Category Archives: Hermeneutics

Follow up to Joel Watts Last Blog

I believe it is time for us to begin to think about these things! Period! Joel Watts last blog in this blog is excellent if one take seriously what he really believes about the Bible! I was going to publish this in there as a reply, but I decided to make my reply into a blog. It may be better for readers to understand what is my point on that, something that, before God I have been struggling since my pastoral days, and, after which, when I came to a firm position, not only I find peace and comfort in God, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of God, His Word and what His Word may represent to us. So, here it goes:

Admittedly, even as a proponent of Sola Scriptura, I cringe when I read tenets of faith that use the words you mentioned. I fail in accepting that the people who chose those words really have any sense of their meaning. In the other hand there are traditions that are in and of itself biblical traditions and should be respected and used authoritatively simply because they originated in Scripture; but there is also what I have called for many years “tr-addiction”; these are “traditions” that became “tr-additions” and later turned into “tr-addictions”, or, they are inventions that become additions to the faith, that later culminate with being so “ingrown” and ingrained that they are hard to dispel as an addiction to a drug. Maybe we (Joel and me) should start a “tr-addiction rehab!”.

Interestingly enough, most of these “tr-addictions” originated not from more moderate biblical thinkers, but from the very same people who claim that the Bible is what the Pure Life says it is! Oh, need examples? Easy: Organizations who say what Pure Life says about the Bible add to the Salvation “condition” (there is no condition for Salvation by the way, other than being not saved), to believe what they say about the Bible! Yes! This simple, and… this ridiculous! It is no longer the Cross alone, but also, the 66 Canon, word by word, letter by letter! I propose that the belief that believing the 66 Canon word by word is a good thing, but it turns into a bad thing when it is made into a condition for Salvation! Then it is an addition that becomes a tr-addition, that later turns into a tr-addiction! This is where flawed logic leads us: the place at which we wanted to avoid being…

BTW, this is not the purely fundamentalist and Pentecostal or even the Primitive Baptists fault alone! I have been shunned by Presbyterians (who unlike the Vegetarians who eat vegetables, they eat Presbyters) because I have some Lutheran views about the Canon; some of them don’t think I can be saved if I hold to Lutheran views about the Canon… I have to subscribe fully with the Westminster Confession of Faith (which I do in 98% at least) which says that the Bible is a 66 books Canon! Then they accuse Roman Catholics for elevating traditions to the level or over the Bible! Isn’t that something?

Even Jesus on his way to Emmaus (Luke 24) said that “Moses (the Law) The Prophets and the Psalms speak of Him…” So, allow me a bit of fun here, but even Jesus may not have been a 66 books Canon believer, huh? Well, I know that the N.T. had not been written yet… but, I hope you get my drift… even Jesus was Christocentric in His view of Scripture!

The idea of a Tr-addiction Rehab Center is growing…

(Oh, brother, there goes my opportunity to blog here exclusively as a “conservative”… unless it is added “non-conformist” to that)

Melito of Sardis: Mystery of the Passover

This is a series of repost for Easter from Melito of Sardis.

What more can I add here?

Components of the Mystery of the Passover (46-71)

1. The Passover (46-47a)

46. Now that you have heard the explanation of the type and of that which corresponds to it, hear also what goes into making up the mystery. What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–”to celebrate the passover” (to paschein) is derived from “to suffer” (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer.

47. Why indeed was the Lord present upon the earth? In order that having clothed himself with the one who suffers, he might lift him up to the heights of heaven .

2. The Creation and Fall of Man (47b-48)

In the beginning, when God made heaven and earth, and everything in them through his word, he himself formed man from the earth and shared with that form his own breath, he himself placed him in paradise, which was eastward in Eden, and there they lived most luxuriously.

Then by way of command God gave them this law: For your food you may eat from any tree, but you are not to eat from the tree of the one who knows good and evil. For on the day you eat from it, you most certainly will die.

48. But man, who is by nature capable of receiving good and evil as soil of the earth is capable of receiving seeds from both sides, welcomed the hostile and greedy counselor, and by having touched that tree transgressed the command, and disobeyed God. As a consequence, he was cast out into this world as a condemned man is cast into prison.

