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What Did Jesus Mean When He Said “Not an Iota, Not a Dot, Will Pass from the Law Until All Is Accomplished”?
by Brandon Crowe
Matthew 5:17–18 is a key text for interpreting the Sermon on the Mount and the entire gospel of Matthew:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
Here Jesus says that not one iota (jot) or dot (tittle) will pass away from the law. These most likely refer to the smallest strokes of the Hebrew alphabet, indicating that the Old Testament is completely trustworthy, even to the smallest detail. This is consistent with Jesus’ attitude elsewhere. Never do we find Jesus disagreeing with Scripture. Though some have argued that Jesus disagrees with Scripture in the so-called antitheses of Matthew 5:21–48, He explicitly instructs us otherwise in vv. 17–18. Jesus has not come to abolish the Mosaic law (or the Prophets), but to fulfill it. He does not disagree with “it is written” in vv. 21–48, but with “you have heard” (vv. 21, 27, 33, 38, 43; see also v. 31). Jesus critiques mistaken interpretations of Scripture, not the written words themselves.
Therefore, it is necessary to appreciate the abiding truthfulness of the law of Moses because Jesus is the fulfillment of this law (5:17; see Rom. 10:4). Jesus does not nullify it, but comes so that everything in it will be accomplished…
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