Messiah’s famous words about Torah declare, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Mat 5:17 NASB)  This verse has been explained countless times in church sermons, academic lectures, and scholarly commentaries. What can I possibly add to this ancient conversation? There are many angles from which to approach this topic but I will focus on one, by asking a simple question: How, exactly, and in which way, did Jesus “fulfill” the Torah in Matthew’s gospel?

It is common for modern followers of Jesus to imagine that there is some sort of a celestial checklist that the Messiah had to complete. Many modern Jews think this way as well. Indeed, Matthew uses the Greek verb πληρόω (plerao), “fulfill,” in what looks like a “list” of messianic prophecies. According to Matthew 1-2, Yeshua was born was to fulfill Isaiah 7:14 – “a virgin shall conceive…” (Matt 1:22-23); the Bethlehem birth was to fulfill Micah 5:2: “and you, Bethlehem…” (Matt 2:5-6); Yeshua’s presence in Egypt was to fulfill Hos 11:1: “out of Egypt I called my son” (Matt 2:15); Herod slaughtered children to fulfill Jer. 31:15: “a voice was heard in Ramah…” (Matt 2:17-18); Jesus went to live in Nazareth to fulfill: “he will be called a Nazarene”(Matt 2:23). A common notion that this list of prophetic passages awaited future “fulfillments” to be checked off the list may be quite far from what Matthew actually meant to convey. All of his Scripture citations are recollections of past, rather than “predictions” of future.

According to Matthew, Yeshua repeats, relives, and reenacts Israel’s experiences described in Scripture. Like Israel, Yeshua came out of Egypt, wandered the wilderness, and was tempted. He went through the waters of the Jordan River to enter a new stage of life. What happened to Israel happened to Yeshua. The Aramaic equivalent of Greek πληρόω (plerao) is קִיֵּם (qiyem), which means “to establish,” “to uphold,” or “to stand upright.” Likewise, קְיָים (qiyam) and קְיָימָא (qiyama) mean something firm — like a law, vow, or covenant. In Hebrew קִיֵּם (qiyem) is “to fulfil” or “to perform” (Ps 119:28) but also “raise up” and “build up” (Isa 44:26; 58:12; 61:4) and “validate” or “confirm” (Ruth 4:7; Est 9:29).

This is the way in which Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets: the Messiah’s life mirrored all these events in Israel’s long journey as a people. Everything Yeshua did established, confirmed, and validated how God led his people through the pages of history.

38 COMMENTS

  1. If I sumerise correctly Jesus came to fulfill as one man the history of Israel up to that point then get crusified. Which mean then Israel became crusified over centuries, to be resurrected as Jesus was. As reference between day and thousand years, could it mean that Israel will be fully resurrected or restored in the next thousand years?
    God bless.

  2. Thank you for your article – very informative, as always. I consider myself a Messianic Jew, but my biggest problem with messianic Judaism is the trend toward judaizing people into whatever level of Torah-keeping they like with argumentative, hard-hearted legalism that I see in so many of its congregations today. The (partial) quote about Christ not coming to abolish the law is ever barked with gleeful victory into the faces of anyone trapped into listening. IF Messiah did, indeed, fulfill the law, however, why are they still trying so hard to do it FOR Him?

    • I understand, Remi. Sorry to hear of your experiences. Insecure people desperately wish to make everyone resemble themselves. That happens everywhere. When people understand that their identity is first and foremost in Hashem then they understand that mitzvot are merely ways to imitate our Father. And each child seeks to connect to parents in their own way. We are different like that.

      • Dear Doctor Pinchas,
        as a gentile follower of Messiah, could you please explain what is meant by :
        “having identity first and foremost in hashem” and also what you mean when you say “mitzvot are merely ways to imitate our Father.”
        I am seriously gripped by the dialogue your article has created.

        • Sorry, sometimes I slip into “insider” language. 🙂 The discussion of commandments is a very complicated one because the types of things that Christians of the various denominational backgrounds are taught about them. Most of the time it is not in sink with Jewish views on them. So it’s hard to be on the same page. There is a tendency for some to keep the commandments as a device of “cleaving to God” and means of their religious identity. “If I do these things I am his” logic. So then our relationship with God is based on our best behavior efforts. But our identity should be in God first and living by his commandments becomes a response to a relationship.

  3. Jesus’ life led up to his death and his cry ‘it is finished and remains finished’ completes that which the Torah could not do – bring sinners into the presence of a holy God.

  4. Interesting but I feel it reads a bit lobsided. Our Lord I’m sure youll agree came to seek and to save sinners (Jews and Gentiles alike) andwe are clearly told HEB 1 that God spoke in times past in diverse manners (Sacrifices etc) Saving work of Messiah as you state. If we are to enter His kingdom we must trust completely in His perfect sacrifice alone for salvation. Thank you Prof Pinchas.

