Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Part One: How Jesus' View Of The Bible Ought To Inform Our View Of The Bible


      There are two pillars that support the historic Christian view of the Bible. The first concerns what Jesus Himself taught - which is the focus of this post. The second considers the Biblical documents themselves, their claims of Divine inspiration, demonstration of inerrancy, fulfilled prophecies, preservation of their words in the thousands of manuscripts and translations, and demonstration of their reliability from archaeology and historical studies. This second "pillar" fits under the theological study of the doctrine of Scripture that is called "Bibliology". Bibliology is important in its own right, since despite centuries of scrutiny, the Biblical text continues to show its character as totally true or without error. Bibliology, rightly understood, complements what we learn from the first pillar of our understanding of the nature of Scripture - namely Jesus' teaching.

    Dr. Michael Kruger, an eminent Biblical scholar and expert in the history of the Biblical text, has this to say of the importance of Jesus' view of Scripture,

"One need only consider Jesus' own view of the Old Testament. Time and again, Jesus appeals to Old Testament passages and always receives it as truth, never correcting it, criticizing it, or pointing out inconsistencies. Indeed, He not only refrained from correcting the Scriptures, but He also affirmed the Scriptures "cannot be broken" (John 10:35), and that "[God's] Word is truth" (John 17:17). It is unthinkable that Jesus would ever have read an Old Testament passage and declared, "Well, this passage is simply wrong." 

      We will argue that whether we consider Jesus' approach to Scripture or go the second route of establishing the preservation, reliability, and prophetic claims of the Bible itself, both methods arrive at the same conclusion - Biblical inerrancy (that is, without error as oriignally revealed) and infallibility (that is, incapable of being wrong as originally revealed).  By focusing on how Jesus treated and understood the Old Testament Scriptures of His day (the New Testament had not yet been composed during His earthly ministry), we can establish what I call "an argument to inerrancy". 

Jesus taught that the scripture is inspired, inerrant and revealed by God.
        In Jesus' day, the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible, "The Tanak", as it is sometimes referred, standing for "Torah = Law"; "Neviim = Prophets"; "Kethuvim = Writings") was the only Bible known. Jesus Himself referred to "The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings or Psalms" (see Luke 24:44), corresponding to the Jewish divisions of the Hebrew Bible into the above "Tanak" acronym. There were no New Testament books, since Jesus had not yet died, raised and ascended. The Old Testament books were revealed by God through the prophets in Hebrew (98% of the Old Testament text) and Aramaic (2% of the Old Testament text). 

       By the first century, almost every Jewish person in Israel spoke Aramaic, which meant that the copies of the scriptures read in the synagogues were Aramaic (called "Targums", meaning, "to interpret"). Other Jews throughout the rest of the Greco-Roman world had access to Greek copies of the Old Testament associated with the Septuagint Greek Old Testament (so-named due to the tradition that the project was translated by seventy Jewish scribes, symbolized by the Roman numeral LXX). 

       The Septuagint (LXX) was translated over a period of a century, beginning in 275 b.c. It is likely that Jesus and the Apostles had familiarity with the Aramaic Targums and Greek translation of the Old Testament.

       There were of course copies of the Hebrew text, however, very few Jewish people knew Hebrew. Despite various translations of the Old Testament in circulation by Jesus' day, His view of the Divine authority carried by such translations did not alter. As we shall see below, Jesus viewed the translations of His day as carrying forth the authority of inerrancy and infallibility of the originals from whence they were translated. This point is vital, since it shows us how to treat and regard English translations that are translated from the underlying Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament and Greek New Testament. 

        Several key phrases that Jesus used to describe the scriptures attest to His views, which ought to inform us as to how to view our translations of the Old and by extension, the New Testament. Let me mention three of them today.

a. "It is written"

      Jesus would sometimes use the phrase "it is written" to assert the Divine authority of the Old Testament (Matthew 4:4, 6, 7, 10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24, 31 / Mark 1:2, 7:6, 9:12, 13; 11:17; 14:21, 27 / Luke 4:4, 8, 10, 17, 7:27; 10:26; 18:31; 19.46; 20.17, 22, 22:37; 24.44, 46 / John 6:31,45; 8:17; 10:34; 12:14, 16; 15:25; 19:19, 20, 22. At least 16 times in the Old Testament do we find this phrase used to refer to the words of other Old Testament books as being God's Word. 

       To say that the Bible is "God's Word" or "it is written" was Jesus' way of saying that to hear the Bible read was equivalent to hearing God Himself speak. The human author's writing style, background, setting, historical situation, and place in history were orchestrated by the Holy Spirit in producing original documents that were true in all they said on matters of history, science and doctrine. 

b. "Scripture"

      Jesus used another closely associated term, "Scripture", to describe the Old Testament (Matthew 21:42, 22:29, 26:54, 56/ Mark 12:24, 14:49 / Luke 24:27, 32, 45, John 5:39). In these instances, Jesus describes the scriptures as fulfilled, having Divine authority, without error or "inerrant" (Matthew 22:29) and incapable of failure or "infallible" (John 10:35).  This reminds us of that trait of the Bible possessed by no other book in the world - historically verified fulfilled prophecy. 

         God alone knows the future (Isaiah 46:9-10). According to the reputable "Payne's Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy", there are over 700 prophecies in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, covering historical events predicted of historic nations, including Israel, as well as over 300 prophecies touching upon the Person and work of Jesus Himself. This use of "Scripture" by Jesus shows how He understood the Bible to be "Divinely supernatural" in its accurate predictions of events in history - He Himself being the center and goal of all of it.

More next time....

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