read Matt 5:17 in conjunction with the letters of Paul. Yet Aphrahat’s perceptive and independent reading, even more so than Ephrem’s, is remarkably different from the Western fathers in his emphasis on the keeping of parts of the Law, as he explains in detail in his Demonstration on Charity:

5. And 430 years before the Law (qdmy … mn nmwsʾ), the promise existed that in the seed of Abraham all the peoples will be blessed (Gal 3:17). The Law could not cancel (dnbṭl) the promise, hence the Law was an addition (twsptʾ) to this word of promise until its time (ʿdmʾ dʾtʾ zbnh) should come. And this word was kept for 1794 years from the time that it was promised to Abraham and until it came (wʿdmʾ dʾtʾ). And this word was kept in reserve for 1304 years after the giving of the Law (mn btr sym nmwsʾ). And the word preceded (wqdmyʾ) 430 years before the Law and when it came it cancelled the observances of the Law (wbd ʾtt bṭlt ʾnyn lnṭwrtʾ dnmwsʾ). The Law and the prophets were contained in these two commandments (tryn pwqdnyn) about which our Lord said, “All the Law and the prophets (dklh nmwsʾ wnbyʾ) until John the Baptist prophesied” (Matt 11:13). And our Lord said, “I have not come to dismiss the Torah and the prophets but to fulfil them (dlʾ ʾtyt lmshrʾ ʾwrytʾ wnbyʾ ʾlʾ lmmlyw ʾnyn,” Matt 5:17). It is also written that the truth of the Law was through Jesus (John 1:17).

6. How indeed was the Law and the prophets lacking (ḥsyr), and in need to be fulfilled (dntmlwn)? If not, on account of the testament which was hidden in them, which itself is the word of promise. For, that testament was not sealed which was given to Moses till this latter testament came, which is the first, which was promised from above and was sealed down below. … The first testament was fulfilled in the last (wʾtmlyt lh dytqʾ qdmytʾ bʾḥrytʾ). Aged and antiquated are the works which are in the Law and they are for destruction (lḥblʾ, cf. Heb 8:13). For, from the time the new (ḥdtʾ) was given, the old was made obsolete (bṭlt lh ʿtyqtʾ). It was not only from the time of the arrival of our Saviour, that the sacrifices were rejected (ʾstlyw dbḥʾ), but also from before that time their sacrifices were not pleasing him as it is written, … “I have not delighted in sacrifices and also I am not pleased with whole burnt offerings” (Jer 6:20; Ps 51:16). … The prophet Isaiah also said, … “I hate and reject your feasts and I will not perceive the odour of your religious assembly” (Amos 5:21; Isa 1:14).

7. And also this word which our Saviour said, on which the Law and the prophets hang (dbh tlyn ʾwrytʾ wnbyʾ, cf. Matt 22:40), is beautiful, good and fair, because our Lord said as follows, “Not one letter yud, will pass away from the Torah and the prophets until all is fulfilled” (dywd ʾtwtʾ hdʾ mn ʾwrytʾ wnbyʾ lʾ tʿbr ʿdmʾ dkl nhwʾ, Matt 5:18). For, he took the Law and the prophets and hung them on the two commandments (wtlʾ ʾnwn btryn pwqdnyn, cf. Matt 22:40), and cancelled nothing from them (wmdm lʾ bṭl mnhwn). But when you look well at this word, it is so in truth. The observance which is in the Law and everything which is written in it is under this word, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your heart” (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37). Everything which was done in the Law was in order that they should be brought to love the Lord their God and that a person should love his neighbour in the flesh as himself. And these two commandments are above all the Law …. For, whoever keeps righteousness is above the commandment and the Law and the prophets (dmn dnṭr bzyqtʾ lʿl mn pwqdnʾ hw wnmwsʾ wnbyʾ). And the word which our Lord said is true, “That no letter yud will pass away from the Law and from the prophets” (dlʾ tʿbr ywd ʾtwtʾ mn nmwsʾ wmn nbyʾ see Matt 5:18), because he set a seal and hung them on the two commandments (wtlʾ ʾnwn btryn pwqdnyn, cf. Matt 22:40).82

Aphrahat reads Matthew 5:17 in the light of Paul’s view of the extension of God’s blessing through Abraham’s seed. For Aphrahat, the Law is thus secondary to the “promise,” in a precise chronological way—reading we will find spelled out in more detail later in the Syriac tradition. Aphrahat, on the one hand, reads the “fulfilment” of the Law very much like the Greek and Latin fathers as a final fulfilment pertaining to its entirety, rather than as the ongoing partial fulfilment of any particular legal obligations. Along with the Clementine Homilies and other Western texts, Aphrahat holds that sacrifices were not a good idea to begin with, going very far in his rejection of the Torah.83 Like Clement of Alexandria, he emphasizes that the Law was not defective; rather, it needed to be transformed in order to release the promise that had been contained in it all along.

At the same time, however, we have seen that “the Church,” for Aphrahat, “derived from both the People and the Peoples, and constituted a ‘new People’,” as Brock puts it. Aphrahat describes Jesus as married to “the community of the People (knwsht ʿmʾ) and the community of the Peoples (knwsht ʿmmʾ).”84 Aphrahat’s ethnic self-identification with Israel, to the best of my knowledge, is not yet fully appreciated in scholarship, as is another aspect in his thought, namely his endorsement of a redefined Law. Aphrahat maintains a cognizance that even Christ’s “fulfilment” of the Law in its entirety does not necessarily cancel Matthew’s emphasis on the “fulfilment” of its individual commandments. Aphrahat therefore takes up another stream of the Christian tradition spelled out in Matt 22:36–40 (see also John 13:34–35 and James 2:8), which holds that Christ combined the entire law in two commandments—the love of God along with the love of one’s neighbour. Aphrahat, following the Diatessaron translation in this regard, emphasizes that “not one letter yud (dywd ʾtwtʾ hdʾ), will pass away from the Torah and the prophets until all is fulfilled.” Aphrahat thereby reads the yud of Matt 5:18 as designating the endurance of law itself. He recasts the abrogation of the Law as keeping it by the different means of two specific commandments which include all the others, the love of God and the love of one’s neighbour—a view famously shared, mutatis mutandis, by the rabbis.85 Aphrahat’s law-affirming language, along with that of Ephrem, thereby prepared a central element of the affirmative Syriac attitude towards law and towards Matt 5:17 in particular—and this attitude became more explicit in the later tradition.

Unlike many Greek and Latin Christian commentators, who tended to see any symbolic endorsement of the Law as diminishing the status of Christ, Aphrahat thus endorsed the idea of the enduring validity of a divine law at least in principle. The difference, of course, could be said to be one of emphasis rather than of content, since the Syriac tradition saw much of the Jewish law just as much as abrogated as the majority of the Latin and Greek tradition.86 Yet the difference in emphasis proved consequential in the long run. While Aphrahat, in his views on law as well as in his reading of Matt 5:17, remains largely in line with the Western Christian tradition, we find a very different point of view in the Book of Steps, a central Syriac text composed in the fourth or fifth century. The Book of Steps follows the language of Aphrahat very closely, but uses Matt 5:18 in order to emphasize the endurance of law through which one “lives”—the Syriac term of eternal salvation. Again, the yud of Matt 5:18 is central for the issue:

21. When he said, “He made both of them one” Testament (dʿbd trtyhwn ḥdʾ dytyqy, see Eph 2:14), and he annulled the Law of the commandments by his commandments (wnmwsʾ dpwqdnʾ bpwqdnwhy bṭl, Eph 2:14), so that he might make everything new with one testament. From then on, namely (mkyll lm) “not a single letter yud will pass away from the Law and the prophets” (ywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ lʾ tʿbr mn nmwsʾ wmn nbyʾ, Matt 5:18). As for the rest, “The whole Law and Prophets up to John were established in order to serve and then pass away” (Matt 11:13). “For the thing that has become old is worn out and close to destruction” (lḥblʾ, Heb 8:13) and from then on we ought not to speak about these (Heb 9:5). From then on, namely (mkyll lm), one letter yud (ywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ, Matt 5:18) will remain—which is the ten commandments (ʿsrʾ ptgmyn), which are called yud, for there are Ten Commandments in the number of the signs. These ten commandments, which I will enumerate here, are the yud that do not pass away from the Torah or from the prophets (dlʾ ʿbrʾ mn ʾwrytʾ wmn nbyʾ) … This is the letter yud, and look, it is recorded in the Gospel (bʾwnglywn). So from then on let no one serve these other commandments that have been abolished (pwqdnʾ ʾḥrnʾ dʾtbṭlw), or these by which a person does not live (dlʾ ʾysh ḥyʾ bhwn), because they were given on account of the stubbornness of the people (dmṭl qrḥwthwn dʿmʾ) and their contentiousness (wmṭl mmrmrnwthwn).

22. In summary, these ten commandments are sufficient for the (eternal) life of humans (hlyn ʿsrʾ ptgmyn spqyn lḥyyhwn dbnynshʾ), so that whoever does them will live by them (dmn dʿbd lhwn ḥyʾ bhwn, cf. Lev 18:5, Gal 3:12, Rom 10:5). For all the wearisomeness of the Law and the prophets (was intended) so that people might come to these commandments of this yud (pwqdnʾ dhdʾ ywd). As our Lord said, “All the power of the Law and the prophets hang upon these two commandments (dklh ḥylh dnmwsʾ wnbyʾ bhlyn tryn pwqdnyn tlʾ, Matt 22:40), and whoever does these two commandments fulfills the whole law” (wmn dʿbd hlyn tryn pwqdnyn klh nmwsʾ mmlʾ). As Paul said, “The whole (Law) is spoken with a few (words), “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 3:19).”

23 … Therefore, let us fulfill the Gospel and the yud (nshlm … lʾwnglywn wlywd), which are one testament by which people conduct themselves in a new way. But whatever is outside (dlbr) of this yud is in the Law and in the prophets, being called the testament of debts (dytyqy dḥwbʾ), for on account of the debts of the people (ḥwbwhy dʿmʾ) it is designated the testament of debts.87

We can see a clear development in the Syriac legal thought, from Aphrahat to the Book of Steps. The former one, entrenched as he was in anti-Jewish polemics, understood the yud of the Law that remains, according to the Diatessaron’s rendering of Matt 5:18, solely in terms of the dual commandment of love of God and love of one’s neighbor. The Book of Steps follows this interpretation, but takes it one step further: here, the “one letter yud” (ywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ), according to its numerical value of ten, designates the Decalogue.88 While endorsing the Decalogue’s validity as such is unsurprising, the language used by the Book of Steps is unique: it promises eternal life, i.e., salvation of the soul, through the observation of law. At the same time, the Book of Step mitigates the radical endorsement of the Law we have seen in Matt 5:17: by adding “from then on (mkyll lm),” the text endorses the permanence of the Law—yet only after Jesus’s coming. The Book of steps thus endorses “the Law” by expanding what Aphrahat already saw the Law’s enduring value. The enduring law now includes the “two commandments,” the love of God and one’s neighbor according to Matt 22:40, as well as the Ten Commandments.

