Jot and Tittle

by Mike Ratliff

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20 KJV)

Some have used the passage above to teach that Christians must still keep the whole Law, but a careful reading of the passage clearly shows that it is conditional. Did Jesus come to to destroy the law or the prophets? No, He came to fulfill them. What does that mean? This speaks of fulfillment in the same sense that prophecy is fulfilled. Our Lord Jesus indicates the He fulfills the Law in all its aspects. He fulfills the moral law by keeping it perfectly. He fulfills the ceremonial law by being the embodiment of everything to which the Law’s types and symbols pointed. Our Lord fulfills the Judicial Law by personifying God’s perfect justice (Matthew 12:18, 20). In any case, the emphasis here is not that all who are true Christians must also perfectly keep the Law. Aren’t you glad? If you doubt that then read the book of Galatians carefully. Actually, our Lord is emphasizing His high view of Scripture and its authority as the inspired Word of God in this passage. Those who reject it as such are those whose righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees and they shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Think of the apostates who are walking into heresy even teaching and embracing heretical doctrines because they have rejected God’s Word as the authoritative, inspired Word of God. 

Here is Matthew 5:18 from the Greek text, “ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ, ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου ἕως ἂν πάντα γένηται.” Here is my personal translation, “Amen for I say to you, until – might pass away the heaven and the land, jot one or one tittle not not might go along from the law, until – all might be fulfilled.” We will concentrate on the two words translated as “jot” (ἰῶτα)  or iota and “tittle” (κεραία) or keraia. The word ἰῶτα refers to the Hebrew letter yod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The Lord Jesus is saying that not even the smallest letter of God’s Word will pass away until all of it is fulfilled. Even smaller though is the “tittle” or κεραία, which comes from the word κέρας or keras which was used to refer to the horn of an animal and the projections on altars. It was used in reference back to the Hebrew Alphabet to refer to the small lines or projections on Hebrew letters that would change the entire meaning of words.

Therefore, our Lord is saying that not only is every letter and every word important, but so is every little stroke of the pen. Not one stroke of the pen will “pass away,” that is, vanish or perish. There is nothing wrong with textual criticism of the Greek and Hebrew texts. That is what we are doing here on a small scale. However, there is something called “higher criticism” that is the tool of liberal theologians to attack the Word of God in every way possible to deny its authority and inspiration. However, it is texts like Matthew 5:18 that are the final nail in their coffin.

I have listened to their arguments as they debate Dr. James White. It is sad really. All of their argumentation is from philosophy while they accuse Christians who do hold to God’s Word as authoritative and inspired of using “circular reasoning” when they argue that the Bible speaks of itself as being inspired. They charge that those passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:19-21 were added later by some second-century successor to the apostles and merely reflect his view of the Scriptures; while these verses tell us that the inspiration of Scripture was the teaching of the early church, they still do not prove the reality of the claim.” That is their charge. However, this text we have at the top of this post is from our Lord Jesus Himself. It and many others shows us without question that Jesus Christ Himself declared the inspiration of Scripture and the Apostles obediently taught what He had taught them.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “Jot and Tittle

  1. Hi Mike A.,

    I viewed the video at your link and went to his homepage on Youtube.

    While I admire his zeal and passion for Christ, I find his particular requirement(s) for salvation to be exceedingly burdensome and heavy. All I can say is that I’m glad I have a Bible to study the word of God from.

    Wow, this guy (brother justice) lays it on heavy…

  2. @ Mike A.
    Hey! Both Mike’s. I really appreciate both you guy’s. Mike A, I see your comments once in a while on Slaughter of the Sheep, if you are the same Mike A.
    Mike, I viewed this guy from the you tube link and in my opinion he is really scary, dangerous wolf. He said; you don’t need to know the bible, you just need to know Jesus. My question is to him, What Jesus? I would like to ask him does Jesus know you. John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice , and I know them, and they follow me. the bible does not say; do you know me or do you know Jesus “I know them” big difference. I watch a few more and had to turn it off.
    Mike Ratliff love your articles and will be looking for you opinion on this guy.

  3. Mike and Markus, as soon as I started listening to the video I knew I had heard that very same argument back in May when I was reading one of Leonard Sweet’s books to prepare to review it. He makes the very same arguments. This is heresy and a strawman argument taking passages our Lord spoke in Scripture out of context. While these fellows come across as attacking us for being legalistic about the Word of God, their version of the Gospel is all Law and no one can keep it OR they soften it up so much like Rick Warren does that everyone believes they are keeping it. This is just another attempt to try to separate Christians from the Word of God.

  4. Thanks for the input, Mike R. I really appreciate it. Teresa makes some excellent points too.

    It really bothered me to watch his videos. They make some sense in a way but are bothersome at the same time. I have to admit I was a little confused at first but the more I watched the more red flags went up. I watched 2 or 3 of them to see where he is coming from.

    I agree completely with the “strawman argument” comment you made above. One thing I was able to discern in my limited viewing of his videos is that, despite his condemnation of the use of the Bible, he seems to quote and paraphrase a lot from the Bible when it suits his argument (i.e. he cherry-picks verses). That’s an automatic red flag. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 came to mind as I watched it.

    Watching some of his other videos was equally as disturbing (i.e. “If you watch television then the devil is in you…”). He rants on a number of things and follows them up by accusing people of having the devil in them. I would point him to Matthew 11:28-30.

  5. Markus, exactly….that is what I meant about him and those wolves like him being all about LAW LAW LAW. Where’s the grace? Well, he cherry picks that away from the Bible and tries to put everyone into his version of the Pharisaical legal system. No thank you.

  6. Mike A, Mike R and Marcus
    Having come out of the WOF/NAR movements “different flavor of heresy of course” They speak just enough truth, only to hook people in , who do not know the scriptures.
    How can we ever know the true Jesus of the bible, if we do not know what the scriptures teach us about Jesus Christ.
    I personally believe fromm scripture that no man can know the true Jesus or God until the LORD opens our eyes, ears and hearts to the true gospel and his word.
    There was one video this man said that one sin can send us to hell, talk about trampling on the blood of Jesus. I thought to myself if that is the case then we are all going to hell. Like Mike R said all about LAW and no grace. Who is our assurance of salvation in” us ” or the finished work of Christ on the cross and his shed blood. Grace is a gift, nothing I ever did to deserve it or earn it.

    I have so much to learn and you guy’s are great teacher’s for me. I give God all the glory.

    Thanks for letting me comments Mike’s………………..

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