3. Consequences of the Fall (49-56)

49. And when he had fathered many children, and had grown very old, and had returned to the earth through having tasted of the tree, an inheritance was left behind by him for his children. Indeed, he left his children an inheritance–not of chastity but of unchastity, not of immortality but of corruptibility, not of honor but of dishonor, not of freedom but of slavery, not of sovereignty but of tyranny, not of life but of death, not of salvation but of destruction.

50. Extraordinary and terrifying indeed was the destruction of men upon the earth. For the following things happened to them: They were carried off as slaves by sin, the tyrant, and were led away into the regions of desire where they were totally engulfed by insatiable sensual pleasures–by adultery, by unchastity, by debauchery, by inordinate desires, by avarice, by murders, by bloodshed, by the tyranny of wickedness, by the tyranny of lawlessness.

51. For even a father of his own accord lifted up a dagger against his son; and a son used his hands against his father; and the impious person smote the breasts that nourished him; and brother murdered brother; and host wronged his guest; and friend assassinated friend; and one man cut the throat of another with his tyrannous right hand.

52. Therefore all men on the earth became either murderers, or parricides, or killers of their children. And yet a thing still more dreadful and extraordinary was to be found: A mother attacked the flesh which she gave birth to, a mother attacked those whom her breasts had nourished; and she buried in her belly the fruit of her belly. Indeed, the ill-starred mother became a dreadful tomb, when she devoured the child which she bore in her womb.

53. But in addition to this there were to be found among men many things still more monstrous and terrifying and brutal: father cohabits with his child, and son and with his mother, and brother with sister, and male with male, and each man lusting after the wife of his neighbor.

54. Because of these things sin exulted, which, because it was death’s collaborator, entered first into the souls of men, and prepared as food for him the bodies of the dead. In every soul sin left its mark, and those in whom it placed its mark were destined to die.

55. Therefore, all flesh fell under the power of sin, and every body under the dominion of death, for every soul was driven out from its house of flesh. Indeed, that which had been taken from the earth was dissolved again into earth, and that which had been given from God was locked up in Hades. And that beautiful ordered arrangement was dissolved, when the beautiful body was separated (from the soul).

56. Yes, man was divided up into parts by death. Yes, an extraordinary misfortune and captivity enveloped him: he was dragged away captive under the shadow of death, and the image of the Father remained there desolate. For this reason, therefore, the mystery of the passover has been completed in the body of the Lord.

Melito of Sardis: The Old Testament and the New Testament

I am reposting Melito for Easter.

I have posted on Melito some before, and find myself returning to him for a bit especially his homily on the Passover. He provides us with an accurate manner in using the Old Testament, and it is an example that is well served for the past few millenia. He does not create something that is not there, no drench the Prophets with our Hope, but stands in the good Tradition of using the New Testament to read the Old. For a New Testament example of this, we need to turn no further, dig no deeper than the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Note, if you will, the powerful images that Melito presents us with.

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Easter with Melito – Typology in the Old Testament concerning Christ

This week, I am going back through my old posts on Melito of Sardis. So, here we go, a bit more from his Passover Homily.

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Why the Bible Shouldn’t Have to be “Applied”

After a brief hiatus, I’ve jump-started my search for a well-defined, workable Christocentric hermeneutic. We’re not quite there yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This most recent post summarizes where the project is so far and explores why Narrative Theology has become such an important part of the paradigm.

More importantly, this installment challenges the almost universally-held belief that the most important part of any Bible Study is “application:”

It seems to me that if one accepts the idea that the Bible is God’s story, and begins to read it as such, it begins to deconstruct—and then rebuild— a believer’s worldview. When that happens, the idea of “application” becomes redundant—and shallow—in comparison. If someone has truly internalized the post-resurrection, new creation worldview of what it means to live on this side of Easter, attempting to find some superficial “application” in a single Bible story is a step backward—and just the teeniest bit self-centered.

Read the full article here and let me know what you think.

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Why It’s NOT all about Me…or You

I’m not saying anything surprising when I say that Americans are a self-absorbed lot. This may also be true about people in other developed countries like Canada and Europe, but I can only speak from experience about the country in which I’ve lived my whole life. Since birth, we Yanks have been trained to believe that everything revolves around our needs. (They wouldn’t be called “needs” if we didn’t “need” them, would they?)

