Here are three assertions that trip off evangelical tongues, almost without a second thought. They are the air we breathe. Almost never challenged. And almost never justified in any Scriptural sense. Everyone just knows them.
Trouble is they're not true.
Myth #1 - The prophets spoke better than they knew.
Take any text from, say, Handel's Messiah. Try to use it as justification for Messianic faith in the OT and count the seconds before someone counters "Ah, but they spoke better than they knew."
What chapter of Hezekiah is that in again? I forget.
Just pause for a second. Why on earth should we think that? Why shouldn't we assume that "the prophets knew what they were talking about?" Wouldn't that be the most obvious assumption?
Why would we doubt that Isaiah knew what he was talking about? Apart from a Darwinian belief in progress. Apart from what CS Lewis called chronological snobbery. Seriously, where have we got the idea that prophets - those whose job it is to enlighten the people - are actually so thick they can't understand their own prophecies. I mean that would be a really odd model of prophecy wouldn't it? But, you know, I'm willing to go with it - if the bible teaches it. But where does the bible teach such a model of prophecy?
Caiaphas? The murderer of Jesus? His one off pronouncement is our model for Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel?
And yet the myth persists. It is asserted very strongly and very often. And it needs to be if pop-biblical-theology is to avoid imploding under the massive weight of OT evidence to the contrary.
But the thing is, it's not true.
Myth #2 - No-one expected the kind of Messiah that Jesus was
I don't think I've ever been in a home group bible study in my life where this myth was not mentioned at least once in the night. "Well, of course, the people all expected the Christ to come on a war horse and overturn the Romans." Well it's a decent guess that some Israelites might have been of that persuasion. But show me the verse that says all Israel conceived of the Messiah only in such terms.
It seems like, relative to any supporting Scriptural evidence, this assertion is punching way above its weight in terms of its general acceptance among bible believers.
And in fact, there's lots of Scriptural evidence that the people were well able to comprehend the kind of Messiah Jesus was. At Christmas we remember Simeon holding the baby Jesus and rejoicing that he'd therefore seen salvation. The kings from the east bowed to a child and the songs like the Magnificat are Scripture-full acknowledgements of what an upside down kind of king the Christ is. Read on in John chapter 1 and you have Simon, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael perfectly able to comprehend that this carpenter was Messiah, King of Israel and Son of God.
Absolutely there were comprehension issues among the disciples - especially as the way of the cross was set before them (same with us right?). But it's just not the case that first century Israelites were unprepared for the kind of Messiah Jesus would be. They were very prepared. And the faithful among them (like Simeon and Anna) understood it very well.
Myth #3 - The Apostles read Messianic meaning into Hebrew texts that weren't intended by the original authors.
Myth #1 is deployed whenever an Old Testament text threatens pop-biblical-theology TM. Myth #3 is deployed whenever a New Testament text threatens the system:
"Ah yes, but Paul had apostolic warrant to reinterpret OT texts in ways not intended by the author."
How very odd. And to think Paul was able to reason in synagogues with Jews and win some over when apparently his claim is that he's not giving Moses' meaning but a new one!
Strange indeed, but ok, I'm willing to go with the weirdness because I imagine there must be explicit biblical warrant for it. There must be a mountain of verses telling me about the apostolic re-reading of Hebrew texts. Right? And married to that, there'd have to be loads of verses telling us not to follow the Apostles in their exegesis because they were authorized to do weird stuff.
But, hmm. Where are these verses?
And Paul even explicitly says "I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen, that Christ would suffer and rise and bring light to the Gentiles." (Acts 26:22f).
So then, what's driving this myth?
Could it be that the pressure to believe Myth 3 comes not from biblical arguments but from the need to protect against biblical arguments?? Could it be that Myth 3 is required as the only escape route pop-biblical-theology has from the mountain of NT verses stacked against it?
I'll let you decide.
You might not think this is a very Christmassy theme. Well think of it as answering this question: "Did Israel really sing 'O Come O Come Immanuel' or can we only put that song on their lips after the fact?"
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Some really excellent points here Glen. I think particularly the point about whether or not we can follow the apostle's exegesis is really important. I think the apostle's teach us how to interpret scripture.
I'd just add one thing, and that's that sometimes prophetic texts speak of Christ typologically and I don't think this necessitates the original prophet having grasped the full significance of this. i.e. in terms of 'straight line prediction' some texts are talking about things in the very immediate future of the prophet (Israel going into exile, etc.). Sometimes no doubt the prophet also knew that this immediate future has typological prophetic significance for the Messiah too (cos it's not as if the typological way of doing prophecy was invented in the NT), but sometimes we either don't know whether he did or not and it could well be the case that he didn't.
I make the distinction because I think this allows us to have every single scripture speaking of Christ without having to second-guess the prophets and what they knew about what they were saying. I'm not so wedded to grammatical-historical-exegesis that this bothers me - I think it's ok for the Author's meaning to outstrip the prophets whilst not being randomly related to it.
That said, they clearly understood enough for Peter to write what he does in 1Peter 1.
Glen, Thanks so much for stating these myths in such clear and simple terms. They are myths that I have struggled against for years, but, as you say, people just wheel them out as if they are obviously true. Myth 2 is very sinister because it is a Trojan horse for all kinds of nonsense and it never needs any justification. When we look at the Pharisees... when do they ever say that the Messiah would be a freedom fighter? Do the Sadduccees say it? Do the Judaisiers in Acts? Do the Herodians say it? Do even the Romans say it?! So, if nobody eveer says this in the New Testament, how come everybody was thinking like that?!?!
We all naturally want a Messiah who gives us just what we want - money, health, comfort, popularity etc - but we all kind of know that this is not what the Bible describes. There just are not two theologies of Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures: one of the triumphant King and the other of the Suffering Servant. They are all the one Messiah, the same gospel faith.
PGJackson is right to say that we don't need to constantly inspect the self-consciousness of the anceint Hebrew believers. This was a will-o-wisp quest begun in the post-Enlightenment search for a historical consciousness. The idea was that we could recreate "how an ancient Hebrew would have thought". Of course we can't do that! Only in the broadest terms of a shared humanity can we do that. When I read the personal diaries of people even 100 years ago and their cultural assumptions I am amazed at how different we are, and how small details of day to day life are seen so diferently. To have witnessed the Angel of the LORD leading the nation out of slavery across teh Red Sea is something that is very hard for us to even dream about. To have listened to the preaching of Elijah... to have asked him about the trials of the Christian life... to have been taught by his disciples... all this is incredible and glorious. To have lived with a pagan super power coming to invade... to have be delivered by the Angel of the LORD who killed thousands... to have worshipped at th temple, with blood and glory all around us, with the passionate, Spirit-filled Psalm singing, led by the original composers... to have met each evening with fellower saints longing for the birth of the Messiah, constantly going over the prophecies and details trying to find out more information, more patterns of His work, more models of His Person... all this would have shaped the minds of believers in ways that it is impossible to reconstruct. I generally assume that they saw so much more detail and depth in the ancient Scriptures than we ever do. If their sight of Jesus was through those future predictions [in all the patterns of type, law, wisdom, history, prophecy and action] then they would have looked longer and deeper than most of us ever dream of doing. When I consider the incredibly nuanced and sophisticated exegesis of Philo [who is trying to represent the best of Hebrew scholarship of his day], it goes far far far beyond nearly anything that comes later.
Instead of trying to reconstruct the exact consciousness of an ancient Hebrew saint/writer, it is best to assume that they understood the depths of what they wrote and then we can just get on with trying to get all we can from these incredibly rich treasure mines.
well said. couple thoughts, wonder what you think
re 1) while pgj's right that 1 peter 1 sets a minimum knowledge for the prophets, isn't it fair that it also sets something of a maximum knowledge? Sure, carefully & intently indicates they knew what they were looking for, but inquiring what person and time the spirit (of Christ in them) was indicating when he (the spirit) predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories doesn't indicate much more... Dare I suggest that something akin to Isaiah 45 could be going on even among his own people?
re 2) absolutely - there were a faithful remnant e.g. simeon who believed the kingdom would come by the grace of God in Christ. but it's surely more nuanced than you suggest: aren't the 4 evangelists telling the story of Jesus coming to the house of Israel as the good shepherd coming to find and bind up the broken, lame and crippled "sheep without a shepherd", as the woman searching for her "treasured possession" in her "house", as the father running to redeem Israel his son - and calling Israel to repent and believe the gospel, while other visions of God and his kingdom and his Christ had overtaken. In other words, aren't the gospels FULL of people with myriad different visions of the kingdom? e.g.
- saducees trying to establish the kingdom themselves in the here and now, because they didnt believe God would build them a kingdom not built with human hands in the resurrection (ie they didnt believe God was gracious)
- pharisees trying to clean up Israel by imposing strict religion because they didnt believe God would restore the kingdom before they cleaned up their act (ie they didnt believe God was gracious)
- zealots trying to hasten in the kingdom on their terms by bringing down the powers that be by the sword because they couldnt conceive anything other than animal power. (ie they didnt think God was gracious)
- tax collectors trying to find security by building the kingdom of Rome because they didnt believe God would forgive & have them back again (ie they didnt believe God was gracious)
- other Jews colluding with the Romans, "longing to eat the pods the pigs were eating?" - e.g. luke 7 "look this centurion is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation - he built us our synagogue!" - because they didnt believe the exile would end and the temple be rebuilt in glory (ie they didnt believe God was gracious)
- the crowds seeking to make Jesus king by force (John 6) because they didnt believe God's kingdom was not of this world, (ie they didnt believe God was gracious)
In other words, although this isn't always explicit, it's often implicit and I've personally found the gospels, not to mention Acts & Paul really open up when looking for this. So while I agree with your basic point, I wouldnt want to make too much of this the other way - because Jesus' call to repent and believe the gospel comes precisely in the context of different visions of the kingdom, different visions of how the LORD would come to his temple, how the son of man would save his people from the beastly animals. How could Jesus possibly be the Lord, the Priest, the Son of Man, the Son of David, the resurrection, when he's strung up on a cross? What does "repent & believe" imply if not that they believed something else - "we had hoped...but (he couldnt have been because we had other ideas of the kingdom). Yes this was "foolish and slow of heart to believe all the prophets had spoken", but it was a real phenomenon after all. Expectations/Eschatology/Hopes - that's pretty much the whole challenge of the gospel, right?
re 3) absolutely. strikes me this line is wheeled out when really the honest thing to say is "frankly, we dont understand". Isn't this more an indication that we're reading our systems into Paul rather than hearing, for want of a better phrase, "what St Paul really said"?
This post not only gives plenty of food for thought, but Chris Oldfield's response to point #2 (they didn't believe God is gracious) emphasizes a point I tried to make to someone recently concerning the "root" of so much (all?) of our sin being simply that we refuse to believe that God is actually good and totally capable of caring for us properly.
I do see what you are saying about these popular beliefs. Particularly the one concerning the ability of the prophets to comprehend what they were saying.
But am wondering, though, whether part of the argument for Myth #1 might not come from:
Daniel 12:8 And I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, O my lord, what shall be the end of these things?
I don't know for sure what it means, as there are other verses (10:11-12)which indicate that Daniel did hear and understand...or at least that he wanted to understand.
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Glen, you've written a good post here, and made your usual confident assertions. As usual, I'm not so confident in my rebuttals, but I'll question anyway.
Point 1 seems like rolling the problem back one level. It sounds good, but it's not a substantive change. If I grant the prophets understood what they were saying, what does that buy us? God certainly understood what He was saying, and the people God was speaking to certainly didn't understand what the prophets were saying, so what difference does it make that the prophet did understand?
Point 2 sounds like an uninformed argument against the uninformed. I put a lot of stock in NT Wright's historical work (of which I've only read 1/3 or so), and he delineates 3 prevailing perspectives on the messianic hope in Jesus' time. There is empirical evidence the Jews believed some shadow then of what they believe today. The suffering servant of Isaiah was to them the nation of Israel and the conquering messiah and the priestly messiah were yet to come. Jesus didn't fit the bill, but He did get in everyone's way so He was removed. Your declaration sounds like a pretty enthusiastic strawman burning.
