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Commandments of Men
by Wayne Blank
Jesus Did Not Break God's Law
As the Scriptures above make plain, Jesus Christ was not a radical, or a law breaker. And yet, He was frequently accused of being so by some of the religious authorities of His time because He kept God's Commandments rather than their commandments ("teaching for doctrines the commandments of men ... laying aside the Commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men" Mark 7:7-8 KJV)
"And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth" (Matthew 9:3 KJV)
Jesus Obeyed God's Commandments
God formally gave His Law to the Israelites, through Moses, during the Wilderness Journey after the Exodus. This is what Jesus was referring to in the opening paragraph. God's Law was observed by Jesus perfectly, since Jesus never sinned (see What Is Sin?).
After their entry into the Promised Land under Joshua, the Israelites became increasingly corrupt in their obedience to God's Law. Because of their forsaking of Him, God eventually permitted the two kingdoms (after the death of Solomon, when his son Rehoboam began to reign, the United Kingdom of Israel split into two separate Kingdoms, "Israel" and "Judah," and were never united again) to be destroyed.
First, the northern kingdom of Israel was gradually conquered by the Assyrians (see Ancient Empires - Assyria), and by 721 B.C. they had practically all been taken into exile to Assyria (2 Kings 17:1-23). The vast majority of them never returned, and have become known as the "Lost Ten Tribes of Israel."
Then, about 135 years later, in 586 B.C., the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians (see Why Babylon? and Ancient Empires - Babylon), and the Jews (the northern kingdom of Israel, the northern ten tribes, were not Jews, since only the descendants of Judah, with Benjamin included, are Jews - see Hebrew) were taken into captivity to Babylon. The original Temple of God in Jerusalem was destroyed at that time (see Temples and Temple Mount Treasures). The people of the southern kingdom of Judah however did return after the Babylonians fell to the Persians (see Ancient Empires - Persia), and their descendants have become the Jewish people of today.
Upon their return from the Babylonian captivity, the religious leadership vowed never again to allow the people to disobey God's Law so as to bring His wrath upon them. That was very good, except that in their zealousness to obey God's Law, they added many of their own laws - traditions and customs were gradually added by authorities such as the Pharisees and Sadducees - "laws" that none of the righteous patriarchs, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - or Moses himself, ever knew or observed.
By the time of Jesus Christ, the man-made laws and traditions were viewed nearly on the same level as God's actual Law - and it was for this that Jesus rebuked them for worshiping God according to their own traditions:
"Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?"