A Perjurer Is Not Pure
J.H.H. Weiler makes a mighty effort, in First Things, to argue that both Jesus and the Jewish leaders whom He faced in His culture-defining trial were innocent, within the boundaries that God had set for each. The core of Weiler’s argument derives from Deuteronomy 13:1-5, which foretells of a prophet who, acting on God’s behalf, tests the people in an attempt to lead them astray. Writes Weiler:
… what if a prophet were to step outside the law and appeal to the authority on which that law is predicated? The people are told in Deuteronomy that they are not to add or subtract from the commandments of God. But surely a prophet, adding or subtracting with the authenticating authority of signs and wonders from God, can be followed?
Not so, according to the text. The prophet may perform unmistakable signs and wonders that replicate the signs authenticating Moses as a prophet. But if that prophet were to insist on a breach with the Mosaic law, then he should be taken as a divine test — the real meaning of which is that the prophet is sent by God to test the love, loyalty, and fidelity of the people to God’s revealed word to Moses at Sinai.
The problem with Weiler’s proposition that Jesus authentically came to spread “an attractive and tantalizing message” and, as an joint act of God, to “put the Children of Israel to a new Abrahamic test” is that it necessarily makes a liar of Jesus. In Matthew 5, He asserts that he has not come “to abolish the law or the prophets,” and that “not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”
Since Weiler teaches his thesis as a course at New York University’s School of Law, he might make the legalistic argument that Jesus, in fact, did not change the law for the Chosen People to whom it applied, but he thereby requires of the Messiah a tricky double-meaning in much of what He said that could not help but trip up His followers, even in the total absence of sin. He furthermore discounts efforts to convert Jews, which the closest disciples took up immediately upon imbibing the Holy Spirit.
No doubt, liberal theologians would find a tantalizing possibility in God’s offering ethnically specific instructions. As we’ve explored before, however, liberal theologians succeed in nothing so efficiently as the evaporation of theology… and adherents.