Friday, January 13, 2017

Is Jesus in the Hebrew Bible?

As a writer who loves metaphor, symbol and analogy, I love the Hebrew Bible, (the Old Testament.) It provides beautiful images of Jesus. But more than that it offers the reality of God’s promises concerning the Messiah. And here and there one sees glimpses of the eternal Son in person. Read the story of the “angel of the Lord” who appears to Samson’s parents in Judges 13. He calls himself Wonderful.

 And I must quickly say it is also the truthful narrative of God’s promises to and covenant with the Jewish people. The Hebrew Bible is, in reality, two stories that intertwine.  It is the history of Israel and God’s dealings and care for them. It is also, from beginning to end, the story of God’s redemptive purposes and promises. And the Messiah of God, Jesus, the begotten God in the bosom of the Father, looms large in the text.

Why am I writing this? Because a Presbyterian on a Presbyterian site I belong to, posted an advertisement for a Bible entitled The Jesus Bible. The ad states, “There is No B.C.: Sixty Six Books, One Story, All about One Name, Jesus.”  That is placed within the midst of the names of all of the books of the Bible. I don’t think the commenters, who mostly didn’t like the ad, realized that this particular Bible, published by Zondervan, is meant for young people. It is meant as a study Bible. But many felt that because the ad was saying that Jesus was also in the Old Testament that it sounded anti-Semitic.

I want to emphasize that the Hebrew Bible cannot be read out of context. A great deal of it is definitely the history of the Jewish people. The rest is their wonderful Writings and Prophets. But within the text is the glorious promises of the coming King and Messiah, a suffering King and a Suffering Messiah. Remember the very first Christians had only the Hebrew Scriptures as their Bible.  

In the book of Acts, the history of the early church, we read the story of the Ethiopian official who on his journey home is reading Isaiah 53. He asks the disciple Philip who the author is speaking of, himself or of someone else.

He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth. In humiliation his judgement was taken away; who will relate his generation? For his life is removed from the earth.”

Philip explains that the Old Testament text is about Jesus. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to Him.” (Acts 8: 35)

If we fail to open the texts of the Hebrew Bible and teach others of our Lord Jesus Christ we fail to be his disciples.

One of the commenters in the thread I was reading reminded us all that Jesus in fact turned to the Hebrew Bible to explain who he was and how it was that he should be, and suffer crucifixion, and rise again. The apostle Luke writes of Jesus’ words and actions:

Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself in the Scriptures.”

Beginning in Genesis with the promise to Eve (and one might say to Satan also because it is God’s foretelling and curse to him) “… I shall put enmity between you and the woman. And between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heel,” there are promises of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament.

I think one of my favorites was given by a man who wanted to curse Israel but was only allowed to bless her:

“I see him but not now;

I behold him but not near;

A star shall come forth from Jacob,

A scepter shall rise from Israel … (Numbers 24:17a)


Thomas Harp said...

I'm the one who posted that ad you refer to and I think you missed the point of my post. I do not deny that we Christians can see Jesus active in the Hebrews Scriptures. What concerns me is the blatant disregard for Jewish history that underlies the claim, "There is no B.C." The common usage of BC (or BCE if your preferred) and AD in HISTORICAL reference cannot be ignored just because you are promoting a Jesus Bible. To claim that Christ was in the beginning (as the Gospel of John clearly does) is not the same as claiming there was no historical time before Jesus. To do so, as that ad appears to do is inappropriate in my opinion and should be discarded.

Viola Larson said...

Thomas I realize the ad in some ways was meant to grab people's attention but in another way it was simply saying that the Son existed before the New Testament. I don't think it was meant to disparage Jewish history at all. Some people commenting gave me the impression that they did not believe that the eternal Son was the incarnate Christ Jesus, that they could be separated. But I think that the beauty of the incarnation is that now humanity resides in the Godhead. And we with Him if we are in Christ.

Reformed Catholic said...

I can totally get the advert. Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus, that was the whole purpose of it. God inspired the writers to set down on paper the way that pointed to the One Way, the Truth and the Light.

You cannot separate the first half of the story from the last half, no matter how some try to. "The Jesus Bible" doesn't do that, in fact it reinforces the fact that the Jewish people were the thread that God used to weave the plan through the centuries until the time was right for the One to come.

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Reformed Catholic-you put it just right and beautifully.

Jodie said...

Curious exchange. It was a Jewish expectation for a Messiah that Jesus fulfilled. And from the very beginning it was controversial whether he did or not. But not "everything" points to it. Much of it points to the fact that worshiping God does not require a physical temple. A radical thought at the time. That being said, the Jewish expectation, which Matthew quotes in the beginning of his Gospel, does say that He Is from all eternity. There is no BC according to that prophesy (Micah 5):

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”

Deliciously, Micah combines future, present and past conjugations into one single eternal present tense.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles Ca