Here, finally, is part 3 of my series on divine revelation. The story so far: part 2 argued that the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth constitute a self-revelation of God to mankind, and that the New Testament documents, and especially the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), constitute generally reliably historical sources as to the content of that revelation. These points will be assumed to have been established (but feel free to comment on the previous post if you want to contest them), and I will now argue that the entirety of the Hebrew Bible is included by reference in this revelation. I will also briefly touch on the question of the basis for belief in the Hebrew Bible before the time of Christ. Further, I will argue that the Bible in question is in fact the Hebrew canon in use by the Pharisees in the first century (i.e., the Bible still in use by Jews today, which contains the same content as the protocanonical Old Testament of the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches, but divides up the books differently and puts them in a different order). The claims of the Septuagint in Eastern Orthodoxy do not stem from the witness of Christ, but from Tradition, and will therefore be dealt with in part three, on the witness of the Church. I'm not clear on the place of the Vulgate in Catholicism, but will probably also look into that for part three. And now: Jesus' witness to the Hebrew Bible.
First, some statistics to show just how central this issue is to the synoptic gospels' presentation of Jesus:
That's a lot of data to sift through! The most obvious passages to begin our search with are the six times Jesus uses the term ai graphai, "the Scriptures," which, in a Jewish context in the first century, refers to the entirety of the Hebrew Bible. Here are the relevant passages from the HCSB:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This came from the Lord
and is wonderful to our eyes?
At that time Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out with swords and clubs, as if I were a criminal, to capture Me? Every day I used to sit, teaching in the temple complex, and you didn't arrest Me. But all this has happened so that the prophetic Scriptures would be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted Him and ran away.
Also of interest are the three occurences in Luke 24, all of which have Jesus interpreting or explaining the Scriptures.
What 'Scriptures' are we talking about?
Jesus is speaking primarily to Pharisees and Jews of the Pharisaic tradition. (He was barely on speaking terms with the Sadducees, but in Matthew 23 he recognizes the legitimacy of the Pharisees as "sitting in the seat of Moses," i.e. having authority to interpret the Law. In general, his criticism of the Pharisees seems to be not that what they are doing is wrong, but that they have missed the point. See Matt. 23:23-24.) One could take this as sufficient to prove that when Jesus speaks of "the Scriptures," or "the Law" without specifying he is referring to the same Scriptures accepted by the Pharisees: i.e. the 24 books of the modern Jewish Tanakh, which have the same content as the 39 books of the protocanonical Christian Old Testament. However, we needn't be satisfied with this, as there is a wealth of additional information.
First, Jesus quotes from the following books in the synoptic Gospels (using the Jewish order and book divisions): Genesis (Matthew 19:4-5, Mark 10:6-8), Exodus (Matthew 5:27, 5:38, 15:4, 22:32, Mark 7:10, Luke 20:37), Leviticus (Matthew 5:33, 5:38, 5:43, 15:4, 22:39, Mark 7:10, 12:31), Numbers (Matthew 5:33, 5:38), Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:4, 4:7, 4:10, 5:27, 5:31, 5:33, 15:4, 18:16, 22:37, Mark 7:10, 12:29-30, Luke 4:4, 4:8, 4:12), Joshua (Mark 12:29-30), Isaiah (Mathew 13:14-15, 15:8-9, 21:13, Mark 4:12, 7:6-7, 9:44-48, 11:17, Luke 4:18-19, 8:10, 19:46, 22:37), Jeremiah (Matthew 21:13, Mark 8:18, 11:17, Luke 19:46), Ezekiel (Mark 8:18), Minor Prophets (Matthew 9:13, 10:35-36, 11:10, 26:31, Mark 14:27, Luke 7:27, 12:53, 23:30), Psalms (Matthew 7:23, 21:16, 21:42, 22:44, 23:39, 26:64, 27:46, Mark 12:36, 14:62, 15:34, Luke 20:17, 20:42-43), Daniel (Matthew 23:39, 26:64, Mark 13:14, 14:62).
This leaves the following books of the Tanakh unquoted: Judges, Samuel, Kings, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles. Jesus does not quote as Scripture any book outside the Jewish canon.
Of course, every book quoted is uncontested, and also included in the Septuagint, and the Gospel writers (who are writing in Greek, whereas Jesus was almost certainly speaking Aramaic, and therefore probably quoting the Bible in Hebrew) sometimes quote from the Septuagint. However, there is another indication, and this I owe to the John Piper teachings available for download here: in Matthew 23:35, Jesus refers to "all the righteous blood shed on teh earth ... from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah." However, Zecheriah was not chronologically the last prophet to be martyred: he was last in the canonical order of the Hebrew Tanakh. In the Septuagint, Jeremiah is last. So for these three reasons (he was speaking to Palestinian Jews and didn't correct them on what constituted 'Scripture,' he never quotes as Scripture a book outside the Hebrew canon, and he relies on the canonical Hebrew book order), we can conclude that the Scripture Jesus bore witness to was the Hebrew Tanakh.
What does Jesus have to say about them?
Jesus clearly sees himself as the fulfillment of the writings of the Hebrew prophets (see, e.g., Luke 4:18-21), and even of the Law (Matthew 5:17). In John's gospel, Jesus even tells the Pharisees "you pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me" (5:39). In short, Jesus sees himself as the subject of the Hebrew Scriptures.
