The Law and The Prophets

August 2013

A Niggling Question

Seven years ago, whilst studying the Bible with my pastor and a group of people, someone asked whether it was correct to say that since we have a new covenant in Jesus (in the New Testament), we are no longer under the Law of Moses (the 10 Commandments) which is considered to be an old covenant (from the Old Testament). In response to this, my pastor showed the following scripture in which Jesus said:

Matthew 5:17-18

17Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

At the time I thought, "Way to go pastor, that is a good answer!"

So the Law (the 10 commandments as I had understood it then) were still applicable to us now since Jesus said He had not come to abolish them, but to fulfil them. However, something about that first sentence bothered me big time - it's the word "OR".

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;

Questions started to arise in my mind, such as:

    • If indeed this sentence was referring only to the Law of Moses, why did it also mention "the Prophets"?

    • Maybe the "OR" should have been an "OF"? So we would have "the Law OF the Prophets" which would make better grammatical sense (but only if we were concerned about one thing - the Law).

    • Maybe the "OR" should have been an "AND"? So we would have "the Law AND the Prophets". However, that would make it to be 2 things: Law and Prophets, but I thought it was all about the Law (the 10 commandments) so the "Prophets" should not be a separate thing. And anyway it doesn't make sense to "abolish the Prophets" as such.

    • Maybe it's a mistranslation or even a typo (in the Bible)?

So, the "OR" in this scripture bothered me immensely! Every time I read this scripture, it bugged me silly. To most people, this maybe a trivial matter (after all it's just a little word "OR"), but to me, it was a big thing. It niggled in the back of my mind for all of seven years, until recently.... when God finally gave me the explanation, the answer. And as usual, the answer is awesome!

The Answer

I had recently bought a book called "Unlocking The Bible" by David Pawson. In the beginning of this book, he highlighted how the Old Testament books in the Hebrew Bible were arranged in different order to the English Bible, as follows:


LAW (Torah, Pentateuch)

In The Beginning (Genesis)

These are the names (Exodus)

And he called (Leviticus)

In the wilderness (Numbers)

These are the words (Deuteronomy)


Former: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings.

Latter: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.


Praises (Psalms)




Songs of Songs

The Preacher (Ecclesiastes)

How? (Lamentations)





1,2 The words of the days (Chronicles)

'go up' (aliya) last words











1,2 Samuel

1,2 Kings

1,2 Chronicles




POETRY (Present)





Songs of Songs


Major (4): Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel.

Minor (12): Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 'curse' (last word).

Image from

The Transfiguration

Jesus was between Moses (The Law) and Elijah (The Prophet)

As you can see, the first five books in the HEBREW Bible are not regarded as HISTORY (unlike the English Bible) but as LAW, and are known by the first words read as the scroll was unrolled. The next section is called "PROPHETS", and then after that WRITINGS.

So, there is my answer!

In the Matthew scripture above, Jesus was not specifically referring to the 10 commandments, but referring to the sections of the Hebrew Bible, namely THE LAW and THE PROPHETS, and so:

    • Jesus used OR because of the way His sentence was composed, "I have not come to abolish xx OR yy ". This is grammatically correct if Jesus did mean to separate Law and Prophets as two different things (which was the case).

    • And certainly it is now clear, it was not mistranslated or a typo error. It is all as how it should be.

Final Thoughts

Now that the true meaning of the above scripture has been unravelled, it has huge implications! For certain, we know that Jesus did not only fulfil all 10 commandments (living a sinless life), but more than that - He fulfilled absolutely everything that has ever been written & prophesied about Him in the Old Testament - that is, all that was written in the LAW and the PROPHETS (for example: born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), not breaking a bruise reed (Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 12:18-21) and many others). So, it was right that Jesus should refer to the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), rather than specifically "just the 10 commandments".

Furthermore, when Jesus summed up the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-38 below) and tied them to the Law and the Prophets, they take a new meaning.

Matthew 22:37-38

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Could Jesus be meaning that the two greatest commandments cover not just the 10 commandments but all 613 laws of Moses? It would seem to be so, as He yet again mentioned "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments".

In any case, one important point to take from all this is just how clever God is - He placed that little niggle in my heart & mind using the littlest of words "OR" all those years ago, so that He can convey His amazing gem that was hidden from me until now, and leading me to HIS TRUTH, away from the misinterpretations of man and their denominational doctrines.

Glory be to God for His revelation and all His answers!

© Elma Larsen. All rights reserved.