One further step in the development of a positive Syriac Christian attitude towards law, and yet another use of Matt 5:17, can be found in the Didascalia apostolorum, a text of central significance in the West Syrian tradition whose development can be traced from third-century Greek fragments to a fifth-century Latin palimpsest and a broadened Syriac version that predates the eighth century CE.89 The Didascalia, like Aphrahat, sees the church as composed of both “the people (ʿmʾ) and of the peoples” (ʿmmʾ), the church, therefore, must follow the Law:

Indeed, the Law (nmwsʾ) is a yoke, because like a plow-yoke of oxen it is laid upon the former people (sym ʿl ʿmʾ qdmyʾ, i.e., of Israel) and upon the present church of God (ʿl ʿdtʾ dʾlhʾ dhshʾ), even as now also in the church it is upon us, upon those who are called from the people (mn ʿmʾ) and upon you and upon those who from among the peoples (dmn byt ʿmmʾ) who have (obtained) mercy for them; it has gathered and held us both, together in one accord.90

Just as for Aphrahat, the Didascalia sees the church as mixture of Israel and of the nations, upon which it is to keep the Law. Elsewhere, it presents the necessity of keeping the Law for salvation along with Jesus’s role in the history of law by using Matt 5:17 as a prooftext. Importantly, it juxtaposes “the Law” and the “Second Legislation,” which Jesus came to abrogate:

Indeed, you know that He gave a simple and pure and holy law of life (nmwsʾ pshyṭʾ wdkyʾ wqdyshʾ dḥyʾ), wherein our Savior set his name. He spoke the ten utterings (ʿsrʾ … ptgmyn) to point out Jesus (lyshwʿ)—for ten represents yud, but yud is the beginning of the name of Jesus (dyshwʿ) … And again our Saviour, when he cleansed the leper, sent him to the Law (lwt nmwsʾ shdrh) and said to him: “Go, show yourself to the high priest, and offer the offerings (wqrb qwrbnʾ) of your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them (Mark 1:44 and parallels)” that he might show that He does not abrogate the Law (dlʾ shrʾ nmwsʾ), but teaches what is … the Law91 and what the second legislation (tnyn nmysʾ). Indeed, he (Jesus) said thus: “I am not come to abrogate the Law nor the prophets, but to fulfill them” (dlʾ ʾtyt dʾshrʾ nmwsʾ wlʾ nbyʾ ʾlʾ dʾmlʾ ʾnwn, Matt 5:17). The Law therefore is not abrogated (nmwsʾ hkyl lʾ mshtrʾ), but the second legislation is temporary, and is abrogated (tnyn nmwsʾ dyn dzbnʾ hw wmshtrʾ).92 Now the Law is the ten utterings and the judgments (ʿsrʾ ptgmyn wdynʾ), to which Jesus bore witness (dʾshd) and said thus: “One letter yud shall not pass away from the Law (dywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ lʾ tʿbr mn nmwsʾ, Matt 5:18).” It is the yud, however, which passes not away from the Law (dlʾ ʿbrʾ mn nmwsʾ), even that which may be known from the Law itself through the ten sayings (ʿsrʾ ptgmyn), which is the name of Jesus (dyshwʿ). The letter (ʾtytʾ), however, is the extension of the wood of the cross (mtḥh hy dqysʾ dṣlybʾ). And again on the mount also Moses and Elijah appeared with our Lord—that is, the Law and the prophets (nmwsʾ wnbyʾ).

The Law thus consists of the ten words and the judgments (ʿsrʾ ptgmyn wdynʾ), these which God spoke before that the people made the calf (ʿglʾ) and worshipped idols. Indeed, also that it is called the Law (nmwsʾ), truly on account of the judgements (dynʾ). This is the simple and light law (nmwsʾ pshyṭʾ wqlylʾ). In it there is no burden, no distinction of meats, no incenses, no offerings of sacrifices and burnt offerings (wlʾ qwrbnʾ ddbḥʾ wdyqdʾ) …. Indeed, he said about sacrifices (ʿl dbḥʾ) thus: “If you shall make me an altar” (ʾn tʿbd ly mdbḥʾ) … Then he does not say “make for me,” but “if you shall make an altar” (ʾlʾ ʾnhw tʿbd mdbḥʾ). He did not set up this as a necessity (lʾ hdʾ ʾnnqʾ sm), but showed what was about to be … On this account He signified here: “If you desire to sacrifice, whereas I need it not (that) you sacrifice to Me” (dʾn rʾg ʾnt lmdbḥ kd lʾ snyq ʾnʾ dbḥ ʾnt ly).93

Again, in contrast to the Western Christian tradition, and in line with the Book of Steps, the Didascalia speaks of a “law of life” (nmwsʾ … dḥyʾ). The Didascalia again cites the Diatessaron’s version of Matt 5:17, with one small but telling modification that shows the influence of the Peshitta: the “one letter yud” that “shall not pass away” does not do so from the “Torah” (ʾwrytʾ), as in the Diatessaron, but from “the Law” (nmwsʾ), which is the term the Peshitta here uses, and which the Didascalia endorses not once.94 Its reading of the passage, moreover, develops that found in Aphrahat and the Book of Steps. The “one letter yud” (dywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ) remains to include “the ten sayings” yet to this, “the judgments” (dynʾ), are added, namely those parts of the Law that remain legally binding. The Didascalia here expands the teaching of the Book of Steps on the Law that is not abrogated in a significant way, just as the Book of Steps had expanded Aphrahat’s teaching. At the same time, the Didascalia develops the meaning of the yud, which now corresponds to Jesus himself, whose letter begins with a yud; the Didascalia here echoes Augustine’s identification of Jesus and the Law. It also adds a typological meaning to the yud: since the term ʾtytʾ in Matt 5:18 can denote both “letter” and “sign,” the Didascalia holds that the yud constitutes the “extension” or “reach” (mtḥʾ) of the cross (see Mishna Sanhedrin 6:4).

According to the Didascalia, then, the enduringly valid “primary” law corresponds to the Ten Commandments and a number of ritual and social laws based on a variety of Biblical passages, including Ezekiel 18 and the Decree of the Apostles.95 The “secondary,” temporal law, by contrast, is the ritual part of the Law that the Didascalia portrays as abrogated, including sacrifice, washing after intercourse, and “distinction of meats” beyond the strict avoidance of blood.96

The Didascalia’s idea of an eternal and a temporal law is thus essential in order to understand how it understands Jesus’s partial confirmation and partial abrogation of the Law. By and large, the Didascalia presents Jesus as “confirming” the Law. It states that:

indeed, in the Gospel (bʾwnglywn) (Jesus) renewed and fulfilled and confirmed the Law (lnmwsʾ hw ḥdt wmly wwshrr), but the second legislation he abrogated and abolished (wltnyn nmwsʾ shrʾ wbṭl). Truly it was to this end, indeed, that (Jesus) came (ʾtʾ), that the Law be confirmed (dnshrr nmwsʾ), and that the second legislation be abrogated (wtnyn nmwsʾ nbṭl) …97

The notion of “confirmation” of the Law, and continuity of legal thought, is thus central to the Didascalia. Presenting its own writing as a confirmation of previous teachings, the Didascalia states that “those things which were said before (mnqdym), hear also now.”98 Affirmation here occurs amidst alteration of current practice; its implied apostolic authors portray the correction of heretical teachings by stating that “we had established and confirmed and set down” (ʾtqnn wshrrnn wsmnn)—namely the words of the Didascalia.99 The Didascalia sees Jesus’s “coming” as inherently tied to the Law’s “confirmation”, both when citing and when alluding to Matt 5:17.

The Didascalia thus affirms the Law even more fully than the Book of Steps, in further development of the thought we have seen in Aphrahat, yet differently from both. Intriguingly, the Didascalia’s conception comes closest to that of the Clementine Homilies, with whose teaching it may or may not have had contact.100 Unlike the Homilies, the Didascalia does not differentiate between Jewish and gentile law, or between Jews and gentiles. It does not, however, see its own congregation as “gentile” either, as most Western fathers did. Rather, the Didascalia takes another unique position on the relationship between Jews and gentiles: for this text, “the nation,” a common Syriac term used for Israel, has been split. A part of Israel has believed Jesus and was joined by “the nations,” forming the new community. Another part, “the Jews”, rejected Jesus. In line with this ethno-religious concept (which stands in far closer continuity with Israel than the merely “spiritual” Israel of the gentile Western Christian traditions), the Didascalia distinguishes between two types of law, which it relates temporally. On the one hand, there is the eternal primary Law, which it unreservedly affirms, and which it sees as untouched by Jesus’s coming, and which all humans now must keep. On the other hand, there is the “second legislation,” which was a punitive law given to the Jews after the Golden Calf and other sins, which the Israelites were supposed to keep until Jesus’s coming, and which the Jews erroneously continue to keep to this day.101 This, of course, does not happen at the expense of Jesus’s importance for salvation: rather, the Law itself contains the reference to both the enduring part of the Law and to the cross.

4 Matthew 5:17 in the Aramaic Tradition

We can now turn to the rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud and their sense of Jesus’s saying on the law and its abrogation. Just like the Western tradition of reading Matt 5:17, the Talmud put the passage to heresiological use, yet its very formulation corresponds more closely to its Eastern, Syriac Christian understanding.102 The famous passage Bavli Shabbat 116a–b occurs in the midst of a satirical story about a corrupt judge, which itself is a narrative illumination of the meaning of the Syriac term ʾwnglywn, “Gospel,” which the Talmud, playfully, renders as ʾwn glywn, designating a “margin of error.”103 The Talmudic story explicates that the Gospel is a heretical book; it opens with a parodic enactment of Luke 12:13–14—Jesus refusal to judge an inheritance case—and ends with satirical use of Matt 5:15–16—“let your light shine.” These two gospel references work as bookends for the Talmud’s parody of Matt 5:17.104 In the Talmudic story, a rabbinic Jewish woman named Imma Shalom seeks to ridicule (lʾḥwky) a judge who styles himself as “a philosopher” (pylwspʾ) in order secure a favorable ruling regarding her inheritance.105 While she is eligible for inheritance according to Christian law, Jewish law denies her this inheritance in favor of her brother, Rabban Gamliel.106 The woman bribes the judge with a silver lamp, and the judge therefore initially leans towards favoring her case. He states the following (in the version of manuscript Munich, with important variants noted in the footnotes):

“From the day that you (m. pl.) were exiled from your land

mywmʾ dglytwn mʿl ʾrʿkwn107

the Torah of Moses was taken away,

ʾynṭylt108 ʾwryytʾ dmshh109

and the Gospel was given,

wʾtyhyb(t) byh110 ʿwn glywn111

and it is written in it: ‘Daughter and son inherit equally.’ ”

wkty(b) byh brtʾ wbrʾ ʾrtwn kḥdʾ

The judge here summarizes a particular take on the abrogation of the Law, connecting it not with the coming of Jesus but rather with the exile of the Jews, which the rabbis as well as Christian writers connected with the destruction of the Temple.112 The Bavli specifies that in this view, which corresponds largely to Ephrem and to the dominant strand of the Western Christian tradition, the Torah has been completely replaced by the Gospel, or, as one manuscript has it, “the Torah of the Gospel” (ʾwrytʾ dʿwn gylywn)—a formulation with a deep pedigree especially in Syriac Christian thought. The notion of “the Torah of the Gospel” clearly evokes Ephrem’s view of the “commandments of the New Testament” (pwqdnʾ ddytqʾ ḥdtʾ) and the “commandments of this yud” (pwqdnʾ dhdʾ ywd), i.e. of Jesus, which take the place of the Law that we saw in the Book of Steps and especially in the Didascalia. To these sources, we may add the notion of the “Law of the Messiah” (nmwsʾ dmshyḥʾ) which abrogates “the Law of Moses” (nmwsʾ dmwshʾ) along with all other forms of Mosaic inheritance law as detailed in the Syro-Roman Lawbook’s introduction (which of course does not cite Matt 5:17 or any other Biblical source).113 The conflation of the Gospel and Jesus becomes complete in the sequel of the Bavli’s story.

Here, Rabban Gamliel, Imma Shalom’s brother, resorts to offering a Libyan donkey, an even more valuable bribe, to the judge, in order to expose the latter’s corruption.114 In response to this second bribe, the judge then favors the “orthodox” Jewish side of Jesus and promptly changes his ruling—by evoking Matt 5:17. Again following manuscript Munich, he states:

“I went down to the end of the Gospel,

shpyly lyh lsypyh115 dʿwn gylywn

and it is written in it: ‘I am the Gospel;

wktyb by ʾnʾ ʿwn glywn

Not to reduce the Torah of Moses did I come

lʾ lmypḥt mʾwryytʾ dmshh ʾtyty

but to add [or: and not to add] did I come,’

ʾlʾ lwswpy116 ʾtyty

and it is written in it: ‘If there is a son, the daughter does not inherit.’ ”

wktyb byh bmqwm brʾ brtʾ lʾ tyrwt117

The corrupt judge now revises his ruling, since he “went to the end of the gospel.” We should not understand this as reference to a putative version of the Gospel that places Mt 5:17 at its end. Rather, the judge here is portrayed as employing a technical rabbinical phrase. Elsewhere in the Bavli, we find the order “go to the end of the verse,” shpyl lsypyh dqrʾ, hurled at interlocutors, including heretics, in order to point them to the perceived tension between their interpretation of one part of a biblical verse and another one they overlooked (see e.g. Bavli Berakhot 10a, Sukkah 52b, and Eruvin 101a). In the present case, the judge, himself a heretic, applies the phrase to himself, substituting the gospel for the Bible yet eagerly employing the hermeneutical tool where it suits his fancy. When he came “to the end of the Gospel,” he realized that the meaning of Jesus’ words about the importance of his “coming” must be that the Torah of Moses is still valid, and that the sister therefore inherits nothing.118

The Bavli here does not quite cite the Matthean passage, yet repeats all its key stylistic elements that we have seen throughout its Christian, and especially its Syriac reception history:

  • Jesus is portrayed as presenting his role in legal salvation history by relating himself to the Law, in the first person, fusing the person of Jesus with the Gospel in a way that goes beyond even the formulation of Augustine, Aphrahat and the Didascalia, echoing the notion of the “Law of the Messiah” in the Syro-Roman Lawbook.