As for point 3, well, I don't know. I guess you run into those people. This complaint fully rests on your first complaint, and is subject to the same question. When Paul interprets the old testament in a surprising way, the question is who's surprised? Just me? Or me and the original author? Or me, the orginal author and God? I've never heard anyone whose life looked recognizably Christian assert Paul or Peter twisted the meaning of God, so if someone throws around "apostolic mandates" they're doing so on the basis of the prophet not understanding every layer of what he wrote. They're not suggesting all rules of interpretation are are out the window, or that the old testament scripture means something different to God because there's a new testament. Allowing new testament scripture to interpret old testament scripture because God is the Author of both is not exactly at the leprechauns and bugbears level of mythos.
Several million Jews were certainly stiff-necked enough to reject anything that didn't suit their craving for supremacy. They certainly did not understand the things God said through His prophets. Hebrews and Paul certainly state this fact directly enough.
If your point is that the old testament was clear enough to hang a man for not "getting it," then I'm with you. If your point is that the prophets saw Messiah clearly, then you can move me quite a ways in your direction (though I doubt I'll ever believe the prophets had more than a strong impression of the truth.) Beyond that? I don't know. You seem to want to discard a lot of good, historical, helpful fact that's been contributed to the discussion and I won't go there.
Okay, you amillennialist ;-) .
Seriously, I used to follow and in fact was trained under what you call "myths." But I am coming to change my positioning on this. After all, I've gotten rid of the dispy label and am historic premil :-) .
I've probably given some of this stuff as advice, cos it sounds so good at first but then doesn't make any sense. Gotta love the way commentators go out of their way to avoid 'Christian' conclusions. Granted over-reading might be possible, it's tragic and odd to avoid letting the Scriptures speak of Jesus.
"The majority of present critics dissent more moderately from the New Testament view of the psalm by seeing it as an enthronement oracle for either David or one of his successors, spoken to him by an anonymous cultic official. Our Lord and the apostles, it is understood, were denied this insight." Kidner, Psalm 110
With you on 1 and 3, but I'm with Chris - pt 2 is a bit unsubtle. Actually, I'm pretty unconvinced. The fact that 'Simon, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael [were] perfectly able to comprehend that this carpenter was Messiah, King of Israel and Son of God' really doesn't tell us anything about the kind of Messiah they thought he was, which is the point in question. Ditto Simeon and Anna. And even if you proved they did understand the nature of Jesus' Messiahship, it's a big leap from that to proving that they're not exceptions to the rule.
Plus there's an awful lot of explicit biblical material about the lack of understanding of the Messiahship (is that a word?) of Jesus - one of the major themes of Isaiah, for example, is the understanding-inversion that Israel will need before they 'get' Christ.
Yes typology is certainly an OT thing, And therefore progress is not at all incompatible with prescience. Though the progress of the kings, the nation, the land/exile they were taught about Messiah. And 1 Peter 1 is indeed important. It’s outrageous that the verse is ever wheeled out to support the myths.
I love this:
On 1) We can certainly set a minimum, but I don’t know how we would go about setting a maximum. Except that they didn’t know the ‘who’ and ‘when’ (is it *this* child, are *these* the long fore-told circumstances for Messiah’s birth?). Beyond this the verse doesn’t set a maximum, and even if we were wanting to apply one it would certainly include “sufferings and glories of the Christ”. So they longed for a single Messiah who suffered and then was glorified. That truth alone blows 1-3 out of the water if you ask me.
On 2) This is a reconstruction of the 1st century context. It might be a helpful and true one, but it’s not taught in the bible. I’m with Paul in his quote above.
Also, the difference between a grace-centred (charo-centric??) OT faith and a christocentric one is significant.
Dan 12 is a good example of 1 Pet 1:10-12 – the ‘time and circumstances’ are beyond him but I’d argue that the Person of Christ – His sufferings and glories were clear.
Also remember, it’s not only OT saints who get overwhelmed by revelations – think of the road to Damascus or Revelation 1!
On 1) I’d say that the faithful OT saints did understand the prophecies. Of course in every age there are unbelievers and in different periods of history there are differing levels of apostasy but OT saints both could have and should have trusted in their Messiah.
The importance of this is to do with the nature of saving faith. I’d say it’s irreducibly Christ (Messiah) – focused.
On 2) I’d say I’m the most nuanced on this myth (which, admittedly, is not very nuanced) but I’m just saying that, in the bible, Messianic expectation is not at all like the myth. There are words from Simeon and Anna in the bible, and there are absolutely no words from a single zealot. This myth punches far above its weight if we look only to Scriptural supports.
On 3) “Allowing new testament scripture to interpret old testament” is exactly what I want to see. Unfortunately the myth asserts that Paul has some hidden assumptions which the myth will make explicit: Paul is said to be re-reading the OT in a new way. The NT never says this.
It’s the *myth* that does not allow the NT to interpret the Old. If we just read Paul at face value and if we assume that he *is* a model to be followed then we need to understand the OT the way he does – as a plain witness to Christ.
Welcome to the blog (if I haven’t welcomed you before). I’m not trying to prove a new rule so much as question a prevailing one. I’m just pointing to some Scriptural evidence about the kinds of Messianic expectations the *bible* reports for us. Shouldn’t it disturb us that everyone seems to *know* that the zealots wanted a Messiah on a war-horse when we don’t meet a single one in Scripture? What is really shaping our reading of the Gospels?
The way of the cross is always hard to take. But it was hard to take for Christ Himself. Gethsemane doesn’t prove that Jesus didn’t realize the true nature of Messiahship. The hardness of this way is not because it’s novel. And the hard-heartedness of the disciples doesn’t prove that a faithful 1st century Israelite couldn’t and didn’t know that the Messiah would suffer and rise (of course being confronted with the actual Golgotha road is a confronting reality that would send us all reeling).
Acts 26 and 1 Pet 1 both state that conscious OT faith was explicitly directed towards a suffering and rising Messiah. So to state my point in #2 as conservatively as possible: When reading the NT, the most Scripturally-safe null hypothesis is that 1st century Jews could have and should have understood their Messiah to be suffering then rising.
There is a huge confusion here between 'understanding/knowing' and 'trusting'. Plato/Socrates believed that if we know something then we will do it, but the Bible puts the matter very differently. The Bible assumes that we already know the Living God and that we can know exactly who Jesus is and what He came to do etc... BUT that even knowing/understanding all this we do not trust Jesus. As far as I can see, Jesus seems to suggest that the message of the Hebrew Scriptures about Himself is entirely obvious and that Moses was self-consciously speaking about Him. Jesus doesn't treat the lack of belief in Him as a problem of knowledge/understanding but one of trust or love. When He asks "have you not read..." He is not assuming that they simply have not had access to the relevant texts but rather He is incredulous that anyone could read those texts without trusting in Him.
The saints in every age since Eden have in fact trusted in Jesus, whether through the faithful preaching of the Adam/Noah/Abraham and the other early church leaders, or later through the writings and ministry of Moses. The fact that most of the visible church did not believe or even understand has nothing to do with the clarity of the writing or an alleged confusion of the original authors. The fact that people do not understand or believe in Jesus when reading Paul or the gospels has nothing to do with any confusion or lack of clarity in Paul or the gospel writers.
Glen has put the matter so well that I simply must quote him again: "The way of the cross is always hard to take. But it was hard to take for Christ Himself. Gethsemane doesn’t prove that Jesus didn’t realize the true nature of Messiahship. The hardness of this way is not because it’s novel. And the hard-heartedness of the disciples doesn’t prove that a faithful 1st century Israelite couldn’t and didn’t know that the Messiah would suffer and rise (of course being confronted with the actual Golgotha road is a confronting reality that would send us all reeling)."
When I stand before Jesus I imagine He will say to me and many others of us, "Did you not understand that I had to suffer first and then enter into my glory?" The way that I live reveals that whatever I say, I have not embraced that truth as I should.
With respect to reconstructions of first century Judaism... This is a much more complicated field of academic study than it may appear. Many of the texts that are used to reconstruct the first century are not in fact from the first century but from the third and fourth century. This is in itself an area of debate in the literature. In my own limited way I have been studying the Dead Sea Scrolls and the writings of Philo for quite a few years and thy sound quite different from the kind of Palestinian Judaism that Sanders constructs. I love all kinds of things in Sanders work and I have been reading his material for 25 years, but it is far from the whole picture.
Interestingly the Ethiopian official did not consider that the servant of Isaiah 53 might be Israel as a whole. It is a specific example of a first century Jew thinking of the passage and he wondered whether Isaiah was thinking about himself or someone else.
I love to engage in this kind of study and it has been almost an obsession with me for so long... and yet with all that research available I'm very, very nervous of using it to create fixed assumptions about the New Testament, either in the authors, methods or audience. I've so many of these ventures lose their anchor in the specific texts of the Bible as we have it. I know that I may sound very simplistic, yet I basically assume that the text of the Bible, in its canonical context, prepares us for understanding its individual parts. It gives us the key information about its authors, methods and audience. I'm not as obsessive about this as I once was and recognise the relevance of researching the semantic range of a word from its historical usage etc etc... and yet we are dealing with texts that have been translated into other languages from the earliest times and have such a wealth of assistance in this area that we need not lose our heads over it.
In my gut one of the the real worries is that the terrible sin and betrayal of the Jerusalem religious leaders and the 'Judaisers' is excused because Jesus is not fitting the pattern of the plain reading of Scripture. I've often heard sermons that left me thinking "ok, I guess it is not surprising that so few people trusted in Jesus the Messiah. He wasn't what Moses or the prophets expected or what the plain reading of their writings suggested and Jesus Himself was taking the whole story/theology/hope in a direction that nobody had thought of before.... Wow! It's incredible that anyone took Him seriously at all!"
That deeply worries me because Jesus Himself doesn't seem to see it that way at all. Think of John 11 and 12. The argument seems to be that they knew exactly who Jesus is and yet rejected Him anyway. The explanation is not lack of knowledge or confusion/lack of clarity in the Hebrew Scriptures but rather a spiritual blindness, a wilful unbelief.
Why do Jesus and the apostles get so upset and even angry that some Jewish people do not believe the Scriptures?
That is the key question for me in all this.
Any theories and reconstructions about the first century and the New Testament must pass that test before we can go anywhere with them at all.
> This myth punches far above its weight if we look only to Scriptural supports.
Why would I do this?
As I read your comments and Paul's, you both seem to say if a thing doesn't exist in scripture, then it doesn't exist. That's unsupportable and completely unhelpful. The Zealots existed. They left writings, and it feels just silly to have argue for their existence because no inspired author felt any reason to give them air time. The Hasmoneans existed, and they looked for a kingdom, too. The Maccabees claimed messianic status and you seem to pretend it isn't so because God didn't feel the need to transcribe simple history into His inspired word. The Pharasaical interpretation of scripture continues in altered form to this day, and they clearly hold to a white horse messiah in some form or another, but you quote the absence of their thoughts in scripture as proof for their absence in history. I can't make heads nor tails of your reasoning on this.
> Paul is said to be re-reading the OT in a new way. The NT never says this.
Again. What does this even mean?
Are you really saying the NT never says the apostles needed to reinterpret the OT to their hearers? That's crazy talk.
If we assume for a second that the disciples following Jesus were good-hearted Jews, then your statement falls apart in every gospel and Acts. Jesus constantly has to reinterpret the scriptures for His own hand picked men. After His death He has to rewalk everyone through the prophets before they're able to get the first glimmer of what Messiah was meant to be.
If you're just engaging in some kind of semantic clarification, then your "myth" hype is way oversold. Paul didn't change the old testament, and neither did Jesus. They both, however, spent years showing people how to read the OT as it was originally intended. Saying Paul didn't "re-read the old testament in a new way" is a difference without distinction.
When Jesus, John, Peter, or Paul was finished explaining the old testament, the hearer left with a radically different view of God, Messiah, and the kingdom. Surely you must believe that.
