Joel McDurmon on Matthew 5:17-18- #1
When Was “All” Fulfilled?
Don K. Preston D. Div.
In my recent formal debate with Joel McDurmon, July 19-21, in Ardmore, Ok., I argued from the explicit words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18 that until every jot and tittle of the law was fulfilled, that none of it would pass. (DVDs and MP3s of the debate are now available. You definitely want to get a copy of this debate, so order your copy now!)
In response, Joel gave two totally different answers. First, he argued that “all” does not necessarily mean all comprehensively. Second, he argued that all things were fulfilled by Jesus on the cross, for He is the fulfillment of all things. I want to briefly examine Joel’s arguments, demonstrating their fallacy, as I did in the debate.
ALL DOES NOT MEAN ALL
In his attempt to discount what Jesus said about the necessity for every jot and every tittle to be fulfilled, Joel took note that the word all can be used in a limited sense. Naturally, no one disputes this claim, as I noted. But that is not the issue.
Joel gave some scriptures where the word all is used, but, in which “all” cannot be understood comprehensively. He took note that Joshua 21:43-45 says that all of God’s promises made to Israel were fulfilled. Joel noted that there were many prophecies still unfulfilled at that time, therefore, all does not mean all. Joel likewise appealed to Ezekiel and Lamentations where the word all is likewise used in a limited sense.
I did not respond immediately to Joel’s appeal to these texts, because I wanted to deal with other issues. Consequently, Joel proclaimed that I did not do so because they are fatal to my claims. He seemed to think that I had not answer. Of course, that is not the case. Time constraints do not permit response to every single word given by the other man. But I did respond, and effectively so.
I noted that Joel was guilty of an illegitimate transfer of context in his appeal to Joshua and the other texts. The subject matter in those texts was not the passing of the law, and the necessary requirements for that to happen. Joel was appealing to texts that spoke of something entirely different from what Jesus was speaking of. Thus, to impose those texts on Jesus’ statements was and is patently wrong.
I also noted that the context of those passages clearly define the “all” in view. In other words, Joshua 21 very clearly speaks of the fulfillment of the land promises. Lamentations speaks of the fulfillment of all of the predictions of the BC 586 destruction of Jerusalem. This is undeniable. In other words, the word “all” was patently not being used in a universal sense, as the context of each of the passages offered by Joel proves beyond dispute.
I should briefly note here that Joshua actually falsifies Joel’s claim that Abraham never received the land promises. God promised the land to Abraham and his descendants. Joshua said that all the land promises were fulfilled. Not a word failed. Thus, the Abrahamic land promise was fulfilled, nullifying Joel’s key resurrection argument. But, back to the word all and Matthew 5:17-18.
In direct response to Joel, I produced a chart with the following quote from Greg Bahnsen that spoke and speaks to the issue of Matthew 5:17-18 very eloquently, and irrefutably:
“A verse like Matthew 5:18, with its unparticularized panta is prey for such treatment. Now such views might be appropriate pertaining to a verse like Matthew 24:34 from the Olivet Discourse (which reads panta tauta), but they are unjustified in Matthew 5:18; the former has a definite referent and antecedent, while the latter does not (it does not even qualify a noun adjacent to it as does Matthew 24:34). Nothing in the context or vocabulary of Matthew 5:18 warrants the induction of speculative meaning; a phrase as colorless and abstract as panta should not be particularized, personalized, and steered into this theological preconception. …. Page 83— “In Matthew 5:18 the commencement of the law’s passing away is made dependent upon panta genetai. Panta, when used without an article or preposition indicates “all things, everything” (as in Matthew 11:27; John 1:3; 3:35; 21:17; 1 Corinthians 2:10; 15:27, 28; Ephesians 1:22a; Revelation 21:5); it is to be taken in this absolutely general sense unless the context dictates some antecedent whole of which panta constitutes the complete parts.” (Greg Bahnsen, Theonomy, P. 81).
Bahnsen was McDurmon’s mentor, and this quote clearly stunned Joel– and the audience. Not simply because it was from Joel’s former mentor, but because of the excellent linguistic and contextual analysis. I should also note that Joel said not one word in response to the chart.
The undeniable fact is that contrary to each of the passages that Joel offered, in which context clearly limited the “all” in view, there are no contextual qualifiers in Matthew 5:17-18. So, as Bahnsen astutely notes, where there is no qualifier, then all means all.
I challenged Joel to produce a contextual qualifier of “all” in Matthew 5, but of course, he could not do it, and no one can. It is not there. And this means that not one jot or one tittle– that alone is pretty comprehensive isn’t it?– would pass until every jot and every tittle was fulfilled. In fact, “all” is defined in the text by “not one jot or one tittle.”
(Be sure to see my new book From Torah To Telos, for a study of Matthew 5:17-18. The book is one of the most extensive studies of this text and the passing of the Law of Moses that has been produced. There is nothing else like it anywhere!)
As I noted repeatedly in the debate, since there is no limiting qualifier in the context of Matthew 5:17-18 to quantify the “all”, this means, it demands, that since Torah foretold the end of the millennium resurrection, then until the full accomplishment, the full occurrence of the end of the millennium resurrection, not one iota of Torah would pass. This means that if Joel’s eschatology is true, then the feast days, new moons, and Sabbaths of Torah– along with the sacrificial system– remains valid and binding today. This is unavoidable, and undeniable. Be sure to read my earlier article on the Sabbath issue and the inescapable and fatal problems it causes for Dominionism.
In our next article, we will examine Joel’s second attempt to deal with Jesus words in Matthew 5:17-18. That was his claim that in some manner Jesus fulfilled all prophecy in his person on the cross. As we proved in the debate, and what is critical to see, is that this argument falsified Joel’s own theology. Stay tuned for that article.