Jesus strangely said his burden was light compared to the Jews and yet he gave some laws that were worse.

Courtesy Graham Veale saints and sceptics website

The gospel writers do not shy away from describing Jesus’ disputes with the religious authorities; indeed, these conflicts are at the centre of many of their narratives. Yet the gospels also casually reveal that Jesus expected his followers to make sacrifices at the Temple (Matthew 5 v 23-24; Mark 1v 43-44) and to obey the Jewish scriptures (Matthew 5 v 17-20). Jesus was Jewish; he did not tear down the faith of Israel to build the kingdom of God. Jesus tore savagely at self-righteousness, legalism and hypocrisy.


Modern readers might be shocked that Jesus opposed the more tolerant attitudes of his Jewish contemporaries. Teachers like the great rabbi Hillel had interpreted the law liberally, so that a divorce could be obtained for practically any reason. Instead, Jesus taught that God opposed all divorce. While there is a great deal of debate about the meaning of the exception clause in Matthew’s gospel (Matt 19v9) it is clear that Jesus believed that marriage ought to be a permanent union between one man and one woman.

At the risk of stating the obvious, first century Palestinian Jewish teachers did not condone homosexual acts and every single scrap of evidence indicates that Jesus was not an exception to that rule. Unlike most of his peers he rejected polygamy, teaching that marriage was for one man and one woman. He was even more controversial when he insisted that God intended the union of one man and one woman to be permanent. When it came to marriage, Jesus argued for higher standards, not greater licence or tolerance.


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