If you want to argue the old testament clearly described the Messiah in such a way as even Jesus' hand picked followers didn't recognize Him while they walked with Him, then more power to you. I'm good with that. If you want to say the prophets who wrote the words understood much better than the people who heard and read them, I'm good with that. But if you want to say there was a sizable population of Judaism who understood the prophets the same way the prophets understood themselves, that's unsubstantiated.
Sure Simeon recognized Him when God spoke through him, but it's easy to see hope in an infant when God's illuminating. His followers melted away when He quit feeding them miracle bread.
"Sure Simeon recognized Him when God spoke through him, but it’s easy to see hope in an infant when God’s illuminating. His followers melted away when He quit feeding them miracle bread."
To me this strikes at the heart of the problems raised by Glen's stance. It is one thing to have a few saints of God illumined by the Holy Spirit to recognise the incarnation, it is entirely another thing to claim that all old testament believers understood how the atonement was to come about and what shape it would take (which isn't to say that they longed for a better way, or even read Genesis 15 to mean that one day God would suffer in their stead).
If this were so then it would seem that the Gospels are the only necessary component in the New Testament - there would simply not be any need for books like Hebrews and Romans in which the typology is explained.
It seems to me to be quite a stretch to claim that things like the Day of Atonement were to be taken purely symbolically. Are you really saying that the Israelites were to disbelieve God when he told them that such-and-such would make atonement for their sins? Surely they were to believe in faith until God revealed to them a better way.
I'm quite sure that you're right about #3, but the doubts of John the Baptist cause me to want to think much more about #1 and #2.
“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
On the issue of extra-biblical material I'm just saying it's odd that the bible doesn't make anything like as much of the 'political messiah' expectation as the 'myth' does. Look at the wording of my post on #2 - I'm not denying that there are competing Messiah-ologies, or that some of them are 'war-horse' ones. But people often say '*no-one* expected the kind of Messiah that Jesus turned out to be' - and as Paul says, that's a trojan horse for all sorts of nonsense. And it's false.
Only if you would add the names Moses, Isaiah and Daniel to the front of that list. Of course revelation always has a newness to it - it's from above and beyond. But Jesus and the Apostles thought of themselves not as a sect within Judaism but as part of the one and only true Way of God. They weren't reinterpreting the Hebrew Scriptures but simply proclaiming them again. If anyone gets a *new* meaning from this interpretation, it's only because they are "foolish... and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (Luk 24:25)
You describe the Apostles as good hearted. Jesus describes them as hard-hearted. That's probably significant.
Jesus and the Apostles did not come to bring a radically new sect within the broader sweep of Israelite hope. They presented themselves always and only as representing the true and ancient Way of God. And just as the true and ancient Way was opposed by the majority and followed by a remnant in the OT, so also in the New. In fact the slowness and hardness of heart in 1st century Israelites is a point of *continuity* with the OT.
It's hard to argue against a position that says "People in bible times were ignorant of X" when it's backed up by the proviso "...and every time we see knowledge of X in a bible guy it's a singular exception because, well, he was a bible guy."
You talk of the *necessity* of the epistles. Apart from one key issue, I don't think that the epistles are *necessary* in a sense much different to considering the major prophets as *necessary*. The one exceptional issue is the administration of the Gentile inclusion (e.g. Eph 3:9ff). That's the big new thing in the new testament and the councils and letters are *needed* to clarify that. Other than that, the church did very well for two decades without a single epistle. They just proclaimed Christ from Moses and the prophets - the way Moses and the prophets had been.
Yes, it's quite a 'wobble' from the Baptist. But there are plenty of *new* testament "Scriptures" (e.g. Luke 1&3) that John is misbelieving as he has this wobble. But Jesus doesn't point him back to the baptism nor the prophecies to John's dad, but to *old* testament Scripture (e.g. Isaiah 35 - blind seeing etc,). That will give the true understanding of His Person and work. There is great continuity between his 'wobble' over NT words / events and of OT Scripture. But Jesus points him back to the sure words of the prophets to reassure him.
First, Codepoke, thank you for that helpful clarification about Jesus' explanation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus was preaching to a mass of Israelite people who were divided into all kinds of political and theological movements yet very few of them were reading Moses and the Prophets as Moses and the Prophets originally intended. The fact that Jesus and the apostles took people back to that original, plain reading meant that when people trusted Jesus they experienced a huge repentance in their view of the LORD God of Israel. As you put it they "left with a radically different view of God, Messiah, and the kingdom".
As you put it, Jesus and the apostles "spent years showing people how to read the OT as it was originally intended."
The myths seem to suggest that Jesus and the apostles re-interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures in a way that no-one, NOT EVEN MOSES AND THE PROPHETS, had done before.
I think we are trying to reject that, whilst retaining the clear fact that what they were saying seemed quite 'new' to the different people and groups they engaged with.
As far as I can see, Jesus and the apostles, by returning to the original intention of Moses and the prophets, were offering an understanding of the Scriptures that would certainly have been 'new' to all kinds of groups and movements within Israel of the first century.
I think though it is important to remember that it is not one interpretation versus others, but the original meaning of Scripture focused on the suffering/glorified Christ and other false interpretations focused on... other things.
Just a quick clarification from my own viewpoint.
I don't think anyone is suggesting that the Zealots or Hasmoneans or Maccabees didn't exist.
The dead sea scroll community existed [...and I tend to think that John the Baptist probably emerged from that world]. Philo existed and was a very important Bible scholar, along with the Jewish centre of study in Alexandria.
I think that the argument is whether we take them or any other historical perspective as the key context for reading either the whole of the new testament or any part of it. Which of the possible Jewish theologies is the one that I should take as the key context? The DSS community is quite different to Philo and he is different to Simon with his Zealot background or political Herodians and aristocratic Sadducees etc.
When Jesus engages with the Pharisees or the Sadducees then we know the historical audience and we are also informed of the kind of theological issues that are at stake. We can imagine that the Pharisees were hoping for a different kind of Messiah to the Sadducees and different to the Zealots and different to the DSS Teacher of Righteousness. BUT, so what? Jesus is not any of those messiahs. He is the one spoken of by Moses and the Prophets.
To simply say that the general view was of a white horse conqueror-messiah is just not possible to sustain with the materials we have before us. Sure, some people may have thought like that, but it is not obvious from the gospels or epistles that this viewpoint is the only or dominating perspective. The myth tends to be deployed simply as an excuse to explain why people didn't trust Jesus.
Even if some people did think like that, it is not clear whether it has any relevance to the original intention of Moses and the Prophets.
I think the argument is that the new testament books tend to give us all kinds of information about intended audiences and also the kind of theological debates that they are engaged in. Is it wise or reasonable to project further audiences or debates beyond the ones explicitly engaged with in the texts? I'm not denying the existence of all kinds of other historical movements and debates, but I'm not persuaded that they are relevant when they are not referred to.
There certainly were all kinds of theological debates and historical movements that were going on all around the Jewish communities and in the surrounding world. These may have had more or less importance to different new testament readers or writers. Those are historical questions that can be investigated with integrity and academic rigour. My wife's background in archeology in general and Egyptology in particular is a constant source of fascinating historical research.
However, to what extent can I project that research onto the writers of the New Testament?
Think of a person living and writing in the modern UK. There are so many issues and movements and contexts. If we read a UK blogger, we might cast them as members of any number of UK or internet communities. Doing that might deeply affect the way we read them. People in 500 years might try to do that very thing. Yet, unless we pay attention to the clues that the blogger actually gives about the communities and issues they are engaged with we may profoundly misread them. Should I assume that they are concerned about the Lib-Tory Coalition or the student fees or perhaps they are obsessed with real ale or maybe they are a jihadist or perhaps an eco-warrior or an unthinking hedonist or an ambitious lawyer or a devout Roman Catholic or passionate about Welsh independence etc etc?
Any number of these real, historical agendas might change the way we read them. All of them are real historical contexts that might be relevant to understanding the blog. How can we select the relevant ones?
I want to suggest that only the text of the blog will tell us how to answer that. If the blogger speaks a great deal about Welsh independence and real ale but never mentions jihad or Roman Catholicism then it would tend to lead to the assumption of certain historical/political contexts rather than others.
In this way, it is suggested that the white-horse-messiah is the key historical/theological context for understanding Jesus' polemic or the reason for people rejecting Him or failing to believe in Him. Fine.... but where can we see this in the actual text?
Yes, some people wanted to make Jesus king and we might well assume that they are looking for a political messiah. When the disciples desire places in Jesus' cabinet, perhaps they too are thinking of a imperial messiah. Certainly Herod sees the new born Jesus as a political threat and assumes that the messiah would mean the end of his kind of kingdom. Yet, alongside this, we do in fact have the Virgin Mary, Simeon, Anna, John the Baptist, and Mary with her ointment, all of whom seem to see Jesus in a different way.
The problem with the myth is that it tends to flatten out all the specific details of the text. The fact that not everybody in the biographies thinks of Jesus as a white-horse-messiah is lost. The fact that Moses and the Prophets did not think of Jesus in that way is lost. The fact that thinking of Jesus as a white-horse-messiah is sinful is obscured... unless of course we are thinking of Revelation 19!
Thank you, Paul. I think maybe my last few years have given me an acquired allergy to sensationalism and overstatement. When I come in contact with it, I seem to break out in curmudgeons.
Calling "No-one expected the kind of Messiah that Jesus was" a myth is, at best, hyperbole. Sure, there were at least three major ways of misinterpreting Jesus. Sure, the white horse crowd might have made up as little as 1/3 of the ~100% of Jews who did not expect Jesus. But to somehow jump from there to concluding the misunderstanding of messiah-hood was a myth is unwarranted.
It sounds like I agree with what you both are saying after it's stripped of hype.
> Jesus and the Apostles did not come to bring a radically new sect within the broader sweep of Israelite hope. They presented themselves always and only as representing the true and ancient Way of God.
Which Israelites? If you're refering to the 7000 who didn't bow the knee, then yep. I agree. But when you make the statements you make above, and you don't point out that you're only referring to a vast minority of Israel when you say Israel, then I disagree with sentence one.
Jesus DID come bringing radical newness to the broader sweep of misinformed Israelite hope.
When I think of Israel as you use the term above, I'm exclusively thinking of the physical nation of Israel. Jesus brought a radical full stop to the hopes of national Israel, to Zealots, Qumran folk, Pharisees, and Hasmoneans alike. In the place of all their hopes He offered the true hope to which the remnant always clung.
We'll never know, but I believe if you'd spoken in your initial post of only spiritual Israel receiving and grasping spiritual truth , I'd not have batted an eyelash. I certainly agree those 7000 had a pretty solid clue God was going to do something special through Messiah, much more so than riding in on a white horse and splattering Babylonian blood all over the place.
On the other hand...
> You describe the Apostles as good hearted. Jesus describes them as hard-hearted. That’s probably significant.
I agree it's significant.
I'm saying those 12 would have been part of the 7000 in their day. I'm saying they're among the best-hearted Israel had to offer, and they were hard-hearted enough Jesus spent three years trying to bring them into the truth and they couldn't get there without the Spirit.
Do you assume there was a swath of people out there the scriptural authors neglect to mention who were softer-hearted than those 12?
I posit those 12 were of the highest heart quality in Israel. I then conclude they were among the most able to grasp Jesus' Messiah-hood. They, in fact, demonstrate this by constantly affirming Him as Messiah. Still, they get the root concepts of what Messiah-hood meant wrong over and over again. Any conclusion, then, that the Old Testament is plain gospel is indefensible. It's true gospel, that's for sure. And those 12 saw something of the truth in it. But it's not plain. Nothing needed to be re-invented, but an awful lot needed to be revealed.
:) "Stripped of hype"? But what would be left???
Just to be clear: the "myth" is the "no-one" part of it. I acknowledge right throughout the post that there are other competing Messiah-ologies. I myself am reacting to the sensationalism of "no-one understood." (And there's a fair bit of it around).
Hi Code (in answer to comment @ 7:45pm)
As to 1)
Yes - not all Israel are Israel. This is what I meant when I said:
There have always been false sects (that have very often been majority sects). But the true Way has always been the Way of trusting the suffering and rising Messiah - this is the Way of Moses and the prophets, and of the apostles.
