Jesus and Scripture
“It is my firm conviction that the present cries of a return to the theology of Jesus are for the most part not genuine. Very frequently non-conservatives, and all too frequently conservatives, have desired to claim the Savior while at the same time deviating in varying degrees from His view of Scripture. One hears much these days about the words and deeds of Jesus. ‘Away with Paul, give me Jesus’, this is the cry. Jesus and Paul are not in conflict. Paul’s view of inspiration of Scripture expressed in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, finds perfect agreement with Christ’s view expressed in Matthew 5:17-18 and John 10:33-35. Let us return to the teachings of Jesus but let us not forget what He taught about the Scriptures” (The Saviour and the Scriptures, Robert P. Lightner pp. 1-2).
· Some have argued that the person and work of Christ are the most important of all Biblical studies, while the person and work of Christ is central, it must be remembered that unless the Biblical record about Him is infallible we have no sure way of knowing whether or not we are believing right things about Him, or even who He is and what He accomplished.
· Neither does it make any sense to discredit the authority of the Bible and at the same time to seek refuge in its teachings on other matters.
· If Jesus is the apex of God’s revelation to mankind, “He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27), then what He said about that revelation is of the utmost importance.
Attempts to Undermine His View of Scripture
· Jesus was Ignorant:
It is claimed that when Jesus became man, He gave up all His Divine attributes, became a mere man, and thus fell victim to the prejudices and errors of His own age. He became a man of His time, so naturally His views about the Old Testament were those of His time. Yet someone has noted that if Jesus could be mistaken on matters which He regarded as of the strictest relevance, it is difficult to see exactly how or why He either can or should be trusted anywhere else. Yet the Scriptures teach that in becoming man, Jesus still remained God (John 14:9; 5:23); and thus still remained omniscient (John 2:25; Matthew 22:18).
· The Accommodation Theory:
This is the view that Jesus accepted the misconceptions of His contemporaries and instead of unsettling them by questioning their conception of the inspiration of their Scriptures, He allowed the gentler processes of the passing of time to gradually bring home to them the imperfect nature of the Scriptures. Yet even a casual reading of the words of Jesus reveals the error of such a view. Jesus did not hesitate to undermine current, yet erroneous views (Luke 13:1ff; Matthew 16:13ff).
· He Misquoted Scripture?
Another argument that Jesus quoted Scripture rather loosely and thus such proves that He did not believe in verbal inspiration, yet in Matthew 5:17-18 He plainly stated that even the smallest aspect of Scripture is the word of God. The same view can be seen in Matthew 22:32 where Jesus bases His entire argument on the tense of one word in a single passage. In addition, “It is also significant that no one ever questioned His references or accused Him of misquoting Scripture” (Lightner p. 9). Neither should it be overlooked that Jesus frequently quoted from the Septuagint, which was a Greek translation of the Old Testament. This establishes the fact that Jesus believed that inspiration did not merely adhere to the original manuscript, but to copies and translations as well.
His Exclusive Use of Scripture
· Even though His contemporaries viewed Jewish oral tradition as being authoritative, Jesus rejected such Jewish traditions, and clearly placed such traditions as being opposed to the word of God, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8); “Thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition” (7:13). In this last verse, notice that Jesus knew that the tradition under consideration had been “handled down” accurately, but that did not make it Scriptural.
· While there were many Apocryphal writings in existence when Jesus was upon the earth, He completely neglected them.
· Jesus’ list of Old Testament books was identical with the accepted Scriptures of the time, “The Law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44).