  • This role is then specified by the repetition of the verb “to come,” unsurprisingly using the shared Aramaic root ʾtʾ, just as in the Peshitta’s rendering.

  • The statement concludes with a bi-partite statement endorsing the Law’s general validity and describing Jesus’s role in qualifying the validity of the Law, in this case without any restriction.

The Bavli’s version of Matt 5:17 echoes the Christian tradition in more than one way. Like Epiphanius and the Clementine Homilies, the Bavli also places Matt 5:17 in a historical context by relating the passage to the Temple’s destruction, yet only indirectly so—and only in order to point out the original meaning of Matthew which, in the eyes of the Bavli, clearly contrasts with any sense that Jesus would have abrogated the Law.

There are, at the same time, two remarkable differences between the Bavli and Matthew. First, the Bavli speaks of the “the Torah of Moses” (ʾwryytʾ dmshh) which is slightly different from Matt 5:17, yet closer to the Diatessaron’s “the Torah and the Prophets” (ʾwrytʾ wnbyʾ) than to the Peshitta’s “the Law and the Prophets” (nmwsʾ ʾw nbyʾ); it matches nicely, in turn, with the Syro-Roman Lawbook’s abrogated “Law of Moses” (nmwsʾ dmwshʾ). Second, the Bavli’s quotation of the Gospel, when qualifying Jesus’s relationship to the Law, does not repeat the traditional juxtaposition of “destroying” and “fulfilling” the Law. Instead the Bavli portrays Jesus, in the quoted version from manuscript Munich, as having come “not to reduce … but to add” (lʾ lmypḥt … ʾlʾ lwswpy, my emphasis) which, in other manuscripts, is rendered as “not to reduce … and not to add” (lʾ lmypḥt … wlʾ lwswpy, my emphasis). Both the reading of manuscript Munich and the alternative reading evoke aspects of the Christian tradition on Matt 5:17.

The majority reading, to begin with, sees Jesus as “neither adding nor reducing” the Torah, departs far from Matthew’s idea of “not abrogating but fulfilling.” Yet, the reading stands very close to Matthew’s original intent as discussed above: here, Jesus does not reduce any aspects of God’s law, and he does not allow for any of its additions, such as the traditions of the Pharisees, either. Yet we should hardly assume the Bavli to be interested in Matthew’s original message as presented above. A different way of explaining this discrepancy between Matt 5:17 and the Bavli in terms of the latter’s quite precise reference to Deuteronomy 4 (partially mirrored in Deuteronomy 13:1):

1 So now, Israel, give heed to the statues and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe so that you may live to enter and inherit the land that G-d, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.

2 You must neither add anything to it (lw tspw), nor take away anything from it (wlʾ tgrʿw) but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.

The Bavli, indeed, reverses the order of the sentence from Deuteronomy and replaces Matthew’s “to abolish” with “to cut away” and “to fulfill” with “to add.” The passage Deut 4:1–2, moreover, is often cited in Christian sources; yet given the Talmud’s brevity, it is difficult to know whether it alludes to other Jesus traditions in this context.119

In the context of Deuteronomy 4:1, however, the author of the Imma Shalom story would have an excellent reason to amend its rendition of the Gospel with a Deuteronomic quotation. Namely, in Deuteronomy, the inheritance the Holy Land is clearly tied to the very issue under discussion, the observance of the commandments. The Talmudic story thereby associates the siblings’ inheritance with the inheritance of the Land of Israel, which was at the time ruled by Christians who did not observe the Israelite law—but perhaps should have according to the Bavli’s reading of Matthew, which parallels that of several Western sources we have seen above. In this sense, the citation itself satirizes Christian supersessionism, as becomes evident to any reader familiar with its basic tenets and with the Book of Deuteronomy.

Most importantly, the Bavli’s majority reading, understanding Jesus as “not coming to add and not coming to reduce,” regards the philosopher’s revised ruling as equivalent to Matthew’s view that the emergence of Jesus did not abrogate the validity of the Torah—just as the Marcion, Faustus, Julian and the Clementine Homilies did in another strand of the Western reading of Matt 5:17. Hence, sons still take precedence over daughters in matters of inheritance (which they did not do in Syriac Christian law). In other words, the philosopher argues at first that the Law had been abrogated, although his own tradition can easily be understood as saying that this was not the case.120 Then he returns to the “plain” meaning of Matthew, according to which the Torah had not been abrogated. Being able to choose among the two interpretive alternatives that are both part of the Christian tradition, the judge accepts the highest bid and adjusts his ruling accordingly. The Bavli’s majority reading, hence, can be said to reflect the Western minority reading of Matt 5:17, which understands the passage as affirming the Law.

The version of manuscript Munich, by contrast to the Bavli’s majority reading, states that Jesus does not come to reduce but to add to the Torah, and thereby stands closer to the mainstream of the Eastern tradition. To begin with, this version follows the juxtaposition in the Syriac versions of Matthew, which is equally indicated with the particle ʾlʾ, “but” (both in the Diatessaron and in the Peshitta). Moreover, we have seen the inverse image of Jesus “adding” to the Law in Ephrem, who, like the Bavli, uses the root y-s-p in order to explain Matt 5:17–18, when speaking about the elements of the Law “which have entered into fullness (dʿl bmlywtʾ), and are absorbed into growth (wʾtblʿ btwsptʾ), and renewed in abundance (wʾtḥdtʾ bytyrwtʾ).”121

The two Talmudic variants of Jesus’ words thus shine a very different light on the Bavli’s take on Matt 5:17. What both readings share, however, may be the most important aspect: they portray Jesus not as denying to abrogate the law in its entirety, but as denying to reduce it. The denial of precisely this reading in a parodic context—out of the mouth of a corrupt judge—in turn evokes the Bavli’s awareness of the saying’s usage in specific strands of the Christian tradition. The image of Jesus as “reducing” the Law, namely, corresponds rather precisely to the understanding of his role, as expressed in the Syriac tradition most concretely by the Didascalia’s understanding of Matt 5:17, which in turn echoes aspects of Greek tradition as expressed in the Clementine Homilies’ partial reduction of the Torah.122 This fact places the Bavli’s rendering firmly within the mainstream of the Syriac Christian tradition of reading the Matthean passage, and plausibly also in dialogue with some strands of Greco-Latinate Christian thought.123 We can thus take the Talmudic story as witness to how central the passage remained in Syriac Christian discourse, and how it was perceived in a cultural context outside Christianity:

  • The Bavli shows a clear echo of Matt 5:17, yet not of 5:18, and understands the passage as affirming Biblical law and perhaps also of its partial abrogation (at least in Ms. Munich),

  • It shows an accurate sense of Christian law in inheritance and a good sense of varying Christian attitudes towards law, and

  • it rephrases Matt 5:17 in a way that makes sense within its own literary, linguistic and cultural paradigms.

It may thus not be an overstatement to assert that the many ways in which Jews, Christians and pagans understood Jesus’ saying according to Matt 5:17 offers a unique mirror of some of the most polarized strands of late antique thought. Ancient authorities struggled with the saying every bit as much as contemporary scholars still do. The passage, moreover, puts into sharp relief how divergent late antique notions were not only regarding Jesus and his role in “fulfilling,” “abrogating,” “curtailing” or even “expanding” “the Law,” but also regarding the content and applicability of “the Law” itself.


This chapter is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement Grant agreement ID: 866043). Many translations in this chapter have been slightly modified to give a more literal sense of the text; unattributed translations are my own. I transliterate Syriac as well as rabbinic Aramaic and Hebrew in accordance with the early defective (i.e. non-vocalized) tradition, as follows: ʾ b g d h w z ḥ ṭ y k l m n s ʿ p ṣ q r sh t; Biblical texts follow the SBL transliterations; Arabic follows IJMES. I am grateful for the perceptive and encouraging comments and corrections offered by the anonymous reviewer of this volume and by Volker Drecoll to an earlier draft of this article; as well as to Sergey Minov and Alison Salvesen for their helpful guidance. I am moreover indebted to the resources offered by the Digital Syriac Corpus (⟨⟩) and of the Friedberg Project for Talmud Bavli Variants (⟨⟩).


Central studies that have contributed to a better understanding of the clear distinction between Jewish and gentile ethnicity in the early church include John R. Van Maaren (2019); Suzanne Watts Henderson (2018, 145–168); Todd Berzon (2018, 191–227); Todd S. Berzon (2016); Anders Runesson (2016); and Isaac Oliver (2013). I have sought to trace the implications of their insights for Jewish and Christian ritual observance in a number of studies, e.g. Holger Zellentin (2013c; 2018, 117–159; 2019, 115–215). On the gentiles in Matthew, and on the gospel’s ending, see note 7 below.


On this extensive debate, which involves the respective views of the historical Jesus on the one hand and that of his evangelists on the other, see esp. John VanMaaren (2017, 21–41); see also the useful summaries by Lutz Doering (2008, 213–241) and by Yair Furstenberg (2008, 176–200). For my own assessment of Matthew’s views, perhaps most closely aligned with Runesson’s recent study, see Holger Zellentin (2013b, 379–403). The reading here of Matthew as considering Biblical—though not necessarily “Jewish”—law to be applicable for Jews—though not necessarily for gentiles—is at least compatible with important strands in other areas of New Testament scholarship as presented, for example, in Mark D. Nanos and Magnus Zetterholm (2015).


The literature on the topic is vast, a good overview can be gleaned from Ulrich Luz (2007, 210); Hans Dieter Betz (1995, 166–197); see also Roland Deines (2008, 53–84) and the two in-depth studies by Roland Deines (2004) and Robert Banks (1975).


The citation follows Eberhard Nestle, Erwin Nestle, Barbara Aland and Kurt Aland (2004, 10). The variants of the Greek text are few and hardly significant, with the exception of the omission of the second part of verse 19 (from os d’an poiēsē …) in the Codex Sinaiticus and a few minor witnesses as noted in NA27.


Matthew Thiessen explains the passage as a reaction to the charge that Jesus’s alleged abrogation of the Law led to the destruction of the Temple; see Thiessen (2012, 543–556); for a brief history of scholarship see Betz (1995, 166–197) and Zellentin (2013b, 379–403); cf. Luz (2007, 210–225) and Deines (2008, 80–82).


Luz argues that Matthew’s statement “do not think” does not constitute “evidence of a direct polemic, for example, against antinomians” (see Luz 2007, 213), yet this statement strikes me as at odds with both Matthew’s literary structure and the parallel polemics against neo-Pauline antinomianism, for example, in the Book of Revelation, see David Frankfurter (2001, 403–425). Betz therefor correctly emphasises that the verses Matt 5:17–20 “respond to specific accusations with regard to Jesus’s interpretation of the Torah,” see Betz (1995, 173). Von Harnack (1912, 185) has also drawn attention to the respective parallel between Matt 5:17 and the palpable reaction to a different charge in Luke 23:2, “we found this man (i.e., Jesus) perverting our nation (diastrefonta to ethnos ēmōn), forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor (kōluonta forous kaisari didonai)”; see also Warren Carter (1998, 44–62).


Luz (2007, 211) downplays the role of Matt 5:17 by focusing on the historical Jesus rather than on Matthew, stating that “it is risky to attribute this saying to Jesus and to make it the central point for interpreting Jesus’ understanding of the Law”. Betz (1995, 167), by contrast, holds that Matt 5:17–20 “state the hermeneutical principles underlying [the Sermon on the Mount’s] interpretation [of the Torah],”. A crucial point for the discussion is obviously Matthew’s attitude towards the inclusion of gentiles in the realm of God, beyond the more specific issue of their potential conversion. While the present context does not allow for a full elaboration of the issue, it should be noted that Matthew’s ethnically charged depiction of gentiles as dogs (see Matt 15:21–28 and 5:47), as well as his general openness towards them (see e.g. Matt 8:5–13), points to a development in the gospel towards greater openness, as is also evident in the tension prevalent between the exhortation to focus only on the house of Israel (Matt 10:5–6) and the gospel’s (perhaps secondary) ending, telling its audience to “make disciples of all gentiles” (Matt 28:18–20). Runesson (2016, 343–428), by contrast, finds important arguments that the ending marks an integral denouement of the gospel. Suffice it to say that this tension between Israelite particularism and universalism marked much of Hellenistic Judaism, and that openness towards the salvation of gentiles qua gentiles does by no means imply the abolishment of the Torah.