On 2) I'd point you to Paul's comment @ 4:56pm. Yes I agree that the disciples are the best of the best. And if someone like Simeon had lived long enough to be in Christ's inner circle he too would have found the Way of Jesus confounding and faith-shaking (even John the Baptist did!). But this is not because the OT is less than plain gospel - it's about the nature of Jesus and the nature of the human heart. Again, as Paul says, Luke 24 is key here.
"It’s hard to argue against a position that says “People in bible times were ignorant of X” when it’s backed up by the proviso “…and every time we see knowledge of X in a bible guy it’s a singular exception because, well, he was a bible guy.”"
Except that the portrayal of this particular episode in the Luke doesn't mention a crowd of people recognising Jesus, it mentions Simeon and Anna. And it shows them recognising Jesus with no backstory - their recognition of Jesus is - like John the Baptists - based on a direct revelation of God. It isn't based on them looking for a virgin birth and recognising a particular instance of it as the messiah.
Do you really believe that the old testament saints who were saved by faith, disbelieved the promises of God that the acts laid out in Leviticus 16 atoned for their sins?
This is the issue that you raised so long ago that I agree with you on. And two days later the discussion is still going strong. But I think your presentation is somewhat one sided. Let's consider a couple of other issues.
Why is Luke 22:38 in the narrative? Then why do they ask the question in Luke 22:49? Is it just because they shunned the cross? Surely there was an expectation in play here. You have to admire Peter, at least he believed something was going to happen. Is this an isolated incident or can we find more in Luke 9:54? Was it unfounded to believe that Jesus would save the Israelites from the hand of their enemies and from those that hated them? Wasn't Zacharias prophesying that his son, John, would be a part of Israel's deliverance out of the hand of her enemies?
Now as far as the continuity between the believing remnant within the ministry of Jesus, and the church at Pentecost, there were only 120 before Pentecost. Yet after Peter's sermon there are 3000 who immediately receive his word and are baptized. The very next sermon results in 5000 believing. How is it that 8000 do not recognize Jesus as the crucified, resurrected, and ascended Messiah until AFTER Peter proclaims the truths from the law, psalms, and prophets to them? If it was so evident, why only 120? Surely the LORD was opening up new truths to them through the eyes of one who had spent personal time with Jesus who had opened up their understanding of the scriptures concerning Himself.
I agree with your basic premises, but it may be a little one sided.
Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
Orange Mailman - given the large amount of people from other parts of the world around at Pentecost, they might not have known of the events of Easter, having not been in Jerusalem at the time. The disciples also run off to Galilee and the church locks itself in the upper room when they get back.
There's only 7 weeks after the resurrection, and the church hasn't done much telling of the good news outside itself (if any), and is closed off from the world until the Spirit arrives.
So when the church finally opens it's doors and the Spirit starts his post-Jesus work, it's not a surprise that big numbers are recognised as believers, and are baptised - it doesn't talk about them becoming believers, it just says that they believed. Many would have been converted that day, but many would have heard about Jesus properly for the first time and realised that he was the the one they knew all about - the one they loved and trusted - and many would have realised that Jesus was indeed the Messiah in the past 50 days, when they couldn't really have joined the church as it was locked away from the world!
I'm not sure the issue is about whether large numbers or small numbers believed what the Scriptures were saying about Jesus.
As in every age, only a small number believe and practice what the Scriptures say about Jesus. Jesus Himself said only a few really follow Him on the narrow way.
The issue is whether it was clear or not.... whether it was genuinely wicked when they did not trust Jesus Christ.
Was it reasonable for anyone to reject Jesus as Messiah?
Was it reasonable or excusable to think that the Messiah had not come to suffer, die and rise?
Are we basically in sympathy with the Pharisees, Sadducees and the disciples when they are rejecting the Cross and arguing for greatness?
Or are we in sympathy with Jesus who seems so angry and condemning of the unbelief?
Was Jesus' summary of the Scriptures a fair and simple summary? Is He right to get so angry when most of the visible church had other ideas?
Think of Mark 9:30-49. Jesus gives His standard summary of the Law and the Prophets and then when the disciples show that they do not believe this, He ends up by telling them that they are going to go to Hell if they do not wake up and believe. Jesus' standard summary of the Scriptures is very simple and very direct: The Scriptures teach that He will be rejected, suffer, die and be resurrected on the third day. Jesus repeats this summary of the Law and the Prophets over and over again... and all He does in His post-resurrection accounts is take the disciples through exactly this same summary of the Scriptures - see Matthew 16:21; Matthew 26:24; Matthew 26:53-54; Mark 8:31; Mark 9:12; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:32-34; Mark 10:45; Mark 14:21; Luke 9:22; Luke 18:31-33 – “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” Luke 24:6-7; Luke 24:25-27; Luke 24:44-45].
Jesus Bible Overview in Luke 18 is exactly the same as His Bible Overview in Luke 24. The difference is that the disciples are no longer refusing to accept what the Scriptures teach. They not only see what the Scriptures say but they also now believe them.
They must have heard Him teach those Scriptures many, many times in just that way over those three years.
It is easy to see that the Lamb of God promised in Genesis 22 [for example] must suffer and die. The entire Levitical priesthood and sacrifices is a massive explanatory footnote about that Lamb of God. Over and over again, every day, the work of the Lamb of God was proclaimed and demonstrated at the very heart of the ancient church. Every day, in graphic detail, the suffering and death of the Lamb of God was enacted for anyone to see.
Nobody can, with honesty and integrity, read Exodus and Leviticus and imagine for one moment that the work of the Messiah/the Lamb of God/the Suffering Servant was not about His blood and death. How could Moses make it more obvious?
If there was any hope for a Messiah at all, then Exodus and Leviticus make it clear that His work was all about atonement, blood, sacrifice and death. The whole of the daily life of the ancient church was flooded with blood. The constant refrain is the need for atoning blood. The one thing that the Messiah must provide is atoning blood - on the basis of a simple surface reading of the Law and the Prophets.
The faithful priests or kings like David/Josiah or the true prophets, all anointed with oil as patterns of the Anointed, focus on the need for atoning blood: for faithful sacrifices at the temple. Why do the faithful kings want to build or restore the temple? Why do the prophets keep banging on about the quality/sincerity of the sacrifices at the temple? Their own lives were lives of rejection and suffering: lives soaked with blood. Hebrews 11 is a helpful summary of their lives in that way.
Anyone who took their stand on Moses and the Prophets could not logically say that the Messiah was coming to ignore the need for atoning blood and simply crack some human enemy skulls. What a weird view of the Law thought would be?
Think carefully about the meaning of the Scriptures that talk about ruling over the nations and dealing with the enemies.
HOW were the nations to be conquered?
HOW was the Messiah going to bring His judgements on them?
Look at Psalm 18 ending with verses 46-50. Those are the verses that Paul quotes in Romans 15 to demonstrate that salvation is for all the nations.
Again, remember how Moses preaches the work of the Rock in Deuteronomy 32. He builds up to the climax of verse 43 - "Rejoice, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; He will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people." This is the very verse that Paul again quotes in Romans 15:10 to prove that the gospel includes all the Gentiles. The fact that the Messiah/Rock/LORD is going to make atonement means that the nations get to rejoice WITH His people. He is coming to avenge and to take vengeance on His enemies YET this means that the nations can rejoice with His people.
To take these verse as manifestos for military conquest is perverse and unnatural... yet surely there were those who did just that.
See also Psalm 117 and Isaiah 11.
With darkened eyes and hard hearts these verses are twisted into a perverse idea that the Messiah is coming with heavy weapons to crack heads as a war leader. Yet, the intention of these verses is to show that the Messiah is coming to rule over all the nations with His everlasting Kingdom, a kingdom where even the wicked Gentiles can find forgiveness. He is coming to make atonement and judge the world, not just over Israel but the Gentiles too, so that all can worship Him.
When the "lights are switched on" how clear it will all seem! It will be great to hear Moses explaining his writings in the New Creation and we will all be stunned by the wonder and clarity of all he wrote.
We all think that it is totally obvious that Jesus is the LORD God of Israel. It is a fact that is proclaimed not only in every book of the Bible but is also proclaimed in every detail of the world around us. Do we recognise this obvious fact and worship, love and obey Him as He deserves?
The Scriptures tell us that the whole world is full of His glory and that the trees, animals and mountains join in with His worship. How many of us recognise all this apparently clear truth being shouted at us?
We might want to say, with Bertrand Russell, that the reason so few people believe in God/Jesus is that the evidence is too poor... and yet that is not the way the Bible goes with this. The Bible seems to say that people do recognise these truths but we suppress the truth, we cling to our evil desires, we love the darkness more than the light etc.
We are not saying that 80% of Israelites read and consciously grasped the Scriptures as Moses and the Prophets intended. That is certainly not true of the visible church today and it was certainly not true of it then. On the other hand I'm very nervous of the idea that Simeon, Anna, Mary or the others like them fell into a kind of ecstatic trance and uttered words that they didn't really understand. What they say is clearly filled with allusions and quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures. They seem to be simply summarising all the Scriptures predicted about the Messiah. It seems unreasonable to imagine that they didn't understood those Scriptures properly. Surely the whole point is that the DID understand and they were declaring that all that was promised was now being delivered.
When we preach the Way of Jesus from the Scriptures, we may preach it as clearly and simply as it is possible to do. This in itself does not mean that everybody will be turned to Jesus, that minds will fall open, that hearts will be changed. Yes, we must preach as clearly as we can... yet it is actually the work of the Spirit to illumine minds, to change hearts, to woo people to love Jesus.
Jesus was the greatest evangelistic preacher the world has ever known. Nobody could have made the Scriptures clearer or more simple than He did. Whatever sermons the apostles preached were never going to be as clear and compelling as even the briefest of Jesus own sermons. Yet, it seems that Jesus did not want a large witnessing community dominating the life of Israel before His death and resurrection. He even commands people NOT to witness about Him. He was sowing the most wonderful seed that has ever been sown, but the Spirit did not give the harvest of that until after the Day of Pentecost when thousands and thousands were finally gathered in. Peter and the apostles had the utterly thrilling job of harvesting all the gospel seed that the greatest evangelist of all time had been sowing for three years.
I thought the point of this thread was to challenge the strange myths that undermine our Bible study. There doesn't seem to be any solid reason to think that Moses and the Prophets didn't understand what they wrote. Sure, it seems that only a faithful remnant held onto the original intent of the authors. As in Ezekiel, Jesus wished that the church had been faithfully taught be selfless shepherds who had made the Scriptures plain rather than leaving the flock as wandering sheep, filled with all kinds of strange ideas about a warlord messiah or legalism.
It does seem to be harmful to assume that not only everybody expected a warlord messiah but also it was reasonable to expect this. I agree that many people may have wanted this kind of messiah, but I have to say that such hopes did not reflect what Moses and the Prophets actually said.
As far as I can see, we all seem to agree that Jesus and the apostles were trying to call everybody back to the original intention of Moses and the Prophets. The fact that only a faithful remnant had held onto that original intention meant that most people heard Jesus and the apostles as something 'new'... but in fact it was the original and most ancient gospel.
Hi Chris E,
I believe the sacrifices were something like 'sacraments in advance.' So they believed they were atoning in the way Acts 2 listeners believed baptism forgave their sins. It is the Rock Himself - their Accompanying LORD - who will make atonement for His people and land (Deut 32:43; Ps 130:8; Ezekiel 16:63). Of course there were sacramental signs of His future work throughout the Levitical law - but they were explicitly taught as shadows and copies (e.g. Ex 25:40).
To use Calvin's phrase: Christ always comes clothed in His promises. OT saints did not behold a naked Christ. But neither did they trust only in a pile of clothes - ignorant of the Person in Whom those promises have *always* been Yes and Amen (people commonly omit 2 Cor 1:19 from their quotation of 2 Cor 1:20!). So it's not either/or. True Israel faithfully enacted the "sacraments" with hearts set on the Rock, who would fulfil these signs.
Hi Orange, Good to hear from you. Like Paul has said, the levels of belief and apostasy have fluctuated throughout Israel's history, the question is, who is to blame? We're just denying the mythical explanation. The mythical explanation is:
1) The prophets didn't understand the message themselves.