If there is one place you’d think the emphasis would be on something other than ourselves, it would be church. But even there, the emphasis is often not on the person’s need for Jesus, but on their need to get out of debt, fix their marriage, or manage their generalized anxiety disorder. There’s a big difference between a preacher who talks passionately about how following Jesus can totally transform a person’s entire existence and one who assumes that the only way to keep the audience’s attention is to address their “felt needs” by providing a “practical application.” One is preaching the gospel, the other is listening to marketers.

This unconscious self-absorption is reinforced in the way many evangelicals have been taught to read the Bible. I once wrote a post detailing the reasons why calling the Bible an “instruction manual” is the worst metaphor in the history of the world, suggesting that reading the Bible this way completely reverses the focus of the book. What should be an earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting story about God and his plan of redemption becomes,  conversely, a kind of self-help guide for people who want to model their lives on an episode of “Father Knows Best.”

Recently, while working on my current research project/obsession, I was thinking through how narrative theology might be helpful in constructing a christocentric hermeneutic. Suddenly, it dawned on me that one of the benefits of reading the Bible primarily as a narrative is that it automatically reduces the self-centeredness inherent in the “instruction manual” metaphor. If the Bible is God’s story, then the purpose of reading it is to become intimate with God and how He works, not how He can fix my life. No longer does every passage have to have a “practical” application that I can “use.”  If the Bible is a story about God, it is not all about me.

And as an added bonus, reading the Bible as a narrative should greatly reduce the probability that someone will read the account of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 and ask, as someone in one of my Bible studies once did, “why put it in the Bible if it doesn’t apply to me?”

Self-absorbed, indeed.

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The End of Cowardice, or, Do you have the faith of the Centurion?

Tropeum Traiani Metope
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Originally, I was going to play the role of the coward on this post, but after this week I don’t think I should. It is easy for me, behind the closed doors of the internet, to say and to think and to write what I want. I didn’t post this one, like I have done before. Why? Oh, you know why. No one likes to be bad to read the bible differently than that which they have been taught. Put this view out there, and you’ll get accursed of a lot of things. Some of them….. are pretty hurtful, if I must say so myself. This is the assignment this week, to take a hermeneutic which is wholly different than my view and explore that they have to say. Call it what you want, but it may be one of the most pastoral things that we are doing – to wrestle with another view point, wholly different than ours.

I would like your honest opinions, based on real scholarship and not what makes you afraid to read the text as such.


I am using the interpretations offered here and here for this paper.

I am against purposely abusing Scripture and twisting it to fit our own viewpoints; however, if one can show  that a passage’s interpretation should be changed using sound scholarship, then I must submit. One of those passages is Luke 7.1-10 with the parallel in Mathew 8. I value the unsaid alongside that which is said, and what is unsaid here seems to be very loud, although not as loud as Queer Hermeneutics would have us believe. If we value the very words of Scripture themselves, then we must understand that words, even individually, will have some meaning. To that end, I agree that this passage may be hiding something, although I wouldn’t go as far as some might.

The Centurion moves between calling the sick person doulos and pais, which scholarship has shown to have been used to refer to the younger partner of a male-male relationship. These types of relationships were common, especially as scholarship shows, with the implantation of the marriage ban for Roman soldiers. The key theme here is scholarship. Where I cease following Queer Hermeneutics, however, is the interpretation of this passage to affirm that Christ Himself affirmed gay partnerships, and of course for today, gay marriages. My first thought here is that the ancient cultures wouldn’t necessarily identify their lifestyles with ‘gay’ and ‘homosexual’ as we do today. There is little doubt in my mind that Christ through the Gospel writers detected the change between doulos and pais, especially since both Matthew and Luke record the use of pais while Luke records the change of terminology, without emendation to the change. Yet, I would be hard pressed to see it as a divine seal of gay marriage, especially since the questions which are also unanswered would have been against Christ’s other teachings. For example, the Centurion’s pais may have been younger than adulthood which would go against the (rabbinical) interpretation of Mark 9.42-50. Further, since it was a master-slave issue, we would have to assume that if Christ was affirming gay relationships by His silence, then He must have been equally affirming slavery of the worse kind. But, is there anything of value in seeing the text as alluding to a love between a man and a man which was unquestioned by Christ?