How He Viewed Scripture
· Scripture is of Divine Origin:
He spoke of Scripture as being the commandment of God (Mark 7:8,9,13), and this statement is significant here since Jesus is contrasting Scripture (the commandment of God) with the traditions of men. Thus Jesus is making a clear distinction between God’s word and man’s word. Scripture was also the product of the Holy Spirit, “Then how does David in the Spirit” (Matthew 22:43). “That the Jews of Christ’s day accepted the Old Testament as the divine deposit of truth is a generally accepted fact. They never argued with Him and He never argued with them on this point. In spite of all His criticisms of their views on other things He never debated with them over the divine origination of their Scriptures” (Lightner p. 40). Paul makes the same point when He clearly says that the Jews had been entrusted, not with human opinion, or some error and some truth, but rather with the oracles of God (Romans 3:2; 9:4). In addition, while Jesus condemned His generation frequently, He never charged them with tampering with the text
· Scripture is Enduring:
In at least three passages Jesus speaks of the eternal character of Scripture (Matthew 5:17-18; 24:35; Luke 16:16-17). “This comparison of Scripture with the continuance of the physical creation elevates the Scriptures to such an extent that they cannot be accounted for apart from a supernatural origin” (Lightner p. 15).
· Scripture is Prophetic in Character:
Jesus not only taught that He was the fulfillment of Scripture (Luke 24:44), but “what oftentimes appeared to be an occasional happening He said came to pass ‘that the Scripture might be fulfilled’ (Mark 14:49; John 13:38; 17:12). The truth which the Lord wanted to convey by His oft-repeated ‘that it might be fulfilled’ was the certainty of the Scriptures. No detail, however insignificant or even unnecessary of a literal fulfillment it may have appeared to others, ever escaped His notice or sanction” (Lightner p. 16).
· Nothing is to be Ignored:
“But these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). Observe Jesus’ line of argument here. He does not argue that tithing was unnecessary, or certain laws in Scripture take precedence or even conflict with others and a choice has to be made, but rather, both things ought to have been done because they are both in Scripture.
· He Obeyed Scripture:
Often Jesus Himself submitted to the authority of Scripture, even in extenuating circumstances (Matthew 4:4; Matthew 16:21-23). If the Son of God, God in the flesh obeyed Scripture even under the most difficult circumstances, then disobedience to the word of God is never justified under any circumstance.
· He Accepted the Miracles in Scripture:
He endorsed the Genesis account of Creation (Matthew 19:4), the Flood (Matthew 24:37-39); the burning bush (Mark 12:26); the supply of manna (John 6:32); the serpent in the wilderness (John 6:14); the famine of Elijah’s day (Luke 4:25); the cleansing of Naaman the leper (Luke 4:27); and Jonah and the great fish (Matthew 12:40). Consider for a moment Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:4 “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female”. Thus, Jesus clearly links the origin of the human race to God as is recorded in Genesis 1. Adam was not a mythical person to Jesus. Jesus viewed the events described in the Old Testament, even what many people would consider to be some of the most fantastic events, to be real historical happenings, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster” (Matthew 12:40); “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment” (12:41); “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment” (12:42); “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37). “He referred to persons, places, events, institutions and many happenings and never once did He take them in any other way than as actual historical circumstances” (Lightner p. 110).
· Argument from Silence:
“The above evidence is enhanced by the amazing fact that Christ nowhere even so much as alludes to an error in Scripture. He never hesitated to speak out against other errors, yet He never uttered a word to indicate that He supposed their Scriptures were not true” (Lightner p. 75).
· Moses Wrote the Law:
In contrast to modern critics, Jesus clearly stated that Moses was the human instrument that God used to record Genesis through Deuteronomy (Matthew 8:4 “The offering Moses commanded”; 19:8 “Moses permitted you”; Mark 10:3 “What did Moses command you?”; “Have you not read in the book of Moses” (Mark 12:26); “They have Moses and the Prophets” (Luke 16:29); “Did not Moses give you the Law” (John 7:19).
· Scripture is Truth: “Thy word is Truth” (John 17:17)
· God’s Word is Sufficient:
“The fact that He used the Old Testament and applied it under every circumstance is evidence that He acknowledged it as that which could be trusted and relied upon for every circumstance of life. If He, the Son of God, resorted to the Word of God for every need of His own life, certainly it may be assumed that He accepted it as sufficient also for others” (Lightner p. 53).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017