2) No-one was prepared for the kind of Messiah Jesus was.
3) Any verse that says otherwise is just proof that the apostles were re-reading Messianic significance into the ancient texts.
We reject that explanation and say instead:
1) The prophets did know what they were talking about - the suffering and rising Messiah. And the faithful remnant fixed their hope on Him too.
2) People should have been prepared for the kind of Messiah Jesus was, and some clearly were.
3) The apostles were not re-reading the OT but giving its ancient and intended gospel meaning.
If we have agreement on that then I consider other disagreements to be minor.
With that proviso in place - I have been thinking about Isaiah 6 this morning. It is the most quoted verse of the Old in the NT. The hardening of Israel - though they see, but don't see - leaves only the holy seed in the land. Now, the hardening, as it's unpacked throughout the NT, is a culpable rejection of what's on display. But it gets to the point where Isaiah says "Who has believed our message?" And the holy seed is just the Suffering Servant. But He will see the light of life and sprinkle many nations.
So the 'light' and the ingathering of nations that Isaiah has been speaking of will come after the holy seed has personally taken on Himself our sins in atoning sacrifice. *Then* the effects of chapters 11/42/49/61 will come to pass. The seed becoming a shoot bearing fruit and eventually the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD (Is 11).
And someone might say - 'Ah yes, but only after the fact could anyone properly predict those sufferings and glories' - but John looks back on it and says: "Isaiah said this [the Isaiah 52 - Isaiah 6 link] because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about Him." (John 12:41)
So yes there is a hardening of Israel until Jesus is the One Faithful Israelite bearing His people's sins. And then from the holy seed/root/branch sprouts global fruitfulness (hence Pentecost, and beyond).
But, as in all these discussions of hardening (whether of Pharaoh or Israel), the ignorance is culpable ignorance. And it's not because the OT was unclear or patchy, or that the prophets or ancient Israelites were all groping in the dark. The problem was not darkness from God's side. The problem was the Light. As He shined, the people hardened up (as John's Gospel has been showing in the lead up to the Isaiah 6 quotation).
As so often... Glen has said what I was trying to say but with much more clarity. Glory!
And we both need to be clearer. Perhaps we should restrict ourselves to Tweets in the new year. Might be a good discipline.
Thank you Glen and Paul. For the clarity and the cool excursus :-)
Why does it matter? Well...
It's quite something to think that Jesus will allow people to stand accused before the Father for not believing in Him and receiving His everlasting life based on what Moses wrote about Him. There is no problem with clarity as far as Jesus is concerned and He will in fact base His judgement upon it. (Jn 5:39-46)
It troubles me when I hear friends trotting out myths 1,2 and 3 because of what they have been told, but like we've said above, the Spirit and the preached gospel brought thousands to believe. So that is what I do (including preaching to myself - as if I don't need the Spirit and am immune from seeing Christ where he is revealed!).
But when I hear people actually arguing FOR 1,2 and 3, convinced of their truth, standing AGAINST a view that there is a clear revelation of the True Messiah in the OT upon whom *some* had consciously and savingly believed, I struggle to separate them from those to whom Jesus is speaking in John 5.
Is that wrong? Please correct me if it is. I've struggled with that for 10 years now.... please help!
Glad to see more on the bearing of Pentecost drawn out more pointedly on this topic. But if I'm reading your comment rightly, you seem to be providing a rationalistic explanation of that event. Would you also see Pentecost as the fulfillment of Jesus' promise of baptism in the Holy Spirit?
John, I basically I have three groups of people in the 3000:
Those who weren't Christians, and then were through the Spirit working through Peter's preaching - this is likely the majority, but we to often assume this is everyone at Pentecost, because we have the church beginning that day, as a sect of Judaism - after all, Christianity was new, and you only had the 120 who had become Christians in the last 50 days...
Those who were Christians, via the Spirit and the OT's preaching, but didn't know of Jesus yet, or at least not of his resurrection - they trusted in the Christ, yet hadn't recognised Jesus as him yet, because they didn't know enough about Jesus (rather than not knowing enough about the Messiah).
Those who knew Jesus was the Christ, and were Christians, thanks to the Spirit's work (well, duh - who else would it be), but weren't part of the 120 as they couldn't move through locked doors to join them.
Of course it's the fulfilment of Joel, and Ezekiel and Jesus' prophecies about the coming of the Spirit, but it's not day 1 of the church - it's a very major day in the church, a major shift in the way it worked - the visible church was now not the people of Israel, but the community of believers, the Spirit starts permanently indwelling and the last days have begun.
And of course, the Spirit had worked in all of them that day, though may have previously too. I'm not trying to be rationalistic, though perhaps it looks like I was trying to give a rational reason as to why the church boomed. I don't want to deny the Spirit's power - he could have easily saved 3000 people that day - what I have a problem with is the idea that the people there were all clueless about Jesus and what was promised about the Messiah. I would find it far more odd (and denying of his power) that the Spirit wasn't working on these people before that day, that God had been silent, that they were all barking up the wrong tree on what the Messiah would do.
I read your blog practically every day. I'm in agreement with your basic premise. However, I still hold that you are leaning too far to one side. Let me explain.
#1- The prophets didn't understand everything. Otherwise why would Peter have written that they "searched and inquired carefully, searching what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories." Now I agree that they understood a great deal more than the category of people who whip out the phrase "the prophets didn't know what they were prophesying about".
#2- People should have been prepared for Jesus. But it is clear that the disciples were also prepared for someone who may take physical action and were ready to be His backup, hence the swords. Truthfully, what would you have thought as a disciple after Jesus cleansed the temple, then went back day after day to ensure that the money changers didn't come back? That's the context of Luke 20:1-18. And I noticed you dodged any comment on Luke 22:38, 49. Jesus was fairly radical and His actions could have easily been interpreted as revolutionary, the physical kind.
#3- If the apostles are NOT reinterpreting the OT scriptures, then surely they could fully expect that Israel would be delivered from her enemies. Paul B. above gives an excellent example of reinterpreting Psalm 18. Military conquest is the original context of this passage and it is not perverse and unnatural. It happened in the historical life of David, see the heading over the Psalm. There is rejoicing for the Gentiles who come to trust in David (and future Messiah), yet there was military conquest in physically subduing the nations as well. Both are true, they are not mutually exclusive.
The life of David gives us the pattern that we can use to see the Messiah. He is born in Bethlehem. He is mighty in words (psalms) and deed (Goliath) before the people. Yet he is rejected by his people. During his rejection there are a few which believe that he is God's chosen, and some of these are Gentiles. After his rejection which is portrayed graphically as a death type experience in several psalms, he returns to his people who now crown him as king. The nations gather against him and he defeats them all. He then rules over Israel and the surrounding Gentile nations who learn to trust in him.
You can continue to make many good points on this subject which I will continue to agree with. However, I think there needs to be a bit of a refinement.
Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
Christ ordained His disciples to preach to Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, then the entire earth. So I agree with you in one sense. But Luke 24:18 makes it clear that everyone in Jerusalem knew what happened to Jesus of Nazareth. Only those who had just arrived in the city were without knowledge of His crucifixion. There was a blindness over the people keeping them from recognizing their Messiah. The scriptures which proclaim Jesus were read every day in the synagogues, Acts 15:21. Yet somehow when the Messiah was crucified, resurrected, and ascended, the people failed to see Psalm 16 being fulfilled, or Psalm 110:1, that is, until after Peter preaches to them.
So why were only 120 convinced of Jesus, and those didn't even believe until He personally showed up, and some not even then, Matthew 28:17? If it was so obvious that the Messiah would come and be crucified, be resurrected on the third day, and then ascend into heaven, why weren't they prepared?
Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
Thanks for expanding on your explanation about Pentecost.
Your categorization of the 3000 into three people groups is rational and reasonable. ;-)
But in Acts, Luke describes just a single response. "They were cut to the heart" when they recognized that the crucified Jesus was both Lord and Christ. The 3000 were those who repented and were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Two of the concerns expressed in this thread are for the underestimation of the knowledge of the OT prophets; and the degree of understanding of Jesus as Messiah by his disciples prior to Pentecost. These are interesting questions that are good to ponder and discuss, but I wouldn't regard the answers as tests of orthodoxy.
For me a far greater concern than these two is how we view Pentecost. Is it only an organizational change in the church, establishing new leadership and such? On the contrary, I believe that Pentecost was a singular salvific event in the history of God's redemption of humanity (Acts 2:33). It cannot be separated from the totality of Christ's saving work.
"The wind bloweth where it listeth". We agree that the Holy Spirit is the power of God. So I accept that hypothetical explanations of the Spirit's activities are certainly possible, but I don't want to speculate about these things that I can't know apart from revelation. I think that we do agree that without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, no on ever has, nor can recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said was the greatest among those born of women, himself, at the end, doubted that Jesus was the Christ. So our faith is not in the infallible knowledge of even the greatest of the prophets. But John was a powerful instrument used by God to convince men that the hope of the world could be found only in divine grace. John heralded Christ and the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost without ever comprehending them. The Christian hope is for the magnification of the kingdom and power of Jesus. Christ's church is prophetic and is always looking forward to a still more perfect day. "The day of the Lord will come", but, like John, the church doesn't know the times or the methods of its arrival. John is the supreme example to the church of the herald of the Lord who prepares his way and enlivens the hope of the world. John, like any of the prophets, never knew precisely how the work that he was doing to advance the coming of the kingdom fit into God's sovereign purposes. But every generation, whether prophets, apostles, or disciples, is a link between the past and that which is to come. Believers are the recipients of that grace that John foresaw, who by faith have seen the beauty of Christ, and now proclaim his coming in triumph and glory.
"I don’t want to speculate about these things that I can’t know apart from revelation."
Nor do I, but I don't think assuming that they were all non-Christians before (OK, I'll grant you that cut to the heart rejects those who are fully Christians that I had as a group) Pentecost - sure everyone in Jerusalem knows about the crucified Jesus, but the risen Jesus isn't widely known at all, hence why Peter changes from common knowledge to "but I tell you" and not everyone at Pentecost was at Jerusalem 50 days before anyway.
"I think that we do agree that without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, no on ever has, nor can recognize Jesus as the Messiah."
And likewise without the Spirit, no one can recognise the Messiah as the one to trust in, which I doubt that none of the 3000 at Pentecost already did, even though they didn't know it was Jesus, through not knowing of his rising, or him anyway, given they lived far away from the action. Totally with you on the importance of the Spirit, not with you that the remnant of Israel was 120 and less during the time the risen Lord was walking the earth (the only thing it has going for it on that front is the symbolism of the number - the fullness of Jews).
Pentecost is epoch-changing - the removal of the school master of the law to the new covenant law written on hearts and so on and so forth, but too-strong a Pentecost, and you get into trouble - if the sending of the Spirit is salvific, how were OT believers actually saved if they didn't have the Spirit permanently indwelling? That's you implication there.
As Orange Mailman said above, I agree with the basic premise, but I still think you are leaning too far to one side.
"True Israel faithfully enacted the “sacraments” with hearts set on the Rock, who would fulfil these signs."
I think the the disagreement comes down to what the OT saints envisaged as the fulfillment of these signs.
I think the two verses most beloved of introductions to BT (John 5:39-40/Luke 24:24) tend to indicate that some explanation/illumination was needed to show how Christ fulfilled these signs. Hebrews and Romans seen in this light are a continuation of these teachings, which follows an arc that includes Peter's sermon in Acts 2.
I also think that without these parts of the NT it isn't very clear how the Covenant of Works was fulfilled.
I'm afraid I'm just not persuaded by the proposal that David was writing about himself or that the original meaning was different to the one suggested by Paul.
When I look at verses 20-24 of Psalm 18 I'm just not persuaded that such words refer to David.
In the same way, verses 43-45 do not read like anything in the life of David to me - "you have made me the head of nations; people I did not know are subject to me. As soon as they hear me, they obey me; foreigners cringe before me. They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds."
I can't move beyond the traditional view that David is writing about Jesus Christ, though I can also see that in a secondary sense David may be able to see in some partial way how he and the other saints are also included in Christ's experience.