In detail, the following repetitions structure the passage Matt 5:17–20: kataluō, twice in verse 17, anticipating the use of the verb luō in verse 19; nomos, twice in verse 17; gar legō umin in verse 17 and, with slightly inverted word order in verse 20; eōs an, twice in verse 18, ouranos in verse 18, preparing the repetition of en tē basileia tōn ouranōn in verses 19 and 20; os ean, twice in verse 19, elachistos, twice in verse 19; didaskō; twice in verse 19 (same form); and kaleō, twice in verse 19 (same form). The ensuing literary structure warrants an analysis beyond the confines of this contribution; it is enough here to state that we are dealing with a carefully composed unit. For a useful guide to Matthew’s literary qualities see Wilhelmus Johanis Cornelius Weren (2014, 13–90).


Discussion of the terms kataluō and plēroō, with different emphases, can be found in Luz (2007, 217–219) and Betz (1995, 173–179).


See e.g. the Septuagint on Genesis 15:6. Paul’s innovative reading of the Genesis passage in Romans 4 attests to the regular meaning of dikaiosunē as pious observance; it is used in this way by Paul himself in Philippians 3:5–6. For a discussion of the term in the context of Matthew see, e.g., Betz (1995, 190–193); for starkly different reading cf. Deines (2008, 73–84).


See Runesson (2016) and Zellentin (2013b, 379–403) both of which offer several case studies on the issues of Shabbat, divorce and dietary law.


The gospels’ statements about Pharisaic law did of course note escape their late antique audience entirely. While this issue is too complex to be treated here, we can find a good, if idiosyncratic, example in the views of Ptolemy, recorded in Epiphanius’s citation of the Letter to Flora, which, with some historical justification, uses Matt 5:17 in order to distinguish between divine law and human additions. After quoting Matt 15:4–9 and Isaiah 29:13, Ptolemy argues that “from these passages, then, it is plainly shown that that Law as a whole is divided into three. For in it we have found Moses’s own legislation, the legislation of the elders, and the legislation of God himself (Mōseōs te gar autou kai tōn presbuterōn kai autou tou theou euromen nomosthesian en autō, my emphasis). And this division (ē diairesis) of that Law as a whole which I have made here has made clear what in it is true. But the one portion, the Law of God himself, is again divided into some three parts. It is divided into the pure legislation with no admixture of evil, which is properly termed the “law,” which the saviour came not to destroy but to fulfil (on ouk ēlthe katalusai o sōtēr alla plērōsai, Matt 5:17),” see Epiphanius, Panarion 33.3.14–5.1, translation according to Williams (1994, 218), Greek text according to Holl (1915, 453). Ptolemy associates the Decalogue alone with “God’s law,” a common theme that we will find in the Syriac tradition as well, see note 88 below as well as Salvesen (2012). The two further parts of the divine law are one part that is good but mixed up with evil (such as the talion) and a third, ritual part which is to be spiritualized; for a discussion on the identity of God as a law-giver in Ptolemy’s letter see e.g. Herbert Schmid (2011, 249–271) and Markschies’ rebuttal (2011, 411–430); see also von Harnack (1912, 193–194).


Cited according to Robert Weber and Roger Gryson (2007, 1531). While this is not the place to discuss the complex Old Latin Biblical tradition which Jerome was asked to replace, the witness of Codex Bezae Cantabrigensis is a good representative for its distinctness, see notes 14 and 15 below. Matt 5:17–18 can be found on folio 25 and 27 of Codex Bezae, published here:


Note that the Old Latin of Codex Bezae uses the verb dissolvere instead of Jerome’s solvere and inplere instead of Jerome’s adimplere, which both times is very close in meaning, see Codex Bezae, folio 25 and 27,


Jerome’s use of different verbs for parerchomai is especially noteworthy since the Old Latin version of Codex Bezae renders the verb twice as transeo, maintaining some of the parallelism that structures the Greek original, see Codex Bezae, folio 25 and 27,


Among the ancient Syriac witnesses of the four Gospels, the Sinaiticus and Curetonianus predate the Peshitta, while the Harklean version post-dates it. On the importance of the Peshitta’s witness see Piet B. Dirksen, and Arie van der Kooij (1995); all four Gospels have been edited in George Anton Kiraz (2004); the all citations in this paper are given according to ibid., vol. I, 53–55.


Attested also in Curetonianus; Sinaiticus and the Harklean version read lmshrʾ.


Attested also in the Harklean version, Sinaiticus and Curetonianus read wnbyʾ.


Attested also in Curetonianus. Sinaiticus reads dʾshrʾ ʾnwn; the Harklean version reads lmshrʾ.


Sinaiticus and Curetonianus read lmmlyh ʾnwn; the Harklean version reads lmshmlyh.


Attested also in the Harklean version. Sinaiticus and Curetonianus read ʾmrnʾ.


Attested also in Curetonianus. Sinaiticus reads ʿdmʾ dnʿbrwn; the Harklean version reads dʿdmʾ dtʿbr.


Attested also in the Harklean version. Sinaiticus reads ywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ, “one letter yud;” Curetonianus reads ywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ ʾw qrnʾ, “one letter yud or one tittle,” see also notes 28 and 33 below.


Attested also in the Harklean version. Sinaiticus an Curetonianus read tʿbr.


Sinaiticus reads dkwl nhwʾ, Curetonianus reads dkl mdm nhwʾ, and the Harklean version reads dklhyn nhwyn.


On the importance of the Diatessaron see William L. Petersen (1994), see also note 27 below.


Aphraat, Demonstration 2 (On Charity) 5, see Jean Parisot (1894, 56–57). Aphrahat’s reading is confirmed by Ephrem’s truncated rendering of the same verse as “I have come to fulfil them” (ʾtyt lmmlyh ʾtnwn), see Ephraem, Commentary on the Diatessaron 15:4, Leloir (1963, 142). Elsewhere, however, Ephrem renders the passage as first briefly as lʾ gyr ʾtyt dʾshrʾ ʾlʾ dʾmlʾ, and then again slightly longer as dlʾ ʾtyt dʾshrʾ ʾwrytʾ wnbyʾ ʾlʾ dʾmlʾ, using the same imperfect verb form we see in the Peshitta in a possible later emendation, see Ephrem, Commentary on the Diatessaron 6.3a, see Louis Leloir (1990, 60), and see note 81 below.


Aphrahat Demonstrations 2 (On Charity) 7, see Parisot (1894, 61); the phrase is paraphrased again towards the end of the passage as dlʾ tʿbr ywd ʾtwtʾ mn nmwsʾ wmn nbyʾ, here using the more common term nmwsʾ rather than the Diatessaron’s ʾwrytʾ. Ephrem discusses Matthew 5:18 also in one of his genuine memre (I.3.238, see Edmund Beck, 1969) vol. 1 and 2, ad loc.; see also note 33 below.


See Michael Sokoloff (2009, 1608–1609). The Arabic Diatessaron 8:46 renders the verb in Matt 5:17 with naqaḍa, “to break,” which is used in the sense of breaking God’s covenant in the Qurʾan (e.g. in Q2:27, Q4:155, and Q5:13); see P. Augustinus Ciasca (1888, 32) and A.-S. Marmadji (1935, 76). On the relevance of the Arabic Diatessaron see also Georg Graf (1944, 150–155); and more recently John Granger Cook (2006, 462–471). Petersen points out the enduring importance of the Arabic translations as the only complete Eastern witness of the Diatessaron. While the language of many of the Arabic readings seems to have been influenced by the Peshitta and the Qurʾan, the Arabic seems to preserve the original sequence of Tatian’s work, which is of value to my considerations below; see Petersen (1994, 133–138).


Sokoloff (2009, 768–769), note that the Harklean version uses the verb sh-m-l-y, which has a similar meaning, see ibid, 1573. The Arabic Diatessaron 8:46 renders the verb in Matt 5:17 with kamala in the fourth form, “to complete,” which is used in the same form and the sense of fulfilling God’s law in the Qurʾan (Q 5:3), see Ciasca (1888, 33) and Marmardji (1935, 76).


The Peshitta, however, does use the repetition of the root ʿ-b-r to connect the earth’s “passing” with the “passing” of “one yud or dash,” which is in turn reinforced by the repetition of the conjunction “until” (ʿdmʾ). The text thereby captures one further aspect achieved in the Greek by the repetition of the Greek verb erchomai, “to come,” a feature we have equally seen in the Old Latin of Codex Bezae, see above, note 15.


The Arabic Diatessaron 8:46 renders the verbs in Matt 5:17 with two different verbs, first with jāʾa and then with atā, both of which simply mean “to come,” see Ciasca (1888, 32), Marmardji (1935, 76).


Among the Syriac versions, the Curetonianus, usually seen as the oldest of the Syriac renderings, reads ywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ ʾw qrnʾ, “one letter yud or one tittle,” maintaining the two-partite version of the Greek, yet adding another element specifying that the yud is a “letter,” ʾtwtʾ. The Diatessaron as attested by Aphrahat and Ephrem, along with the Sinaiticus, modifies this fuller rendering by truncating the second part entirely, reading ywd ʾtwtʾ ḥdʾ, “one letter yud.” The Peshitta and the Harclean version then attempt to return closer to the Greek original, reading “one yud or one dash” (ywd ḥdʾ ʾw ḥd srṭʾ, see notes 23 and 28 above). It is noteworthy that the Arabic translation of the Diatessaron, idiosyncratic and possibly corrupted as it may be, renders the verse by specifying “one (letter?) sīn (sīnah wāḥidah, sic!) or one sign (ḥarf wāḥid) of the Law” that will not pass away (see Ciasca 1888, 33; the female ending of sīnah may indicate a nomen unitatis, this could well be a hapax legomenon unless it is a corruption), see Ciasca (1888, 32), Marmardji (1935, 76). The Arabic Diatessaron, by retaining two elements, one a named letter and one a generic description of a sign, thus stands close to the Greek original and its precise rendering in the Peshitta and Harkelan version, making it likely that the Arabic text was updated in light of the later Syriac translations.


This article revisits and broadens the foundational study by Adolf von Harnack on what he calls “The history of a programmatic word,” namely Matt 5:17, see von Harnack (1912, 184–207). Harnack (1912, 203) summarizes the Christian attitude towards the passage by stating that “den ursprünglichen, einfachen Sinn von Matth. 5,17 hat kein Kirchenvater mehr zu konstatieren gewagt, weil die Entwicklung der Kirche über diesen Sinn hinweggeschritten war”. This is false in as far as many church fathers did state what Matthew meant, even if they attributed this viewpoint to their “heretical” opponents. A related useful broad overview which, unlike von Harnack, pays close attention to the Syriac tradition is Alison G. Salvesen (2012, 47–66).


An early Greek patristic reading Matt 5:17 with a positive attitude towards the Law is Hippolytus of Rome, who wrote at the turn of the third century C.E. A relevant note in his commentary on Gen 49:14 states: “For they who keep the commandments (oi tas entolas fulassontes), and do not disclaim the ordinances of the Law (ouk apotaxamenoi tois nomikois diatagmasin), enjoy rest both in them and in the doctrine (didaskalia) of our Lord … As the Lord says, I am not come to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfil them (ouk ēlthon katalusai ton nomon ē tous prophētas alla plērōsai, Mt. 5:17). For even our Lord, in the fact that He keeps the commandments, does not destroy the Law and the prophets, but fulfils them (en tō tas entolas fulassein ou kataluei ton nomon kai tous prophētas alla plēroi), as He says in the Gospels,” see Hippolytus of Rome, Fragment 29 line 5, translation according to S.D.F. Salmond (1868, 413); Greek text according to H. Achelis (1897), ad loc., see also von Harnack (1912, 203). While the fragmentary nature of Hippolytus’ statements makes it difficult to assess his broader views, his attitude clearly contrasts with that of later “Western” fathers and more closely corresponds to the Syriac Christian readings of Mt. 5:17 we will discuss below.


Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.34.2, translation according to James R. Payton (2012, 139–140), Latin text according to Adelin Rousseau and Louis Doutreleau (1965, 848–850). On Irenaeus, Matt 5:17 and the Law see also von Harnack, (1912, 199–203) and Salvesen, (2012, 51–52).


See e.g. Stanley Stowers (1994); see also Zellentin, (2018, 117–132; 2019, 115–133).


Von Harnack surmises that Paul’s teaching on the Law responds to Matt 5:17 in some way, yet it seems very likely that the Gospel post-dates the Apostle by several decades if not longer, and that the Matthean passage should at least partially be understood in response to Neo-Pauline anti-nomian tendencies as suggested in note 6 above, cf. von Harnack (1912, 187–188).


Tertullian, Against Marcion 5.14.14; translation and Latin text according to Ernest Evans (1972, 602–603); on Tertullian and the Law see also Salvesen (2012, 53–54).


