Not One Jot or Tittle

October 01, 2015

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.

…continue reading on TableTalk.

Brandon Crowe

Dr. Crowe (PhD, Edinburgh) is associate professor of New Testament at WTS.

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