This seems to be what is going on in the final verse when the king is identified as The Messiah... and then from the Christ down to David and then onto David's descendants. It is the Messiah first... and then in Him, David and his people.
"He gives His King great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to His Messiah, to David and his descendants forever"
I think over recent years I have been opened up to the idea that as the anointed king who was bearing witness to Jesus, David had experiences that enabled him to write about the experiences of Christ with deeper empathy.
Although David never experienced anything quite like Psalm 22, yet when he was writing about the crucifixion of Jesus in that psalm, it is quite possible that the experiences of rejection and suffering that David did endure would have helped him to write with deep empathy and feeling.
For this reason, when David experienced something of being delivered from his enemies or some military victories, I can well imagine that it helped him to empathise or enter into the experience of Christ in a deeper way.
Obviously David's heart and mind was full of Christ and his own typological experiences of Christ's own person and work were always secondary in his intention and thinking... yet these days I have come to appreciate that David's own historical and personal experiences as the anointed king of Israel were useful, though secondary, illustrations of the psalms he was writing.
I know that I'm repeating the kind of thing that I've said so many times before and I know that others will continue to argue for the idea that David was *primarily* thinking of his own historical circumstance. I just wanted to almost apologise that I'm just not convinced by that approach to the Psalms. When I read the Psalms I just keep running into all these details that will fit Jesus Christ perfectly but just don't seem to fit David.
Look, I don't want to hijack this thread... and I've already done enough of that for the past couple of days.
I pray that we will all experience the glory and presence of Jesus this Christmas.
Every blessing in Jesus.
When I look at verses 20-24 of Psalm 18 I’m just not persuaded that such words refer to David.
It is incredible how much of the Psalms (and the rest of the OT) can be read in a specifically Messianic light when viewed from the perspective of Jesus' words
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, John 5:39
...when the light finally came on, I started reading my Bible less like a "how-to" manual and more like an autobiography of Christ's life and work. The application to my own life still applies, but I'm not the center of reference anymore, and it's a wonderful relief!
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Thanks for the dialog. I appreciate the opportunity to engage this question with you in a spirit of "faith seeking understanding".
Yes, you're right that the weakness in my view of Pentecost is that it doesn't offer an unambiguous explanation for the application of redemption to the OT saints. And you've also identified the reason why the covenantal view has such difficulty in dealing with the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation.
I can't accept the strict covenantal view, but neither am I trying to raise a spotless red heifer to consecrate the third temple in Jerusalem! I'm convinced that the "still small voice" of scripture lies somewhere in the squishy and sometimes unsatisfying middle ground between the strict covenantal and dispensational views. Both of these positions are relatively recent developments in historical theology. Before these two came on the scene, the church (wisely) was generally not too dogmatic about the question of the salvation of the OT saints. Some expressed the view (on the basis of very limited scriptural support) that Christ had freed them from bondage during the interim between the crucifixion and the resurrection. I think that the church came to realize that it's just best to leave believers to their liberty in the Spirit on questions where scripture is unclear.
Both the strict covenantal and dispensational views force scripture into the mold of their systematic theologies. And at such a cost! With the former diminishing the work of the Holy Spirit and the latter diminishing the work of Christ. For me, I'm OK with ambiguity in my answers about the salvation of the OT saints, as long as I'm not missing out on the critical roles and relationship of Christ and the Holy Spirit in salvation.
Is it too strong a view of Pentecost to say that it is integral to redemption? ...Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.(John 7:37-39) Apart from the indwelling of the Spirit there is no union with Christ and his work is of no benefit—he is not ours, and we are not his (Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 6:17).
As to the salvation of the OT saints, I believe that they were also supernaturally indwelt by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (though not before) and included in the church, which is truly now one people. I'm strongly inclined towards this view, but not dogmatically so. I find Hebrews 11:39,40 remarkable with regard to the OT saints and Pentecost.
It's Christmas! I'm celebrating that the incarnation has made possible the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Christ, in his saints of all the ages.
Just wanted to say that Heather's last comment is an incredible encouragement:
re: Number 2
Rabbinic teaching was pretty strong in the belief that Messiah was a conqueror. This is supported by (1) their frequent use of the term "Messiah" to refer to (2) the numerous first-century "Messiahs" all of whom were warriors, and (3) the two-person view of the Messiah (Messiah ben Ephraim and Messiah ben Judah) developed by the rabbis. All of this is well attested in the literature.
Just because it doesn't fit your theological system doesn't make it wrong.
So some first-century Jews believed Number 2 and some didn't and the difference is probably in the difference between formal religion and folk religion.
A little research in the right areas will keep you from making such false assertions.
Hi Michael, welcome to the blog.
Myth #2 as I've framed it is the assertion that:
The emphasis is on the "no-one" (as every sentence in that section will show).
So what I'm saying is that not everyone bought the warrior-Messiah or two-Messiah line that you speak of (and yes, I am aware of such extra-biblical misunderstandings). Additionally I contend that no-one who was faithful to Moses and the Prophets should have misunderstood the Hebrew Scriptures in such a way.
It's interesting isn't it that when Herod asks his bible students which town the Messiah was to be born in, they don't reply "Which one?" Simeon did not say "Now that I hold 50% of the consolation of Israel I can depart in peace." Philip did not tell Nathanael "We have found one of the two that Moses wrote about." (other examples could be multiplied).
Of course there was a lot of nonsense spoken about the coming of Christ in the 1st century. There's just as much nonsense spoken about His coming in the 21st century. My point is that those other Messiah-ologies are hard-hearted misunderstanding of the clear prophecies of Scripture. And that there were faithful Israelites who grasped the truth. Therefore the myth "punches far above its weight" given the biblical evidence.
I don't see how your comment rebuts my position. But perhaps I've misunderstood your points?
The Psalms sometimes are strictly Messianic. But to read every psalm from the point of view that the only person being referred to is the Messiah runs contrary to common sense. For instance, Psalm 73 is not about the Messiah almost stumbling in His faith, but about an Israelite who had an honest to goodness struggle in his faith. Psalms 32 and 51 cannot be applied to the Messiah since these focus on a sinful person repenting of their sins before a holy God. So to take Christ as the default position creates complications. Certainly every portion of the Bible will point to Christ if applied properly. And I believe it just takes a little common sense to work this out.
Psalm 41 is a combination of the two. Here we have someone who needed healing because of sinfulness, but there are Messianic applications according to the New Testament writings. I think it's obvious which sections apply to which. David wrote from his own experiences here, but some of this applied to the Messiah. He may or may not have had knowledge that this psalm was Messianic.
David knew that the Messiah would spring from his lineage. He knew quite a bit. Did he know everything? I don't think we can rightly say. What about Psalm 18? This psalm was gleaned from David's life after he had conquered all of his enemies. Why wouldn't we take this scripture from II Samuel 22:1 into consideration when applying this text? David conquered many Gentile nations bringing them into submission to himself. II Samuel 12:26-31 contains a detailed description of this. Here he is crowned with a Gentile crown. I suppose you in England could understand this better than myself, who have a monarchy in your country while I don't.
So I hold that David wrote from his own experiences, and many of these things are Messianic. It's doesn't take too much to accurately divide the Word of Truth to see which is which. The entire context of Psalm 18 is one of military conquest, and I believe much of it is yet future. Remember the David's life consisted of rejection as long as Saul lived. Not until after Saul died was there enthronement. Two clear phases of David's ministry are seen in the psalms, his rejection and his enthronement. Much of Psalm 18 should be seen as yet future at the second advent when the Messiah descends in power and glory, see Psalm 18:9-15. The descent into Sheol can be seen at the first advent, see Psalm 18:4-6.
You know the funny thing, I mentioned this very psalm (Psalm 18) as being Messianic to some other Pre-Millennialists and they disagreed and accused me of being Christocentric (which is a negative term to them). This will most likely be my last comment on the matter. Until it gets brought up again.
Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
This has been great fun to read - many thanks to everyone for an exceptional and illuminating discussion.
Glen, you mentioned something I want to call you up on:
"Also, the difference between a grace-centred (charo-centric??) OT faith and a christocentric one is significant."
I can understand the desire to separate these two. If you make grace primary, then perhaps you eventually get Sanders' suggestion that covenantal nomism is actually all about grace...
But I take it Paul's discussion in Rom 9-11 is illuminating.
Rom 10:3. "Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness."
This is the opposite of grace, refusing to receive.
It was warned against by Moses, repeatedly. Deut 9:4 is representative:
"After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, 'The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.'"
I take it thus that the stumbling stone of 9:32 is Christ, and he divides 'all Israel' into two groups: those who seek to establish their own righteousness (works), and those who don't (grace).
You get 100% of faithful Jews following Jesus after the gospel is preached in all the highways & byways of Israel. There is no Judaism left over, as it were.
I think this means that grace-Judaism is precisely the same thing as Jesus-receiving-and-worshipping-Judaism. Charocentricity must mean Christocentricity and vice versa.
If this is so then covenant nomism is not charocentric at all, nor would any other conception of Judaism be that did not look forward to the grace promised by God in Jesus.
I'm well aware this is the theological equivalent of a hit-and-run, but I'm happy to respond later if that's helpful. Also, from your general tone in this discussion, I suspect we might agree anyway, Glen.
this is the difficult thing though, does the OT clearly distinguish between the first and second coming of Christ? The book of Malachi, for example, sees the coming of Christ as a coming of judgement. The one who heals is also the one who will have his saints "trample down the wicked". Now, for a New Testament believer, it is easy to look back to the gospel and see this event as yet to come, but did OT believers have this much clarity?
I would agree with your point about gentile inclusion being the main new thing, but what about the giving of the spirit at pentecost? Was this Baptim of the Spirit something which happened to all of the OT saints as well. If it is not a new thing, then what is the significance of Pentecost?
Just a small point on the second coming of Jesus. Doesn't Enoch have great clarity on that?
So, yes, the Messiah is expected as the rider on the white horse of Revelation 19... but only in His Second Coming. Peter seems to say that the basic faith of the Old Testament church was in the Messiah who would FIRST suffer and THEN enter into His glory. That is what Jesus also says is the most basic Bible overview. Therefore, it would be hard to see that any of the faithful remnant would have expected the Messiah to FIRST appear as the triumphant judge of the world and only then enter into His sufferings! That wouldn't make sense to me...
Also, I think that the best way to read the Psalms is to assume that the speaker is Jesus unless we have clear reasons to think otherwise. I seem to recall that both Augustine and Luther suggested that approach and it seems to work fine. The Orange Mailman felt that this is the common sense approach and it seems so to me.
I enjoy your blog, I’m thankful for your ministry, and I pray God's blessings upon you, but this was not your best post.
Doesn’t “no-one” mean “not one” as in "not a single person"? (I’m ignoring the categorical statement since you use “some” in your post.)
You wrote that the statement “No-one expected the kind of Messiah that Jesus was” is a false statement, a myth. This is the same as saying that everyone expected the Messiah to be exactly who he was. So you’re saying that the prevalent view in Jesus’ day was that the Messiah would be just like Jesus and the minority view is the “conqueror” view.
I’m saying that your view is wrong for the following two reasons (there may be others):
(1) The significance of first-century messianic movements indicates that the “conqueror” view was the prevalent view among first-century Jews, otherwise, these messianic movements would never have gotten off the ground. (Disclosure: I was research assistance for a dictionary of messianic movements and candidates.)
(2) Rabbinic teaching held to the “conqueror” view and, consequently, this would have been the view taught in the synagogue, discussed among the teachers, and which would have filtered into Jewish homes this making it the prevalent view.
It is true that not everyone bought the line that I speak of (to use your terms). It is also true that those who were faithful to Moses and the Prophets should not have misunderstood it; it is true that there were faithful Israelites who grasped the truth; and it is true that these were “hard-hearted misunderstandings.”
That these are true does not contradict the notion that these “misunderstandings” were the same time the prevalent view in Israel.
The faithful Israelites you mentioned who believed in the Jesus as Messiah do not alter (1) and (2) nor does their number reduce those who held the “conqueror view to a tiny minority as your comment implies. They were part of a "righteous remnant" and a righteous remnant is just that: a “remnant,” a minority.