Yes, as I believe that it shows that Christians today may not have all of the answers to the inner workings of the Divine Mind and what we assume to be love. While Christ neither affirmed nor denied the Centurion’s relationship which his pais although we may be able to say that being silent to the man’s situation, if such existed, Christ affirmed the Centurion and the pais’ love. Christ praised the man’s faith and was able to cast it against what should have been the believing Israel. Like Amos, who from outside of the Kingdom became a prophet to the Kingdom, the Centurion stands as a testament to what real Faith is supposed to be. But, what does this do for the interpretation of Scripture? It beckons us to always being willing to reform our views and theological assessments with scholarship without going completely overboard and allowing our desires to replace the soundness of a Scriptural viewpoint. Finally, it reminds that in Scripture, the story is not just about what is said, but often times what is unsaid.


Now, for the kicker – here are my expressed view from a post a few years ago.

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Haber’s Touch of Mark 5.24-34

Symbol of feminism based on Venus symbol
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I have chosen a selection by Susan Haber[1] regarding Mark 5.24-34 for examination for two reasons. First, it may be relating to my exegesis assignment and second, it is a favorite passage of mine.

Often times, when I explore the feminist side of biblical interpretation, I am left with the sense that it was written by a woman angry with me and just me. The ones which I have read, and I admit that it is not an extensive collection, seems to want to rewrite the biblical narrative to either do away with nearly all of the good masculine qualities or to turn some of the narratives on their head so as to avoid the historical truth of the situation. Yet, as I have expressed before, if a scholar or theological interpreter is able to use sound biblical studies to interpret a passage, whether I find it contrary to my usual position, I will more often than not lend an hear to it. Susan Haber, a self-proclaimed feminist, is writing to correct what she sees as two extremes in feminist interpretation of the healing of the Hemorrhaging Woman by presenting what she considers to be sound biblical scholarship with a feminist interpretive flair.

I believe that all interpretations should cease until one can deal with biblical studies, often times, I sense that interpretations are nothing more than what we want the text to say. Haber takes on Marla Selvidge’s interpretation, which reading it through Haber’s lens, seems to dismiss the actual Jewish law and customs for what we think they are, resting on the assumption that the patriarchal system was inherently evil. Jesus, then, was the ultimate gender neutralizer. Haber shows that to dismiss Jesus’ continued obedience to the ritual purity laws is to miss the point of the story and to stand outside of the historical reality. She then takes on both Levine and D’Angelo who dismiss the cultural womanhood issues which again, is outside the historical reality of Mark’s story. Instead, Haber draws a middle ground and insists that everything is important – the woman, the illness and the method of touching Jesus. In her course of study, she examines Leviticus in the Hebrew as well as a small amount of period interpretation, but throughout her assessment, she maintains a high standard of biblical studies. Only once she has laid her foundation does she prepare to interpret the passage, and does so with a feminist vision in sight.

For me, Haber’s grounding of her feminist vision in biblical studies builds the case for her interpretation. She is not being moderate or liberal or even conservative in her interpretation, but simply scholarly. This is where I believe the best interpretations are made, when they can be removed, as far as possible, from the individual’s biases and made off of real scholarship, which may or may not be to one’s liking.

[1] Haber, Susan. “A woman’s touch: feminist encounters with the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5.24-34.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 26.2 (2003): 171-192. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. EBSCO. Web. 15 Mar. 2011.


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Theological Papers from Scott Hahn

Dr. Barber shared this link on a previous post –

Christ, Kingdom and Creation in Luke-Acts
Creazione e salvezza nella Bibbia, ed. Marco Valerio Fabbri and Michelangelo Tábet. (Pontifica Università della Santa Croce, 2008), pp. 167-190.

Christ, Kingdom, and Creation: Davidic Christology and Ecclesiology in Luke-Acts,
Letter & Spirit: A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology 3 (2007), pp. 113-138.