Clement of Alexandria, Stromata (see also 3.9.63), translation according to John Ferguson (2010, 284), Greek according to L. Früchtel, O. Stählin, and U. Treu (1970), ad loc; see also idem, Stromata 3.9.63; on Clement of Alexandria, Matt 5:17 and the Law see von Harnack (1912, 193) and Salvesen (2012, 54–56).


Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 10.12; Greek text according to Robert Girod (1970, 140–386); see also Origen, De pascha 92.11; on Origen and the Law see also Salvesen (2012, 56–57).


For John Chrysostom, see In Matthaeum (homiliae 1–90) 57.237.62 and 241.54; In Joannem (homiliae 1–88) 59.276.18; De Christi precibus (= Contra Anomoeos, homilia 10) 48.788.52 and 789.17 and Expositiones in Psalmos 55.288.14. For Gregroy of Nyssa see In Canticum canticorum (homiliae 15) 6.371.14, Theol. Encomium in sanctum Stephanum protomartyrem 1.20.6 and 2.46.728.34. For Basil of Caesarea, see Regulae morales 31.761.31. For Eusebius see Demonstratio evangelica and and Commentaria in Psalmos 23.81.17. Von Harnack (1912, 197) observes, importantly, that Justin Martyr by and large ignores Matt 5:17; see also Salvesen (2012, 51).


See for example Augustine, c. Faust. 17, 5; en. Ps. 68, 10; spir. et litt; 7, 10; and util. cred. 3.


Augustine, First Exposition on Psalm 18, 8, translation according to Dame Scholastica Hebgin and Dame Felicitas Corrigan (1960, 178), Latin text according to Jacques-Paul Migne (1861, 155, vol. 4a).


Augustine, like Irenaeus, read Matt 5:17 in light of Paul, see, e.g., On Baptism, Against the Donatists 3.26 (using Romans 13:10, see also ibid, verse 8 and Gal 5:14). Von Harnack has already drawn attention to the Pauline phrase of the “law of Christ” (ton nomon tou christou, Gal 6:2) in this respect (see von Harnack 1912, 187); he also points to the respective tradition in the Shepherd of Hermas 3[69]:2 and in the Preaching of Peter (cited by Clement of Alexandria, Stomata 1.29.182 and 2.15.68), see von Harnack (1912, 197).


Augustine, On Grace and Free Choice, 13.25, translation according to Peter King (2010, 162), Latin according to Volker Henning Drecoll and Christoph Scheerer (2019, 148, 16–25). Augustine, of course, seeks to liberate Christians not only from the divine laws but also from the moral guidance inherent in human law, see e.g., Daniel Burns (2015, 273–298).


Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.34.1; translation according to Payton (2012, 139).


Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.7.4, translation and Latin text according to Evans (1972, 278–279). Note that Matt 4:17 is central for Tertullian’s argument throughout the chapter, see also 4.2 (ibid, 262–263), 4.8 (ibid, 292–293), 4.9 (ibid, 294–295), 4.12 (ibid, 316–317), 4.22 (382–383), 4.34 (448–449), 4.36 (4.68–69), and 4.40 (ibid., 490–491). Marcion, of course, eliminated the entire Gospel of Matthew, but apparently saw it as necessary to negate Matt 5:17 independently. On Tertullian’s record on the passage see already von Harnack (1912, 191), on Marcion’s views of the Gospel see Judith M. Lieu (2015, 367–386).


Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 4 (On the Ten Points of Doctrine) 33, translation according to Leo P. McCauley and Anthony A. Stephenson (1969–1970, 135), Greek according to W.C. Reischl and J. Rupp (1848), ad loc.; see also Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 10, 18.


Note also that the otherwise anonymous Adamantius, writing at the beginning of the fourth century, changed rather than disputed Matt 5:17, citing the verse “I have not come to fufill the Law but to abolish (ouk ēlthon plērōsai ton nomon alla katalusai),” see Willem van de Sande Bakhuyzen (1901, 88, 31–33). On comparable attitudes testified to in the Acta Archelai (XLIV) and by Isidore of Pelusium (Epp. 1, 371) see von Harnack (1912, 191–192); see also Moiseeva (2018), and Lieu (2015, 398–432). For further examples of rewritings of Matt 5:17 see also note 68 below.


Augustine, Contra Faustum 18.1–2, translation according to Roland J. Teske (2007, 232–233), Latin text according to Iosephus Zycha (1891, 490–491). On Faustus’s own initial attraction to Judaism see e.g., Jacob Albert van den Berg (2010, 197–200); on Faustus’ rare use of the title “Manichaen” in this passage see Nils Arne Pedersen (2013, 183).


Augustine’s rendering of Faustus’s citation of Matt 5:17 does not fully correspond to either the Old Latin version of Codex Bezae nor to Jerome’s translation which was produced later; see note 13 above. On the title of Faustus’s work see Gregor Wurst (2001, 307–324).


On the pivotal shifts in late antique attitudes towards sacrifice see Guy G. Stroumsa (2009; 2016, 23–42). See now also Mira Balberg (2017, 223–250); David L. Weddle (2017, 100–154) and Daniel C. Ullucci (2017, 95–136).


Augustine, Contra Faustum 18.4, translation according Teske (2007, 233), Latin text according to Iosephus Zycha, Sancti Aurli Augustini, 492; see also Volker Drecoll and Mirjam Kudella, Augustin und der Manichäismus (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 49–51.


Augustine, Contra Faustum 18.3, translation according to Teske, The Works of Saint Augustine, 233, Latin text according to Zycha (1891, 492).


On this doctrine in Manichaeism see esp. Andreas Hoffman (1997, 149–182), for broader discussions see also Shuve (2018, 171–206), Evgenïa Moiseeva (2018, 274–297); Gabriel Said Reynolds (2010, 189–202); Angela Standhartinger (2013, 122–149); Christian Hofreiter (2013, 44–55); Donald Henry Carlson (2013); Giovanni Battista Bazzana (2012, 11–32); F. Stanley Jones (2012, 152–171); and Kevin M. Vacarella (2007).


Julian, Against the Galileans 351 C, translation and Greek text according to Wilmer Cave Wright (1923, 420–423); see also John Granger Cook (2000, 292–293) and von Harnack (1912, 203).


In Cyril of Alexandria’s quotation of Julian’s Against the Galileans, the same passage is preceded by a quote of Matt 5:17, which, however, is not attributed to Julian, see Cyril of Alexandria, Against Julian 10.31.17–22, in Th. Brüggemann, W. Kinzig, and C. Riedweg (2017), ad loc. John Granger Cook notes that in one Syriac fragment of Cyril of Alexandria, Julian pointed to the discrepancy between Christ’s saying that he “came to fulfil the Law (dnshmlʾ nmwsʾ ʾtʾ) and that whoever loosed one of the least of the commandments (wkl dpwqdnʾ zʿwrʾ nshrʾ) and so taught people would be called least” on the one hand and, on the other, the fact that Christ allegedly loosed (shrʾ) the Sabbath in Matt 12:8 and the food-laws in Matt 15:11 (translations according to Granger Cook 2000, 293, Syriac text according to Karl Johannes Neumann 1880, 56). This translation stands much closer to the Greek text of Matt 5:17 yet there is no way of corroborating whether the Syriac tradition is based on any passage in Julian’s Greek original, which does not transmit this passage.


Augustine, Contra Faustum 19.4, translation according to Teske (2007, 239), Latin text according to Zycha (1891, 500).


According to Epiphanius, to Nazoreans were a group of followers of Jesus whom he claims followed the Law and were circumcised. There is no direct evidence for either Nazoreans or Ebionites, another alleged group constituting a favourite topic of the heresiologists. For an affirmative view on the existence of the former group, see Wolfram Kinzig (2007, 463–487), for the latter see Oskar Skarsaune (2007, 419–462). A more cautious note is struck e.g., in Petri Luomanen (2007, 81–118); on the Ebionite’s alleged rendering of Matt 5:17 see below. Some of the patristic evidence likely resembles actual Christian thought in late antiquity. However, those followers of Jesus who did not conceive of Jesus in terms of the abrogation of Jewish law for Jews would have maintained the traditional distinction between Jews and gentiles embodied in this very law. This important distinction is never reported by the church fathers, their testimony thus likely mischaracterizes a traditional strand within mainstream Christian thought at the same time as projecting it on an imagined group outside the fold, see e.g., Zellentin (2013c, 1–54; 2018, 117–121; 2019, 115–117).


Epiphanius, Panarion 29.8.1 translation according to Frank Williams (1994, 142), Greek text according to Holl (1915) vol. 1, 330.13–331.16; for Epiphanius further uses of Matt 5:17 see also Panarion 1.244.13; 2.125.8; 2.151.25; and 3.94.3.


See Clementine Homilies VIII:5–7 and Karin Zetterholm (2019, 68–87), and see Zellentin (2013c, 1–54; 2018, 142–148; and 2019, 146–152).


Note that the Clementine Homilies, as well as the Letter of Peter to James (see note 66 below), slightly modify the Greek text of Matt 5:18, using a future form of parerchomai, plausibly in line with the usage of the same word in Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33.


Clementine Homilies 3:51–56, translation according to Thomas Smith (1870, 79–81), Greek text according to Bernhard Rehm (1969, 75–77).


On the distinction between Biblical and Pharisaic law in Matthew see note 12 above.


Note that the Clementine Letter of Peter to James 2:3–5 have Peter declare that “some from among the Gentiles (tines gar tōn apo ethnōn) have rejected my legal preaching (to di’emou nominon apedokimasan kērugma), attaching themselves to certain lawless and foolish (anomon tina kai fluarōdē) teaching of the man who is my enemy … to transform my words by certain various interpretations, for the dissolution of the Law (tines poikilais tisin ermēneiais tous emous logous metaschēmatizein eis tēn tou nomou katalusin), as though I myself were of such a mind …. For such a thing were to act in opposition to the Law of God which was spoken by Moses, and was borne witness to by our Lord in respect to its eternal continuance; for thus he spoke: “The heavens and the earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall will not pass from the Law” (o ouranos kai ē gē pareleusontai iōta en ē mia keraia ou mē parelthē apo tou nomou),” translation according to Smith (1870, 2), Greek text according to Rehm (1969, 2). This statement, as idiosyncratic as it may be from a historical point of view, may well capture some important aspects of Matthew’s original message. Note that the Clementine Recognitions, a text slightly more in line with dominant patristic discourse than the Homilies, describes God as temporarily having had sanctioned the Temple in the past, with its eventual end in mind (1.37), which is then brought by Christ’s abolition of sacrifice (1:54)—an attitude also shared by the Didascalia Apostolorum and the Apostolic Constitutions, as we will see below.


Many of these parallels between Epiphanius and the Clementine Homilies are already noted in Holl (1915, 28, 205, 214, 296, 321–382). The close affinity of the respective heresiology presented by both has been noted in Annette Yoshiko Reed (2008, 273–298).


Epiphanius, Panarion 30.16.5 translation according to Williams (1994, 144), Greek text according to Holl (1915, 354.3–9), see also Simon J. Joseph (2017, 92–110) and von Harnack (1912, 192). Another text modifying Matt 5:17 in such a way (already noted by von Harnack 1912, 193) is the purported Gospel of the Egyptians, which, according to Clement, rephrases the passage as “I have come to dissolve the works of the female (ēlthon katalusai ta erga tēs thēleias),” see Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 3.9.63, translation according to John Ferguson (2010, 284), Greek according to L. Früchtel, O. Stählin, and U. Treu (1970, 225). For further examples of similar Gospel rewritings see also note 50 above.


Irrespective of the abrogation of the “Jewish” law and the ensuing rhetoric, most Christians in Late Antiquity endorsed a broad reading of the purity laws which Leviticus 17–18 and the Acts of the Apostles impose upon gentiles. While most Christians appreciated these laws and only few dismissed them, the Clementine Homilies endorsed an “expansive” understanding of these laws; see notes 1 above and 95 below.


For a perceptive view of the “gnostic” tradition see Karen King (2005, 5–19). The comparison between the heresiological constructs has been made by several scholars in the past; for a lucid yet slightly different presentation of the usefulness of the category “Jewish-Christian” see esp. Annette Yoshiko Reed (2018).


Epiphanius, Panarion II.30.1.4; Williams (1994, 131), Greek text according to Holl (1915, 334). Epiphanius uses the Septuagint rendition of Proverbs 5:14 to describe Ebion’s double commitment to Jesus and purity, to the Christian church and the Jewish synagogue, which are presented as mutually exclusive.


See note 60 above.


Clementine Homilies 3:5, Smith (1870, 58), Greek text according to Rehm (1969, 58).