  5. Matthew pointed to Jesus as the Jewish Messiah! Matthew’s( Chapter 10) Mindset was Jesus instructions “Not to go to Gentiles, Nor Samaritans”! Chapter 15 Declares That Jesus Rejected a Syrophenician (Gentile) Woman’s plea for help for her daughter until “Faith Wedged Her In”! Jesus response was “I Am sent To The Lost Sheep of The House of Israel!”Not Gentiles! If Matthew was the Gospel To The Jew written in Hebrew as has been determined, Why would Matthew Include in Chapter 28, Jesus Supposedly Giving Instructions “To Go Baptize Gentiles”! Jews would have rejected!Not In Original Matthew! Kelly

  6. I seems this explanation avoids the point of the Law and of the Prophets. They all pointed to Christ and in the case of the prophets called men back to a right relationship with their God by faith, the great essential of the Abrahamic covenant and of any true relationship with God. When Jesus fulfilled the law he left nothing else to be done. One sacrifice, the way to God opened and paid. We must understand where we came from but not to the point of obfuscating truth plainly laid out and n Scripture

    • Dear Rodney, you misunderstood what I was trying to say. Perhaps you read into my words something beyond what I am saying. It’s OK. Let’s keep walking by faith together.

    • I read the article as taking a glorious arial view of the entire histopry of Israel and in no way avoiding any point of Law, prophets, the Levitical system or any other aspect of Messiah’s mission.

  7. Wow you have answered a question that has been on my heart and no one seems to be able to answer. I have always wondered what the Israelites were chosen for. As it is stated God has no favourites. I have always thought it was to demonstrate the Fathers love and bring man back to the Father. And yes that is exactly what Jesus fulfilled.

    • I am glad you are able to see this, Dan. Jews are not any better or more loved than God’s other children. That is not what “chosen” means. We just have a unique and different role to play in this world. 🙂 It is his plan and we are merely a part of it.

  8. Granted that you are looking at this scripture from a different perspective albeit, very narrow. The word ‘fulfill’ in isolation is empty and may result in Scriptures being diluted. The sentence is self- explanatory. I have not come to abolish…. but to fulfill it. The matter about wanderings whilst relevant to the life of Christ and history of Israel is outside the context in which the verse was written. A look 5 Scriptures before Matth 5:17 brings out the true import ie godliness, faith, service and audacity required of Christians.

  9. So when a Jewish person says that Isaiah 53 is about the Jewish people and not about Messiah, instead of arguing it has to be about Messian, one could point out Moshiach Yeshua actually parallels, or even is Israel. Nu?

    • In my opinion Is 53 is both (without excluding the other), about Yeshua and about Israel. Messiah is inseparable from Israel and their lives are parallel on purpose all through God’s revelation.

  10. As a very recently re-born child of God I find this platform absolutely fascinating!! Your insight is truly a gift from the Almighty. You quoted Mat. 5:17 from the NASB “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill”. The KJV uses the term “destroy” in stead of the “abolish” in the quotation you used. That represents, in my view, a distinct difference in both intent and meaning. What was the original Hebrew word, and its meaning? Please keep up the excellent work. God Bless!!

    • Riaan, the Greek is the original and it can be translated as “destroy” or “abolish” or “nullify” plus a number of other options. There are several Hebrew possibilities for that too, which would be guesses on my part. What is clear, however, even in English, is that Jesus does not want to undermine the Torah or Prophets in any way. His action is the opposite of “destroying” or “abolishing” and that has to be the meaning of fulfilling.

  11. In. Hosea Israel is referred to as Gods wife not His son See Hosea 2;19-20. So as a future reference the verse in Hosea 11:2 is not referring to Isarael as a nation but. The One who will be called. Note the tens of the verbs. Thee New Testament. Jewish inspired writer used and applied the verse correctly. Will you say that Isaiah 53 wasfulfilleed in the life of Jesus?

    • Your argument is with Matthew and how he uses these verses. He is the author. I can say that Is 53 was fulfilled by Yeshua. But Israel may have already lived through something similar, or may yet to suffer in a like manner. Who knows? The words of the prophets are not always easy to understand.

  12. I can’t se
    “Isaiah 7:14, as a prediction to Matt 1:22-23
    A) – Both Chabad, Sefaria, Israel Science and Technology Directory.:
    Translates as follows:
    //Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of His own accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel.//
    Comment:
    A pregnant women can’t be a virgin in the year
    B) – Isaiah 7:14, rather Isaiah chapt 7 and 8 is acting 100% about the the comming aattackts from the Assyrian King.
    C) – Immanuel is only mentioned four times in the Bible:
    Isa 7:14 – 8:8+10 – Matt 1:23.
    One must be careful not to appoint all writings as possible objects for prophecy, but investigate the background of the texts and its timeline.

  13. about fulfilling the mosaic laws the messiah did it by loving GOD the father with all his heart, strength and soul and secondly by loving all the neighbors.or put it this way He did it by fulfilling the will of GOD that is to do good one to his neighbor, if one believes in the LORD that one is a new creature and GOD makes a new covenant witg him and goes head to command him to do good . not as the old one (commandment )was given which commanded us not to do bad .

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