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You Have Heard That It was Said


God gave the Ten Commandments in written form on two stone tablets. However, Jesus did not say, “As it is inscribed” or “as you read,” but as you have heard from the ancestors or teachers of the Law. This phrase refers not to the direct teaching of God or the prophets, but the laws and their interpretations that rabbis introduced at a later period.

Israel had no prophet for four centuries before John the Baptist. During that post-exilic period, the Jewish teachers interpreted the Law according to their whims and fancies deviating from the genuine spirit of the Lawgiver. So, Jesus refined the laws, making them deviant from the popular teaching of the time.

The ordinary Jews who came to listen to Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount were illiterate. They had heard the laws and their interpretations from the synagogue services they attended or from the Scribes’ preaching. These laws were attributed to Moses, who received them directly from God and communicated them to the Israelites. They taught these to their descendants and handed them on in written and mostly in oral form. The Scribes of the post-exilic period also transmitted their interpretations and applications as oral traditions. As time went by, these practices had deviated from the intention of God, the lawgiver. Jesus’ questioning was not on the Mosaic teachings, but on the false interpretations of the post-exilic ancestors.

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