The “proclaimers of error,” according to the Homilies, have one chief, “the chief of wickedness” (ton tēs kakias ēgemona), namely the devil, ibid. 3:16, Smith (1870, 63), Greek text according to Rehm (1969, 62).


Clementine Homilies 3:4, Smith (1870, 58), Greek text according to Rehm (1969, 58).


Clementine Homilies 3:9, Smith (1870, 60–61), Greek text according to Rehm (1969, 60); the wording may intentionally mimic the rabbinic tradition attributed to Ben Bag Bag, who invites, in relationship to the Torah, to “turn it, turn it, for everything is in it,” see Mishna Avot 5:24.


Philip Schaff (1914, 439) already summarized the viewpoint of the Clementine Homilies quite accurately: “[Pseudo-Clement] sees in Christianity only the restoration of the pure primordial religion, which God revealed in the creation, but which, on account of the obscuring power of sin and the seductive influence of demons, must be from time to time renewed. The representatives of this religion are the pillars of the world: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Christ. These are in reality only seven different incarnations of the same Adam or primal man, the true prophet of God, who was omniscient and infallible. What is recorded unfavourable to these holy men, the drunkenness of Noah, the polygamy of the patriarchs, the homicide of Moses, and especially the blasphemous history of the fall of Adam, as well as all unworthy anthropopathic passages concerning God, were foisted into the Old Testament by the devil and his demon”.


The Clementine Homilies likewise integrate a broad range of Christian legal thought, see Zellentin (2018, 143–144; 2019, 148–149).


See, e.g., Moiseeva (2018); Alberto Camplani (2016, 9–66); Lieu (2015, 143–180); Lucas van Rompay (2007, 77–90); and Sidney Griffith (2002, 5–20).


See Sebastian Brock (2019, 9), and see note 90 below.


Ephrem, Commentary on the Diatessaron 6.3a–b, English translation according to Carmel McCarthy (1993, 111), Syriac text according to Leloir (1990, 60), see also note 27 above. Ephrem also emphasizes that “[w]hat was lacking therefore in the old [law] has been fulfilled in the new (ḥsyrwth hkyl dʿtyqtʾ mlyt ḥdtʾ). This is why [he said], “I have come to fulfil these” (ʾtyt lmmlyh ʾtnwn, Matt 5:17), Ephrem, Commentary on the Diatessaron 15.4, translation according to McCarthy (1993, 231), Syriac according to Leloir (1990, 142). See also Salvesen (2012, 61–64).


Translation according to Kuriakose Valavanolickal (2005, 43–46), Syriac according to Parisot (1894, 55–64), on Aphrahat’s view of law see also Salvesen (2012, 59–61).


See note 53 above.


Aphrahat, Demonstration 21 (On Persecution) 13; Syriac text according to Parisot (1894, 965), English translation according to Brock (2019, 13).


See e.g. Sifra Qodashim 4:12, Bereshit Rabbah 24:7 and Bavli Shabbat 31a, see also Serge Ruzer (2002, 371–389).


A good example of this is the summary offered by Ishoʿdad of Merv in his Commentary on Matthew 5:17 “He promises two things in this; one, that all the previous voices of the Law (mqdmtʾ dnmwsʾ), those that were spoken about Me have been fulfilled (dʾtmr ʿly mtgmrn), in that the Law has taught about My coming (mʾtyt); second, that until, I say, these things happen, the Law remaineth Mine, and from now henceforth all things are made new (mtḥdt klmdm), and with them also the Heavens and the Earth in a type and a mystery (bṭwpsʾ wbʾrzʾ);” translation and Syriac text according to Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1911), vol. 1, 35 (English), vol. 3, 59 (Syriac). Further discussions of law can be found, for example, in Philoxenus of Mabbug’s Letter to Patricius, in Cyrus of Edessa, Explanation of the Passion 7.5–9 and in his Explanation of Pentecost Sunday 3:10; and in many works of Severus of Antioch, e.g., in his Letter to John of Bostra. My gratitude to Sergey Minov for pointing me to these sources.


Book of Steps 22, 21, translation according to Robert Kitchen (2004, 269–271), Syriac text according to Michael Kmosko (1926, 682–686); citations from the letters of Paul largely follow the Peshitta, on the attitude towards law in the Book of Steps see also Salvesen (2012, 64–66).


Associating the Decalogue alone with the enduring part of the Law, of course, has precedence in the Greek tradition, see note 12 above as well as Salvesen (2012).


On the use of Matt 5:17 in the Didascalia see already von Harnack (1912, 202–203). Salvesen’s (2012, 57–59) helpful comments on law in the Didascalia differ from my understanding since, based on the early fragments, she dates the entirety of the text earlier than Aphrahat and Ephrem, a defensible yet ultimately speculative presupposition still common in the scholarship; for my own views on the Didascalia see Zellentin (2013c, 77–154).


Didascalia Apostolorum XXVI 249.11–15; translation and Syriac text according to Arthur Vööbus (1979), vol. IIV, henceforth “DA.” Note that the entirety of chapter XXVI is (at least formally) addressed to those “who have been turned from the (Israelite) people to believe in God our Saviour Jesus Christ” (ʾylyn dʾtpnyw mn ʿmʾ lmhymnh bʾlhʾ prwqn ʾshwʿ mshyḥʾ, DA XXVI 241.9–10). For the fusion of “people” and “peoples” see also, e.g. DA XV, 159.14 and DA XXV 239.11–12; see also Zellentin (2013c, 164). The Didascalia also voices the contrasting idea, that God abandoned “the people of the Jews (lʿmʾ dywdyʾ) and the Temple and has come to the church of the gentiles” (lʿdtʾ dʿmmʾ, DA XXII 226 19–20), which stands closer to Ephrem and the Western tradition of replacement; see also note 80 above.


Following Vööbus’s emendation, based on the Latin texts and the majority of manuscripts.


The phrase, “and abrogated,” is missing in the Latin, which simply states: “lex ergo indestructibilis, secundatio autem legis temporalis,” see R.H. Connolly (1929, 219).


Didascalia Apostolorum, XXVI 242.5–244.9.


The Didascalia unfailingly uses the term nmwsʾ to designate “the Law,” with only one exception: the passage just cited, which places the wilful disregard of “Torah and the Prophets” in the mouth of antinomian ascetic “heretics,” see DA XXIII, 230.9.


See Zellentin (2013c, 1–54; 2018, 133–134, 147–148; 2019, 135–143).


In its temporal distinction of a primary and eternal law from a secondary and temporal one, the Didascalia could be understood as constituting a later parallel to Matthew’s distinction between the original Biblical law and the later Pharisaic additions, which Jesus came to scale back—yet its implementation of this temporal understanding of law proves starkly different from Matthew. Note that we find a similar teaching about a “primary” law—consisting of the Decalogue—given before and a “secondary” law after the Golden Calf—abrogated by Jesus—in the Apostolic Constitutions 1.6 (citing Matt 5:17), a church order incorporating parts of the Didascalia Apostolorum; on the relationship between the two texts see Zellentin (2013c, 46–69).


DA XXVI, 246.21–24. The Syriac verb for “confirmation,” sh-r-r, ranges in its meaning from “establishing,” to “fulfilling,” “guarding,” and “strengthening;” see Sokoloff (2009, 1612); on the “confirmation” of law in the Didascalia see also Zellentin (2013c, 127–174).


DA IX, 103.3–4.


DA XXV 240.6. The object of the sentence is missing; the Latin Didascalia explicates what is obvious in the Syriac: the apostles confirmed haec statuentes; see Connolly (1929, 215). The afʿel form of the verb t-q-n, used by the Didascalia here to denote the “establishing” of tradition, can also denote “fixing” or “repairing;” see Sokoloff (2009, 1662).


The Didascalia and the Clementine Homilies share a broad range of purity laws based on the tradition of Leviticus 17–18 and Acts of the Apostles. The Homilies, however, endorse an “expansive” understanding of these laws which the Didascalia specifically reject. This is most likely the result of both texts’ participation—with different emphases—in a shared oral tradition and practice; see note 1 and 69.


See Zellentin (2013c, 127–154); similar ideas about the Golden Calf and punitive laws can be found in the Western tradition, see e.g., Irenaeus, Against Heresies IV.15–16 and Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 19.


On this passage see most recently Yakir Paz (2019, 517–540); Zellentin (2011, 137–166; 2008, 339–363) and the previous literature cited there; von Harnack (1912, 203–204) is missing here. Paz, in turn, makes valuable additions to my previous study and rightly expands my respective suggestion for the relevance of the Syro-Roman Law Book—a collection of Eastern Roman law composed in Greek after 474 CE that is only preserved in Syriac translation—for reconstructing the context of the Bavli. His conclusion, however, that the Talmud would polemicize against any Christian work of law, leave alone a specific one, presupposes a greater interest in Christian literature on the part of the rabbis than even I would be willing to countenance. In my view, Christian inheritance law functions as pars pro toto for the rabbis’ view of Christian law and its relationship to the Torah. On the dating of the Syro-Roman Lawbook see Walter Selb and Hubert Kaufhold (2002, 43–46).


The Talmud explores the various unseemly meanings of the Syriac term “Gospel” ʾwnglywn, a Greek loan word, if understood as Hebrew ʾwn glywn, “margin” or “message of oppression,” or as Aramaic ʿwn glywn, “margin of perversion,” “wrong,” or “penalty;” see Zellentin (2011, 145–146); the Babylonian pronunciation does not distinguish between ʿayin and aleph.


The Talmudic story retells a Palestinian rabbinic story from the Pesiqta deRav Kahana in light of the Lukan tradition that sees Jesus as refusing to act as a judge in an inheritance case, and ends with an invocation of the “light” one should let “shine forth,” from the Sermon on the Mount, see Zellentin (2011, 153–159, 163–165).


The term “philosopher” is broadly attested across rabbinic and Syriac Christian literature in a variety of spellings. Importantly, the term tends to describe outsiders in rabbinic literature (see e.g. Mekhilta deRabbi Ishmael 20:5, Genesis Rabbah 1:9 and 11:76; Yerushalmi Shabbat 3,4 (6a) and Betsa 2,5 (61c); Bavli Avodah Zarah 44b and 54b). In Syriac literature, however, the term “philosopher” (pylwspʾ) is an inside one, as perhaps best evidenced by the ways in which the Syriac tradition deals with several notables bearing it as a title; cases include Secundus the Silent Philosopher, see Sebastian Brock (1978, 94–100); Pantænus the Philosopher, see Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History Book 5.10, Syriac, in William Wright and Norman McLean (1898, 246); or even Bardaisan, the “Aramaic philosopher,” see Han J.W. Drijvers (1970, 190–210). Note that Ephraim alleges that when his ignorant nemesis, i.e. Bardaisan, proclaimed himself “philosopher,” he made himself “the laughingstock” (gwḥkʾ) of Syriacs and Greeks, using the same verb as we find in the Talmud’s ridicule of the corrupt philosopher, see Ephrem, Prose Refutations of Mani, Marcion and Bardaisan (in C.W. Mitchell, 1921, vol. II, 7, line 45); see also note 120 below.


See the lucid treatment of Christian inheritance law in Paz (2019, 522–527) and my previous observations in Zellentin (2011, 143–159).


Following Ms. Munich, Ms. Oxford, Bodleian Opp. Add. fol. 23 (366), Ms. Vatican ebr. 487/82–85 and JTS fragment ENA 2069/5–6; Ms. Vatican 108 is slightly corrupted; on the quality of the manuscripts see Zellentin (2011) 149.


Following Ms. Munich and Vatican ebr. 487/82–85; Ms. Oxford, Bodleian Opp. Add. fol. 23 (366), Ms. Vatican 108 and JTS fragment ENA 2069/5–6 read ʾytnṭylt.


Ms. Oxford, Bodleian Opp. Add. fol. 23 (366) adds “from you” (mnkwn).


Following the slightly abbreviated Ms. Munich and Ms. Vatican 108. Ms. Oxford, Bodleian Opp. Add. fol. 23 (366) reads “to you” (lkwn); Ms. Vatican ebr. 487/82–85 reads wʾtyhyb lhn (“was given to them”), JTS fragment ENA 2069/5–6 reads wʾtyhyb lnʾ.


Ms. Oxford, Bodleian Opp. Add. fol. 23 (366) reads ʾwrytʾ dʿwn gylywn, “the Torah of the Gospel”.


See e.g. Naftali Cohn (2012) and Holger Zellentin (2013a, 319–367).


