With this lesson, we return to the final week of the Savior's life, much of which I covered in the Easter post, found here:
Much of today's post will be based on information from the excellent book, "The Bible Tells Me So, Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It", by Peter Enns (Bible scholar).
Enns notes that the Bible is not a basic instruction book, as many Christians think. The Bible "misbehaves" and does so a lot. Unlike the Book of Mormon, where Mormon compiled the majority of the text, and so was able to pick and align stories to fit his narrative, the Bible was written over a long period of time by several authors, each with his own political agenda.
So, we have the books of Samuel and Kings telling the story of both the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel, not sparing David and Solomon from their follies and poor choices. Chronicles, on the other hand, only speaks of the Southern Kingdom, and completely ignores David's dalliances and murders - because the author sought to make David and his lineage the hope of Israel.
All these stories began as oral histories, but ended in a major problem: the destruction of Israel by Babylon. How does one explain the eternal covenant God made with Israel, the temple being God's House, and David being promised an endless lineage on the throne, when all were destroyed? Even after Judah's return, they spent most of the next 500 years in captivity to other nations.
Understanding much of the Bible in this context meant the development of new methods of interpreting old books. This is why the Pharisees built a wall of protection around the Torah (Books of Moses), of countless rules and regulations that sought to explain what remained of the covenant.
By Jesus' time, the books (not yet gathered fully into one collection) of the Old Testament/Jewish Bible, were expected to be interpreted in new and informative ways that made them useful and living scripture for the people of the age. In such an era, Jesus would show himself as a master interpreter of scripture, taking it further than anyone previously had done.
This is why Mark 1:22 explains:
And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.In Matthew, we're going to see a couple examples of Jesus making the scriptures new, and unique, in that he uses them to point the people towards him as Messiah.
Jesus used parables in the temple to lambast the Pharisees and others who opposed him. He compared them to wicked husbandmen, who killed servants (prophets) and finally the son (Jesus) of the Lord. For them, the Lord would destroy the husbandmen (Jewish leaders) and give the vineyard to others (Gentiles).
In another parable, Jesus would note the wedding of the King's son (Jesus). Guests are invited, but they ignore the request with impertinence, even killing some of the sent servants (prophets). Finally, the King kills the murderers, and sends servants among the roadways to find others to fill the banquet hall. These others would be the Gentiles.
In response, the Jewish leaders sent various groups to try and stymie Jesus. Herodians (followers of King Herod and Caesar) tempted him with a Roman coin. Jesus put them in their place by stating, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and render unto God that which is God's." In reality, all things belong to God, but the statement ended their snare, as it separated the things of God from the things of the world.
Next came the Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection. In responding to their question on marriage, Jesus followed it up with an interesting interpretation of scripture. When Moses asked God who was sending him (Moses) to save Israel, God answered, "I AM the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." For Moses, these were ancestors that had long ago died. This is how most of Israel viewed the statement. But for Jesus, he reanimated the patriarchs by insisting that God would not have said he was their God, if they were not still alive!
Later, Jesus would give an even greater change to scripture. In Psalms 110:1, we read,
A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.This was normally understood as a third person (perhaps a temple priest) stating "God said unto my Lord (David), sit thou at my right hand....
However, Jesus took the Psalm literally. It begins, "A Psalm of David", and so for Jesus, he could state, "David himself spoke by the Holy Spirit" that God told David's Lord (the Messiah) to sit at God's right hand. This interpretation would shine a new light on Messianic prophesy, that the Messiah would even be greater than David!
Christ's time in the temple would be to denounce the wicked, who led people away from a belief in the Messiah, and that he, Jesus, was the very Messiah the people were seeking.
"The Bible Tells Me So", Peter Enns
My blog on Easter