So the myth does not “punch far above its weight given the biblical evidence” simply because the biblical evidence represents the view of the righteous few rather than the unrighteous majority.
Your statements about Herod and Simeon are weak attempts to skew the biblical evidence toward your preconceived conclusion.
I appreciate your interaction on this. I pray God give us both understanding.
"Just a small point on the second coming of Jesus. Doesn’t Enoch have great clarity on that?"
Hi Paul -
By this statement do I take it to mean that you believe all of Enoch to be canonical, and if not, can you tell me how a Second Temple Jew was to know which bits were canonical and which bits weren't?
Michael, I'm pretty sure Glen et al have already clarified that the myth was that there was a monolithic position at all.
You're preaching to the choir.
Thanks for that.
I'm opposing the myth "no-one understood" *not* by saying "everyone understood " but by saying "not everyone misunderstood." I think if you read the original post that will be clear.
I'm sure many of my readers have never heard such an appalling suggestion as that 1st century Jews *could* not have understood or predicted the kind of Messiah Jesus turned out to be. But I assure you, I have heard it a lot. And this is the myth I am opposing. And I'm opposing it by saying *some* got it.
Yes indeed it was the righteous remnant who 'got it'. But the rest had no excuse for getting it wrong - they were foolish and hard-hearted even if they were the majority of rabbis.
Thanks for dropping by. Romans 10:4 continues:
"Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."
So yes charocentricity is a key definer ot true OT faith - but grounded in christocentricity.
The pop-biblical-theology I'm opposing is one that affirms four of the five solas for the OT but denies the one sola from which the others flow - Christ Alone. So pop-bib-theology says "The continuity of the covenants consists in the fact the saints are saved by grace through faith."
But I'm wary of any suggestion that this 'faith' is an implicit faith in Christ. The charocentricity flows from an explicit Messiah-centricity.
To be clear, perhaps that final sentence should say: "*True* charocentricity flows from an explicity Messiah-centricity."
thanks for your response, I like the reference to Enoch in Jude! And I suppose suffering would have to come before judgement, both because it's logical and because 1 Peter 1:10-11 tells us that the prophets saw it that way. Although the timings of how long it would take and so on were not known, they weren't even known to Jesus, who entrusted such knowledge to his father. And Jesus knew the gospel better than anyone!
I'm not necessarily convinced by the use of the phrase "Old Testament church" though. There was a congregation of believers in the Old Testament, but Jesus said he would come to build a church (Matt 16:18). But maybe that's because I'm a credobaptist ;-)
Where are all these people claiming that first-century people *could not* have understood it? The view you say is false makes not claims (that I am aware of) that they were unable to understand it except for their hard-heartedness.
As for the rest, I agree (I think). But your explanations keep changing and each time they do they get increasingly confusing and you do little more than refer me to your original post (which, granted, is the least confusing, which isn't saying much).
Now it seems like your contradicting yourself and affirming what you claim is false.
If few got it, then most didn't get it. Which means that, for better or worse, the "conqueror" view was prevalent, which I stated is true, but is also what you said (in your original post) was a myth.
I think maybe you should rethink your rethinking of your thought and then restate what you restated about your statement so that we can all be clear.
Either way, I think I'll stick to my own understanding of BT learned over years of study and leave the "pop BT" to you.
Michael - Just wanted to comment on two of your statements in your latest contribution, but by no means stick my neck out to add to an already fruitful discussion to this blog post.
"Either way, I think I’ll stick to my own understanding of BT learned over years of study and leave the “pop BT” to you"
If we are not to address 'pop BT' then we would end up addressing a niche crowd. The majority of Christ's sheep today is simply going to be led astray while we only cater to the 'in-house' biblical theologians.
"Where are all these people claiming that first-century people *could not* have understood it? The view you say is false makes not claims (that I am aware of) that they were unable to understand it except for their hard-heartedness."
China (in present-day), for one. Churches in Asia today very often preach that "first-century people *could not* have understood it [i.e. the suffering servant role of Christ]". It is very vexing to hear such sweeping statements. I remember publicly raising a similar question re: this pop-myth to an American speaker last year who came to Hong Kong to promote his book during a seminar on Christian discipleship. His simple response at the very well attended conference (clearly targeted to those who were 'well-versed' in Scripture) was "there is *nothing* valuable in the OT regarding Christian discipleship because no-one understood Christ's work until after Christ's resurrection". He has quite simply (knowingly perhaps?) swept thousands of years of extra-biblical church dogmatics under his rug by that one sentence. I can only pray that God could protect His sheep by making them forget the speaker's words at that seminar. Thankfully, a couple who sat behind me recommended me to another conference that same evening which, they assured me, would provide a more grounded response.
These sweeping statements are quite simply on the streets, around us, and widely accepted. Just two Sundays ago I almost caught my pastor assuming a similar position as pop-myth #2 above. Sermons and church services, as soon as it comes to the 'cognitive aspect' of the disciples' pre-undersanding of Christ from the OT text up to the point of the cross often feel like damage control than heartfelt praise.
Glen - thanks for this post and despite your pastoral and familial commitments, I am grateful that you still take the time out to address the various comments (50, and still going! - easily one of your most popular posts). Pray all of you have had a wonderful Christmas.
Hi Chris E.
With respect to Enoch quoted in Jude, I'm making a very narrow point here. I'm not saying anything about the canonical status of any of the Enoch books or any part of them or how anyone at any time might have judged that. [That might be for an entirely different thread]. I'm simply saying that according to the Biblical record we know that a very early Christian believer seemed to have a very full grasp of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
If such a deep understanding of Christ's coming in judgement was present in the early centuries of the church, then it doesn't seem reasonable to assume that this understanding was entirely lost in later years.
Chris W, yes I like your point about the time between the suffering/glory and then the future judgement. If Jesus Himself does not have the date in His filofax, then how could anybody else?
Jacky, thanks for the statement of the importance of this. It is vital that we are preaching Christian discipleship from the whole Bible as it was originally intended. That is what the prophets and the apostles did, and so must we.
As far as I can see, Glen's proposal is clear enough. The issue is not that everybody or even most people trusted Jesus as Moses and the Prophets intended them to do. The faithful remnant might have been a very small remnant.
I don't think that is the main point... but I may have misunderstood this.
As far as I can see, the issue here is about a correct exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures. The simple claim is that the apostles preached Jesus *out* of the Hebrew Scriptures rather than preaching Him *into* those Scriptures.
Glen is saying that Jesus is *exegeting* the Scriptures as Moses and the Prophets originally intended. In other words, Jesus is not reading meaning *back* but reading meaning *out*.
The reason that myth 2 is a problem is that it gives support to and is typically consciously joined to the notion that Jesus was not the Messiah that the Hebrew Scriptures intended. I remember recently hearing a speaker who with great passion and excitement claimed that Jesus, in a brilliant creative move, joined together ideas of suffering/sacrifice with triumph/glory in a way that *nobody had ever seen before*. This was intended as a kind of compliment to the creative genius of Jesus... and yet if it is true it means that Jesus was wrong in His little Bible Overviews.
As far as I can see, Jesus seems to say that His reading of the Hebrew Scriptures is the one that everyone must take and that was held by Moses and the Prophets.
As we have often said in this thread, Jesus Himself, both before and after His crucifixion/resurrection summed up the Hebrew Scriptures with a clear statement about His own life of suffering, death, resurrection and glory -
"see Matthew 16:21; Matthew 26:24; Matthew 26:53-54; Mark 8:31; Mark 9:12; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:32-34; Mark 10:45; Mark 14:21; Luke 9:22; Luke 18:31-33 – “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” Luke 24:6-7; Luke 24:25-27; Luke 24:44-45."
Again, as we have said in this thread, Peter says that the ancient saints were looking forward to the sufferings first and then the glory of Christ.
Over the years I have been in different conferences and forums when I have said something like "The Hebrew Scriptures teach that Christ will suffer, die and then be resurrected. This is the Biblical Faith of the Old Testament church and it is still the faith of the church today." Nearly every time that I have said that kind of thing, somebody [and sometimes many people] come up to me or post after me that this was *not* the faith of the Old Testament and that they didn't know or intend or understand those things about Christ. Usually they point to Biblical or extra-Biblical examples of teaching/people who did not think like Jesus about the Scriptures. Yet, again, that isn't the point. We all know of many, many, many examples of teaching about Jesus/Hebrew Scriptures in every age that is different to His own teaching about Himself.
The claim is that Jesus' own simple Bible Overview is a *correct* statement of Hebrew Scriptures as they were originally intended... and that this understanding of Christ is what He Himself expects from His people in every age. He expected the church of His own day to trust Him in that way... regardless of whether many did.
Jesus is angry about other views of the Scriptures/Himself [no matter how embalmed in tradition or popular they are] because He is the object of saving faith.
If someone says that the Hebrew Scriptures were not *intended* to be about Jesus but we should preach them as if they are about Jesus, then I'm left really confused.
As far as I can see, Glen is not saying anything more than Jesus Himself is saying in His simple Bible Overviews. Glen is not making any massive claims about the views of *everybody* at any point in history. He doesn't seem to be saying anything about the kind of extra-biblical teaching that might or might not have been around at any time in history.
He simply seems to be saying that Moses and the Prophets intended to speak about Jesus Christ in the way that Jesus Himself understood them... and that this understanding was expected of the church in every age. How many people or what percentage of the visible church really did trust Christ in this saving way... who knows?
Hi Paul -
"I’m simply saying that according to the Biblical record we know that a very early Christian believer seemed to have a very full grasp of the second coming of Jesus Christ. "
Sure, and there isn't any disputing that. The key is that it is the view of an early *Christian* believer. Whereas the point being questioned was whether the average Jewish believer who was saved by faith would been aware of or would distinguish between the the two comings of the Messiah. [It seems that prior to the last few parts of Luke, not even the disciples themselves understood what was happening - even though Christ had been raised.]
I agree with your view that "Jesus is not reading meaning *back* but reading meaning *out*", the question is how readily apparent this would have been to the average 'true Israelite'
The argument against a maximalist reading of #2 shouldn't take on an 'any true scotsman' flavour.
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Paul B's summary is exactly what I meant. St Paul has truly intepreted my authorial intent.
So: as to #1 - my original message was not confused but was always intended in this kind of way.
As to #2 - there has been a mixed reception of these thoughts, but no matter, *some* have grasped their true meaning.
As to #3 - Paul is not 'reading back' but 'reading out' what I've always insisted upon.
Chris E, sorry that I didn't make myself clear. By "an early Christian believer" I was referring to Enoch.
The original post was interesting and stimulated a good discussion. On balance, I come down as a dissenter as to the presentation of the position here. But beyond the substantive argumentation, I thought that the loaded language used in the post was needlessly polarizing. "Foundational Myths of pop" theology "trip[ping] off evangelical tongues almost without a second thought", is certainly a highly-charged and attention-grabbing declaration! But I came away from the post feeling like it was an overindulgence of a too critical spirit.
So, Namby Pamby though I am, I objected more to the tone of the post than to its substance.
I score this one as a muffed football, but that's a rarity here. And even if you're wrong it still makes for good reading.
"...we seem to enjoy inhabiting one or other of the polar regions of truth. If we could straddle both poles simultaneously, we would exhibit a healthy biblical balance. ... Like Abraham and Lot we separate from one another. We push other people over to one pole, while keeping the opposite pole as our preserve." John Stott in "Balanced Christianity"
@ John B
I appreciated the John Stott quote. Often, I've wondered whether my reactive tendency doesn't cause me to engage in the exact behavior which is described.
It's good to be reminded of the need to give each other space to articulate what we really want to say. John Stott always says that if we simply state our convictions in a humble and respectful way, then the truth will show itself more clearly.
I apologise if I've clouded the discussion with polarising language.
Nevertheless, I feel that this discussion has brought important points into the open and I've been made to think again hard about the different ideas.
I'm not sure if I want to award scores, but I appreciate all the contributions and I pray that any further ideas can be presented in a clear and humble way.