The formulation “Torah of the Gospel” in the Bavli follows Ms. Oxford, Bodleian Opp. Add. fol. 23 (366), see note 109 above. In the introduction to the Syro-Roman Lawbook, “the law of the Messiah” as instituted by Constantine, functions as the replacement not only of the “law of Moses” but also of all the diverging types of Greek, Roman and Egyptian law that had in turn been based on Mosaic law (sic!). This is especially interesting for the current considerations since the juxtaposition of law introduces the volume’s focus on inheritance law as, as noted by Paz (2019, 532–536); for the text and a German translation see Selb and Kaufhold (2002, 20), vol. II.


Whether Imma Shalom is part of this sting operation, or herself exposed, depends on the Bavli’s manuscript tradition; see Zellentin (2011, 148–149).


Following Ms. Munich. Ms. Vatican 108 has shplyt lsyp(h), Ms. Oxford, Bodleian Opp. Add. fol. 23 (366) and JTS fragment ENA 2069/5–6 has shpylyt lswpyh, Ms. Vatican ebr. 487/82–85 is corrupted.


Following Ms. Munich; the version in parenthesis is that of Ms. Oxford, Bodleian Opp. Add. fol. 23 (366), which has wlʾ lʾwspy ʿl ʾwrytʾ dmshh; Ms. Vat ebr. 487/82–85 and JTS fragment ENA 2069/5–6 have wlʾ “and not to;” the entire phrase is missing in Ms. Vatican 108.


Ms. Vatican ebr. 487/82–85 is slightly corrupted.


We should also note the inicidental parallelism between the way in which the judge “went down to the end of the Gospel” in the Bavli and the phrase of Epiphanius who, when discussing the impossibility of law observance according to Matt 5:17, narrated that Moses “came to the end of the book” (ēlthen epi to terma tēs biblou) in order to add the curse. While the parallel is intriguing, only a small part of the Panarion was translated into Syriac, see Luise Abramowski (1983).


It should be noted that some “Christian” texts, such as the “Two Ways” tractate in the Didache (4.13) and Revelation 22.18, explicitly refer to Deuteronomy 4:1; the tradition itself is broadly attested in early Judaism and Christianity, see Betz (1995, 183), note 112.


The anonymous peer reviewer of this volume has kindly pointed out to me that one relevant Talmudic manuscript I had consulted, Vat. ebr. 487/82–85, calls the Christian judge not “philosopher” (plspʾ, see note 105 above) but pwlʾ sbʾ, which they suggest translating as “Paul the Elder.” While the term sbʾ is broadly attested as designating either a father or a grandfather across the rabbinic and Syriac corpora, the name Paul does not appear in rabbinic literature. Given the context of our story, the suggestion that at least one Talmudic copyist here entered a reference to the Apostle Paul, often credited with the Torah’s abrogation, is indeed intriguing. One could object that the name of Paul is usually rendered as pwlws rather than pwlʾ in Syriac sources, yet the latter form occurs as an appellative for the apostle in the Peshitta of Acts at 26:24 and 27:24. Moreover, later Christian figures, such as Paul of Samosata and Paul of Constantinople, are at times spelled as pwlʾ, as is “Paul the Jew” (pwlʾ yhwdyʾ), the controversial sixth-century patriarch of Antioch; see e.g. Wright and McLean (1898, 311) and the respective passages in the post-Talmudic Chronicle of Zouqnin, see Jean Baptiste Chabot (1927, 146, 170, 174, and 176 and 1952, 19–24). The apostle, moreover, is portrayed as referring to himself as “I, Paul, being an old man (ʾnʾ pwlws dʾyty sbʾ) …. and now also a prisoner (dyn ap ʾsyrʾ) of Christ” in the letter to Philemon, 1:9, here cited according to the Peshitta rendering. Narsai, in his Homily on Peter and Paul, makes reference to this passage when referring to “Paul, in his old age, a prisoner on behalf of faith” (pwlws sbʾ ʾp ʾsyrʾ dḥlp qwshtʾ, see Mingana 1905, 83). We cannot therefore dismiss the possibility that Paul, after all, appears in the Talmud, yet neither can we exclude the possibility that the phrase merely constitutes a scribal error.


Ephrem, Commentary on the Diatessaron 6.3a–b, English translation according to McCarthy (1993, 111), Syriac text according to Leloir (1990, 60).


The teaching that Jesus both upholds and reduces the Torah also echoes the Clementine Homilies’ idea of destroying sacrifice at the same time as following the commandments as laid out above, see above.


Note that the medieval Jewish tradition continued to employ the witness of Matthew against Christianity, the witness of works such as Qissat Mujādalat al-Usquf, Sefer Nestor ha-Komer, Sefer Milhamot ha-Shem, Sefer Yosef ha-Meqanne, Nizzahon Vetus, Even Bohan, Kelimmat ha-Goyim, and Hizzuq Emunah has been treated by Christoph Ochs (2013).


  • Abramowski, Luise. “Die Anakephalaiosis zum Panarion des Epiphanius in der Hs. Brit. Mus. Add. 12156.” Le Muséon 96 (1983): 217–230.

  • Achelis, H. Hippolyt’s kleinere exegetische und homiletische Schriften. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller 1.2. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1897.

  • Balberg, Mira. Blood for Thought: The Reinvention of Sacrifice in Early Rabbinic Literature. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Banks, Robert. Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

  • Bazzana, Giovanni Battista. “Apelles and the Pseudo-Clementine Doctrine of the False Pericopes.” In: Gabriella Aragione and Rémi Gounelle (eds.), “Soyez des changeurs avisés”: controverses exégétiques dans la littérature apocryphe chrétienne. Cahiers de Biblia Patristica 12. Strasbourg: Université de Strasbourg, 2012, 11–32.

  • Beck, Edmund. Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers, Sermones, vol. 1, 2. Louvain: Secretariat du Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 1969.

  • Berzon, Todd S. Classifying Christians: Ethnography, Heresiology, and the Limits of Knowledge in Late Antiquity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016.

  • Berzon, Todd S. “Ethnicity and Early Christianity: New Approaches to Religious Kinship and Community.” Currents in Biblical Research 16 (2018): 191–227.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Betz, Hans Dieter. A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, including the Sermon on the Plain (Matthew 5:3–7:27 and Luke 6:20–49). Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995, 166–197.

  • Brock, Sebastian. Synagogue and Church in Dialogue: Four Syriac Poems from Late Antiquity. Journal of Jewish Studies Supplement Series 3. Oxford: Journal of Jewish Studies, 2019.

  • Brock, Sebastian. “Secundus the Silent Philosopher: some notes on the Syriac Tradition.” Rheinisches Museum für Philologie (Neue Folge) 121 (1978): 94–100.

  • Brüggemann, Th., W. Kinzig, and C. Riedweg. Kyrill von Alexandrien: Gegen Julian, Buch 1–10 und Fragmente. Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte Neue Folge 21, vol. 2. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017.

  • Burns, Daniel. “Augustine on the Moral Significance of Human Law.” Revue d’ Études Augustiniennes et Patristiques 61 (2015): 273–298.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Camplani, Alberto. “Traces de controverse religieuse dans la littérature syriaque des origines: peut-on parler d’ une hérésiologie des “hérétiques”?” In: Flavia Ruani (ed.), Les controverses religieuses en syriaque. Études syriaques 13. Paris: Paul Geuthner, 2016, 9–66.

  • Carlson, Donald Henry. Jewish-Christian Interpretation of the Pentateuch in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2013.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Carter, Warren. “Jesus’ ‘I have come’ Statements in Matthew’s Gospel.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 60 (1998): 44–62.

  • Cave Wright, Wilmer. The Works of the Emperor Julian, vol. 3. London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1923.

  • Chabot, Jean Baptiste. Chronicon Anonymon. Pseudo-Dionysianum vulgo dictum (I). CSCO 91; Scriptores Syri 43; Louvain: Durbecq, 1953.

  • Chabot, Jean Baptiste. Incerti Auctoris Chronicon. Pseudo-Dionysianum vulgo dictum (II). CSCO 104; Scriptores Syri 53; Louvain: Durbecq, 1952.

  • Ciasca, P. Augustinus. Tatiani Evangeliorum Harmoniae Arabica nunc primum ex duplici codice edidit et translatione Latina. Rome: S. C. De Propaganda Fide, 1888.

  • Cohn, Naftali. The Memory of the Temple and the Making of the Rabbis. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Connolly, R.H. Didascalia Apostolorum: The Syriac Version Translated and Accompanied by the Verona Latin Fragments. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929.

  • Deines, Roland. Die Gerechtigkeit der Tora im Reich des Messias. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004.

  • Deines, Roland. “Not the Law but the Messiah: Law and Righteousness in the Gospel of Matthew—An Ongoing Debate.” In: Daniel M. Gurtner and John Nolland (eds.), Built Upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdman, 2008, 53–84.

  • Dirksen, Piet B., and Arie van der Kooij, eds. The Peshitta as a Translation: Papers Read at the 2. Peshitta Symposium held at Leiden 19–21 August 1993. Leiden: Brill, 1995.

  • Doering, Lutz. “Much Ado About Nothing? Jesus’s Sabbath Healings and their Halakhic Implications Revisited”. In: Lutz Doering, H.-G. Waubke and F. Wilk (eds.), Judaistik und Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft: Standorte, Grenzen, Beziehungen. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck Ruprecht, 2008, 213–241.

  • Drecoll, Volker and Christoph Scheerer, Augustinus: Späte Schriften zur Gnadenlehre. De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum Libri Duo (Olim: De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, De Dono Perseverantiae). Corpus Scriptorum Eclclesiasticorum Latinorum 105; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019.

  • Drecoll, Volker and Mirjam Kudella. Augustin und der Manichäismus. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.

  • Drijvers, Han J.W. “Bardaisan of Edessa and the Hermetica: The Aramaic Philosopher and the Philosophy of his Time.” Jaarbericht Ex Oriente Lux 21 (1970): 190–210.

  • Dunlop Gibson, Margaret. The Commentaries of Ishoʿdad of Merv, Bishop of Ḥadatha (c. 850 A.D.) in Syriac and English, vol. 1, 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Evans, Ernest. Tertullian: Adversus Marcionem. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.

  • Ferguson, John. Stromateis. The Fathers of the Church: a New Translation Series 85. Washington: Catholic University Press, 2010.

  • Frankfurter, David. “Jews or Not? Reconstructing the “Other” in Rev 2:9 and 3:9.” The Harvard Theological Review 94 (2001): 403–425.

  • Früchtel, L., O. Stählin and U. Treu. Clemens Alexandrinus. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller 52. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1970.

  • Furstenberg, Yair. “Defilement Penetrating the Body: A New Understanding of Contamination in Mark 7:15.” New Testament Studies 54 (2008): 176–200.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Girod, Robert. Origène: Commentaire sur l’ évangile selon Matthieu, vol. 1. Sources chrétiennes 162. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1970.

  • Graf, Georg. Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, vol. 1. Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1944.

  • Granger Cook, John. The Interpretation of the New Testament in Greco-Roman Paganism. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000.

  • Granger Cook, John. “A note on Tatian’s Diatessaron, Luke, and the Arabic Harmony.” Zeitschrift für antikes Christentum 10 (2006): 462–471.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Griffith, Sidney. “Christianity in Edessa and the Syriac-Speaking World: Mani, Bar Daysan, and Ephrem; the Struggle for Allegiance on the Aramean Frontier.” Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies 2 (2002): 5–20.

  • Hebgin, Dame Scholastica and Dame Felicitas Corrigan. St. Augustine on the Psalms. Ancient Christian Writers 29. London: Longman’s Green, and Co., 1960.

  • Hoffman, Andreas. “Verfälschung der Jesus-Tradition. Neutestamentliche Texte in der manichäisch-augustinischen Kontroverse.” In: L. Cirillo and A. Van Tongerloo (eds.), Manichaeism and Early Christianity. Turnhout: Brepols, 1997, 149–182.

  • Hofreiter, Christian. Reading Herem Texts as Scripture. PhD diss., University of Oxford, 2013.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Holl, Karl, ed. Epiphanius (Ancoratus und Panarion), vol. 1. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller 25. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1915.

  • Jones, F. Stanley. Pseudoclementina Elchasaiticaque inter judaeochristiana: Collected Studies. Leeuven: Peeters, 2012.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Joseph, Simon J. “ ‘I Have Come to Abolish Sacrifices’ (Epiphanius, Pan. 30.16.5): Re-examining a Jewish Christian Text and Tradition.” New Testament Studies 63 (2017): 92–110.

  • King, Karen. What is Gnosticism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.

  • King, Peter. Augustine: On the Free Choice of the Will, On Grace and Free Choice, and Other Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

  • Kinzig, Wolfram. “The Nazoreans.” In: Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik (eds.), Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007, 463–487.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Kiraz, George Anton. Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels Aligning the Sinaiticus, Curetonianus, Peshitta and Harklean Versions, vol. 1. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2004.

