Matthew 5:18 records Jesus statement that not even the smallest letter or stroke on a Hebrew letter in the scriptures will disappear before heaven and earth are destroyed.
For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:18 (NASB)
This is an extremely important principle to remember. The jot or iota was the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet. In the Hebrew alphabet it was the letter yod. The Greek word kepaia referred to a small extension that would distinguish between the Hebrew letter beth from the word kahf. Or, kepaia could also refer to an ornamental stroke added to a letter.
Jesus’ message was that the Law will not change until the universe is destroyed, but to which Law did He refer? In order to answer this question, we need to read Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19 and Hebrews 2:2.
. . . . you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it. Acts 7:53 (NASB)
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Galatians 3:19 (NASB)
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty . . . Hebrews 2:2 (NASB)
These three passages reveal that the Law was given through angels to a mediator which was Moses, while he was on Mount Sinai. Hebrews 2:2 states that the word or law that was communicated would not change. Now we can answer the question, “To which Law did Jesus refer?” The Law Jesus referred to was the Law communicated to Moses through angels. Then Moses made a copy of that Law which has been passed down through time. The Law that was communicated by angels is what will not disappear. That divine Law will not change.
Obviously, men might make mistakes in the process of making copies, but Jesus was not referring to the copies of the Law. We can praise God that He has preserved highly quality copies of the Old Testament scriptures and the Dead Sea scrolls that support the accuracy of our copies. The Old Testament scriptures are extremely accurate.
When Jesus said that no jot (or stroke) or tittle (or smallest letter) would not disappear from the Law, He did not mean that errors would never occur in the copies of the Law that humans create. He did not mean that errors would never occur when the Bible is printed. He did not mean that errors would not occur when the Bible is read. Jesus was referring to the Law that was communicated to Moses. The divine Law that was given to Moses would never change.
- Gran R Osborne. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan Publishing. 205, p. 182.
- Geisler and Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody Press. 1973. p. 266.
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