Covenant in the Old and New Testaments: Some Current Research (1994–2004)
Currents in Biblical Research 3.2 (2005), pp. 263-292.

Covenant Oath and the Aqedah: Diatheke in Galatians 3:15-18
Catholic Biblical Quarterly 67.1 (2005), pp. 79-100.

Covenant, Cult, and the Curse-of-Death: Diatheke in Hebrews 9:15-22
in Hebrews: Contemporary Methods – New Insights, ed. Gabriella Gelardini (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

On the Task of Interpreting Scripture

Scripture and the Liturgy: Inseparably United
in Origins 35.39 (March 16, 2006), pp. 648-653.

Temple, Sign, and Sacrament: Towards a New Perspective on the Gospel of John
Letter & Spirit: A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology 4 (2008), pp. 107–143.

St. Paul Center For Biblical Theology.

That’s not all of them, by the way, but some that I thought my remaining Protestant friends might enjoy.

And remember, just because you read something, doesn’t mean that you have to agree with it.

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On the Historical-Critical Method

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The Historical-Critical Method of biblical interpretation is usually associated with liberal ChristiansCarl Braaten disagrees:

The material content of theological statements about God derives from given texts and traditions of history.  Inasmuch as Christian theology depends on historical sources, it is bound to use the critical methods of research common to historical science in general.  The aim of the historical method is not only to establish facts, but also to search out their meanings in their original context.

The historical criticism of the biblical texts and sacred traditions on which Christianity is based has been feared by conservative Christians as the deconstruction of the foundations of faith.  Actually, however, the historical method is an indispensable ally of Christian theology.

The historical-critical method is a tool which can be used by historians and believers from every school of thought.  It is not essentially bound up with any particular set of presuppositions, nor do the results of its application favor any particular dogmatic position.
-Christian Dogmatics, p. 20

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Incarnational Fulfillment of the Prophets – A Conversation (Repost)

Rob Reid and Paula Fether have burst unto the scene, or seen?, with a conversation concerning prophecies. He would:

“like to engage in a scholarly dialogue about whether in fact there are hundreds or any direct messianic prophecies in the “Old Testament” (ironically, such a term is pejorative on its face!). Thus, I would like anyone who holds similar beliefs to articulate exactly what was predicted and where in the Hebrew Bible and then argue for how exactly “hundreds” of these were fulfilled. I am eliciting a hermeneutical query. I have no intention on entertaining whether or not Jesus was/is the Messiah. I personally believe he was. However, that is not to say that he is found under every nook and cranny of Hebrew Bible texts.”

Paula self-identifies as one who believes that:

“Jesus is the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament, as proven by hundreds of fulfilled prophecies, his miracles, and his bodily resurrection from the dead.”

I cannot stay away from a good conversation – so I want to input a tiny part of the dialogue. I agree with the statement that Christ is the Messiah expected through the Hebrew Scriptures.

Usually, we think of prophecies as something which is foretold, something hidden in mystery, and shroud in secrecy; however, not once in the Gospel do we find the word προφητεία (prophecy) applied to the signs pointing to Christ as foretold by the Hebrew Prophets. This is our definition of them, and indeed, several times, such as the apocalyptic passages in the Hebrew Bible and the book of Revelation, words fall into our neat category; however, I believe that the early followers of Christ understood the overall sayings of the Prophets in a much different way. Further, if foretelling was acknowledged, it was generally in accordance with the people (apostate Israel) who challenged Christ (cf. Matthew 15.7). Additionally, Christ was encouraged from time to time to prophesy, therefore it is safe to say that the writers of the Gospels knew the word as they employed it in our sense. For them, it was not about foretelling, but retelling.

The Virgin Birth is a historical and vital sign that Christ is the Messiah promised by God. Indeed, it is the first sign mentioned in Matthew:

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:


While the word ‘prophesy’ was in use, this was never the phrase used to signal a completion of the words of the Prophets. The phrase which I wish to briefly examine is, ‘γέγονεν ἵνα πληρωθη (took place to fulfill).’ It signals the reader to a passage from the prophets which is about to be completed. Just as Herod did, they began to look for different connections between the here and now to the words of the prophets. This is different from a prophecy about what will happen. Literally, we could translate the phrase as ‘in order to complete.’ The event in the past serves not as a direct foretelling of the thing(s) to come, but as something more like a measuring tool. Isaiah was not prophesying about the Messiah, but his words found completion in the Messiah. It might be better said that events, instead of actual words, were the center of Messianic signatures.