  • Kitchen, Robert. The Book of Steps: The Syriac Liber Graduum. Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Studies, 2004.

  • Kmosko, Michael. Liber Graduum. Patrologia Syriaca. Paris: Firmin-Dido et Socii, 1926.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Leloir, Louis. Conmentaire de l’ Evangile Concordant: Texte syriaque. Chester Beatty Monographs 8. Dublin: Hodges Figgis, 1963.

  • Leloir, Louis. Saint Éphrem: Conmentaire de l’ Evangile Concordant: Texte syriaque: Folios Additionnels. Chester Beatty Monographs 8. Leuven: Paris, 1990.

  • Lieu, Judith M. Marcion and the Making of a Heretic: God and Scripture in the Second Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Luomanen, Petri. “Ebionites and Nazarenes.” In: Matt Jackson-McCabe (ed.), Jewish Christianity Reconsidered. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007, 81–118.

  • Luz, Ulrich. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Matthew 1–7: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

  • Markschies, Christoph. “Individuality in Some Gnostic Authors: With a Few Remarks on the Interpretation of Ptolemaeus, Epistula ad Floram.” Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum 15 (2011): 411–430.

  • Marmadji, A.-S. Diatessaron de Tatien. Beyrouth: Imprimerie Catholique, 1935.

  • McCarthy, Carmel. Saint Ephrem’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron: An English Translation of Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

  • McCauley, Leo P. and Anthony A. Stephenson. The Works of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem. The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, vol. 1. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1969–1970.

  • Migne, Jacques-Paul. Sanctie Aurelii Augustini, Hipponensis Epicsopi, Opera Omnia, vol. 4a. Paris: Migne, 1861.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Mingana, Alphonse. Narsai doctoris syri homiliae et carmina, vol. 2. Mosul: Fratrum Prædicatorum, 1905.

  • Mitchell, C.W. S. Ephraim’s Prose Refutations of Mani, Marcion and Bardaisan: Transcribed from the Palimpsest B.M. Add. 14623. London: Williams and Norgate, 1921, vol. II.

  • Moiseeva, Evgenïa. “The Old Testament in Fourth-Century Christian-Manichaean Polemic.” Journal of Late Antiquity 11 (2018): 274–297.

  • Nanos, Mark D. and Magnus Zetterholm. Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Neumann, Karl Johannes. Iuliani Imperatoris: Liborum Contra Christianius que supersunt. Leipzig: Teubner, 1880.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Nestle, Eberhard, Erwin Nestle, Barbara Aland and Kurt Aland. Novum Testamentum Graece post Eberhard et Erwin Nestle: Editione Vicesima Septima Revisa. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2004.

  • Ochs, Christoph. Matthaeus Adversus Christianos: The Use of the Gospel of Matthew in Jewish Polemics Against the Divinity of Jesus. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Oliver, Isaac. Torah Praxis after 70 CE: Reading Matthew and Luke-Acts as Jewish Texts. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Parisot, Jean. Aphraatis sapientis demonstrations. Patrologica Syriaca. Paris: Firmin-Didot et socii, 1894.

  • Payton, James R. Irenaeus on the Christian Faith: A Condensation of Against Heresies. Cambridge, UK: James Clarke Company, 2012.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Paz, Yakir. “The Torah of the Gospel: A Rabbinic Polemic against The Syro-Roman Lawbook.” Harvard Theological Review 112 (2019): 517–540.

  • Pedersen, Nils Arne. “Manichaen Self-Designations in the Western Tradition.” In: Johannes van Oort, ed. Augustine and Manichean Christianity: Selected Papers from the First South African Conference on Augustine of Hippo. University of Pretoria, 24–26 April 2012. Leiden: Brill, 2013, 183.

  • Petersen, William L. Tatian’s Diatessaron: Its Creation, Dissemination, Significance, and History in Scholarship. Leiden: Brill, 1994.

  • Rehm, Bernhard. Die Pseudoklementinen I: Homilien. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1969.

  • Reischl, W.C. and J. Rupp. Cyrilli Hierosolymorum archiepiscopi opera quae supersunt omnia, vol. 1. Munich: Lentner, 1848.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Reynolds, Gabriel Said. “On the Qurʾānic Accusation of Scriptural Falsification (taḥrīf) and Christian anti-Jewish Polemic.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 130 (2010): 189–202.

  • Rousseau, Adelin and Louis Doutreleau. Irénée de Lyon, Contre les Hérésies. Sources chrétiennes 100, vol. 4. Paris: Cerf, 1965.

  • Runesson, Anders. Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew: The Narrative World of the First Gospel. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2016.

  • Ruzer, Serge. “From “Love Your Neighbour” to “Love Your Enemy”: Trajectories in Early Jewish Exegesis.” Revue Biblique 109 (2002): 371–389.

  • Salmond, S.D.F. The Refutation of all Heresies by Hippolytus … with Fragments from His Commentaries on Various Books of Scripture. Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. 6.1. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1868.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Salvesen, Alison G. “Early Syriac, Greek and Latin Views of the Decalogue.” In: Jeffrey P. Greenman and Timothy Larson (eds.), The Decalogue Through the Centuries: From the Hebrew Scriptures to Benedict XVI. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 47–66.

  • Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church, vol. II. Ante-Nicene Christianity. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914.

  • Schmid, Herbert. “Ist der Soter in Ptolemäus’ Epistula ad Floram der Demiurg? Zu einer These von Christoph Markschies.” Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum 15 (2011): 249–271.

  • Selb, Walter and Hubert Kaufhold. Das Syrisch-Römische Rechtsbuch, vol. I, II. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2002.

  • Skarsaune, Oskar. “The Ebionites.” In: Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik (eds.), Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007, 463–487.

  • Smith, Thomas. The Clementine Homilies. The Apostolic Constitutions, Ante-Nicene Christian Library, The Clementine Homilies (Volume XVII). Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1870.

  • Sokoloff, Michael. A Syriac Dictionary: A Translation from the Latin, Correction, Expansion, and Update of C. Brockelmann’s Lexicon Syriacum. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009.

  • Standhartinger, Angela. “Ptolemaeus und Justin zur Autorität der Schrift.” In: Markus Lang (ed.), Ein neues Geschlecht? Entwicklung des frühchristlichen Selbstbewusstseins. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013, 122–149.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Stowers, Stanley. A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

  • Stroumsa, Guy G. The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations in Late Antiquity. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2009.

  • Stroumsa, Guy G. The Making of the Abrahamic Religions in Late Antiquity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

  • Teske, Roland J. The Works of Saint Augustine. A Translation for the 21st Century. I/20: Answer to Faustus, a Manichean. New York: New City Press, 2007.

  • Thiessen, Matthew. “Abolishers of the Law in early Judaism and Matthew 5:17–20.” Biblica 93 (2012): 543–556.

  • Ullucci, Daniel C. The Christian Rejection of Animal Sacrifice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Vacarella, Kevin M. Shaping Christian Identity: The False Scripture Argument in Early Christian Literature. PhD diss. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University, 2007.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Valavanolickal, Kuriakose. Aphrahat Demonstrations I. Baker Hill, Kottayam: St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI), 2005.

  • Van den Berg, Jacob Albert. Biblical Argument in Manichaean Missionary Practice: The Case of Adimantus and Augustine. Leiden: Brill, 2010.

  • Van de Sande Bakhuyzen, Willem. Der Dialog des Adamantius “De recta in Deum fide”. GCS 4. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1901.

  • Von Harnack, Adolf. “Geschichte eines programmatischen Worts Jesu (Matth 5,17) in der ältesten Kirche.” Sitzungsberichte der Königlichen Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Berlin: De Gryuter, 1912.

  • Van Maaren, John R. “Does Mark’s Jesus Abrogate Torah? Jesus’ Purity Logion and its Illustration in Mark 7:15–23.” Journal for the Jesus Movement in Its Jewish Setting 4 (2017): 21–41.

  • Van Maaren, John R. The Gospel of Mark within Judaism: Reading the Second Gospel in its Ethnic Landscape. PhD diss. MacMaster University, 2019.

  • Van Rompay, Lucas. “ ‘Bardaisan and Mani in Philoxenus of Mabbog’s Mēmrē against Habbib.” In: Wout van Bekkum (ed.), Syriac Polemics: Studies in Honour of Gerrit Jan Reinink. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 170. Leuven: Peeters, 2007, 77–90.

  • Vööbus, Arthur. The Didascalia Apostolorum in Syriac. Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 401–402 and 407–408, vol. IIV. Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 1979.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Watts Henderson, Suzanne. “Was Mark a Supersessionist? Two Test Cases from the Earliest Gospel.” In: Lori Baron, Jill Hicks-Keeton, and Matthew Thiessen (eds.), The Ways That Often Parted: Essays in Honor of Joel Marcus. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2018, 145–168.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Weber, Robert and Roger Gryson. Biblia Sacra iuxta vulgatam versionem. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2007.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Weddle, David L. Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. New York: New York University Press, 2017.

  • Weren, Wilhelmus Johanis Cornelius. Studies in Matthew’s Gospel: Literary Design, Intertextuality, and Social Setting. Leiden: Brill, 2014.

  • Williams, Frank. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, vol. 1. Leiden: Brill, 1994.

  • Wright, William and McLean, Norman. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius in Syriac. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1898.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Wurst, Gregor. “Bemerkungen zu Struktur und genus litterarium der Capitula des Faustus von Mileve.” In: Johannes van Oort, Otto Wermelinger and Gregor Wurst, Augustine and Manichaeism in the Latin West: Proceedings of the Fribourg-Utrecht Symposium of the International Symposium Association of Manichaean Studies (IAMS). Leiden: Brill, 2001, 307–324.

  • Yoshiko Reed, Annette. “Heresiology and the (Jewish-)Christian Novel: Narrativized Polemics in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies.” In: Eduard Iricinschi and Holger Zellentin (eds.), Heresy and Identity in Late Antiquity. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008, 273–298.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Yoshiko Reed, Annette. Jewish-Christianity and the History of Judaism. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018.

  • Zellentin, Holger. “Margin of Error: Women, Law, and Christianity in Bavli Shabbat 116a–b.” In: Eduard Iricinschi and Holger Zellentin (eds.), Heresy and Identity in Late Antiquity. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008, 339–363.

  • Zellentin, Holger. Rabbinic Parodies of Jewish and Christian Literature. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 139. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.

  • Zellentin, Holger. “Jerusalem Fell After Betar: The Christian Josephus and Rabbinic Memory.” In: Raʿanan Boustan, Klaus Herrman, Reimund Leicht, Giuseppe Veltri, and Annette Yoshiko Reed (eds.), Envisioning Judaism: Studies in Honor of Peter Schäfer on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, vol. 1. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2013a, 319–367.

  • Zellentin, Holger. “Jesus and the Tradition of the Elders: Originalism and Traditionalism in Early Judean Legal Theory.” In: Eduard Iricinschi, Lance Jenott, Nicola Denzey Lewis, and Philippa Townsend (eds.), Beyond the Gnostic Gospels: Studies Building on the Work of Elaine H. Pagels. Studies and Texts in Antiquity and Christianity. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013b, 379–403.

  • Zellentin, Holger. The Qurʾān’s Legal Culture: The Didascalia Apostolorum as a Point of Departure. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013c.

  • Zellentin, Holger. “Judaeo-Christian Legal Culture and the Qurʾān: The Case of Ritual Slaughter and the Consumption of Animal Blood.” In: Francisco del Río Sánchez (ed.), Jewish Christianity and the Origins of Islam. Turnout: Brepols, 2018, 117–159.

  • Zellentin, Holger. “Gentile Purity Law from the Bible to the Qurʾan: The Case of Sexual Purity and Illicit Intercourse.” In: Holger Zellentin (ed.), The Qurʾān’s Reformation of Judaism and Christianity: Return to the Origins. Routledge Studies in the Quran. New York: Routledge, 2019, 115–215.

  • Zetterholm, Karin. “Jewish Teachings for Gentiles in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies: A Reception of Ideas in Paul and Acts Shaped by a Jewish Milieu.” Journal for the Jesus Movement in Its Jewish Setting 6 (2019): 68–87.

  • Zycha, Iosephus. Sancti Aureli Augustini De utilitate credendi, De duabus animabus, Contra Fortunatum, Contra Adimantum, Contra Epistulam Fundamenti, Contra Faustum, De natura boni, Epistula Secundini, Contra Secundinum, accedunt Evodii De fide contra Manichaeos, et Commonitorium Augustini quod fertur praefatione utriusque partis praemissa. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum LatinorumXXV.V.I. Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1891.

  • Collapse
  • Expand