But where do these Scriptures come from, and what is the source of their authority? John Piper gives a very useful observation on this as well. Matthew 19:4-5 reads,"'Haven't you read," [Jesus] replied, 'that He who created them in the beginning "made them male and female," and He also said: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh?"'" This is a quotation of Genesis 2:24. However, if you look back at Genesis, you will notice that this is not marked as a quotation of God by the author of Genesis. Thus it would seem that Jesus thinks it is correct to say "God said" and cite the Torah, even if it is not marked in the original text as a quotation of God.
Does this apply to the whole Tanakh, or only the Torah proper? I understand (and I am explaining this from memory of a class I took a few years ago, and couldn't find a web reference for it, so feel free to correct me) that in traditional/Orthodox Judaism the Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings) are considered to be on three different levels of inspiration: in the case of the Torah, even the decorations on the page and ornaments of the letters are considered to be inspired and significant (Jesus seems to hold this view of the Law as well; see Matthew 5:18). In the Nevi'im, the idea is that when it says "thus says the Lord," it is really reporting what God really said to the prophet. In the case of the Ketuvim, at the lowest level of inspiration, God has insured that these are generally accurate records of what he really did with his people.
It has been my experience that Protestants, especially the truly Reformed (as opposed to the simply not-Catholic variety), tend to be very troubled by the possibility of multiple 'levels' of inspiration. This, I take it, is one reason Protestants are so hostile to the idea of the existence of a deuterocanon, even though the Orthodox (I don't know about Catholics) do not place it on the same level as the protocanonical books. The idea of multiple levels of inspiration within Scripture properly so-called would be even more troubling. It needn't, however, be taken to indicate that some books of the Bible are imperfect: it need only be indicative of a slightly different relationship between the divine and the human in different parts of the Scripture. There are, in principle, infinitely many ways that the divine and the human might be related. Many Christian theologians, such as Donald Bloesch, want to say that just as Jesus is fully human and fully divine, so the Bible is completely the word of man and completely the Word of God. Even if this is true of the entire Bible, it doesn't necessarily preclude the possibility of different levels, or at least different modes, of inspiration from one part of the Bible to the next.
So does Jesus believe in the traditional Jewish account of multiple levels of inspiration? As a Protestant (though perhaps not one of "the truly Reformed"), I would be much more comfortable categorically denying that this is the case. However, there is significant reason to believe that it is.
We have already seen that Jesus seems, based on Matthew 5:18 and 19:4-5 to hold the Jewish view of the Torah discussed above. I am unaware of anywhere else where he quotes a book outside the Torah and says "God says" in a place that is not marked as a direct quotation of God in the original. He certainly doesn't make statements about "one jot or tittle" with regard to the whole Tanakh, but only with regard to the Torah, which is a very traditionally Jewish perspective. The closest he comes, as far as I know (and this is due to John Piper as well), is at Matthew 22:43 where he says that David composed Psalm 110 "in the Spirit" which is again very consistent with the Jewish view (Psalms belonging to the Ketuvim).
Nevertheless, Jesus clearly treats the entire Tanakh as inspired and authoritative. In fact, the reason he points out that the Psalm in question was inspired is in order to use it as an authoritative source as to the identity of the Messiah.
The evidence for Jesus' exact view of inspiration is very sparse and it will be noted that all the verses cited are from Matthew (of course, this is because Jesus relationship to traditional Judaism is a particular interest of Matthew, whereas Luke, for instance, is concerned simply with setting out the historical events accurately and in order - see Luke 1:3). As such, although there is some reason to suppose that Jesus took this traditional Jewish view, we must at this point remain agnostice on the question of an exact theory of inspiration and say simply that Jesus testified to the following claims about the Hebrew Bible:
Appendix: why did people belive in the Hebrew Bible before Jesus?
I have argued, following Richard Swinburne, that, for those of us alive today and investigating this issue, the best reason to believe in the Hebrew Bible is on the basis of the testimony of the New Testament, and especially of Jesus himself. If this is so, why did people already believe in it when Jesus came? Wouldn't God have provided a rational foundation for their belief as well?
Recall from part 2 that Jesus' resurrection is God's 'signature' on the revelation that is the life and teachings of Jesus. Compare this with the circumstances surrounding the books of the Hebrew Bible. Throughout the Torah we are continually reminded of one thing as evidence of God's involvement in the production of this book: "the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders" (Deuteronomy 26:8). This is the reason we are to believe Moses. However, these "signs and wonders" have fallen into the mists of time in our own day. We are not in a position to effectively investigate the question of whether the Red Sea actually parted, and so forth. Thus the prophets came, generation by generation, and each of them was validated by divine miracles, and each of them testified to the authenticity of the Torah, and thus those who witnessed their miracles, or at least were able to examine the evidence and be convinced that God had really validated this prophet, had reason to believe in both the prophet and the Torah. We, however, are unable to investigate these signs, and are therefore reliant on the one sign that is historically well-documented: the resurrection of Christ. On this basis we accept his testimony to the Hebrew Bible, and it is on account of this that we believe.Posted by Kenny at July 18, 2006 11:36 AM
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