Before we move further, we should note that the office of a Prophet was rarely used to tell the far distant future. Instead, the person acted as a messenger of God for that moment.

Then Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. (Amos 7:14)

In Hebrew, the word prophet is ‘נָבִיא’. If we remove the theological language, it would simply be spokesperson, not a fore-teller of things to come. Rarely in what is commonly identified as prophecies do we see an instance of something on the horizon. (Note, 1st Samuel 9.9 indicates an ancient shift between the role of seer and that of the office of prophet.) If you read the Twelve Prophets, they deal primarily with the abuses of Israel and Judah to the covenant, calling for justice for this group or that group, while attempting to at once turn away the wrath of God and warn of the wrath of God. Essentially, they – both men and women – brought a current message.

Let us examine another passage, this time with minimal influence of the Divine (By that, I mean the lack of miracles). In the second chapter of Matthew, we find two markers of the Messianic, both including dreams. First, the Magi and Herod, with a dream from God not to return. Second, we find a dream given to Joseph which drove him to Egypt:

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.” (Mat 2:13-15 NASB)

While the matter may be semantics to some, I must force the difference. First, a prophecy, as used in apocalyptic writings is a foretelling wrapped in language meant to be hidden. We find here Messianic signs which are going to be used to judge the Messiah – yet, rarely if ever applied to Messianic Expectation writings.

The above marker comes from Hosea:

When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. (Hosea 11:1 NASB)

This is a passage written to rest squarely on Israel as a whole, much like the Servant’s Song found in Isaiah 53. It does not stand out as a prophecy or a cue to something hidden within the meaning, yet, Matthew felt compelled that indeed, this was a sure sign that this Jesus was the Messiah because of His family’s departure from Egypt. This refers to no one but Israel as the Son of God – and would not, unless relayed by Matthew, stand as anything remotely related to the coming Messiah.

It can be reasonably said that Israel did not always expect a Messiah. Further, we can see a progression through the prophets of the understanding of God’s justice, revealed by the prophets, and then the need of a Messianic figure to liberate Israel – not of spiritual bondage, but of physical bondage, and began to be fully recognized in the ‘inter-testamental’ period. Second, the Messianic figure would be one to establish God’s kingdom on earth, with Israel as the center. But again, this was not really seen in the Hebrew Prophets – until the coming of Christ.

Returning to the idea that statements about a personified Israel can be placed on Christ, we find the Servant’s Song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in which we read of the punishment for sins as a near destruction to the body of the Servant.

Throughout Isaiah we find the phrase עֶ֫בֶד (my servant) used in relation to historical figures, such as David, or even the prophet himself.

“But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend, You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. (Isa 41:8-9 NASB)

The phrase – unless referring to the examples above – refers to the Israel of Isaiah’s time. Yet, we know that it was transferred to the body of the New Testament Jesus.

As a final example we read the mother’s appeal in Matthew 20.20-23:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” (Mat 20:20-23 NAU)

Arguably, the question of canon faced not only the Church, at a later date, but the Jews as well. One of the discarded books by the Jews, and held in reservation by the early Church was the book of Great Wisdom (of Solomon). In it, we find a hint at the Messianic anticipation of the mother:

For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones. (Wis 3:4-9 RSV)

The reason I use this is to set the example – Messianic Expectation included not the idea that the Hebrew prophets foretold Christ in an apocalyptic manner with prophetic language, but that communities expected the Messianic figure to exemplify, to personify, the words of the Hebrew Prophets found in various writings considered sacred by the sects. In other words, the record of sacred writings was the mirror of the Messiah. If the Messiah could not be said to be the personification of rare and obscure passages of the prophets, then the person was a fraud.

