Christ's Use Of The Bible

Jesus Christ assumed the absolute authority of the Old Testament as God's word. Along these lines, Roger Nicole has written:

At the very threshold of his public ministry, our Lord, in his dramatic victory over Satan's threefold onslaught, rested his whole defense on the authority of three passages of Scripture. He quoted the Old Testament in support of his teaching to the crowds; he quoted it in his discussions with antagonistic Jews; he quoted it in answer to questions both captious and sincere; he quoted it in instructing the disciples who would have readily accepted his teaching on his own authority; he referred to it in his prayers, when alone in the presence of the Father; he quoted it on the cross, when his sufferings could easily have drawn his attention elsewhere; he quoted it in his resurrection glory, when any limitation, real or alleged, of the days of his flesh was clearly superseded. Whatever may be the differences between the pictures of Jesus drawn by the four Gospels, they certainly agree in their representation of our Lord's attitude toward the Old Testament: one of constant use and of unquestioning endorsement of its authority.1

Christ's approach to the Hebrew Scriptures was uniformly an acceptance of its claim to divine authority. When he quoted from it to establish anything, he considered the case closed, and that was the end of the matter. In John 10:34, he quotes Psalm 82:6, saying, "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are Gods?" In this passage, he refers to the Psalms as the law, indicating that he took for granted that the authority of the Psalms was on an equal footing with that of the law of Moses. Note the element of finality in this passage. Once He has cited this authority, the discussion is over. In Matthew 12:3 he asks in wonder, "Have you not read?", while in Matthew 22:29 Jesus said to the Sadducees, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God."

These passages are indicative of the underlying attitude that Christ had, that "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). A number of times He emphatically states that the Scripture must be fulfilled. In Matthew 5:17,18, he says "Think not that I have come to destroy the law, or the prophets." Here, He puts together the law and the prophets, indicating that they are equal in authority. After the resurrection, in Luke 24:25- 27, he states, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." In the same chapter, verses 44 and 46, Jesus says, "These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me." Here Jesus treats as equal in authority the law, the prophets, and the Psalms, which were the technical terms for the three parts of the Hebrew Bible.

Jesus treats the Old Testament in such a way as to assume that their inspiration extends to the very words of Scripture. In Matthew 22:45, the argument Jesus presents hinges on a single word of the text, while in Matthew 22:32, his argument hangs on the tense of a word.

Jesus felt free to juxtapose two entirely separate verses of the Scriptures in Matthew 22:36-40, which states:

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said unto him, "`Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.' This is the first great commandment. And the second is like unto it, `Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'"

The first of these quotations is from Deuteronomy 6:4,5, while the other is from Leviticus 19:18. These two separate verses, although from completely different sections of the Pentateuch, are treated as equally authoritative. In fact, Christ quoted all parts of the Scriptures in the same way: the law, the prophets, and the writings. Moreover, He accepted without question the historicity of everything in the Hebrew Bible. He accepted the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. He took for granted the trustworthiness of the accounts in the Bible of creation, of the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai, of Noah's flood, of God's covenant with Abraham, of Daniel's prophecy, of all of the historical books, and of Jonah's episode of three days in a great fish. In all cases, Jesus was very matter-of-fact about accepting these things.2

In Luke 16:19-21, Jesus makes very clear the finality of the authority of the Old Testament. Here he concludes that "if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (v. 31). Here, he puts together Moses and the prophets, and makes a very definite statement about their final authority. He makes a similar statement in John 5:46,47: "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" Here, Jesus equates His word with that of Moses. According to Him, the teaching of the Old Testament is on a par with His own teaching.

1 Roger Nicole, "The New Testament Use of the Old," in Carl F. H. Henry, ed., Revelation and the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1958), pp. 140-141.

2 John W. Wenham, "Christ's View of Scripture," in Norman L. Geisler, ed., Inerrancy, pp. 6-10, and Pierre Ch. Marcel, "Our Lord's Use of Scripture," In Carl F. H. Henry, ed., Revelation and the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1958), p. 133.

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