From my own perspective, I've heard many assertions that few or none of the Israelites/believers in Jesus' day could/would understand/accept His own presentation of Moses and the Prophets. I can certainly see that only a few seem to recognise that Jesus' exegesis is correct - and the disciples themselves really seem to struggle in this area.
However, if Jesus' exegesis is a true presentation of the original intention of Moses and the Prophets, then what does that mean for our own exegesis of Moses and the Prophets? Obviously we need to follow Him in this but what would that look like? Do we sound like Jesus in our Bible explanations? Should we?
I have spent several years reading primary and secondary sources of Jewish Biblical studies from the generations before Jesus right through to the 3rd/4th century. There are *some* examples of those who get it right [following Jesus], but most go in quite different directions, pursuing the kind of ideas that Jesus found so objectionable in John chapter 5. Many of the Rabbinical debates/ideas are quite fascinating from an academic point of view but have nothing really to do with Christ and are a world away from the way that He sees things.
Now, I think we all agree that then [as today] few people exegeted the Scriptures in the way that Jesus did. I'm not convinced that the reason for this is a lack of academic or intellectual ability. Perhaps some suggest that an ordinary believing Jew of the first century would not have had the intellectual capacity or theological training for reading the Bible in the way that Moses, the Prophets and Jesus suggest.
However, in my experience following Jesus' way of exegeting the Scriptures is not about intellectual ability or academic training. I'm not convinced that Jesus' view of Moses and the Prophets requires great academic ability. I admit that I find it hard to follow all that Jesus and the apostles say, but my suspicion is that it has more to do with the state of my heart and life than my IQ.
I've often been stunned by the profound depth of Bible teaching in those who have just given themselves to careful, daily Bible study - even without the formal training that I've spent so much time on.
I've all kinds of books with complicated schemes to "get from the Old Testament to Jesus". Some of them have charts and diagrams, with checklists of questions. Yet, at the end they often leave me feeling that it is a little unnatural... slightly contrived, a bit too complicated.
Ok... why should it be simple? Fair enough... but Jesus' own summaries of the Law and the Prophets just seem to be so much more direct and straightforward. Jesus seems to suggest that He met Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Isaiah. If I take that at face value, then it seems to make the Old Testament even easier to understand.
I'm just not sure that we *need* to take Jesus back into the Old Testament in that way. I'm still convinced that Jesus is already packed into every bit of the Old Testament - as the main character, as the LORD God of Israel, as the Promised Seed, the Lamb of God, the Only Begotten Son, the Divine High Priest, the Angel of the LORD, the Righteous One, the Blessed Man, the Mediator, the Word of the LORD, the Lord of Hosts, the Redeemer, the King of Israel, the Fairest of Ten Thousand etc etc. He is the Anointed Priest and the Perfect Sacrifice.
The Rabbis and theologians of Jesus' day seemed quite offended that Jesus and His apostles understood the Scriptures better than they did even though they had received no formal theological training.
Having said that, Jesus could clearly see that the people desperately needed Scripture teaching shepherds who would lead them to Him. If the Scripture teachers of His day had taught Moses and the Prophets in the way that Jesus and the apostles did, then presumably many people would have trusted Him and understood who He was and what He was doing.
[As it was Jesus had to meet with Moses and Elijah directly in order to talk with people who really understood His 'departure']. If only more of the saints and Bible teachers of that day had been more like Moses and Elijah in their understanding!
Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.
Just a wee point here. Reading through the thread here I have reminded of my own tendencies in the past to admonish people who would rush to demonise the Pharisees and Sadduccees without realising that they were actually the most 'upright' members of society and would have been viewed as such. (Even though Josephus' depiction of them - the Pharisees in particular - is pretty disturbing, Paul makes it clear from his own testimony that the model Pharisee was also considered the model Jew by wider Jewish society.)
I now realise that it is very easy for this admonition to be misconstrued as a rehabilitation "also" of the Pharisees' theology, in the style of myth #2. I even found myself going back over things I have said in the past to check that I wasn't doing this myself!
To avert such misunderstandings, I think we have to turn once again to Tim Keller, who has done the best job the past few years of reminding us that both the irreligious and the religious are equally wicked in their rejection of Jesus.
In other words, it is still important to rehabilitate the social depiction of the Pharisees or else all the religious people being taught the Bible will never identify with them in the way that they should... but we must always do this within the "3-ways-to-live" framework which presents the religious, 'good', Pharisees as equally hard-hearted and wicked (and even more so!) for refusing in their hearts to accept what the Scriptures had made plain to them.
In response to John B's quotation of John Stott - only an Anglican could read the story of Abram and Lot and conclude that what was needed was a via media! ;-) (With tongue firmly planted in cheek...) perhaps Abram should have become a semi-Sodomite or moved to a commuter-town on the outskirts of Gomorrah.
I'm not *just* being facetious here, the point is that Christians won't only disagree about issues they'll also disagree over the importance of those issues and therefore about the degree of latitude we give one another on those disagreements.
I might be wrong but I think that a person who buys these myths is a hairs breadth away from denying Christ alone. Someone might think that's sensational. Maybe it is, but bear in mind that every defender of the solas has to be ready to be called sensational.
For me, Christ as the *One* Way of the Father's revelation and the *One* Object of saving faith is hugely important. I believe that there are ways that popular evangelicalism denies this - and denies it even when it claims to be upholding it: "Of course Christ is the One object of saving faith, it's just you don't need to actually *know* Him... or at least, you didn't." I find that to be an unacceptable compromise of a vital Christian truth.
Maybe it's not a compromise, maybe it's an acceptable compromise, maybe I've misunderstood Christian truth - these are all the sorts of issues we've been discussing in the comments. But I'm yet to be persuaded that the danger has been avoided. Therefore - against every Anglican inclination in me - I don't see a "both-and" compromise if there are those who buy those 3 myths.
Interesting view concerning Stott.
When I read the quote, I was thinking "Yeah, that's me...sticking my fingers in my ears and looking for a safe place to hide when someone presents a view of Scripture with which I'm not familiar".
Obviously, not all views are correct and some are so ridiculous they ought not even be considered.
But being willing to listen, discuss and actually MOVE off of one's island of ignorance when proven wrong is not a bad thing, I think.
So, is it right to conclude that you regard the rejection of these "myths" as a test of orthodoxy?
Do you see the holding to these myths as just a hypothetical view ("...if there are those who buy those 3 myths"), or are they "foundational" to popular evangelical theology?
Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify. No, the test of orthodoxy is 'Christ alone'.
To quote Article 7 of the 39:
"The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises."
That's the kind of test of orthodoxy the church has historically set forth.
It's when *this* is denied that I get really worried.
The myths do not amount to a denial of Article 7 but they often serve as unscriptural supports for just such a denial.
Now people might affirm the myths but (inconsistently in my opinion) preach Jesus-full sermons. There are indeed such people and thank God for their inconsistency.
My interest is more in those who find themselves defending the myths to the hilt. I wonder whether the driving force is a 'system' of biblical theology in which article 7 is denied. I have very often found this to be the case.
I'm not saying all modern evangelicalism is compromised. I used the term 'pop biblical theology' as a way of avoiding naming names. And I acknowledge that what I'm objecting to might be a localized phenomenon that just happens to follow me around the world ;-)
Thanks for clarifying. I'm relieved to hear that you're not the Simon Cowell of evangelicalism! ;-)
Article 7 is a great classical statement of balanced Christianity that presents the boundaries of orthodoxy without rigid prescriptions. And yes, it's the *denial* of the theology in Article 7 that is the chief concern—not it's formal affirmation.
I'm thankful that our loving union with Christ isn't based on the comprehensiveness of our theology. I pray for the strength of the ministers of the church to strive to faithfully teach and pass on the truth of Christ. I pray for those brothers and sisters in churches under ministers whose orthodoxy has been compromised. But most of all, I give thanks to the Father, who has given us another Advocate—"even the Spirit of truth".
Happy New Year!
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."(John 14:26)
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I know this response is late and I apologize for taking so long to get back.
Jacky: I appreciate the irenic tone you took in your response. My statement about "pop BT" was unnecessary.
The fact remains that Glen is simply wrong about it No. 2. The "myth" was a reality (ie, people were looking for a a Messiah-King) and the literature on the subject supports this and the Scriptures do as well (funny no one mentioned John 6:14-15).
Glen's later comments about how *some* got what he was saying about No. 2 makes me wonder what I missed. Maybe I'm too US and not enough UK to understand what he was driving at. I prefer to be straightforward rather than tongue-in-cheek about such matters.
Either way, Glen's post didn't do much to clear the matter up; it simply brought more confusion and as preachers of the Word aren't we supposed to clear things up rather than simply start debate?
Let me quote from my original post:
That's the myth.
The objectionable part of it - that which makes it a myth - is the word "no-one".
The myth is that *no-one* had the *right* expectations. And thus to prove the myth a reality you'd have to show that *everyone* had the *wrong* expectations.
Do you see what I'm saying?
Now of course I agree that *some* had the wrong expectations. I have admitted that time and again - first in the post and then in many clarifying comments.
You might even be able to show that *most* or *the vast majority* had wrong expectations. But it still wouldn't prove the myth to be true.
Now, once you see that this is what I'm saying I hope it's obvious that it doesn't matter how many wrong-headed Jews you can show me in 2nd temple literature. And it doesn't matter that John 6 is in the bible. I know there were many, many Jews who got it wrong. But to point that out does not prove the myth to be a reality.
Maybe you've never heard anyone say something so foolish as "no-one expected a Jesus-kind-of-Messiah." But I assure you I have often heard it. And it often goes hand in hand with the myth that no-one could have expected such a Messiah.
Does that make sense? I assure you this has been what I've been trying to communicate from the original post until now. I may have communicated it poorly, but I've honestly tried to be clear.
Hope that it's not too late to still comment on this thread.
Regarding Myth #2; you've said that this is asserted by a large segment of evangelicalism; you've characterized the error of this group and stated the myth in your own terms; and you've now clarified that your complaint is on a too literal stress on *your* term, "no-one"!
Even if some use the term "no-one", it may just be in the sense of "Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan" *all* going out to see John the Baptist in the wilderness. All = very many. No-one = not many. As has already been pointed out in the thread, who knows how many trusted in Christ as the promised Messiah?
Maybe the myth could be more accurately stated as "Jesus was not the Messiah that the Hebrew Scriptures intended." I've never heard any evangelical assert that myth, but of course to assert it would be to deny that they were evangelical!
Because of the many miraculous acts that he did, many first century Jews thought that Jesus was the Messiah, a man sent from God. It was Jesus' claim that he was God the Son, a greater Messiah than they were capable of expecting, that lead to his crucifixion. Even John the Baptist, Peter, the other Apostles, and Mary, despite their close personal relationships with Jesus, weren't able to fully grasp the truth about Jesus, apart from his resurrection and the sending of the Spirit of Truth.
I'll just quote again what I said in my previous comment to Michael:
"Maybe you’ve never heard anyone say something so foolish as “no-one expected a Jesus-kind-of-Messiah.” But I assure you I have often heard it. And it often goes hand in hand with the myth that no-one *could* have expected such a Messiah."
I assure you I hear evangelicals saying this quite commonly. i.e. "No-one *did* expect suffering then glory" because "No-one *could have* expected suffering then glory."
I once lost a job at a very prominent evangelical church because I challenged exactly this myth - a myth proclaimed even more stridently than the way I've put it.
Again, I'm glad if you've never come across this kind of nonsense. But I assure you I'm not putting the words "no-one" into the myth-maker's mouths. They are proclaiming it. And at times quite loudly.
I'm very sorry about the trouble that you ran up against in the church on this issue. It's an honor to go through this kind of hardship for the sake of the gospel.
It's a very big world, and we encounter it from different angles, especially from the vantage points of living on different continents! Over here, there's a small number of liberal evangelicals who may espouse this myth. I read about them sometimes, but never meet people in the local churches who share their view. Whenever I've encountered this myth, it's always been from those in liberal, mainline churches, who don't describe themselves as evangelical. They would never use this term for themselves, as they equate evangelical with fundamentalist.
It's enlightening to me to hear about your experience with others in the church on this matter.