Only later did certain segments become more prophetic in understanding, such as the Balaam’s star (Numbers 24.17-19) and Bar Kochba. It is worth mentioning that with the mention of the star in the East in Matthew, this was not connected to Balaam’s star. We know that apocalyptic communities later focused on the star in Numbers and connected to the Messiah – yet, we do not find this connection in the Gospels; however, do find it in pseudepigraphical writings of the period, including the Testament of the Patriarchs, which came to the final conclusion in the 2nd century after Christ.

And after this there shall arise for you a star from Jacob in peace. And a man shall arise from my posterity like the sun of righteousness, walking with the sons of men in gentleness and righteousness, and in him will be found no sin. And the heavens will be opened upon him to pour out the spirit as a blessing of the holy Father. And he will pour out the spirit of grace on you. This is the shoot of God most high; this is the fountain of life of all humanity. Then he will illumine the scepter of my kingdom, and from your root will arise the shoot, and through it will arise the rod of righteousness for the nations, to judge and to save all that call on the Lord. (Testament of Judah 24.1-6)

Further, we see it earlier in the Qumran Community,

And the star is the seeker of the Law who came to Damascus, because it was written A star has came forth out of Jacob and a scepter has risen out of Israel. The scepter stands for the prince of the congregation. At his coming he shall break down all the sons of Sheth. (Damascus Document 7.18-21)

A meditating time frame, we find the Targum Onkelos (c.110), which does connect Balaam’s Star to the Messiah,

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh. When a king shall arise out of Jakob, And the Meshiha be anointed from Israel, He will slay the princes of Moab, and reign over all the children of men; (Num 24:17)

I note that by it was during the period which saw the development of the Testament of Judah was finalized and the writing of the Targum Onkelos, Simon Bar Kochba (c132) was declared Messiah, nicknamed ‘son of the Star’ and led the Jewish people into final defeat against the Romans. For many of the later commentators, the star in Numbers is a key sign to Christ – yet, nothing of it is found in the Gospels.

The Gospel writers and the early apostolic communities in the Jesus Way began to see the entire corpus of sacred writings as pointing to Christ – not just segments of obscure language, and not in a foretelling sense, but all of the writings, especially of the prophets. For them, everything the prophets said could be said to be incarnated into the person of Christ. This is highlighted in the words of Christ,

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; (John 5:39 NASB)

Christ was not merely speaking of certain prophecies, but of the proto-canon – it all testified of Him. Further, we see from different authors ques connecting the life of Christ to the story of Israel – not the blatant ones, but ones such as

who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure (ἔξοδον exodus) which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9.:31 NASB)

οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ, ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ. (NA-27)

Here, we find Luke sees the soon death/departure as a sign of the Exodus – which should have brought to the mind of his readers the release from slavery after the Passover. (Also see the use of  ‘ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεὸν’ as a queue by Luke to the Hebrew Scriptures.) For the primitive followers of the Messiah, they were not so concerned with ‘prophecies’ such as those of His returning (which are true prophecies) but of connecting His life and work to the collected writings of the prophets. They didn’t look for foretellings, but retellings. Comparing Him to Moses, Solomon, Jonah, and David was not unheard of in the Gospel. While they were the shadow of things to come, He was the archetype.

Finally, we take as evidence of this case, Jonah.

But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Mat 12:39-40 NASB)

This is not a prophesy of the Messiah, and in no way was thought to point to the coming Messianic figure; however, Christ took history from the sacred writings, and applied it to Himself. No one can easily say that Jonah prophesied about Christ, yet his sign was completed, incarnated, in Christ. It is not that the Gospel writers and the primitive communities of believers backwards wrote the Messiah, but it was only through history that Christ was identified as the Messiah. As Luke recounts,

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luk 24:45-47 NASB)

Written where? In one specific passage? Not hardly, but written in the entire corpus of Scripture. It was not minute passages of prophetic material which pointed to Christ, but the entire recognized work. He did not fulfill prophecy, but completed the Hebrew Prophets.

I am sure I have left out a key to the argument somewhere, or perhaps made no argument at all, so feel free to bruise and crush me as you see fit. For those who would desire to see me torn apart and laid upon the altar of pseudo-academia, please remember I bruise easily and I’ve been known to cry if my feelings are hurt.